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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 04/16/12

Guests: David Weigel, Sheldon Whitehouse, Connie Schultz

ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts now. Sitting in for Rachel tonight, who is very tired for being on her book tour and selling a bunch of books, Chris Hayes, who is the gold digger of sound bites. Let me tell you something, that was a dandy this weekend. Congratulations. CHRIS HAYES, GUEST HOST: I`m glad you liked it. Big props to my staff for digging that up. Thanks, Ed. SCHULTZ: You bet. HAYES: And thanks to you at home for staying us for the next hour. Rachel indeed has the night off and is well deserved. The last time I was sitting in this chair was about 2 1/2 weeks ago. There was a vote in Washington, D.C., on a piece of legislation that -- well, if you were just reading the polls probably should have passed. Yet in the end, it somewhat mysteriously went down to defeat. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: Today in Washington, the United States Senate rejected an attempt to end oil industry subsidies. In a time when deficit scaremongering rules the Beltway and fiscal probity is flavor of the month, when nobody likes the oil companies, the Democrats have a majority in the Senate and a president in the White House, they weren`t able to pluck this imminently low hanging fruit. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: Describe this as a caper that night because it didn`t make sense. Oil subsidies aren`t good policy. Lots of conservatives won`t defend them anymore. They`re not needed to keep the oil industry alive and they`re sure as heck not popular with the public. Something like 74 percent of Americans favor doing away with them. And yet, the oil industry is powerful and so they got their way. They got to keep their subsidies. Well, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I humbly come before you tonight, cable news watchers of America, to report that in the United States Senate once again, Republicans have filibustered a piece of legislation that is both good policy and also wildly popular. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ERIN BURNETT, CNN: Breaking news, the Senate voting right now on the Buffett Rule, on the bill failing tonight mostly along party lines. Senate Democrats called for a vote on so-called the Buffett Rule today, knowing it would never muster the 60 votes needed to pass. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: You probably heard a lot about the Buffett Rule recently. It would essentially create a minimum effective tax rate for people making a million dollars or more a year. It would do that to avoid a scenario in which, oh, I don`t know, an X private equity baron-turned-Republican president candidate drawing $20 million a year in income largely on capital gains, let`s just call him Kit Domny (ph), would pay an effective tax rate of 14 percent, while middle class pays an effective tax rate that`s actually higher than that. That`s basically the Buffett Rule in a nutshell. It`s about basic tax fairness. Now, it won`t solve the deficit. In fact, it won`t make all that much dent in and of itself. But it should show something very important, which is that our political institutions at the federal level retain the capability of raising taxes on the wealthy. It is an open question whether they retain that ability or not because it has now been 12 years and we`ve had Republicans in office and we`ve had Democrats in office, and our institutions have been unable to do that. Despite rising income inequality, despite increasingly heated rhetoric about the need to cut the deficit, they still cannot do it. And just so we`re clear here, the reason the system can`t do it is not because it is unpopular. Taxing the rich is one of the most reliably popular things in American polling. Gallup polled on the Buffett Rule last week. And they found 60 percent support for it. Then today, on the day of the vote, a new poll from CNN revealed an even more lopsided result. When asked if they would support a policy like the Buffett Rule, 72 percent of Americans said yes -- 72 percent. Nothing polls at 72 percent. I take that back. Actually. Right around 72 percent of Americans approve of hunting as a past time. Hunting as a past time comes in at 72 percent. The Buffett Rule is as popular at hunting, and yet it was still defeated tonight. We were brainstorming today about what the last political issue to poll at 72 percent was and we remember that back in June of 2009, during the health reform debate, the public option -- the public option, oh, yes, the dearly departed public option polled at 72 percent. Government administered health care program that would compete with private health insurance companies. We obviously did not get a public option in the end. In fact, one can start to get the sense that the surest death knell, the surest sign that a piece of policy will not make it into law is widespread public support. There are other examples of this aside from things like the public option and oil subsidies and raising taxes on the rich. Seventy-six percent of Americans, for example, support eliminating funding for weapon systems that the Pentagon doesn`t want. That`s the sort of defense cut that Republicans have long resisted. Remember the American Jobs Act that was proposed by President Obama last fall. That package enjoyed 63 percent support among the American public. That was apparently enough to render it dead on arrival in Washington. Last time when we were talking about oil subsidies, I described it as caper because this phenomenon is, if