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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 07/03/12

Guests: Thomas Giovanni

EZRA KLEIN, GUEST HOST: And thank you to you at home for sticking around for the next hour. Rachel has the night off, but we have a great show, including -- I am very excited for this -- an epic chart smackdown. You Venn diagram aficionados out there, you should get ready to rumble. But before that, I have to begin with a confession. You know Mitch McConnell, kind of a jolly guy. He`s a Kentuckian. He leads the Senate Republicans. He is my favorite politician by far, and not just because of his good looks or his Southern charm. It`s because Mitch McConnell is the most honest man in Washington. You ask almost anyone else in a position of power on Capitol Hill why they`re doing, what they`re doing, and you get spin, spin, and more spin. You know, they`re reaching across the aisle to make the country better, because freedom is the most important freedom, that any freedom and American value, and then you think about the children and their freedom, and et cetera, et cetera. Meanwhile, they just got done 10 minutes before that meeting with six mega donors and the way they`re voting on the amendment because they`re settling a score they have been nursing since the 2005 budget fight. Mitch McConnell is not really like that. He tells you what`s going on. When he speaks I have learned to listen. In fact, of every politician and I`m not kidding about this, he`s literally the one I listen to the most closely because his mixture of real power and frankly honesty maim hick the best guy to what is going to happen next in the Capitol. A few examples, back in October 2010, Major Garrett of "The National Journal" sat down with McConnell to talk about what Republicans would do if they took back Congress in the fall. McConnell didn`t Garrett he wanted compromise or a new tone or a renewed spirit of cooperation and partnership or any of the warm and fluffy things you tend to hear politicians say. No, he told Garrett, quote, "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." Ouch. So partisan, sure, but honest. If that would have been all you knew about the Republican Party, you could have predicted the last two years in Congress almost perfectly. But, of course, most people didn`t predict it perfectly. They have been puzzled by Republicans who seem unwilling to touch anything with a Democratic name on it, up to and including bills the Republicans have supported and even come up with themselves in the first place. But you know what? McConnell explains that whole thing to us, too. In January 2011, he gave an interview to "The Atlantic" in which he said, "We worked very hard to keep our fingerprints off these proposals because we thought that the only way the American people would know a great debate was going on was if the measures were not bipartisan." You know what? McConnell was correct. I think that`s actually one of the most profound things anyone has said about politics. What he understood was that what makes a bill bipartisan is not the ideas in it or the spirit in which it`s offered. It`s whether any legislators from the other party sign on. And if none of them do, then by definition, no matter how moderate the ideas in the bill are, the bill is partisan. So by keeping his members off the major bills, he makes each and every one of those pieces of legislation into a partisan bill, and he destroyed the president`s hope for image as a bipartisan compromiser. This weekend on FOX News, McConnell gave another remarkably honest interview. For years now, Republicans have been saying repeal and replace, repeal and replace, you probably heard it. That is their health care plan. But they haven`t come together behind anything that would actually replace the Affordable Care Act and cover a substantial act of the uninsured. Chris Wallace asked McConnell why. In fact, he asked McConnell why three times. And by the third time, McConnell`s limited patience gave out and he got real. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: One of the keys to Obamacare is it will extend insurance access to 30 million people who are now uninsured. In your replacement, how would you provide universal coverage? SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: First, let me say the single best thing we can do for the American health care system is to get rid of Obamacare. WALLACE: If I may, sir, you talked about repeal and replace. How would you provide universal coverage? MCCONNELL: I`ll get to it in a minute. WALLACE: What specifically are you going to do provide universal coverage to 30 million people who are uninsured? MCCONNELL: That is not the issue. The question is how can you go step by step to improve the American health care system. It`s already the finest health care system in the world. (END VIDEO CLIP) KLEIN: That is not the issue. It is already the finest health care system in the world. You listen to that and it`s clear there is no replace agenda. Not a real one, just repeal. And the reason there`s just repeal is key Republicans don`t think the uninsured are the issue. They don`t think our health care system is, in fact, all that broken. It`s the best in the world, remember. This is about tweaks, improvements, not a national crisis of 50 million people who can`t get care when they need it. Look, you could say, Ezra, your love, your adoration for Mitch McConnell is blinding you to the truth. He`s an outlier. Republicans do want to fix the health care system. To which I say, oh, yes? Here is Eric Cantor on "MORNING JOE" on Friday. