ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Six days, Joy, makes New Zealand look pretty impressive.
JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Ah, sanity.
VELSHI: You have a great evening, friend.
REID: You too. Thank you.
VELSHI: All right. I`m Ali Velshi in for Lawrence O`Donnell.
Coming up tonight, Senator Elizabeth Warren. The presidential candidate talks breaking up tech giants, butting heads with leaders of big banks and how she thinks the Democratic Party needs to change to win in 2020.
Also, the phenom. We`ll talk with a reporter behind a new interview with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. How the freshman congresswoman got the nickname "America`s Lightning Rod".
But tonight`s big story, the world or at least Washington is watching and waiting -- waiting for Robert Mueller. It`s like royal baby watch meets election night, meets waiting for the Vatican`s white smoke.
This morning, Robert Mueller was even photographed paparazzo style as he arrived at his office. If reports are true, and at this point, it is really hard to know for sure what`s true anymore, Robert Mueller`s wrapping up his investigation and will soon present the findings of his nearly two- year probe to Attorney General William Barr.
Let`s make it clear. Despite claims in the White House that this report will fully exonerate the president, Mueller`s investigation has already revealed a range of events related to Russian interference in the 2016 election. Six people connected to the president have been charged. Five have been convicted or have pleaded guilty, 28 others including 26 Russians have also been charged, and dozens of others have been swept up in the investigation, including campaign and administration officials, family members, Trump Organization executives and members of Trump`s legal team.
In total, Trump and his associates had more than 100 contacts with Russians before the inauguration. That`s what we already know. And soon, possibly any day now, we`re likely to find out even more from the special counsel.
But while we may still be waiting for Robert Mueller`s final report, congressional investigators are not. Democrats on powerful investigative committees seem to see the Mueller report as the end of the beginning rather than the beginning of the end. House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings is targeting Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner over their use of personal e-mail and the messaging app WhatsApp to conduct official White House business.
In a new letter to the White House, Cummings describes a conversation he had with Jared Kushner`s lawyer Abbe Lowell in which he told -- he says Lowell told him that Kushner, quote, "continues to use what`s app to conduct White House business and he`s not sure whether Kushner ever used the app to transmit classified information." Lowell also told Cummings that Ivanka Trump is not preserving all of her official e-mail communications. Abbe Lowell informed the oversight committee that Ivanka Trump doesn`t preserve official e-mails she receives in her personal account if she doesn`t respond to them.
Cummings says that appears to violate the Presidential Records Act and the chairman is now demanding documents by April 4th to figure out what`s going on. And he signaled he may issue subpoenas if the White House refuses to comply. Now, the House Judiciary Chairman, Jerry Nadler, says his request for information from 81 associates and entities connected to the president has yielded tens of thousands of documents so far and that`s before any subpoenas have gone out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY), CHAIR, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: We`ve gotten substantial response from very large number of people. We`ve gotten -- who have told us either here are documents or we`re preparing the documents, you`ll have them shortly. We`ve also gotten from a fair number of people saying we`d be happy to provide you documents if you give us a subpoena first, which we will do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Now, of course not everybody`s playing nice. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has rejected Nadler`s request for documents. Roger Stone invoking the Fifth in response to his document request. And today we learned that the White House is rejecting a request from the intelligence, judiciary, and foreign affairs committees for documents relating to Trump`s private conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, because that would be interesting to see.
But as tensions escalate between Trump and the administration and Congress over crucial pieces of Democrats` oversight, today is a good reminder that these congressional investigations will go on far longer and will likely cover far more ground than Robert Mueller`s investigation.
Joining me now, David Corn, Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones" and an MSNBC political analyst. And Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor and legal correspondent for slate.com and host of the podcast "Amicus."
Welcome to both of you.
Dahlia, what do you make -- what do you think -- what are you expecting to happen? You`ve written about this a month ago but what do you expect now as we are all waiting for this Mueller investigation?
DAHLIA LITHWICK, SENIOR EDITOR AND LEGAL CORRESPONDENT: I think you`re right that we have a little bit of a false binary here where we think we`re going to get a whiz bang all or nothing. And I think there is a whole range of intermediate things that could come about, right? I mean, I think we`re expecting there`s going to be indictments and there`s going to be a road map and there`s going to be unicorns and a pony and we`re all going to know, smoking gun, Watergate tapes. It doesn`t have to go down that way, and everything we know about Robert Mueller is that he tends to be less the kind of dramatic B act guy and just bare minimum law, you know, follow the law, this is a lifer who`s always conducted himself this way.