you take a step back and think about it, somewhat mysterious. Our basic understanding of the way self-government works is that public opinion, the majority of public opinion, is essentially supposed to be transferred into legislative outcomes. And this is not a perfect one to one process. We`re not Athens. We don`t have plebiscites. We have representative democracy. And there`s a whole bunch of complicated bells and whistles and checks and balances and ways in which the process can be gained. But the basic idea is that in order for a democracy to be functioning and credible, there`s got to be some rough correlation between what the majority in the country wants and what their government actually does. At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, it`s a little unclear whether that sort of correlation still exists in the USA of 2012. In fact, there`s been some fascinating research on this. Larry Bartels now at Vanderbilt University looked at effect of public opinion on legislation. He matched Senate voting records with public opinion data, but specifically public opinion data that was broken down by income level. He found, quote, "In almost every instance senators appear to be considerably more responsive of affluent constituents than to the opinions of middle class constituents, while the opinions of constituents in the bottom third of the income distribution have no apparent statistical affect on their senators` roll call votes." The thing that all of these policies issues that we`re talking about have in common -- oil subsidies, the public option, taxes on the wealthy -- the thing they all have in common is they are powerful, moneyed interests who don`t want to see them come to be. There`s been a lot of cynical mockery of the Buffett Rule over the last few days as being a kind of gimmick, saying it doesn`t fix the deficit. It`s true. That it is in some ways symbolic. But it is more than symbolism. It goes to a core existential crisis I think this democracy faces right now. And that is the question of whether our political institutions can enact into law positions favored by a majority when those majoritarian positions will result in diminished wealth or power for the most wealthy and powerful in society. Joining us now is the author of the Buffett Rule legislation, Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island. Thanks for being here, Senator. SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D), RHODE ISLAND: Good to be here with you, Chris. How are you? HAYES: Well, I`m good. I`m bummed because I think that this -- I do think the policy is a kind of test for this basic principle. And when I look at the history of taxation policy in this country over the last 12 years, what I see are -- what I see is one party implacably opposed to raising revenue in any way, one party that will talk about raising revenue at the upper end but has not been able to put it into effect. And I despair of whether we can make a more fair tax code. And I guess I`m turning to you, Senator, to wrench me back from the precipice of despair. WHITEHOUSE: Yes. Well, don`t despair too much, Chris. I think that, first of all, this was round one. This will not be the first or last time that a special interest in Washington was able to take one hard vote, maybe two hard votes. But with the kind of popular support that you see, if we keep coming at this issue, sooner or later we will win. And it`s important for us for that reason to keep coming at this issue. You have the problem of special interest money behind this. You have the problem of the oath that so many of the senators swore to Grover Norquist. But against all of that, a persistent public opinion, I think, will prevail. You just have to make sure we keep going at it. HAYES: That`s it. You raise public opinion. I wonder do you think this was hard vote for Republicans across the aisle. Because with the exception, I believe, of Susan Collins, it was a party line vote. Mark Pryor, the only Democrat who voted against it. Was this a hard vote for Republicans? I don`t get the sense that it was. But you seem confident this is the kind of thing they will have a hard time explaining back in their home states. WHITEHOUSE: I think it was an easy vote for them in the sense that it fit very well with the prevailing ideology that drives the Republican Party in Washington. But I think it was a hard vote for them in the sense that in that ideology, they know they are very distant from the American people. That`s why if you looked at the debate today, you saw it ranges over perhaps a dozen different issues. And nobody was willing to stand up and say, you know what, it is a good thing when somebody who makes $270 million in one year in the United States of America pays a lower tax rate on their income than a middle income family does. Nobody said that. They know in that sense that they are wrong, but they are kind of prisoners of their ideology and that`s where the public pressure comes in to break them free. HAYES: When you said this was the first round -- I mean, the way that this tax discussion and battle is shaping up is that we`re going to have a series of skirmishes as we`re in right now and the election year. And then there`s going to be a conversation whether it happens before the election or after the election during the lame duck session about the extension of the Bush tax cuts which all of which are now slated to expire at the end of this calendar year. How much leverage do you think this gives Democrats in terms of actually moving toward a more progressive taxation system? WHITEHOUSE: I think that each time we call this to a vote and each time that the