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TOM BROKAW, NBC: It seems to me that the Republican Party then has to have some kind of a framework of an alternative to what they`re talking about because whatever else we think about health care, everybody knows that financially the system is broken. You can still get cured here in ways you can`t in others and get treatment, but the cost system is kind of a Ponzi scheme. So, my question again to you, Congressman, is when will we see a Republican plan that would replace more meritoriously the Obamacare plan that you`re so unhappy with? REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MAJORITY LEADER: Tom, you knew back in 2009 when the Obamacare bill was being considered on the House floor, we put forward our alternative. To say we don`t have a replacement is not correct. (END VIDEO CLIP) KLEIN: Aha, so they do have a replace. What Cantor is saying is he`s got a full plan, like right now, you go read it. It`s the same plan they voted on in 2009. It`s sitting out there. You can download it on the Internet, which we did today at the RACHEL MADDOW SHOW. And we went through it, and as it turns out, there`s not much to see. There were four main ideas in the Republican bill. One was tort reform, to which, eh -- another was allowing insurers to sell across state line. Now, this is a big Republican idea here and we should go through it real quick. Right now, your state regulates the insurance you can buy. If Aetna doesn`t follow the rules you lay down by the people you elected to represent you in the legislature and the governor mansion, they can`t sell in your state. But that is not how all markets for all products work. If you ever notice how your credit card bills come from South Dakota or Delaware, it`s because credit card companies can sell across state lines. And so, they cut deals with South Dakota and Delaware in which those states gave them very, very, very lax regulatory environments and the credit card companies put their headquarters there. So, all Aetna would have to do is follow the rules in whichever state they wanted which would be whichever state had the fewest rules. So, classic race to the bottom. A third was -- a third idea in the Republican bill that is was high risk, where sick people can go to get insurance with other sick people. It`s a stopgap measure you do if you don`t want to end discrimination of people with pre-existing conditions. And Republicans don`t want to do that, or at least they didn`t want to do it in this bill. A fourth idea was branch to states to help them experiment with reforms on their own. Look, whether you like the changes or you hate them, they`re not big reforms. They`re tweaks. They are adjustments. They are small, tiny changes to the existing law. And they`d have a small effect. The Congressional Budget Office, the nonpartisan number crunchers in Congress, ran the numbers on the Republican proposal. And they estimated that by 2019, it would have covered, wait for it, 3 million uninsured people. That`s compared to the Affordable Care Act`s 30-plus million. So, that`s the graph you`re seeing here. The blue lines going up are the number of people covered under the Affordable Care Act. And those tiny red bars you see if you look down towards the bottom of the screen, the ones that don`t seem to move very much, it`s number of people covered by the Republican alternative. So the Republican alternative would cover less than a tenth as many insured people as the president`s plan, and that Eric Cantor says is the GOP`s plan today, which is all to say McConnell was, as usual, right. The Republicans really don`t see covering the uninsured as, quote, "the issue". And they really are comfortable with the system in pretty much the form it exists today. As I told you earlier, you should always listen to Mitch McConnell. Joining us now is Steve Kornacki, host of MSNBC`s terrific new show, "THE CYCLE", and contributor at "Salon". It`s good to see you. STEVE KORNACKI, SALON: Thanks. Great to be here. KLEIN: The thing McConnell is great at in my view is getting politics right. He tends to see the political calculation clearly. And so, you wonder if he has it right here, too. In health care circles, people sometimes say the most important fact is not that 15 percent of people are uninsured, but that 85 percent of people have insurance. And in fact, more than 95 percent of voters are insured. So, Republicans actually right is a whole play that in fact covering the uninsured is not a political winner and instead, it`s better to just sort of give it lip service and move on to other things in your agenda? KORNACKI: Right. Well, first of all, some people would say part of getting politics right is not admitting to this stuff in public -- (CROSSTALK) KORNACKI: But his analysis I think is correct. And I think that the important thing to keep in mind about in terms of how health care politics play out, and this was true when Bill Clinton was president. I think it`s been true under Obama`s presidency, is that when health care exists as sort of an abstract campaign idea, think about 1992 with Bill Clinton. He made universal health care a big part of the campaign, very popular idea, conceptually with people. The idea that basic justice (ph) of that, that everybody should have access to good health insurance. And if you`re arrested, you get a lawyer, if you`re sick, you get a doctor. That kind of appeal. The same thing for Obama in 2008. The tables turned as soon as Clinton actually proposed his plan in `93 and as soon as Obama actually put his plan together, you know, in 2009-2010. What you saw happened then was Republicans basically looked at that 85 percent. They looked at the middle class. They look at people who already had insurance, people who conceptually liked the idea of everybody getting covered. And then they basically made the case then that, hey, look, if we`re going to start covering