So I think there`s such an enormous gray area in there. And I think that for folks who have been doing a lot of magical thinking about what this is going to offer them, the smoking gun at the other end, they may be disappointed.
VELSHI: And let me just read from what you wrote in "Slate" last month.
For those who have been collecting the Mueller memes and the t-shirts and the mugs and who are waiting breathlessly for his conclusions, there`s a very reasonable chance that major disappointment looms. The Mueller report is unlikely to provide a perfect binary call to arms. He`s amassing facts on a limited series of questions.
Some of those facts will make their way to the public, but many will not. Congress will make decisions on how best to proceed. There`s going to be a torrent of no collusion fake news out of the White House. What comes next may not be perfectly certain.
David, you have written about this. You in fact are one of the people who wrote about Russian interference in the election before anybody was onto this.
So what do you expect will happen?
DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES: Well, I think people have to take a deep breath because there is no obligation that Mueller has to produce a weighty massive report telling us all he knows. Now, I believe Mueller knows a lot, but it`s not his job to tell us everything. It`s been his job to look for crimes and prosecute cases he thinks he can reasonably bring before a jury.
Report, the only requirement for a report under the justice department guidelines, regulations is that the end of his investigation he`s supposed to explain his prosecutorial decisions to the attorney general in a confidential report. So, you can imagine that report looking like six pages, here`s what I`ve done, here`s what I prosecuted, why, or 6,000 pages, here`s everything I looked at and here`s why I prosecuted these cases, I didn`t prosecute those cases.
And I`m so glad -- I should say we have no reason at this point to believe or guess that he`s going to go in one direction more than the other. So people are expecting or assuming there`s going to be a massive storytelling report from him that will answer all questions are making a really big assumption, which is why it`s really important, Ali, that you just laid out what`s happening on the congressional side because after Mueller it`s up to Congress to tell the public what really happened.
VELSHI: And in fact the Democratic heads of congressional committees responded to the White House`s refusal to release documents related to the Trump-Putin communications in which they said: President Trump`s decision to break with this precedent raises the question of what he has to hide. We will be consulting on appropriate next steps. Congress has a constitutional duty to conduct oversight and investigate these matters, and we will fulfill that responsibility.
Powerful, dahlia, because it is signed by Elijah Cummings, the chair of the Oversight Committee, Eliot Engel, the chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Adam Schiff, the chair of the Intelligence Committee. We know Jerry Nadler of the Judiciary Committee is on this.
Congress is making it very clear. This isn`t one additional information. We are going to get the information that is coming to us.
LITHWICK: That`s right. And Adam Schiff had a very, very I think powerful piece today essentially saying, look, there`s a back door to what everything you and I just said and David has said about there`s a limited brief for Mueller, it`s Russian, quote/unquote, collusion and it`s crimes that flow from that and it`s obstruction.
There`s a back door to this, which is this starts as a counterintelligence investigation. If there are counterintelligence elements that Mueller unearths, then the committee needs to see this. Adam Schiff`s committee needs to see this. And I think what he`s saying is this isn`t just a question of did the president commit crimes. If the president is compromised, Schiff is saying, then I need to know.
VELSHI: He keeps making that point, David Corn, that what is happening now is as relevant if not more relevant than what happened prior to the election. Today, I spoke with Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, who`s on the Intel and the Oversight Committees, about this new letter from Cummings asking about Jared Kushner`s use of WhatsApp to potentially talk to foreign leaders. Here`s what he told me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL), OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: The reason why we don`t want him to have access to top secret materials is because of his tremendous financial vulnerabilities. And those extend as well to some of the Trump family. But in Jared Kushner`s case now that we hear that he`s using WhatsApp potentially as a communications device with foreign leaders, you know, some of my constituents are saying, you know, what`s up with the WhatsApp?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: You know, what types of material are being communicated in such an encrypted messaging service to foreign leaders? And that`s why we were concerned about his top secret clearance in the first place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: David Corn, this is interesting because some of what you`ve written about is the idea that there is an overlap here that we`ve never gotten to the bottom of with Donald Trump`s financial vulnerabilities and Jared Kushner`s very separate financial vulnerabilities and why these guys could be vulnerable to foreign powers not just in the campaign and not just before but today.