American people focus on this question and see how far apart from their values the Republican ideology has taken the Republican senators, the better our position is and the stronger we are to get what every American -- I mean, huge majorities understand to be the right thing done here. HAYES: It`s interesting you say ideology and not interest, right? Because I think we`re actually offering different theories of what happened in this vote today. The theory I`m offering is essential that you have interests that are lobbying against this -- a tax raise on the wealthy because, well, there`s a lot of money on the table. And what you`re saying is there`s a genuine belief amongst your colleagues doing that it would be deleterious to the economy. That it`s actually bad to the economy to do that. I guess it doesn`t have to be either/or. Aren`t they and you getting lobbied very heavily on these tax votes by people who have a lot of money? I know, having written columns about it, I get calls from people in the private equity and hedge funds that want to lobby me and I was just a columnist in "The Nation" who cared. So, I can only imagine who comes into your office. WHITEHOUSE: Yes. I think it`s more of a both end situation, Chris. I think in part, like the oil vote, there`s just special interest money out there and special interest power out there and that has a significant effect. But at the same time, you also have to remember that a great number of these people swore an oath to Grover Norquist, and that oath obliges them to protect all sorts of tax loopholes and to oppose any increase even when it`s from a lower rate for a multimillion dollar income up to the same level that middle class taxpayers pay, which you think would be simple tax fairness that everybody would appreciate. And I think both of those things come together and that`s what makes it in some respects an easy vote for Republicans, because they are so at odds with the American people and because fundamentally on the merits, it`s wrong, that`s what makes it a hard vote. And that`s why the involvement of the public is so important. And I want to thank everybody who went to and registered their vote, because it`s that kind of public pressure that will make the difference here. HAYES: That is actually the open question, whether the public pressure will make a difference. We`re going to see that play out over the course of this year. WHITEHOUSE: Right. HAYES: Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, thanks so much for your time. Really appreciate it. WHITEHOUSE: OK, Chris, thank you. HAYES: Well, this may be inevitable but looks like Mitt Romney`s problem relating to women has intersected with Romney`s problem relating to poor people. The Romney notion of what work means, up next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HAYES: You guys remember the Tea Party and how every tax day we used to be treated to tri-corner hats, Gadsden flags and the occasional misspelled racist sign? What ever happened to that? We send a search party out for the Tea Party, just ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HAYES: Yesterday on my show "UP WITH CHRIS HAYES," we played a piece of tape with Mitt Romney that`s gotten a lot of attention. It`s Mitt Romney in his own words unraveling his latest campaign yarn. Mitt Romney last week was outraged, just outraged that a Democratic consultant not associated with the Obama re-election campaign used the word "work" to mean working for money, a job that provides income -- which is, it turns out, just how Mitt Romney used the word in January when describing how as governor he amended welfare requirements in Massachusetts. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I said, for instance, that even if you have a child two years of age, you need to go to work. And people said, well, that`s heartless. And I said, no, no, I`m willing to spend more giving daycare to allow those parents to go back to work. It will cost the state more providing that day care, but I want the individuals to have the dignity of work. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: Even if you got a kid, if you want assistance from me the government, you have to go to work. You`re not working now. What you`re doing now as a parent, that is not work. And you won`t have dignity until you get a real job. Since we played that tape of Mr. Romney other people have pointed out this sentiment is not new for the former governor. This is Mitt Romney`s book, "No Apology." It was published two years ago. It`s his ideas in his own boards. Now, the book`s index leaves a lot to be desired. If you look up welfare, for example, there`s no entry. Mr. Romney writes about welfare in his book. Here it is on page 251. I`ve got it marked with my special RACHEL MADDOW SHOW book mark. "Welfare without work erodes the spirit and sense of self-worth of the recipient and conditions the children of nonworking parents of an indolent and unproductive life. Hardworking parents raise hardworking kids. We should recognize that the opposite is also true," end quote. Parent who doesn`t work outside the home, who receives assistance from the government, that person suffers from an erosion of the spirit and lack of self-worth. So called nonworking parents don`t raise hardworking kids. This was Mitt Romney`s argument two years ago. It`s not a new idea to Mitt Romney and isn`t new to the Republican Party either. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Last year, the House of Representatives passed legislation to build on the successes of the 1996 Welfare Reform Law. They did so because they want more Americans to know the pride and success that come from hard work. The law passed the House, that passed the House, require 40 hours of work each week. TOMMY THOMPSON: The first stage of welfare reform brought unprecedented success. Millions of Americans now knows the rewards of work. Welfare mothers have found their long lost self-esteem. FMR. SEN. RICK SANTORUM (R), PENNSYLVANIA: We want to stop the dependency the government has created with all these entitlement programs. We want to give people the opportunity of dignity to work. NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In welfare reform, we reached the conclusion that giving people money for doing nothing is a bad idea. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: The Romney campaign was forced to respond to that clip of him we played from January even though I don`t think they wanted to. And their response was instructive, it was basically a dodge in which they tried to say Mitt Romney was talking about the bipartisan welfare reform of the 1990s and everyone agreed with that and everyone wanted to get single mothers into the workforce. Quote, "Moving welfare recipients into work was one of the basic principles of the bipartisan welfare reform legislation that President Clinton signed into law. Everyone loved the idea of welfare reform. Everyone bragged about it. Everyone has tried to take credit for it. Even a little known state senator from Illinois and his running mate. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NARRATOR: He passed a law to move people from welfare to work, slashed the roles by 80 percent. JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: More people have moved from welfare to the dignity of work and he got it done. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: OK. So work equals dignity. That`s a bipartisan position. It`s been a bipartisan position for a long time. Fine. But that is not exculpatory. In fact, it only further proves what`s actually important about this national debate which sometimes feels like a lot of silly semantics. Everybody understands, every speaker of the English, that the word "work" has different meanings in different contexts, and when applied to women and the things they do, their labor inside the house and out, it has a whole host of different meanings for different kinds of women doing different kinds of labor at different points. The way we respond to and understand that word "work" is embedded in a bunch of cultural assumptions that are not the province of the Romney campaign. The Romney campaign just tried to cynically deploy a narrow definition of work to score a chief political point. They pretended to misunderstand. They took us all for stupid. So, why did we show that clip? To show they themselves do not hue to that narrow definition when they pretended to be outraged last week. In fact, they employ a double standard that almost everyone in our entire political establishment does, frankly -- a double standard that allowed welfare reform to pass in the first place. Embedded in welfare reform was the assumption these women were lazy, that they weren`t doing, that they had no dignity because they were not working, but because they were poor, being a stay at home mom had no dignity. Joining us now is Connie Schultz, Pulitzer Price-winning columnist for Creator Syndicate. Connie, it`s a great pleasure to see you. CONNIE SCHULTZ, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: It`s wonderful to be back in touch with you, Chris. Congratulations, by the way, on the great reporting you did on this. HAYES: Thank you very much. It was largely my staff. I can`t take that much credit. SCHULTZ: Well, aren`t you a generous person. Congratulations to all of you. HAYES: Well, you know, I guess my first question is, how we move this conversation somewhere substantive? And the reason I wanted to talk to you, you`ve written incredibly eloquently and empathetically about the struggle that working women, when we say working, whether outside the home, or being a mother full time and trying to make ends meet in that respect, the struggles they face and the ways economic realities intersect with that. That seems to have been completely stricken from the conversation we`ve been having for the last week. SCHULTZ: It`s a lot of cynicism at work here starting with the make belief fight between stay at home mothers and women who work outside the home. That battle -- that was -- that`s over and done with. There are no winners in that battle. Women are not going that. What kind of people are so gleefully attempting to divide women against women? Let`s start with that. But, you know, after I saw the clip you unearthed, it occurred to me this isn`t about women at all. Mitt Romney isn`t attempting to whittle away at the lead the president has with women. He`s appealing to the kind of male voter that I`ve been hearing from in my hate mail for the last 10 years as a columnist. And you bring up welfare, these men go after these women. What kind of women have babies that aren`t married? That`s of course the stereotype they`re going to have. Well, if they can`t afford the babies, they shouldn`t be having them. I was a single mom for 10 years. That was the scariest time of my life because every mother worries about her child. When you`re on your own, you worry all the time that you`re not going to be able to support your children, that you`re not going to come through for your children, that they`re not going to be able to be proud of you as a mother. He has no idea what it`s like to be a woman like that. And I`ve got it good. I was a single mom when I first started writing my column. I lost count of the number of