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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 10/19/11

Guests: Jack Hanna, Simon Johnson

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Lawrence. Thanks. And thanks to you at home for staying with us the next hour. This was the moment when Mitt Romney touched Rick Perry. Touched him. I mean, physically came in contact with him. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m looking forward to finding your facts on that, because that just doesn`t -- GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I`ll tell you what the facts are. ROMNEY: Rick, again -- Rick, I`m speaking. PERRY: You had the -- your newspaper -- the newspaper -- ROMNEY: I`m speaking. I`m speaking. I`m speaking. (CROSSTALK) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: There it was -- Mitt Romney laying hands on Rick Perry during last night`s Republican debate. How did Rick Perry feel about that? This was the eighth debate of the Republican primary season. Eighth. I think that`s in part because these things are turning out to be awesome for ratings. TV, in general, is not getting great ratings right now. But these debates are rating through the roof. For whatever reason, because there are a ton of these things and they happen so frequently now, the Republican candidates` debate is starting to feel like an ongoing TV show, like we`re all watching new episodes of the same show that just airs a new episode every week. As we continue to watch this really entertaining TV show, week after week, the candidates` strategies for the debates are sort of starting to feel like it`s their strategy for developing their characters. Their characters on this ongoing episodic TV show. Por ejemplo, Rick Santorum. Rick Santorum -- as a character on the Republican candidates` debate show. Rick Santorum, why are you here on the Republican candidates` debate show? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Not one person here mentioned the issue of family, faith, marriage -- the traditional values of marriage and family. The partial birth abortion ban. Family in America and faith in America. A moral conservative. That`s not good for families. Also doesn`t have anything that takes care of the families. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Rick Santorum`s character on the debate show is the guy who talks about gay people and abortion and family values all the time and who complains the other candidates do not do enough of that. How about the Michele Bachmann character? Why are you here on the Republican candidates` debate show? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The person who really has a problem with illegal immigration in the country is President Obama. President Obama has failed you. President Obama`s plan. It`s because of President Obama`s. Barack Obama will be a one-term president. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Michele Bachmann`s character on the Republican candidates` debate show is counter to her reputation as a wing nut. She is the one who keeps things focused on targeting President Obama. How about Herman Cain? Herman Cain, want you, why are you here on the Republican candidates` debate show? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Fortunate enough to become the Republican nominee, it`s going to be the problem solver who fixes stuff. This is an example of mixing apples and oranges. The state tax is an apple. We are replacing the current tax code with oranges. Take a loaf of bread. It does have five taxes in it right now. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Herman Cain`s character on the Republican candidates` debate show is like the anti-intellectual, I don`t have to explain anything folksy guy where things rhyme sometimes, and they often involve food and it all sounds very, very digestible even when it doesn`t actually make sense. How about Newt Gingrich? Newt Gingrich, why are you on the Republican candidates` debate show? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that I would be the strongest candidate because of sheer substance. If you go to Newt.org and look at the 21st contract with America. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Yes. Of course, Newt Gingrich`s character on the Republican candidates` debate show is the self-promotional guy that`s there to remind you he has a Web site and you have a credit card. And wouldn`t you like to take your credit card to visit that Web site? How about Ron Paul? Ron Paul, why are you here on the Republican candidates` debate show? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Are you all willing to condemn Ronald Reagan for exchanging weapons for hostages out of Iran? We all know that was done. Yes, what? (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Yes, what? Ron Paul is playing the character of Ron Paul in the Republican debate show. The character of Ron Paul and all its quirky make all the other candidates uncomfortable awesomeness. If I had my choice there would be a Ron Paul character in every show like this. Staying in Texas, why is Rick Perry here on this show? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PERRY: Mitt, you lose all of your standing from my perspective because you hired illegals in your home. You`re one of the problems, Mitt. Mitt, while you were the governor of Massachusetts in that period of time, you were 47th in the nation in job creation. That is an absolute falsehood on its face, Mitt. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Rick Perry`s character in the Republican candidates` debate show now is the guy trying to unseat the front-runner at every turn. Obama who? He`s after Mitt Romney. And Mitt Romney -- Mitt Romney as the front-runner, Mitt Romney, why are you here in the Republican candidates` debate show? Mitt Romney has been the front-runner in this field from the very beginning. So, in all eight debates he has tried to sort of float above everybody else, float above the fray. And for the most part that seeming presumptive consistent strategy has been working for him. But the risk of trying to seem above it all is it can sometimes seem like you`re looking down at everybody from your perch above it all. It can lead to things like touching your fellow candidates, as if to tell them to relax. He didn`t actually pat anybody on the head last night, but you thought maybe that would come next. Being the above it all character on the debate show also meant on last night`s episode anyway, also meant lots of complaining about the process. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: Rick, you had your chance. Let me speak. I haven`t had a chance to respond yet. Are you just going to keep talking? Are you going to let me finish with what I have to say? You have a problem with allowing someone to finish speaking. And I suggest that if you want to become president of the United States, you got to let both people speak. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: And in meantime, go to your room and you don`t get dinner. OK, dad. But the real problem for Mitt Romney is when the above it all affect slips -- when he gets bothered, when he drops that character, when he does end up getting pulled into the fray. At least at one moment last night he seemed to say something revealingly brutally honest. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: We went to the company and we said, look, you can`t have any illegals working on our property. That`s -- I`m running for office, for Pete`s sake, I can`t have illegals. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: So there`s your above it all character, America. The dramatic reveal on the show when we finally get at the motivations for that character`s actions. The reason he`s doing what he`s doing, right? The reason we just learned why he wouldn`t want to hire undocumented immigrants is because he`s running for office. So, it would look bad. Most of these candidates know they have no hope of winning, so they are defining their characters, essentially for that next book deal, or the next political office they might be seeking for their next move one way or another. That`s why they are still in the race, for the sake of whatever they`ve got a better shot at than actually becoming president. That`s why, for example, a guy like Rick Santorum is still in the race. That`s why Rick Santorum isn`t quitting. He gets a platform for his views. He gets to be more famous and America gets to be entertained by his candidacy on the Republican candidates debate show, with no threat that Rick Santorum would end up anywhere nearer to the White House than he is right now. The unexpected development here, though, is that arguably, the one guy up there who really thinks he is going to be president, who really is already obviously campaigning as if he`s in the general election and has to worry about electability, it turns out that he -- and I think this might be an accidental thing -- he has just hopped in bed with one of the extraneous characters on the show, with one of the "I`m just here to get famous" guys. And he hopped in bed with him on what is probably the most outside the mainstream stance that any Republican candidate for president has taken on any subject this entire year. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SANTORUM: One of the things I will talk about that no president has talked about before is I think the dangers of contraception in this country, the whole sexual libertine idea, many in the Christian faith said, "Well, that`s OK, contraception is OK." It`s not OK because it`s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to what, how things are supposed to be. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Wanting to be famous candidate, Rick Santorum, speaking out against contraception. And that is sort of par of the course for Rick Santorum. Rick Santorum`s whole career has been about sexual politics, about taking stances like that, trying to say that the government ought to make decisions about contraception, not you. It`s not very newsworthy on its own that Rick Santorum is campaigning against contraception now, that he`s the no contraception candidate. It`s not newsworthy on its own simply because there`s no chance that Rick Santorum will be president. So, who cares what he thinks, right? What is newsworthy, though, is that the Republican front-runner, the guy who people think is the likely nominee of the Republican Party, no matter how well Herman Cain polls, the guy who is the front-runner, Mitt Romney, has now essentially maybe by accident, maybe by way of being tricked by Mike Huckabee, taken the same position as Rick Santorum on birth control. Listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MIKE HUCKABEE, FOX NEWS: Would you have supported the constitutional amendment that would have established the definition of life at conception? ROMNEY: Absolutely. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was Mitt Romney earlier this month on Mike Huckabee`s FOX TV show saying he`d absolutely have supported a constitutional amendment in Massachusetts to define life as beginning at conception. Now, this is not a hypothetical abstract question. It`s about Massachusetts but it`s not about the country. A constitutional amendment on that very issue is up for a vote next month in Mississippi. They call these things personhood amendments. Mike Huckabee was asking about it in part because he`s one of the Mississippi personhood amendments celebrity endorsers, along with Brett Favre`s wife. Defining life at conception or at fertilization as Mississippi is trying to do, is a real policy position with real consequences, like for starters, it would ban abortion altogether, full stop. It would also ban many fertility treatments. And both sides seem to agree it would probably ban many popular forms of birth control. Personhood amendments make a miscarriage a matter for criminal investigation. They may make the pill, the IUD even, illegal. Before they realize that banning birth control was not all that popular an idea, even in Mississippi, the yes on personhood amendment folks in Mississippi used to promote their anti-birth control views right on their Web site about the amendment. They have since taken this language down since it started getting quite a bit of attention. But, now, Mitt Romney