other people this way, you stand to lose maybe the ability to choose your own doctor, maybe it`s the policy you have right now might go away. Some kind of security that you have, that 85 percent has. That`s what Republicans go after. So, it`s a bind where they don`t want to say they`re against universal health insurance, but they kind of wait for the moments when it`s on the table and they start going after all of things people are going to lose. KLEIN: So, the one thing you can look at, right, is voters simply fear change. When people bring up big legislative changes to things that matter in their lives, they get scared and they back away. And so, another piece of what something McConnell said recently is sort of in the same vein. I`ve actually been somebody who thinks -- contrary to some of conventional wisdom -- that if Republicans take the election, they will be able to repeal the Affordable Care Act. They can use 51 votes and get all the money out of it. And without the money, it collapses. But McConnell doesn`t think that. I want you to listen to what he said here. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MCCONNELL: And you thought it was a good idea for the federal government to go in this direction, I`d say the odds are still on your side because it`s a lot harder to undo something than it is to stop it in the first place. (END VIDEO CLIP) KLEIN: So, is he right? Are Republicans going to have more trouble repealing the Affordable Care Act than they like to think? KORNACKI: I think the problem here is there is an awareness on the part of the Republican -- most Republicans` part that they do need some kind of replace if they`re going to go forward with repealing it because then the minute you repeal it, it`d reverse that dynamic I`m talking about where people side with the Democrats overwhelming in the poll because people like the idea of universal care. And the Republicans really have not figured out even the first base of what they would honestly do. You laid out the plan from 2009. There`s a little bit of that. There`s talk of a tax credit. There`s a whole debate within the party right now, I think, about some of the popular provisions of Obamacare. You know, 26-year-olds being on their parents` policy. There are some Republicans who seem to want that to still be part of the law, others who want that out. You know, should there be a law banning, denying coverage to pre- existing conditions? That sort of thing. So, they have not really figured this out right now. And again, a lot of it comes back to the fact that, you know, Obama did at the end of the day propose and implement a Republican health care plan in a lot of ways. The alternative -- . (CROSSTALK) KLEIN: The John Chafee plan. Steve Kornacki, you can see more of his excellent political analysis on "THE CYCLE," the MSNBC`s new hit show, weekdays at 3:00 p.m. and at "Salon." Thank you very much for being here tonight. KORNACKI: Thanks. KLEIN: Have a great Fourth of July. KORNACKI: You, too. KLEIN: Did you hear that the president is spending America`s Independence Day in Paris? The French have a word for that and I believe it`s le croc (ph). That is next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HAYES: Two hundred and thirty-six years ago today on July 3rd, 1776, the soon to be second president of the United States, John Adams, wrote a letter to his wife Abigail from his post in the great city of Philadelphia. An ebullient John Adams wrote to his wife, quote, "The second day of July 1776 will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I`m apt to believe it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be galvanized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bon fires, and illuminations from one end of the continent to the other, from this time forward forever more." Amen. Actually, I add the amen. But that was the second day of July he was talking about -- July 2nd. John Adams was, in turned out, two days off. July 2nd was the day the Second Continental Congress voted for our independency from the British, but it wasn`t until July 4th the Declaration of Independence was officially adopted. So, even from the very beginning, confusion has always reigned when it comes to the Fourth of July. Even though we celebrate the Fourth as the day the Declaration of Independence was signed, for example, most historians believe it wasn`t actually signed until August 2nd. But this year, on the eve of this country`s 236th birthday, that confusion has been ratcheted up to a whole new totally paranoid level. Did you hear what President Obama is going to be celebrating the Fourth of July tomorrow? Did you hear where he`s going to be? Yes, Paris. Paris, France. Our president, America`s president is going to be celebrating the birth of our nation not in America, but overseas and not just overseas but in France? Well, OK, that is of course 100 percent pure unadulterated not happening. But it has become an accepted fact in some corners of the right. It all began with this article in "The Hollywood Reporter" last week which noted that the European branch of the Obama fund-raising effort will kick off next week in Paris with an Independence Day reception. That is to say the folks in the Obama campaign charged with raising money from American expats will be holding an event in Paris on July 4th. Not such a big deal. But that little piece of reporting, somehow through the magic of conservative blog stuff became President Obama is going to Paris for the Fourth of July to raise money. The piece was first picked up by -- who else --, which helpfully noted that Paris, quote, "may be the only place Obama can still find cheering throngs." Nice hit. But that piece in turn then found its way over to venerable conservative publication, "The