CORN: Yes, Ali, you hit it on the head there. Because you know, just looking at the Russia piece of this, we`ve only learned recently that Donald Trump was doing this big deal in Russia through June in the summer of 2016 trying to get hundreds of millions of dollars and talking to Putin`s office about that while running for president. It`s a business overlap. We don`t understand exactly everything that happened there. And he was doing this while Russia was attacking the U.S. election. Very important.
And now we have Jared Kushner, and there are literally scores, dozens of indications that his business interests and his official duties have overlapped, intersected, been at odds one way or the other. And this goes back to before the inauguration when he`s talking to Russian bankers and trying to set up a back channel between the Trump transition or the Trump White House itself and Russia and the Kremlin. I mean, this is why it`s frustrating that people are getting so worked up and expectant about the Mueller report, because we could spend a whole hour here going down a long list of issues and items and controversies and scandals the American public should get answers to at some point and they won`t all come from Mueller.
VELSHI: So we`ve got a lot of people for different reasons who want different information and want different things from this report.
Dahlia, James Comey wrote an op-ed in the "New York Times" today in which he writes in part: I hope that Mr. Trump is not impeached and removed from office before the end of his term. I don`t mean that Congress shouldn`t move ahead with the process of impeachment governed by our constitution if Congress thinks the provable facts are there. I just hope it doesn`t because if Mr. Trump were removed from office by Congress, a significant portion of this country would see this as a coup and it would drive those people farther from the common center of American life, more deeply fracturing our country.
LITHWICK: Yes, that was crazy making. And stipulate the beginning of that op-ed I thought was very fair and right. He`s saying look, I don`t have a dog in this fight, I just want the facts. Good point. Stipulated.
But then he has this funny turn where he says whatever the outcome is don`t go for impeachment because there`s going to be a blowback. And I think the very notion that we are going to conform our responses to the Mueller report to sort of mollify angry people who are not going to accept it as true is first of all kind of how Comey got into trouble with Hillary Clinton in the first instance, but that can`t be the answer. We can`t be afraid of where truth takes us.
And if truth takes us to a place that causes a lot of people to be very angry and then to conform our actions because of that I think is exactly why, you know, this starts to look like asymmetrical warfare.
VELSHI: All right. Good point to end it on. Thank you.
Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor for "Slate" and the host of the podcast "Amicus." And David Corn is a Washington, D.C. editor for "Mother Jones" and MSNBC political analyst. He`s also the author of a great book, "Showdown: The Inside Story of How Obama Fought Back Against Boehner, Kantor and the Tea Party."
Coming up, my interview with presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren. We talk about Jamie Dimon, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and pretty much everything in between. That`s next.
And a very rich guy and former labor secretary is going to join me to call out CEOs who could help fix inequality but they aren`t.
And, an in-depth look at how 29-year-old ex-bartender has upended America`s political conversation. That`s up next.
VELSHI: It is no secret that Massachusetts senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has had an adversarial relationship with the heads of America`s big bank. And none of them has been more outspoken and opponent of Warren`s policies than JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon.
During the Obama administration, Dimon publicly criticized Warren over her plan to break up the big banks and Warren made Dimon a symbol of corporate greed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Jamie Dimon got a race after he negotiated $17 billion to payoff for activities that were illegal that he presided over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: That`s why it grabbed a lot of attention on Monday when Jamie Dimon started talking about income inequality and sound a little bit, a very little bit, albeit, like Elizabeth Warren.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMIE DIMON, CEO, JP MORGAN CHASE: I should say, I don`t want to be a tone-deaf CEO, but the company is doing fine. It is absolutely obvious that, you know, a big chunk has been left behind.
So, 40 percent of Americans make less than $15 an hour, 40 percent of Americans can`t afford a $400 bill whether it`s medical or fixing a car or something like that, 15 percent of Americans make minimum wages. You have 70,000 died from opioids.
So, we`ve kind of bifurcated the economy. I`ve got these terrible things out there.
VELSHI: Income inequality has become a major issue in the Democratic Party over the last decade and is a major topic in the 2020 presidential primary. And perhaps no candidate has a more ambitious plan to solve it than Elizabeth Warren.
Now, she`s got a different approach. She`s proposed a 2 percent wealth tax on the richest Americans. It`s not an income tax, but a tax on the net wealth of rich individuals, a category that includes everything from stock and investments to the value of homes, paintings and yachts.