says he would absolutely support a constitutional amendment like Mississippi`s. He would support a personhood amendment. He would support a constitutional amendment that would ban the most popular forms of birth control in America. Mitt Romney has not yet clarified this comment since he first made it. Does he really want to make birth control illegal for the whole country? We have tried repeatedly to get an answer from the Mitt Romney campaign on this issue but no luck. Now, even the anti-birth control people who are pushing that amendment in Mississippi said they want to know if Mitt Romney meant what he said, telling "Politico" that they can`t get him to explain his position either even though he told Mike Huckabee he`s with them. So, which is it, Mitt Romney? Are you the Rick Santorum character in disguise or are you the Mr. Electable, Mr. Involve It All, Mr. Everybody Just Calm Down? (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The Republican debate audience makes itself famous again for cheering something that horrifies most people. It happened again. That`s ahead. Plus, Jack Hanna is here. Jack Hanna is here after his role in helping solve the bizarre and tragic exotic animal conflagration in central Ohio last night. That is all coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: This sign, deer crossing. You don`t even need to speak any language to know when you see this, watch out for deer on the road. This is moose crossing which does not apply in most states but works in the same principle as the deer crossing sign. There`s also the pedestrian crossing symbol, do not hit the people crossing the street. All simple essentially universal easily understood symbols conveying common dangers to look out for when you are on the road. Last night in Zanesville, Ohio, motorists were confronted with this warning. Caution: exotic animals. The sign had not been hacked. This was a real warning for a real thing that happened in Ohio last night -- something that has pretty much transfixed not only central Ohio but the whole country. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) FEMALE ANCHOR: Breaking news right now. Stay inside. Protect your family. That`s the message after dozens of dangerous exotic animals escaped and on the loose right now in Muskingum County. MALE ANCHOR: The strong directive from County Sheriff Lutz saying stay inside. There just might be a lion, a tiger or grizzly roaming in your neighborhood. MALE ANCHOR: Breaking news. Dozens of dangerous animals including tigers, lions and wolves on the loose near Columbus, Ohio, after apparently being set free from a preserve. REPORTER: Cougars, tigers, lions, cheetahs and grizzly and black bears. REPORTER: Even giraffes and camels are loose in central Ohio. REPORTER: The owner is dead. The cages unlocked. MALE ANCHOR: Police are saying it looks like the owner set them free and then killed himself. REPORTER: More than 50 law enforcement officials, some equipped with night vision and armed with assault rifles, hunted the animals through the night. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now, we`re shooting to kill. REPORTER: About 45 of them escaped. The numbers have been fluctuating throughout the day. MALE ANCHOR: It`s basically a big game hunt. REPORTER: They estimate they`ve already shot between 30 and 35 of the animals. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: By this afternoon the full scope of this strange, strange tragedy was starting to become clear. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SHERIFF MATT LUTZ, MUSKINGUM COUNTY, OHIO: The total number of animals we were dealing with was approximately 56 animals on this farm. There are 48 animals we had to put down. Those animals included one wolf, six black bears, two grizzly bears, nine male lions, eight lionesses, one baboon, three mountain lions and 18 tigers. JACK HANNA, DIRECTOR EMERITUS, COLUMBUS ZOO: These guys did not enjoy what they did last night. They have to go home to their families and kids what they had to do last night. Let`s hope this never happens again in any state what these guys did last night. It`s a tragedy for the animal world is what it is. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Tonight, only one animal -- excuse me, tonight all 56 animals have been accounted for. Only six of those animals are still alive. When their owner, Terry Thompson, released the animals, he doesn`t just release them into the wild, he released them into Ohio, into semi- rural suburban Columbus, Ohio -- alongside Interstate 70 where reportedly two of the animals lost their lives in traffic, presumably bewildered where did that thing come from traffic. Terry Thompson not only opened the animals` cages, but he reportedly cut the cage wire. So, even if the animals had been able to be brought back to their cages, the cages would no longer hold. He was condemning those animals to die just as absolutely as he was about to take his own life last night. But how is it that one man on one farm in central Ohio could even have 56 exotic animals to begin with? He was a convicted felon who had just been released from federal prison for possessing illegal guns, possessing lots of illegal guns. Someone convicted on animal cruelty charges in the past. The reason a guy with that record was allowed to have dozens of exotic animals, including giraffes and lions and camels is that Terry Thompson lived in Ohio. Ohio is a state that has lax, as in no regulations about keeping exotic animals. Apparently anybody could do. It was not always this way. The immediate previous governor of Ohio, Democrat Ted Strickland, put in place rules in Ohio about the keeping of big cats, bears, wolves, nonhuman primates, large constricting and venomous snakes and crocodilians. Governor Strickland banned the private ownership of all those animals, in large part because of what happened in this man, 24-year-old Brent Kendra was feeding one of nine black bears who belonged to a guy who kept the animals for a bear wrestling act, when the bear attacked him and killed him. Because of what happened to Brent Kendra, the plan in Ohio was to make sure nothing like this happened again. But this