National Review". A contributor there named Andrew McCarthy linked to the article with this headline, "Final Jeopardy -- category is Obama: The answer is fund-raising in Paris." The link there noting that is how President Obama will be spending July 4th. Karl rove then tweeted that "National Review" link at his hundreds of thousands of followers and, from there, we were off to the races. Joe Mathis at "Philadelphia" magazine captured a few of the tweets from the right responding. There was this from @FOXNewsmom, quote, "Fitting, comrade Obama campaign to celebrate July in socialist France." Here`s another, "Would Reagan/Bush/Romney go to Paris on Fourth of July to fund raise? Never. Obama does, showing his desperation." Or this one, "Why would anyone vote for a guy who hates the U.S. so much?" But it wasn`t just folks on Twitter that got all worked up. It was also high-profile conservative talk show host Lars Larson who bought into the lie. Quote, "What would you expect the president do on our day of independence? Perhaps give a speech or visit wounded warriors. At least something in America. Not this president. Not Barack Obama." Actually that is exactly what this president, Barack Obama, is going to be doing tomorrow. He`s not going to be in Paris. He`s going to be right here in America meeting with active duty U.S. service members who are becoming naturalized U.S. citizens at the White House. That`s 4,000 miles or so away from Paris. When it was pointed out to "The National Review`s" Andrew McCarthy that he was flat out wrong about this, that President Obama is not going to be in Paris on July 4th, he ultimately apologized via Twitter saying, quote, "LOL, OK, OK, I see Obama campaign, not necessarily Obama will be fund-raising in Paris on July 4th. I didn`t realize there was a difference." That`s an apology, kind of. But fair enough, we all get it wrong sometimes. But this idea is still bouncing around strange corners of the blogo and Twittersphere, at some point, your crazy uncle might corner you and say, my God, did you hear Obama is in Paris for Independence Day? Can you believe that? Actually, this year, though, you can do him one better. You can tell him the real Independence Day was on Monday. He`ll blow his mind. And more importantly, he`ll change the topic. Joining me now is MSNBC contributor and political reporter Dave Weigel. Dave, good to see you, my friend, and happy almost July 4th. DAVE WEIGEL, SLATE.COM: Happy July 4th eve. KLEIN: So, I actually thought France bashing was sort of very 2004. I mean, this year actually Romney lived in France, he speaks some French. He`s said good things about the French health care system. And I want to be clear -- I have no problem with that. The French health care system is actually really good. But you think it would make top Republicans nervous about throwing around accusations about having loyalties to Paris. WEIGEL: I think quite the opposite. I mean, if there was a sophisticated angle to this, it would probably be the one from Karl Rove. When Karl Rove worked for President Bush`s campaign in 2004, a member of the team gave a quote to "The New York Times" about how John Kerry looked French. I mean, there`s kind of a record the Republicans have of foreignizing Democratic candidates, especially linking them to whatever you find wimpy at the moment. And the incentive to do that if your candidate is on video speaking French as Mitt Romney is, even if it`s something completely silly, like for whatever reason the Romney campaign decides to engage in, it`s something you can at least muddy up. At least you can create some confusion out there. I mean, when I see this story, I think of the polls that show 1 percent of the people think Barack Obama is Mormon. The more confusion you get, the better off you are. KLEIN: Actually, this is exactly what I wanted to move the conversation to because I get, I`m sure you get more than I do, but I get a lot of e-mail forwarded with the craziest conspiracies and half truths and total untruths you can think of. So, you actually go out there on the trail. How prevalent is this kind of thing in the mind of the voters you talk to? WEIGEL: I had not heard anything about the French. And if I did, I think most Tea Partiers are well schooled enough in the revolution to know that the French were on our side. The first Tea Party I want to was near the statue of Lafayette outside the White House. But, no, other theories I think are kind of urged along. And this is -- the fact, you know, Rove was a central player in this. He pushed it around a little bit. But remember it was Karl Rove who wrote after the president went to Europe, after he went to Egypt, wrote he was on an apology tour. In so far as Mitt Romney has a foreign policy argument against the president, it`s that he goes around the world apologizing, he gives up territory, he gives up treaties. He doesn`t negotiate. He`s letting everyone roll over on this. So, far from conspiracy theories almost, the understanding that you hear on the trail about what the president`s doing, what his foreign policy is, is informed by that sense, and it`s key to make people think that he`s giving things away when he goes overseas. KLEIN: MSNBC contributor and political reporter, Dave Weigel, making the unsophisticated sophisticated. Dave, thank you so much for being around tonight. WEIGEL: Thank you, Ezra. KLEIN: Have you ever been at the ATM and pushed the wrong button? OK, now imagine pushing the wrong button affects everywhere who lives in your state. That actually happened yesterday, and I`ll have all of the gory details, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KLEIN: Nobody ever promised voting would be easy. Remember Palm Beach County, Florida`s confusing butterfly ballots or the