And here`s why that`s important. New analysis out this week from the Tax Policy Center shows that the vast majority of Americans get most of their money from wages and salary and only a little bit of their money from wealth or capital gains, which includes things like investments or the value of your home and is taxed at a lower rate than wages and salary.
But if you look at the top 0.01 percent of America, it`s the opposite. The top tenth of the top 1 percent, most of their money comes from what they earn off of their capital, which is taxed at a much lower rate if at all. While a much smaller portion of their wealth, sometimes none at all, comes from the higher-taxed wages and salary.
In other words, taxing wealth is one way to curb income inequality. So, the question is whether this newly concerned citizen, Jamie Dimon, will get behind his former rival`s plan to solve the problem.
VELSHI: Senator Elizabeth Warren joins me now.
Senator, good to see you. Thank you for being with us.
WARREN: Good to see you. I`m delighted to be here.
VELSHI: I am always fascinated at the attention bankers get when they say things that most of us can see with our eyes, that we have income inequality and we have a bank -- you know, we have a bifurcated economy.
You have a proposal as to how to deal with that or at least how to take some of that wealth and do things that would make us feel less bifurcated. Tell us why you think that`s going to work.
WARREN: So, look, you`ve described the wealth tax. This is the tax on the top 1/10 of 1 percent. And here`s what we could actually do with that money. We could actually invest it in building more opportunity for everyone else.
In fact, I`ll give you an example of this that`s very personal to me. Years ago, I had a little one at home, not yet 2 years old, and I decided I wanted to go back to school. And, you know, that`s a good thing, right? I managed all of it, the tuition, the application, the tests, every part of it.
You know where I nearly stubbed my toe? I came down to the last weekend before classes started trying to find childcare that was good and affordable. So, finally, I find it, it all locks into place.
Roll forward just a little bit in time, and I get my first real tenure track teaching job. Now I`ve got two little ones under foot. I`m working my heart out. I`m doing everything I can.
I`m excited. I love this job. I work myself into the dirt at night. What`s the part that nearly knocks me over? It`s when the babysitter quits.
WARREN: And then we cycle through one after another after another on childcare until finally my Aunt Bea calls me and it`s late at night. She says, how are you doing, honey? And I start to cry and say, I`m going to quit because I just can`t do this anymore because I can`t keep the childcare held together.
Here`s the thing that I think about. Here I am now, I ended up as a college professor, I wrote 11 books, I started an agency, I became a United States senator, and twice I nearly got completely derailed --
VELSHI: Uh-huh, because of childcare.
WARREN: -- by childcare. How many women of my generation just got knocked off the tracks?
WARREN: How many of my daughter`s generation have been knocked off their tracks? How many mamas and daddies today are getting knocked off the tracks?
Understand this. The wealthy, they buy top-notch childcare and top-notch early education. Pre-K and pre-pre-K and play groups for 2-year-olds. Well, you know, if we did that ultra millionaire`s wealth tax, we could then afford to provide high-quality childcare for every single child in America zero to 5, and the pre-K and the pre-pre-K early childhood education, for all of them, and still have $2 trillion left over to invest in other opportunities.
VELSHI: And that childcare is something --
WARREN: That`s the real point. We could do better.
VELSHI: It`s something that every other developed nation does better than the United States.
VELSHI: I want to talk to you about your plan. You and I spoke briefly about this the other day on technology.
The aforementioned Jamie Dimon also said today on CNBC that tech giants should gird themselves for the type of regulatory onslaught that the big banks experienced after the financial crisis.
Quote: they haven`t had the benefit of the full monty yet, Dimon said. If I were them, I`d be getting prepared for it.
There are a number of people who`ve said that your proposal for managing the way large tech companies behave is one worthy of description. You were talking about companies largely that have more than $25 billion in revenue not being both the pipe and the stuff that goes through the pipe. Not being both the platform and the competitor.
WARREN: Right. That`s exactly right.
So think of a company like Amazon. You know, everybody goes to buy and sell on Amazon. That`s the platform.
And then Amazon does something really special. They not only run the platform. They gather information from every one of those transactions, every buyer, every seller. And then they discover that, you know, Pete`s pet pillows is making a big profit and Amazon looks at that and says, hmm, we could do that.
So what do they do? They jump in front of Pete`s pet pillows, move Pete back to page 6 on your search, jump in and take the profits for themselves. Now, my view on this is, you can be the umpire. That is, you can run the platform, or you can have a team in the game. That is, you can be one of the competitors buying and selling on that platform.