year, the new John Kasich administration took over and the Ohio governor`s office decided the exotic animal ban was not for them. They let the exotic animal rules in Ohio expire. Too much regulation, they said. Quote, "Our standpoint right now is this is not something we`re enforcing. If it was enforced at this very moment, it would hurt small businesses." No telling how on earth small businesses are helped by these 49 dead animals, 18 of them rare Bengal tigers, among the most threatened species in the world. It is frankly bizarre that this is a political issue at all, that wild animal trafficking is the sort of thing about which there would be controversy that there ought to be some rules. But believe it or not, this is not the first time this has come up. This is not even the first time this has come up even just this year. It`s not just John Kasich in Ohio. Last month, Republicans in Congress called in a snake breeder to testify against what they called the job killing regulations of the Obama administration. This guy breeds exotic pythons. He sells them by mail order as pets and does not want the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ban him from doing that. I`m sure he doesn`t. And one of the reasons we have government is so guys like that aren`t the final arbiter of whether or not it`s in our national interest to have guys selling pythons as if they are widgets. Hello, discarded python pets in the Everglades. How is it going? This is how the Republican-led House spent its time on job creation last month, inveighing against the onerous regulation of pythons. Because if we only stopped regulating pythons, that would fix unemployment. And in Ohio, this is our regulation-free paradise today. It`s astonishing the only human primate casualty was self-inflicted. Jack Hanna is director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. Hanna and zoo members helped evacuate the handful of animals that remained on Terry Thompson`s farm through the Columbus Zoo where they are tonight. Jack Hanna is also host of "Into the Wild" and "Wild Countdown." Mr. Hanna, it`s a real honor to have you with us tonight. Thank you for taking the time. HANNA: OK. I just want to say several things. I think someone said that Columbus, Ohio. It`s in Zanesville, Ohio, but 55 miles away where it all happened. And also there were no giraffes or camels there whatsoever and there were no cheetahs there. So, just a few things there. One last thing that was said about Governor Kasich -- remember, Governor Strickland did sign a bill right before he left office. The problem he left out is, who is it go ahead and take care of laws he wanted to have enforced? We don`t have the people to go knock on a door to find out where the animals are, number one. Number two, like, for example, you said -- you`re correct in when you said we had 55 animals out there. Say I went out there last week and was going to go there to take animals. Where would the animals go? There was no place to go. So, it`s not a matter of Governor Kasich, Democrat or Republican. I don`t want to get into that. The governor called us, two weeks that he`s in office, he said we have to have a committee immediately to form so we can work this plan out, proper people to go in here and take the animals, shut these auctions down. We were about six weeks away from enforcing this entire thing. Obviously, this tragic thing happened last night. We`re on with the governor for half an hour to an hour, we met all day, and say put the committees together to stop the auctions immediately, as well as put the plans we`ve been working on into force so we can no have a repository for these animals. What do we do with 55 animals? We can`t go up there to Columbus Zoo and we have the largest zoos in North America, by the way, top three out of 220. We have no place to put 55 lions and tigers and these animals. So, now, we`re going to build something in the wild, 10,000 acres we have, a repository so now, throughout this state and the United States we can shut these things down, these people like this, and have these families and put them somewhere and stop this over a period of 10 years to where no one can purchase the lions and tigers like you said. And it`s a disaster. I had to sit there all day today and thank God we had no loss of human life and watch the 30, 40 animals lined up on the ground which is something I`ll never forget as long as I live. MADDOW: When you talk about the idea nobody should be able to purchase animals like this, Sheriff Lutz said at this afternoon`s press conference he thinks that Ohio really needs to have different rules about this sort of thing. Obviously, you`ve been part of processes to try to get around to that. Do you think had the rules been different this could have been avoided? HANNA: I think so, yes. Not just under Governor Kasich or Governor Strickland. This has been going on for years. Not just in this state but other states throughout the country. Other states have passed laws and now, it`s getting better. This state, obviously, this is what happened here, is now going to follow suit. Anyone who wants to go to an animal auction here the next six months, I said, yes, you go elsewhere, they`ll be closed down. Anyone that wants to do what this man did the next year or so, I suggest you be ready for a real good inspection or else your animals will be taken. I`m not talking about bona fide breeders. We have a lot of -- not a lot -- several great breeders in this state that help the zoological world. Without them, we`d be doomed for some of the animals. These are people who spend hundreds of thousands of dollars helping us with animals in their private areas. That`s not what we`re gunning for. We want the people who are trying to do what we saw here last night, just collecting animals. Let`s say I get a raccoon, all of a sudden I want a bear, then I want a tiger, then I want 18 tigers. Can you imagine what it looked like last night up there, dark and sitting one hour? All of a sudden, the sheriff called saying there are lions over here, this yard and that yard. All of a sudden, you see 18 tigers coming down the road at you, jumping fences, going everywhere. A