state`s other flawed paper ballots in the 2000 presidential election, especially those chads that were left hanging or dimpled or I never understood how this could happen, pregnant. If you are a Floridian who fears you may have mistakenly voted for the wrong guy in the 2000 election, that`s something you have long had to make your peace with. But at least you were able to bare that burden privately. Now imagine lodging the incorrect vote, the deciding vote and having everyone know that you did it, that you were the one to do if. Late last night in the North Carolina general assembly -- it`s silly that most of us at the RACHEL MADDOW SHOW had gone home already -- late last night, state lawmakers were voting on whether to override the governor`s veto of a pro- fracking bill. On Sunday, Democratic Governor Bev Perdue had voted legislation that would have paved the way for gas drilling procedure called hydraulic fracturing in North Carolina. She said no to fracking. And on Monday, Republican lawmakers set about trying to undo her work. They had enough votes to do that in the state senate, overriding the governor`s veto there. But in the general assembly, the vote was really, really, really close. Now, I should mention in the North Carolina general assembly, you vote by pushing a button. It`s really important you push the right button. Last night, a yes vote meant you wanted to override the fracking veto. If you were voting no, you were voting not to override the fracking veto. Got that? Becky Carney is a Democratic member from Charlotte who wanted to vote against the override. That meant she needed to push the no button, the red button. Late last night, while after 11:00 p.m., Becky Carney pushed the green button, the one that said aye. In doing so, Becky Carney mistakenly cast a deciding vote to override Governor Perdue`s veto. She mistakenly voted with the Republicans. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. BECKY CARNEY (D), NORTH CAROLINA: I made a mistake. And I tried to get recognized to change it as people have been doing all night on other bills and it was too late because it changed the outcome of the vote. (END VIDEO CLIP) KLEIN: Under North Carolina House rules, members can change their vote if they have made a mistake -- something that apparently happens all the time. But they can`t change their vote if that change affects the final outcome. Only if your mistake is inconsequential do you get to change it. Only when it doesn`t count do we care. Voting is the most important thing we get to do in this experience called democracy. It will be 236 years old tomorrow. But as with any experiment, mistakes will happen. The important thing is to keep trying, to keep learning from our mistakes, which is far from a given in this particular election year. Right now, in many places, access to voting is getting really, really difficult. The fight for voting rights, still ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KLEIN: At one time in this country, as in many, many other countries, going back for hundreds of years, people who owed money that could not pay were at risk of being thrown into debtor`s prison. This is a debtor`s prison in England, where the debtors worked away on some kind of internal looking contraption. This old debtor`s prison is in Prince Edward County, Virginia. For the most part, the U.S. outlawed debtor`s prison back before the civil war. So, when you see a picture of that Virginia debtor`s prison now, it`s got a county official clowning around out in front. In this country, in the United States of America, we don`t do debtor`s prison anymore. And yet, in this country, we are still throwing people into prison for owing money and not paying it back. And here`s the really perverse part. They owe the money to us. We grab people for minor misdemeanors, start charging them fees and penalties, and then we throw them in jail when they can`t pay the debts we have dropped on them. For instance, Richard Garrett, he lives in Alabama where he spent 24 months in jail over traffic and license violations that now amount to $10,000. "The New York Times" in a remarkable article today reports that Mr. Garrett is sick and out of work, but he can`t pay. Another defendant from the same part of Alabama ended up owing $1,500 for what began as a speeding ticket. She found herself in the tender care of the same private probation company that has been so helpful in re- incarcerating Mr. Garrett. Gina Ray (ph) got tossed into jail where she was billed again for every day she stayed there. Now, Ms. Ray`s has doubled and she`s at risk of being re-incarcerated again for a speeding ticket. Then, there was Hills McGee, a 53-year-old veteran who was thrown in jail for public drunkenness. McGee, who makes $243 a month in veterans benefits was fined $270 by the court and then put on probation. The probation company added a $15 enrollment fee -- an enrollment fee for the privilege of being in their program -- and $39 in monthly fees. McGee was eventually jailed for falling behind on his payments. There is an entire industry devoted to making money off people like Richard Garrett and Gina Ray and Hills McGee. The company that`s making money off them in these particular cases is Judicial Correction Services Incorporated based in Georgia with offenses in Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi as well. Judicial Correction Services hires itself out to court systems and makes its money by billing the accused. Quote, "Whether your court is looking for a comprehensive solution to recidivism or just a boost in the fine collections, Judicial Correction Services has the experience to create and implement a system of supervision that works for your court." Judicial Correction Services offers local courts its