But you don`t get to do both at the same time, because if you`re doing both at the same time, that`s not helping competition. It`s wiping out competition.
It`s why a lot of investors now in tech, the early investors, they refer to the zones around companies like Amazon and Google. They call it the dead zone because it means somebody starts to grow a business in there, then Amazon, Google, Facebook just reaches out and snatches up the business. And that`s not -- that doesn`t promote competition.
So I think they ought to be broken apart. Run that platform. You can still go online and search for 28 coffeemakers that can be delivered in 24 hours. But break that up from the part about running a business that competes on that platform.
VELSHI: I want to ask you about something that`s from your campaign announcement of the break-up bill. You said: Platform utilities -- let`s call them that -- would be required to meet a standard of fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory dealing with users. Platform utilities would not be allowed to transfer or share data with third parties.
This is the concern that a lot of individuals have, right? The commoditization and the monetization of your information. It`s probably a bigger concern --
VELSHI: -- than the privacy concerns we think with, which are very, very serious in and of themselves. You`re trying to figure out a way that he can better control of or they can have less control of our data.
WARREN: That`s exactly right. It`s about data and the uses, the unfair competitive advantage it gives them, and that we don`t want them calling the rest of the shots in the economy.
And, by the way, you know, we have a long history of this in the United States. Way back when, more than 100 years ago when we said in effect to the railroad companies -- hey, guys, you don`t get to run a railroad company and own the steel business that needs to transship their goods on the railroad. And also, you don`t get to charge discriminatory prices, that is, prefer one seller over another seller.
When you`re out there running a platform, whether it`s a railroad or it`s an online exchange, you have a duty of fair dealing to everybody who comes to buy and sell on that platform or to move goods along that platform. The idea is in America if we really want to have markets that work they`ve got to be markets with rules -- markets without rules are theft -- and they`ve got to be markets that help competition get a chance to grow and flourish.
I think of what I`m talking about is for all of the little businesses that want to grow into medium size and big businesses, for all the entrepreneurs that have a great idea and want a chance to get out there and compete. For all of the people who really believe that markets are places where those who have good ideas get to move forward. That`s what our antitrust laws are about. And that`s where we need to update them.
VELSHI: OK. That`s just some of my conversation with Elizabeth Warren from earlier. What she had to say about socialism, Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez, and the state of the Democratic Party is next.
VELSHI: We`re back with more of my interview with Democratic Presidential Candidate Elizabeth Warren where I asked her about her stance on socialism and the Democratic Party`s rising star, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Time Magazine`s got Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the front cover, something that a lot of conservative news channels and websites, they`re sort of targeting the idea that she represents a socialism that they think is embracing the Democratic Party or that the Democratic Party and some candidates are embracing.
One of the things, the criticisms that you get is that you`re anti- capitalist. Where do you position yourself and what do you explain to people? Because in your years of trying to get a fair treatment of consumers, with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, somehow that put you up against the banks and that caused you to be described as anti- capitalist.
WARREN: You know, it`s wrong. What I believe is I believe in markets and I believe in what markets can produce if they have rules and a cop on the beat to enforce those rules. So I`m glad to see people able to go out and get mortgages.
But we saw what happened before the crash when there were no rules and there was no cop on the beat to enforce any rules. And that meant that the giant banks could figure out that they could make a bazillion dollars in profits basically by cheating people. That`s not going to work. And that`s capitalism that will destroy itself.
What I believe in is I believe in markets. But you`ve got to have a cop on the beat to make sure everybody`s playing on a level playing field. That nobody is building a business model around cheating people, around ripping them off, around tricking them, and trapping them.
And look, there are some places, markets just don`t work. Public education. You know, I`m a former school teacher. I was a special needs teacher. We need public education. It`s not a place for markets.
Much of our health care system. You know, somebody`s having the first signs of a heart attack, they`re not going to make five phone calls to see who can deal most effectively with a heart attack and at what price. There are places where markets don`t work.
And that means we`ve got to step in and find other ways to make sure that people get what it is that they need, an education, health care. But there are a lot of places where markets can work if they have rules.
And here`s the problem. Big financial institutions, they didn`t like those rules. They spent more than a million dollars a day lobbying against the consumer agency and other financial regulations. Well, that`s a problem we`ve got right now.
Washington works great for giant companies. It works great for the rich and the powerful. It`s just not working for everyone else.
So we`ve got to get in there, we`ve got to have a government that helps us level the playing field, make sure everybody`s playing on the straight up. And when we do that, we create more opportunity for everyone else.