decision had to be made in a split second. What do we do? Darkness is coming. We have 40-something carnivores running around here right now. The sheriff had to make a right decision. Or else we`d have beyond stories in Zanesville, Ohio. You wouldn`t have wanted to see what would happen this morning if he hadn`t taken action. MADDOW: In terms of the overall tragedy here and being able to see the animals that did not survive this tragedy. In terms of conservation, is there any way to tell us which of these animals being killed is the biggest loss in terms of conservation? Which of these, I guess, is not just heartbreaking but also important to the survival of their species? HANNA: That`s a good question. Obviously the loss of any animal, whether it`s a bear or endangered species, it could be a goat, it`s a living creature. Now, with that said, obviously, you`re talking 18 Bengal tigers. Right now, we thought about 5,000 Bengal left in the wild. We found out last year, we have less than 1,400 Bengal tigers left in India, 1,400. This animal could be extinct in our lifetime. Who would ever thought that when I was a young boy, just getting in this field, 30-somethying years ago? It`s surprising. So, what got me today once we knew everything was accounted for, was seeing that 18 Bengal tigers, one of the rarest creatures in the world is laying there because as you said, a man was selfish enough to think he could open the gates, everything, go out there. Did he want the animals to kill the people? Maybe. I don`t know what he wanted. But whatever he did he didn`t accomplish because what happened is, nobody was killed. Nobody was harmed. It`s a miracle. Now all the animals are gone. That`s what`s tragedy about this. MADDOW: Jack Hanna, director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo, host of "Into the Wild" and "Wild Countdown" -- thanks very much for your time tonight, sir. I really appreciate it. HANNA: Thank you all. MADDOW: We will be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: One more thing to say -- one more thing in today`s news about Ohio, and specifically in this case about Ohio Governor John Kasich. This is not something about exotic animals getting killed on Interstate 70. This spring you may recall, Governor John Kasich signed into law a bill stripping union rights in Ohio. That led to the biggest protests at Ohio`s state capitol ever and to hundreds of thousands of Ohioans signing petitions to get that law on the ballot so it could be recalled. Now, recall is scheduled for November 8th. Voting no on Ohio`s Issue 2 will recall Kasich and the Republicans` union stripping law. Voting yes on Issue 2 would keep the law in place. No polling out today from PPP shows Ohio wants to get rid of John Kasich`s union stripping law by a 20-point margin. People are in favor of the recall 56 percent to 36 percent. Wow. And we`re only four weeks away from voting. The same poll shows if Ohio could vote for governor again, John Kasich would lose this time and lose very badly. He would lose by 14 points. So, yes, elections do have consequences and sometimes the consequences of those elections also have consequences. We`ll have a lot more on that subject coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: There are lots of things you can control during a presidential debate. If you have watched any of the Republican presidential primary debates over the last few months, you probably notice the TV networks that host them, including this network, stage manage those debates to within an inch of their lives. Last night`s Republican debate, for instance, was hosted by CNN, and before the debate even started the network outlined all of the different variables they had under control. Quote, "The candidates will have at their podium a pad of paper, supplied by CNN, a pen supplied by CNN, a bottle of water supplied by CNN, and an empty glass provided by CNN." These are the things that you as the debate host have the ability to control. But you know the one thing you can`t really control at a debate no matter how much planning and hard work you put into it is the debate audience, the crowd that`s come along to watch your debate. One of the unexpected develops of the Republican primary season has been the extent to which debate audiences have made some of the Republican Party`s biggest headlines, whether it was cheering for executions during the NBC debate at the Reagan Library or booing a gay American soldier serving in Iraq, at a debate last month in Florida. The Republican debate audiences have been stealing the show. And, last night, during the super stage managed CNN debate in Nevada, it happened again. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Herman Cain, I`ve got to ask you, you said, -- two weeks ago, you said, "Don`t blame Wall Street, don`t blame the big banks. If you don`t have a job, and you`re not rich, blame yourself." That was two weeks ago. The movement has grown. Do you still say that? (APPLAUSE) CAIN: Yes, I do still say that. And here`s why. (APPLAUSE) CAIN: Wall Street didn`t put in failed economic policies. Wall Street didn`t spend a trillion dollars that didn`t do any good. Wall Street isn`t going around the country trying to sell another $450 billion. They ought to be over in front of the White House taking out their frustration. (APPLAUSE) CAIN: So I do stand by them. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Don`t blame Wall Street for your economic troubles, America. Blame yourself -- or Democrats or something. Woo! Crowd goes wild. I understand that the whole personal responsibility brand is very big in Republican Party politics, the whole pull yourself up by the boot straps thing and blame the Democrats thing. I get that. I get those are all very exciting ideas. But here`s the thing -- in this case, it is actually sort of OK to blame Wall Street. Technically speaking, you can blame Wall Street. What we are suffering through as a country right now is not some vague inexplicable economic downturn. This is not a cyclical thing. What happened was Wall Street blew up and they took the entire country down with them. This is one of those recessions that was really caused by a financial system crisis. So, it`s not scapegoating. You really can go ahead and blame Wall Street. Salmonella is not the stomach flu. You ate undercooked poultry. Blame the salmonella. Blame that. You don`t need to change anything about your life other than not eating undercooked poultry. This recession is not a generalized illness. We caught it from Wall Street specifically. We used to have an idea in this country called retirement. It was the sort of rosy idea you could stop working someday and you won`t have to be a beggar for the rest of your life after you do. You`ll have money to set aside to get you through golden years, a nest egg. The whole idea of retirement essentially had three pillars to it. One of them was your pension. Once you retire, you get a fixed payment from the entity you spent your life working for. Second pillar was your savings. Money you set aside for yourself over the years. The third pillar was Social Security. The government-run retirement fund you pay into your whole working life. Those are the three pillars: pension, savings, Social Security. That is what made the idea of retiring possible in this country. That is what made the prospect of getting old less scary than it otherwise would be. But what`s happened to those three pillars over the last generation has been really good for one specific entity in America but has not been good for the rest of us. Take the first pillar: pensions. Pensions used to be the primary way your employer would help you plan for your retirement. Your monthly pension once you retired would be a fixed sum of money determined by things like the amount of years you worked at your company and your final salary when you finally stopped working. A pension was essentially a guaranteed nest egg. Is your company you work for right now provide you with a pension? If you`re like the vast majority of people now, the answer is no. In 1980, 30 million Americans in the private sector enjoyed a safe, secure pension provided by their employer. Look at what`s happened to that number since 1980. The -- yes, the number of people with pensions has shriveled and shriveled and shriveled every single year. What has replaced the pension? Look what happened the last generation. As pensions have steadily disappeared, they have been replaced by shiny new things called 401(k)s. The 401(k) system. And you know what? I`m going to say it -- 401(k)s are kind of a scam. Rather than having a safe secure guaranteed retirement in the form of a pension, 401(k) allows hardworking Americans to instead gamble your savings on Wall Street -- 401(k)s are a way to turn your pension into an investment vehicle managed by Wall Street. So, instead of a nest egg that is for you, that is free from the economic currents of the day, with any sort of guaranteed benefit, instead of that, your retirement fund gets sliced and diced and divvied up for Wall Street to play it. Whereas pensions for the most part used to be separate from the Wall Street banking/casino apparatus, 401(k) plans just put Wall Street in the middle of the action, right between you and your retirement -- which is by definition a risk laden venture for the middle class. But it is a great windfall for Wall Street. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS: For millions of Americans, the most important investment of a lifetime is the 401(k) plan for retirement savings. But there`s new research showing, there could be hidden problems in your plan. The legislation to create 401(k)s passed in 1978. Now, 40 million Americans have one. So what`s the hidden problem? REPORTER: In every portfolio, small, critics say hidden fees that by retirement could take a huge bite out of your profits. MARIANNE LEEDY, THE SCARBOROUGH GROUP: I think very few people know much of anything at all about fees. They don`t ask those kinds of questions. REPORTER: Should they be asking? Experts say yes -- 401(k) fees average less than 1 percent, but over the life of the account grow to major money. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The total cost to the American public is something in the neighborhood of $1.5 billion to $2 billion a year. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: One and a half to $2 billion a year right into Wall Street`s pockets just in fees. And that was back in 1997. What to you think it is now? A recent Department of Labor study guessed Wall Street fees cost a worker 28 percent of the value of your plan over the span of your career. And so, yes, the 401(k) system is kind of a scam -- a scam that we`ve all been made to buy into as a replacement for pensions. We`ve all been sort of conned into putting our money into the stock market as a means of supposedly guaranteeing our future. If you wanted a guarantee, if you wanted security, would you go to Wall Street for it? What was once a strong pillar of our retirement as over the last generation turned into essentially a slush fund for Wall Street. But there`s always that second pillar, right? Personal savings, they deal with personal savings is that in addition to your pension, you could also put money away over the course of your career and it would be there when you retired. And that used to be the way it worked. In the 1970s and early `80s, the personal savings rate in America was pretty good. People are saving on average about 12 percent of their monthly disposable income. What`s happened since then? What`s happened over the last generation? Yes. Americans stopped saving. Not necessarily by choice but rather as a result of what was happening to wages in America over the same time. Since 1980 the average income for the bottom 90 percent of Americans has really not gone up a whole lot. In fact, it has mostly stayed perfectly flat for a generation, even as the top 1 percent of income earners have seen their incomes skyrocket. So, for one thing, if you`re not making more money, you can`t really save more money. For another thing, saving money by sticking it in the bank as your grandfather probably advised you, that has essentially been discouraged over the last generation by banking policies that mean you can`t earn interest on money if you try to save it. Here`s what happened to the interest rates for bank deposits over the last generation. That`s the interest rate that the bank pays you for letting them hold on to your money and loan it out. You used to be able to make some money off saving, used to make some interest. You were incentivized to put your money away. But not anymore. And so, what do you do when you have disposable income that you`d like to turn into retirement money but can`t make that happen by keeping in a bank? How do you grow that money? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: Tonight, the stock market on a roll. It`s no longer the playground of the rich and risk takers among us. A survey now shows 43 percent of Americans are now investors. That is double the number just seven years ago. REPORTER: It`s what some call the gold rush of the Internet age -- individual investors online with the power of a broker in their own hands. Day traders, some of them doing it full time, like Richard Caines. RICHARD CAINES, DAY TRADER: In the morning, I`m able to buy a stock, turn around sell it 15 minutes later and you can cash out with $10,000 or $15,000. REPORTER: The action is no longer just on Wall Street but Main Street. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: And when it works, it`s awesome and when it doesn`t. The decline in the personal savings rate in the country has also ended up being a huge boon for Wall Street. You can`t make your money grow by putting it in a bank anymore, put it in Wall Street. See what happens. Pull the lever. The one pillar that we are left with, the one thing standing between retired Americans and the possibility of the bread line at this point is the last pillar you see standing: Social Security. Social Security which is being attacked from the political right as a Ponzi scheme and failure and the only thing we can do to fix is it let Wall Street get its hands on that one, too. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) BROKAW: President Bush`s second term agenda, ambitious plans including a pledge to partially privatize Social Security. It`s a simple but controversial idea. Workers would be allowed to put a portion of Social Security taxes into private accounts. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That could conceivably shift an enormous amount of new money into the stock market. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Yes, the stock market where they need it. Privatizing Social Security, putting the money at the mercy of Wall Street, putting it at the mercy of Wall Street, the one pillar we haven`t yet allowed to be touched by Wall Street has been the goal of the Republican Party for the last decade. It`s a goal shared at the moment by the Republicans` current presidential front-runner, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Handing Wall Street the one pillar that is left standing after an entire generation of Americans watched their retirements go up in smoke -- what could possibly go wrong? As individual Americans have watched their retirements, or the possibility of retirement, eaten by Wall Street over the last generation, Wall Street, itself, has done great. In 1980, Wall Street profits as a percentage of all U.S. business profits were about 7 percent -- 7 percent of all business profits in the country came from the financial industry. Want to see what`s happened to that number since then? By about 2001, Wall Street profits had essentially eaten the business world -- 41 percent of all business profits in the United States came from Wall Street. How`s that worked out for the rest of the country? Since the Great Depression and the New Deal, we have had an idea as a country about how Americans will get old. How we will deal with that as a nation. Getting old may suck, but the alternative is worse. And our idea was that here in America, you are allowed to retire, you don`t have to work until the day you die and you do not have to become a beggar once your working days are over. For nearly a century now, that basic American dignity of an idea has rested on three pillars. Two of which have already been surrendered to Wall Street. And one more that is dangerously close to being next. What that would mean, just ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) COOPER: Herman Cain, I`ve got to ask you, you said, quote -- two weeks ago, you said, "Don`t blame Wall Street, don`t blame the big banks. If you don`t have a job, and you`re not rich, blame yourself." That was two weeks ago. The movement has grown. Do you still say that? (APPLAUSE) CAIN: Yes, I do still say that. And here`s why. (APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Blame yourself. Blame yourself. Don`t blame Wall Street. Joining us for the interview is Simon Johnson, professor of economics at MIT Sloan and contributing business editor at "Huffington Post." He also serves on the panel of academic advisers to the Congressional Budget Office and his old job was at the International Monetary Fund where he was the chief economist. Professor Johnson, it`s a really pleasure I to have you on the show. Thank you for being here. SIMON JOHNSON, HUFFINGTON POST: My pleasure. MADDOW: Last night at the Republican candidates` debates, Herman Cain was cheered for doubling down on his line if you are I not rich you should blame yourself. Don`t blame Wall Street. He`s saying essentially Wall Street didn`t get us in to the economic mess that we are in now. It`s individual human failing by the unemployed. Do you understand that analysis? Is there an economic point to that analysis? JOHNSON: Not really. Wall Street blew itself up. It`s a financial crisis that produced the most severe recession since World War II. It`s the biggest banks, in particular that have done enormous damage, 8 million jobs lost, millions of homes lost, many massive increase in the federal government debt as a direct consequences of what the biggest banks did and were allowed to get away with. MADDOW: In terms of American decisions about -- I guess American values, our future as a country and our relationship to Wall Street, I talked in a segment before about this, about whether we are chipping away at the fundamental American