trademark probation tracker software so you can better keep up with offenders, no need for files of paperwork, the company says, because the folks at JCS can track each case on their laptops. The video you see here is, of course, only play acting. The guy in the incredibly hideous hat that does not match his incredibly weird looking shirt is a guy trying to look like a criminal. Just like this jury on the company`s Web site is actually from a stock photo and not a real trial. What is real is the lawsuit against JCS and the Alabama officials who brought the company to town. A lawyer for a firm associated with the case told "The New York Times," quote, "With so many economically strapped, there is growing pressure on the courts to grow in money rather than mete out justice. These companies that they hire are aggressive. Those arrested are not told about the right to counsel, or asked whether they are indigent or offered an alternative to fines and jail. There are real constitutional issues at stake." For the record, executives at the Judicial Correction Services say they do try to help people who can`t pay and it is up to the judge to decide. The executives say their company stands to benefit from keeping people out of jail and paying. And that`s how this works, right? The states add on all kinds of fees from which the state and private companies benefit to get richer and people keep paying. Happens all across the country. The nonprofit Brennan Center for Justice looked at the 15 states with the largest prison populations and they found fees across the board for simply dealing with the court system. They also found hundreds of people locked up for failing to pay. The fees range from paying for a constitutionally mandated public defender to paying 25 bucks for a visitor in prison. You have to pay to see a visitor, a friendly face, when you`re locked up. The fees also amount to a kind of penalty for being poor, defendants who can`t pay the money find themselves serving more time or staying on probation longer. The defendants who can`t pay the money don`t. So the dependants who can`t pay the money who already don`t have that much money end up owing all the more. In Illinois, the state adds on 30 percent if you fall behind in your payments. In New Orleans, it costs you 100 bucks just to sign up for a payment plan. The Brennan Center writing, quote, "Certainly, states have a legitimate interest in creating incentives so that dependants can pay their debts do pay them. But states need to insure that they do not end penalizing the truly poor and enriching the private debt collectors at their expense." Joining us now is Thomas Giovanni, director of the community-oriented Defender Network at the Brennan Center for Justice. Thomas, thank you so much for being here tonight. THOMAS GIOVANNI, BRENNAN CENTER: Thank you for having. KLEIN: I`ve got to ask you just to start to here what`s going to sound like a dumb question. Why are we doing this? What purpose in the legal system does it serve to load people up on debt and then throw them back in jail when they can`t pay it? It doesn`t seem to be keeping people from reoffending. It`s not punishing folks just for the crime they did. It`s not rehabilitating. What is the purpose here? GIOVANNI: It`s obviously a bad idea as you`ve laid out. But the idea behind it is that courts are cash-strapped and legislators are not funding the criminal justice system at the level it needs to be funded. And they`re desperate to look for people to pay. They can`t force the legislators, but they do have every client in front of them. KLEIN: So, that was actually exactly what I wanted to ask you about. You guys have really done the work tabulating where these are. Are we seeing the fees go up quicker in states where we have seen deeper cuts in judicial systems? I mean, is there a clear relationship in the data? GIOVANNI: There`s not a clear relationship in the data and trend, but there is a clear trend upward in terms of the activity. Legislatures and court systems are becoming much more active as they feel the pressure whether it`s real or imagined. So, it`s not a one to one. But there is actually more activity from court systems trying to self-fund. KLEIN: There were some concerns raised in the article about the overall legality of this. Is this constitutional? GIOVANNI: There`s two answers. It shouldn`t be constitutional to put somebody in a cage for not paying a fee they can`t pay. However, there are a lot of work-arounds to that fundamental Sixth Amendment protection. People are being put in jail for failure to pay these fines in civil cases like a contempt case where you don`t have a right to a lawyer. But it`s the same cage. KLEIN: And the probation company, they say -- because they`re a key actor here, they say what they`re doing is they`re just helping people to stay current. They`re helping prevent recidivism. They`re playing a role in the basically post-jail support network that the courts would be paying if they had the money. Is there a reason to believe that, that reasonably they`re effective? GIOVANNI: That`s the first time I have heard the phrase post-jail support network. No, it really doesn`t help. The way that fees and fines file up doesn`t actually help somebody on a path to reentry. It actually is a barrier to reentry. The more you have to do to get back to a normal state, the worse it is. For instance, if you can`t pay a fine, a lot of states will keep you from having a driver`s license. But, of course, you can`t drive to work in a lot of cities if you don`t have a car, so you can`t pay the fee. This doesn`t help anything. It actually just piles up fees on people who are indigent. Most of the people in the criminal justice system, 80 percent can`t afford a lawyer. So, I don`t know why we think they can afford the fees. KLEIN: And so, is the incentive here the probation companies actually help the court system make more money? Is that the key and the relationship? GIOVANNI: That`s the goal. I don`t see it happening. KLEIN: Thomas Giovanni, attorney at the Brennan Center for Justice, we appreciate you coming by today. Have a great Fourth of July. GIOVANNI: Thank you. KLEIN: Still ahead, the very first RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Venn diagram smackdown. Intersecting circles of doom. I can`t tell you how excited I am for this. Stick around. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KLEIN: Since 2010, we`ve been seeing the following pattern. Republicans win a majority of seats in a state legislature. Then in the name of cracking down on voter fraud, Republican-led legislature crafts laws restricting voting rights in their state. Laws that mostly affect constituencies that traditional vote for Democrats -- funny how that happens. Then the state`s governor signs the bill if he or she is Republican -- or vetoes the bill if he or she is a Democrat. That is how it tends to go. For example, in New Hampshire, the Democratic Governor John Lynch tried to be a one-man bulwark against the voter ID tide by vetoing a law passed by legislature in his state. That law would require voters to show a photo ID or sign a voter affidavit -- a form that some fear could take voters a long time to fill out, causing chaos and lines at the heavily affected polling places. Last week, New Hampshire lawmakers changed that requirement into something simpler and overrode the Lynch veto, making New Hampshire the latest state to require a photo ID. New Hampshire Republicans in other words made voting harder. Wisconsin Republicans also made voting harder last year. It`s well into the next step of the process, inevitable court challenge, which is how we got to know Ruthel Frank. You remember her? Ms. Frank is in her mid- 80s, a member of the town board where she lives and a lifelong voter. Ruthel Frank is also one of many people who would lose her ability to vote under Wisconsin`s new law. For Ms. Frank, the problem was she does not have a birth certificate or a driver`s license. And the state told her she would have to spend up to $200 getting the right paperwork so she can meet the new requirements for doing what she`s done all her adult life, going to the polls to vote. Ruthel Frank is the plaintiff in a lawsuit against the new Wisconsin voter ID law, one of three legal challenges against it. And the governor of Wisconsin who signed away her ability to vote, Scott Walker, has been defending that law in court. In May, two state lawmakers tried to sign on, too, saying they also wanted to defend the state`s new law to make voting harder. They personally wanted to join in the pile-on. Only these two elected officials would not say how they were paying to join the case. They didn`t say where the money to pay the attorneys was coming from, which is an ethics problem actually since state officials can`t accept outside help like free legal services. One of the lawmakers said he could not comment because he did not know who was paying for the legal work. You know what? Mystery solved, and it wasn`t the butler who did it. It was the Republican National Committee. A spokesperson admitted that the RNC were footing the bill all along and defended the national group`s involvement as, quote, "a common sense way to insure confidence in the state`s voting system." Always nice of them. Mystery solved in Wisconsin. Powerful people are heavily involved in an effort to consolidate their power, nothing unusual to see here. Human history. But it`s happening in Pennsylvania, too. And there, they`re not even trying to hide what`s going on. Last week, it emerged, the statehouse`s majority leader, a Republican named Mike Turzai, made a telling admission at a weekend meeting of the Republican state committee. He said it while listing his party`s recent accomplishments. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) STATE REP., MIKE TURZAI (R-PA), MAJORITY LEADER: Pro-Second Amendment, the Castle Doctrine, done. First pro-life legislation, abortion facility regulations in 22 years, done. Voter ID, which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done. (END VIDEO CLIP) KLEIN: There it is, all spelled out, making Pennsylvania voters show ID they never showed before, will allow Governor Romney to win Pennsylvania. I think he meant to say protect the integrity of the vote. Dude, you have to keep up appearances on this stuff. But that, that`s what we`re seeing a lot. That is the trend. In fact, since the red tide elections of 2010, we have seen 180 bills to make voting harder. Sixteen states have actually passed laws to do that, including New Hampshire. Together, these states nearly 80 percent of the electoral votes needed to win the White House this year, which makes today`s news from Michigan somewhat startling. Michigan`s Republican governor, Rick Snyder, was handed a Republican- crafted package of election laws, and he vetoed it today, at least some of it. Today, Governor Snyder struck down three bills, one requiring voters to check a box affirming they are citizens, one adding new eligibility requirements for groups that register voters, and one requiring absentee voters to show a photo ID. The governor criticized the laws for creating confusion and declared, quote, "Voting rights are precious and we need to work especially hard to make it possible for people to vote." Which means that today in Michigan, the normal script got flipped and the happy reaction quotes came from left- leaning voter rights groups and the disappointed quotes came from Republican legislators, like House Speaker Jaise Boulder (ph), whose spokesman went straight to the bogeymen well with this response to one of the vetoes, quote, "People who believe they are registering to vote should have confidence in the process so they know their registrations are being handled properly. Antics by unscrupulous groups such as ACORN -- aha, ACORN -- have proven that protecting the voter registration process is vital if we hope to preserve the integrity of ballots cast by every eligible voter." Except that preserving the integrity of ballots thing, that is what Governor Snyder is getting in trouble with his own party for today. So the question is, how many other GOP governors are willing to risk trouble in their party to protect the essential right that protects democracy? (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KLEIN: When a chart is good, it is very, very, very good. Oh, so good. When it is bad, it is hilarious. The Mitt Romney for president campaign is trying to get away from talking about health care and the Supreme Court and any topic, really, that doesn`t begin with "econ" and end with "omy." The Romney plan is to tie the president to bad economic news and sit back and watch those Electoral College votes roll in. It is a simple plan and could work very well. This week, the message is all about what the Romney campaign claims is a gap between what the president promised to do and what he actually did. It is a powerful political point, and one that can be illustrated a number of ways. For example, the campaign has sent out this press release: Why the jobs promise gap? According to Romney, the gap is 8 million jobs, because before we knew how deep the recession was, the president`s economic advisers predicted unemployment would go down faster than it actually did. OK, it`s not exactly a light your hair on fire press release, but it was fine it used the word "gap" in the headline, it was printed on paper. The whole thing was sort of a mission accomplished. It worked out fine. In the audio-visual medium, too, the Romney campaign did a fine job with their gap message this week. This ad is called President Obama`s middle class promise gap. As you can see, it is about health care, the deficit, and unemployment. There is a guy talking and there are graphics. It, too, is fine. Not great, but there`s nothing embarrassing about it. It`s the kind of thing we`re going to see a lot of before November. The Romney campaign`s gap message was all going OK when they put it in print and in a TV ad. The effort to chart it, however, has been somewhat less successful. Now, I know you can chart this. I know you can do it. For an article last year, I did a chart showing the gap between the president`s initial projections and the actual unemployment rate. There are lines, one goes in one direction, another in the other, it can be done. But the Romney campaign, they tried to get fancy. No simple line graph for them. They went for the beautiful chart art that is the Venn diagram. Now, here`s an example of a Venn diagram from this very show. Back when Lady Gaga was arguing repeal of the crazy, stupid "don`t ask, don`t tell" policy and Rachel was covering the debate over repeal on the show, the fine folks here made a Venn diagram. As you can see, THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW is the circle on the left and the Lady Gaga circle is on the right. And where they overlap, that space of commonality -- that is "don`t ask, don`t tell." That is the thing they both have in common. It makes sense, right? That is what a Venn diagram is good for. It is showing the thing the two circles have in common, in common, in common. So what in the name of stat 101 is this? President Obama promises to stimulus would lower unemployment. That is the circle on the left. So, I`m with you so far, Romney campaign. And the actual unemployment rate is 8 percent. That is the circle on the right. And the thing in the middle, the thing they are supposed to have in common is the gap between them, it is the thing they don`t have in common? It`s the difference between the number on the left and the number on the right? Guys, Romney campaign, you`re doing it wrong. In fact, you`re doing it wrong over and over again. This Venn diagram was posted yesterday. It`s how much President Obama said health reform would lower premiums on the left and how much Romney says it didn`t lower premiums on the right. And the difference between those two numbers, that is in the middle. Again, the Romney campaign appears to think the space in the middle of the two connected circles that make up a Venn diagram is where you put the things that the two circles don`t have in common, where you put the thing that is not between them. Which is why I love, love, love today. They made a couple other Venn diagrams to show the Romney campaign what they are supposed to be. (INAUDIBLE), right? So people`s who campaigns have raised $122 million and people with surprisingly inept graphics staffs. What fits in between those two circles? Mitt Romney. People who oppose the individual mandate and people who helped pass the individual mandate. Who fits in both categories? Mitt Romney. That is a Venn diagram. These, these are not Venn diagrams. And trust me on this, Mitt Romney campaign, in my day job at "The Washington Post" "Wonk Blog," I work with charts. I know charts. Charts are a friend of mine. And, Governor Romney, that is no chart. That does it for us tonight. Rachel will be back on Thursday. Don`t forget, you can check out my work at or follow me on Twitter at and on Facebook, Have a great Fourth of July and it is time for "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell. Good evening, Lawrence. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. 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