men who would go after me. It was always the conservative, really the right wing branch of the Republican Party who wanted to make -- no matter what my opinion was, wanted to make it about what kind of mother I was. This is what we`re seeing at play right now. He`s trying to work up that base. He doesn`t care about women. HAYES: That`s a really -- that`s a really interesting and I think very, very apt point about what actually is motivating this. There was a -- I want to give some credit to Mitt Romney because buried in that little clip, right, is the kernel of a really important and good policy idea, which is that if you`re going to set up a situation in which the government says in order to receive temporary assistance to needy families, you must look for work and work outside the house. You must work for paycheck. If you`re a mother with two kids, when you`re working, someone has to watch those kids. SCHULTZ: That`s right. HAYES: And so, there has to be some system in place to provide subsidies or universal daycare. There is not universal daycare in this country. And what we`ve seen is the subsidy has diminished because of the block granting. How much can we have a conversation, how much can we take this conversation to have an opportunity about the challenge, the social challenge of daycare and finding daycare for children for mothers that do want to work or have to work outside the home? SCHULTZ: It`s not just daycare we`re talking about. We`re talking about transportation. HAYES: Right. SCHULTZ: How do you get the children to daycare? How do you get the mother back and forth to work? There are so many obstacles. You know, I`m not going fault Mitt Romney for his privilege. What I`m faulting him for his willful ignorance, his willful disregard, his willful cluelessness about what we`re really talking about when we`re talking about women who don`t have the means trying to support their children and trying to make a living. Most women, most mothers I`ve met who need help from the government want to have jobs. They want to be able to take care of their families on their own. They are proud women. And that`s the thing that seems to be completely missing from this discussion with Mitt Romney. He is talking about them -- it makes me think of my mom. My mom raised her daughters this way. She said, don`t marry him until you see how he treats the waitress. And what she meant by that is how we treat the people we`re allowed to mistreat is the measure of who we are as human beings. And that -- I`ll tell you what? I`ve been thinking about my mom in the last few days as I listen to Mitt Romney talk. HAYES: That`s a profound way to think about society. I`m not sure we`re passing the waiter test as a society. Connie Schultz, Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist for Creator Syndicate -- just an amazing voice. You should be reading her column, absolutely. Thanks so much for joining us tonight. SCHULTZ: Thank you, Chris. HAYES: If you`re a fan of this show, first of all, thank you for watching, it is much appreciated. Also stay tuned because tonight, we will have your soon to be favorite story ever about getting out of a traffic ticket. I promise. It`s coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HAYES: As they do every year in the spring, the Pulitzer Prize Committee announced its awards in the various categories of writing. The big headline of the day was "The Huffington Post" further annihilating the boundaries of old and new media with a Pulitzer Prize for writer David Wood`s remarkable 10-part series about the challenges faced by troops bravely wounded on the battlefield who are routinely surviving injuries so severe they could not have survived them just a decade ago. The committee also decided in a slightly salty move to not issue a prize for fiction, sending the implicit message that you`re better off reading any previous fiction prize winners than any of their finalists this year. But to me, the best earned of all the prizes which comes with small amount of sadness, went to the late Columbia university professor, Manning Marable, for his biography of "Malcolm X." The book was more than 10 years in the making and came out just three after Mr. Marable`s death. The prize committee called it a provocative work that separates fact from fiction and blends the heroic and tragic. When it was released last summer, "The New York Times" called it complete, unvarnished and inspiring. Congratulations to Professor Marable`s family. Selfishly, I`m happy this book won the award because it`s been on to my read since it came out. And now, I`m definitely going to start it tonight. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RICK SANTELLI: We`re thinking of having a Chicago Tea Party in July. All you capitalists that want to show up to Lake Michigan I`m going to start organizing. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are you dumping in this time? SANTELLI: I`m going to be dumping in some derivative securities. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: That was Rick Santelli on CNBC, giving the Tea Party its name if not its launch. A few weeks after Mr. Santelli ranted indignantly about the Obama administration`s meager tentative proposal to help a relatively small number of homeowners caught in the jaws of the financial crisis, the losers as Santelli referred to them, a few weeks after he delivered that ramp, there`s new thing called the Tea Party suddenly owned Tax Day. Remember that? Remember Tax Day 2009 when the Tea Party exploded right out of nowhere with the tea bags and "don`t thread on me" flags, and the lawn chairs. Remember Glenn Beck when he was still on TV and not just the Internet machine, remember when he got on stage and told the Tea Partiers that their moment had come? After Obama`s election, the Tea Partiers rallied effectively ands vociferously against health reform. Specifically, President Obama`s proposed law providing coverage for millions of new people while also requiring everyone to buy health insurance. Here`s the Tea Party response to those ideas in 2010. They`re challenging lawmakers outside the U.S. Capitol just before the final vote on the bill. No surprise. This kind of scene does not make me personally want to run out and buy a tri-corner hat. But the Tea Party was maybe onto something. Whether the Tea Party itself motivated voters may be debatable as a proposition but with their outsized outsiders rage, Tea Partiers at least represented a real sentiment -- a sense of disposition, distrust of institutions and a rabid panicked fear of American decline. And you saw the tangible results of that in the 2010 election, especially in the house where Republicans won control with dozens of new seats. Many of them filled by freshmen lawmakers who identified as Tea Party Republicans. After the 2010 elections, Republicans also controlled most state legislatures and they held the majority of governorship -- Tea Party-backed Republicans in Florida and Ohio and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and South Carolina and on and on and on. The Tea Party was powerful, the Tea Party wasn`t stoppable. And just a little while later on Tax Day eve, people are wondering what happened to them? "A.P." asking, quote, three years later what`s become of the Tea Party? I love this scene from a Tea Party meeting in San Antonio. The group leader asked the assembled members, are we dead? Answer, we`re persistent and we communicate with each other and when it comes time to vote, we`ll definitely pull the ballot lever. Maybe what happened to the Tea Party is they voted and they won. If you want to find the Tea Party now, you can just call a legislator. Like the otherwise not very important Jeff Landry, freshman Republican of Louisiana, who would like Mitt Romney the party`s standard bearer to know just who is in charge. Quoting Mr. Landry, "We`re not a cheerleading squad. We`re the conductor. We`re supposed to drive the train." Or maybe what the Tea Party needs now is an inside outsider, a leader who can ring bells in Washington without holding office. Maybe what they need is an inside outsider like Herman Cain -- I can`t say that name without chuckling a little. The guy who delivered a Tea Party response to this year`s State of the Union speech and held a big rally today on Capitol Hill, a big rally, a revolution on the Hill, they called it. Ladies and gentlemen, your revolution. Dave Weigel of "Slate" today posted this picture of Herman Cain`s revolution on the Hill was posted today. Dave reports that organizers had six buses to get people there and you got a box lunch to boot. He says it looked to him like a couple of hundred people showed up. "Tea Party of America members had hundreds of leftover promotional flyers he writes." One volunteer told him, quote, "I was told to expect thousands of people." Well, we were told to expect a revolution. Have we gotten it? Joining us, Dave Weigel, reporter for "Slate," who had the pleasure of filing the report on Herman Cain`s revolution today. Dave, thank you for stopping by. DAVE WEIGEL, SLATE.COM: Thank you for giving me the dignity of work. I appreciate it. HAYES: That`s right. Exactly. Get you out of the house. All right. So, it`s a really interesting question. One I`ve been mulling over which is, whether the Tea Party -- does the Tea Party as an independent entity still exist? That`s my first question for you. When we look at these rallies and we compare them to previous years, it looks there`s -- it really has diminished. Does it still exist? WEIGEL: Well, it did metamorphosize. I think you set it up quietly nicely there. And the "A.P." story that you`re quoting from Theda Skocpol, who is a Harvard researcher who stayed to the Tea Party estimates that they`ve gone from a thousand active groups to about 600 active groups, which is a falloff. But I mean, I would suggest the Occupy movement, which did change the national conversation, fell off a lot more steeply than that in a shorter amount of time. No, they achieved their main goal of changing the Republican Party and we can argue about how much they really needed to change it, because a lot of demands they are making on Republicans were being made from inside the party, from the Republican study committee, from groups that exist in D.C., and had been pounding at this door for years. But I think they successfully made the Republican Party incredibly right wing, more right wing than it was and made demands on the guy who ended up winning the nomination. HAYES: Well, that`s the big question, right? I mean, in terms of what the metric we should measure Tea Party strength by. There`s a few ways to think about it. There`s the deficit showdown in which they were able to kind of enforce a sort of ideological discipline which ended for their benefit. But then Mitt Romney is after all the nominee, after all the back and forth about the Tea Party. And not only is Mitt Romney the nominee but the runner-up was Rick Santorum who took all the votes during the Bush years in which apparently they were in the wilderness, right, with the Tea Partiers wanted to repudiate, he was there on every one of those votes. So, what does the presidential nomination contest so far say about their control of the party? WEIGEL: It says that they screwed up. I think if you talk to