Look, the giants may not like it. They don`t want to turn loose of their power and their extraordinary profits that they keep sucking up. But this is how we make our government work. This is how we make our country work. That`s what I think it should be all about in the U.S.
VELSHI: So what do you say privately, pretend we`re not on T.V., about people who worry about the direction in which the Democratic Party may be going? Some of the party wants candidates to be more liberal and others want the candidates to be more moderate. What`s your take on that?
WARREN: Let me give you a different way to look at it. I want our party to be more grassroots. I want our party to be more connected to people all across this country.
And I`ll tell you how I look at that. I look at that in terms of money. So for example, I don`t take PAC money of any kind. I don`t take Washington lobbyist money of any kind. And I`ve made the decision that I`m going to spend my time with grassroots all around this country trying to build a movement.
Now, that`s a different way to try to power a political campaign, to try to power a presidential campaign. It means that I need help. I`ve got to reach out to a lot of people and say please join me, come to elizabethwarren.com and kick in five bucks if you think that`s how a campaign should work.
Because I think as a Democratic Party, we have this extraordinary opportunity during a primary to actually make our case to people at the grassroots to engage them and to revitalize our democracy. They shouldn`t just be about going to places where we can scoop up lots of money and then run lots of T.V. ads.
This should be about building the on-the-ground movement that`s going to help us win in 2020, that`s going to help us win not just the White House but Congress, the State Houses, the governor`s mansions, and that`s going to help us have the power to be able to start making real change in this country come January 2021.
VELSHI: Senator Elizabeth Warren, thank you for your time tonight.
WARREN: Thank you.
VELSHI: And MSNBC has more Contenders coverage. My colleague Stephanie Ruhle will interview former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz tomorrow 9:00 a.m. Eastern on MSNBC.
And up next, rich guy Nick Hanauer and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich have a message for CEOs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: We`ve got to have a government that helps us level the playing field, make sure everybody`s playing on the straight up. And when we do that, we create more opportunity for everyone else.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Democratic presidential candidates are offering proposals to address income inequality. Elizabeth Warren, as you just heard, wants a wealth tax. Bernie Sanders wants a hike in the estate tax to name a few. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who`s not running for president, she`s too young to do that, has proposed a 70 percent tax rate on income above $10 million.
In contrast, President Trump has embraced trickle-down economics with a massive tax cut for the wealthy. One of my next guests is a wealthy entrepreneur but he`s issued a dire warning about inequality. In 2014, Nick Hanauer wrote, "I have a message for my fellow filthy rich. If we don`t do something to fix the glaring inequalities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us."
So are the pitchforks still coming? And what should the presidential candidates do about it? Joining me now Nick Hanauer, venture capitalist and host of the "Pitchforks Economics" podcast. And Robert Reich, former labor secretary under President Clinton and currently a professor of public policy University of California at Berkeley. His latest book "The Common Good" was recently released in paperback. Gentlemen, thank you for being with us.
Nick, let me start with you.
NICK HANAUER, HOST, PITCHFORK ECONOMICS PODCAST: Thank you.
VELSHI: Four hundred Americans, this is the latest findings from Berkeley, Gabriel Zucman, 400 Americans own more of the country`s riches than the 150 million adults in the bottom 60 percent of the wealth distribution.
And frankly those numbers, Nick, are not different regardless of where you go. If you look at it globally, it`s still small numbers of people control more wealth than the bottom half of humanity. What -- tell me how you identify what to do -- why that`s a problem and what to do about it.
HANAUER: Yes. Well, I mean it`s really clear that rising economic inequality, and it has gotten much, much worse over the last 30, 40 years, is both harming the economy by killing the feedback loop between what consumers can buy and what businesses can sell but equally it`s shredding the social cohesion and reciprocity norms upon which democracies depend.
And our political polarization, of course, is a consequence of rising inequality. And in particular, you know, you played this clip of Jamie Dimon earlier, who has apparently discovered that economic inequality is a thing and 40 percent of Americans earn less than $15 an hour.
What`s really striking to me is that Jamie has not apparently woken up to the fact that many of the people earning less than $15 an hour work for him. A bank teller at JP Morgan Chase earns $12 an hour. And that`s the problem, is $12 an hour is about 40 percent less than you need to live in a city like Seattle.