idea about getting old, about whether it is economically feasible to stop working before the end of your life. Are we chipping away at that? Has Wall Street done damage to that basic idea in this country? JOHNSON: Yes. We are certainly chipping away at that idea. I`m personally scared about the idea of retiring, trying to stop working. I`m a relatively privileged, advantaged person, I understand that, but it`s still not appealing to me to fall back on, what? On my savings, that can be eroded by the vagaries of the market? On Social Security, which may not be there for me? On Medicare and Medicaid, we should always talk about that, because will you outlive your financial resources? Will you reach the age of 92 and not be able to afford any kind of health care? That`s a real possibility today also. MADDOW: In terms of the things that are available to us, as we age, I`m struck by the GAO report that just out that says as poverty rates have been increasing, among every group of Americans, including Americans 45 to 54 and 55 to 64, the one group of Americans for which poverty is not increasing right now are those eligible for Social Security, people who are 65 and up. It makes me feel desperate that Social Security be held on to and kept the way it is. How much pressure do you really see out there for Social Security to be privatized, to be also turned over to Wall Street? JOHNSON: There`s clearly some pressure and that`s reflected in the segment that you played from the Republican debate. I don`t think it`s actually going to go very far. Last time when President Bush put it on the agenda, this was enormous and quite justified push back. If you go back to the 1930s, before Social Security was invented, the poverty rates among old people were absolutely appalling. If you go to the `60s before Medicare was in, before we had a federal health care program for the elderly, there was an enormous amount of poverty caused by the health care bills of older people. So, those are very real experiences and many Americans remember them and can relate to them. And as you said before, Rachel, the other pillars of retirement have been chipped away so clearly and so definitively, why would you let go of the last one, which is Social Security? MADDOW: Ron Suskind says in his new book about this administration, that President Obama wanted to break up Citibank during the financial catastrophe. He said he was thwarted by people within his administration. And that`s interesting in terms of the dynamics of the administration. But I wonder as the administration tries to catch the tiger by the tail in terms of people being angry at Wall Street and this Occupy Wall Street movement, trying to identify with that populism -- are there hard line stances that they could take toward Wall Street that wouldn`t just be demonstrable about their intentions but would make a difference in terms of aligning American and Wall Street interests more closely in the future? JOHNSON: Absolutely there are things they can do. For example, the attorney general of New York, Eric Schneiderman, wants a relatively tough, expansive settlement with the banks that will fundamentally address the issues of negative equity the losses people have on their homes relative to the size of the mortgages, as that stands $700 billion. Mr. Schneiderman, Mr. Beau Biden of Delaware wants to address those issues. The Obama administration is not willing. The Obama administration wants to go for a low-ball $20 billion settlement just on robo-signing. They should move their position toward Mr. Schneiderman and towards Mr. Beau Biden. MADDOW: Professor Simon Johnson of MIT and "The Huffington Post," former chief for the IMF -- I don`t know who started to speak to you. It wasn`t me. But I`m sorry about that, sir. I wasn`t trying to interrupt you. Thanks very much for being with us tonight. I appreciate it. JOHNSON: Thank you. MADDOW: We will be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) STATE REP. ALVIN OTT (R), WISCONSIN: Father, we ask your blessing today as we start a session again and as we become busy and trying to do things that will help the people of the state of Wisconsin create jobs, less regulation and so on and so forth. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: So on and so forth. That was the opening prayer for the sort of a special session of the Wisconsin legislature. The state`s Republican Governor Scott Walker calling the legislature back into the capital for a special session specifically to work on jobs. Governor Walker did this once before in January. But as unemployment continued to rise in Wisconsin, the governor has re-upped his efforts to sound like he`s working on jobs. So, we got this special jobs-focus, job-centric, all about jobs, very special legislative jobs, jobs, jobs session. It is even branded -- they are calling the special session "Back to Work Wisconsin." What exactly is the Republican-controlled legislature in Wisconsin working at their "Back to Work Wisconsin" jobs, jobs, jobs thing? Well, on the schedule for today was a hearing for Senate Bill 237. Senate Bill 237 is an overall of sex ed. Jobs, jobs, jobs, everybody. It is a conservative overhaul of health class to eliminate loose talk in school about puberty, parenting, the use of contraceptives and barrier methods to prevent sexually transmitted infections. In the place of all of that useless information that teenagers definitely don`t need to know anything about, the Republicans at their special jobs, jobs, jobs legislative session want them to present abstinence as the preferred choice of behavior of unmarried pupils. Maybe this is the jobs, jobs, jobs part. Wisconsin Republicans want teenager there to be taught to, quote, "identify the skills necessary to remain abstinent." Scott Walker has got skills, yo. At least when they did the union-busting thing, they even bother to try to make an argument that it was tangentially related to the economy. Now, they are holding a "Back to Work Wiwsconsin" jobs, jobs, jobs special legislative session to roll back sex ed. Your tax dollars at work. Now, it`s time for THE ED SHOW. Good night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END