a lot of Tea Party activists, they`ll admit it. They didn`t have a candidate early on. They always liked Herman Cain. They had a lot of faith in Herman Cain. I spent a lot of time yesterday and today with Herman Cain`s activists. Again, not as many as they hope to have in D.C. But people who really just won`t believe until the end of their days that the media was unfair to Herman Cain and created a scandal out of nothing. But they put their eggs in the wrong basket to use a cliche I already regret using. It was not -- this is not the worst case scenario. I mean, we go back two years ago, you can find a lot of discussion, not so much of Tea Party members themselves but of people analyzing them of whether they would be so disenchanted with the Republican Party that they`d break off and run their own candidate. We`re pretty late in the game and that`s not going to happen. There`s very little discussion. I think the only people discussing are the Ron Paul members of the movement, libertarians who were outside joined it again, very much a part of what was happening 2010, and are a little bit distant now. I mean, they`re focusing a bit on winning delegates with Ron Paul. They`re looking, again, at Gary Johnson`s campaign. But that`s really minor when you think of the sort of people who turned up to the 9/12 rally, who turned up to Glenn Beck`s event, who turned out to what Michele Bachmann put together, you know, even if they chose bad candidates, they have been successful apart from that and within the Republican Party. HAYES: You know, I`ll offer one final theory, which is that fundamentally a lot of what happened at the top of the Tea Party in terms of the media microphone was driven by FOX News, obviously, and they saw as a way of strengthening the Republican Party. And once that goal was accomplished, they`re not showing up to Herman`s, you know, event, with a big speaker system and live cameras to pump it up. Dave Weigel, political reporter for -- thanks so much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it. WEIGEL: Thank you. MADDOW: Right after this show, on "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell, it`s Pulitzer day. It`s only right that Lawrence has as his guest the brilliant Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Cay Johnston. Don`t miss that. And here, I have a moment of geek that pits the traffic tickets against physics. Since it`s a moment of geek, you can probably guess who wins. That`s straight ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) VOICE: Very interesting. HAYES: Two words which in combination are among the most likely in our language to be greeted with dude, bummer, are probably traffic and ticket. Traffic ticket. Dude, bummer. Can`t read them off a teleprompter without saying dude, bummer. Among the most popular ways to avoid tickets are, of course, general pleading and begging, a charm offensive and see for a very small percentage of the population celebrity use of the "do you know who I am" card. Though there is no reliable data, it is generally believed that none of these methods is particularly effective with traffic cops. Leave it then to a geek to push back against the traffic ticket man to get up out of his chair and proclaim for all of the world to hear, I made a complete stop and I`m not going to take it anymore. And leave it to the geek to bring charts to a traffic court to make the case to a judge. This is Dmitri Krioukov, a physicist at U.C. San Diego. Mr. Krioukov was given a $400 ticket for failing to stop at a stop sign. Dude, bummer. He arrived in traffic court armed with the signs using this chart and others apparently. Krioukov argued three points of physical science. First the observer, in this case the cop sitting 100 feet away was measuring Krioukov`s angular speed, not his linear speed, like when you`re far away from something that`s moving, it does not appear to be moving at all -- that`s angular speed -- as opposed to something moves past you and you observe its linear speed. Second, Krioukov says he quickly decelerated to a stop, he swears, and then accelerated quickly. And, finally, and most crucially, I would say though I know basically nothing about physics, the observer cop`s view was obstructed for a second. At the moment he says he stopped his car but was accused of having not stopped. For his very good work, Dmitri Krioukov was let off the hook -- no ticket, no fine, no points for a moving violation. For extra geek credit, he published his four-page work online and of course invited peer review. From here forward, should Dmitri be pulled over on a traffic beef, he can skip the general pleading, bag the charm offensive and go right to, "Do you know who I am?" For it is the geek who shall inherit the earth. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HAYES: Over the weekend, Mitt Romney gave what was for him a pretty candid speech. That was because it wasn`t given to you or to me or to the press, it was given to donors at a fund-raising event in Palm Beach. The reason we know some of the details of his remarks is that NBC`s Garrett Haake and a reporter from the "Wall Street Journal" were outside the event and they overheard Romney`s talking to said donors. Now, donors can be lied to, just like voters can be, but there`s also a certain kind of informal intimacy that comes from these events, where people are cutting the big checks. So some of the things that Romney said at this fund-raiser -- he said he`d consolidate the department of education with another agency or make it smaller, but he wouldn`t get rid of the it entirely. Ann Romney talked about how she loved, absolutely loved being criticized as a mother by Hilary Rosen. She called it, quote, "an early birthday present." But one thing that caught my ear was Romney`s remark about the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD. Quote, "Things like Housing and Urban Development, which my dad was head of, that might not be around later." Federal agencies and cabinet positions come in roughly two varieties, the kinds everyone knows and all of the other ones. If you pay any attention to politics, you have heard of the State Department, the Department of Defense, the Justice Department, and chances are you have also heard of the Treasury and you know who`s running them. Hillary Clinton, Leon Panetta, Eric Holder, and Timothy Geithner. Then there are the less well-known, less popular federal agencies, the Department of Interior, say, or Transportation, which don`t quite get the headlines the other ones do. But down near the very bottom of the federal agency`s list is the one Mitt Romney is toying with scrapping, Housing and Urban Development. And Romney is not the only prominent Republican to treat HUD like a throw away. Ronald Reagan cared so little about HUD, he couldn`t even recognize the man he`d put in charge of running it. Quote, "Early in his presidency, at a White House reception, Reagan greeted the only black member of his cabinet, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Samuel Pierce saying: `How are you, Mr. Mayor? I`m glad to meet you. How are things in your city?`" Now, the reason Reagan couldn`t recognize his own HUD secretary and the reason a Republican presidential candidate might want to get rid of HUD actually relates in an important way as to why Mitt Romney was leveling, again, for Mitt Romney, with the people he was speaking to at his Palm Beach fund-raiser, because the people at the fund-raiser are powerful people who support Romney needs while the people who depend on HUD are not. The people who depend on HUD are largely urban dwellers, and urban dwellers are disproportionately nonwhite and the disproportionately Democrats. And so, HUD is an easy target for any Republicans that comes to office. They can go after it, secure in the knowledge that most of the pain will be visited upon folks that don`t have much power and don`t vote for them anyway. This is part and parcel of the overall Republican vision, as embodied in Congressman Paul Ryan`s budget to take a hatchet to those programs that most benefit the poor and to eliminate nearly all of the federal government that is not defense or spending on senior citizens by the year 2050. But here`s the thing I find particularly galling about toying with the notion of getting rid of HUD. Let`s take a step back and remember where we are right now. The economy is still recovering from the worst recession we`ve had since the 1930s. The worst recession was precipitated by the worst financial crisis we`ve had since the 1930s, which was precipitated by the worst housing bubble, and that housing bubble was precipitated by both deregulation and housing policy. Housing and housing policy, making sure that we have enough that`s affordable, but don`t drive a consumption bubble is actually not just a tangential, but a policy that you can lop off or forget about. It has actually proven to be something that`s extremely important to get right. And in fact, what we`ve seen in the Obama administration is a battle behind the scenes between the Treasury Department or HUD, over housing policies, in particular about how to get over the housing crisis and out of foreclosures -- a battle that the Treasury has been winning with terrible results for homeowners and the economy, but great results for the banks. In the 1960s, it basically took nothing less than rioting for the political establishment to pay attention to cities. HUD was established in the 1965. And politicians did eventually pay attention. Everyone had to come up with a platform, a vision, even Republicans of how they were going to address the urban question. Today, those voters can be safely ignored by the national political establishment and particularly by the Republican Party. That`s why Mitt Romney can say to his donors when he thinks no one else is listening that he may just get rid of the government agency that sees to the needs of people who live in cities -- the agency that works to make sure that people, people who are not typically in attendance at Palm Beach fund- raisers, have some semblance of a fair shake when it comes to housing policy. But beyond the questions of fairness and urban policy, there`s the wider issue that we were supposed of learned in the wake of the financial crisis. Economic problems are like a contagious virus. They may start in one small, marginalized population, but they do not stay there. They spread. So, even if you think it`s OK to ignore the problems of the poor or the urban working class, because they may not be your constituency, that decision will probably come back to haunt you. The constituencies that most rely on HUD are the same communities that served as a Petri dish for the subprime lending virus, and we all saw how that ended up. A government that is unresponsive to an entire subsection of its society that believes it does not need to listen to or serve the marginalized is a government that will be doomed to repeated failure and crisis. That does it for us. Rachel will be back tomorrow. I will see you next weekend, Saturday and Sunday on "UP" at 8:00 a.m. Eastern. We`re going to have Christine Todd Whitman, which I`m very excited about. Now it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell. Have a great night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END