And here`s the really incredible thing, is that Chase earns about -- JP Morgan earns about $44 billion, that`s B, billion dollars a year in profits. If they -- they employ 250,000 workers. If they took the bottom 200,000 workers and paid them each $25,000 a year, that would be barely -- that would be about 10 percent of their annual profits.
And that`s what Corporate America needs to do. They need to stop talking and start paying people a wage that allows them to live with security and dignity.
VELSHI: Yes. Robert, you wrote about Jamie Dimon this week, "I`m glad JP Morgan is starting a new jobs program but in my book, Dimon is still a tone-deaf CEO." I mean I`m just fascinated, right, when CEOs come around to this.
I don`t know how many years you and I have had something akin to this discussion continuously. And now you get guys who have platforms to say I think our society`s bifurcating, we`ve got to do something about it.
ROBERT REICH, FORMER CLINTON LABOR SECRETARY: Well, it`s easy to say something about it. And it`s very, very difficult to actually do something about it.
But if you are the CEO of the biggest bank on Wall Street and you`re the chairman of the business round table, which is a group of CEOs of the biggest companies in America, you can do something about it.
You`ve got political clout if you cared about raising the minimum wage, the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. If you cared about raising taxes on the wealthiest people. If you cared about getting rid of monopolies. If you cared about any -- strengthening labor unions.
Anything that is actually going to help rebalance this economy, you could much more easily than anybody else. You could actually use your clout. The fact of the matter is that Jamie Dimon and none of -- I mean the big disappointment, Ali, is that Corporate America, the CEOs of Corporate America who in the first 15 years after the Second World War really did exercise some clout for the good of average Americans.
Basically, greed has so taken over, they don`t care. And they will just basically do what is good for them.
VELSHI: Nick, let me just tell you. I mean these weirdly socialistic policies that we talk about, Elizabeth Warren`s wealth tax, which by the way has an approval rating of 61 percent in a recent "New York Times" poll, is a two percent on your wealth above $50 million.
Median income in America is about $55,000. The Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez`s plan for a 70 percent tax rate, again, what everybody`s calling socialist, 51 percent approval rating. It`s on income above $10 million per year. Median family income, about $55,000 in America. Anybody who thinks this is socialist has an ulterior motive here.
HANAUER: Yes. No, I mean these ideas are positioned as fringe, extremist, lefty socialist. Nothing could be further from the truth. These were basically the policies we had in place in the middle of the last century that propelled the greatest expansion of the middle class in our country`s history. And, by the way, are perfectly correlated with the lowest amounts of political polarization we`ve had in our country.
And these two things are inextricably intertwined. When rich people pay their fair share and middle-class families thrive, the nation grows faster and our politics works better. And so these ideas are not outlandish. It is in fact kind of what we used to do.
Not the wealth tax but certainly a marginal tax rate of 90 percent was what we had in place in the `60s. And again, this is not unreasonable. There is no earthly reason why somebody needs to make 100 or 200 million dollars a year and pay low tax rates. It`s not good for anybody.
VELSHI: Robert Reich, what`s the consequence of a small group of people, of wealth concentrated in a small group of people, greater wealth than the bottom half of humanity? If everybody else is making money more than they did last year and more than inflation, what`s your long-term worry about a world that`s going in this direction?
REICH: Well, there are two big, big problems. One problem is we lose democracy because with great wealth amassed at the top comes great political power and that political power -- basically, nobody else has heard and a lot of political scientists have actually already measured this already. And we can see we`re losing democracy because big money is taking over.
The second problem is that you don`t have enough what`s called aggregate demand in the economy. That is, we produce a lot of goods and services. But unless people have the ability to buy those goods and services, the economy over the long term can`t actually sustain itself.
So a very rich person, somebody who owns a business, it is in his or her interest over the long term to make sure that the rising tide is lifting all boats or there won`t be a business.
VELSHI: Guys, I could sit and have this conversation for an hour. We don`t have that kind of time but I would like to invite you back so that we can continue to deal with what may be one of the intractable economic problems of our time, rising --
REICH: It is tractable.
VELSHI: All right. Fair enough, tractable economic problems of our time.
HANAUER: It is.
VELSHI: And it may be tractable because we can talk about it. Thank you, guys.
REICH: Thanks, Ali.
VELSHI: Nick Hanauer and Robert Reich, thank you for joining us.
HANAUER: Thank you so much.
VELSHI: How Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez`s life has shaped her politics, that`s next.
VELSHI: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is America`s most famous freshman member of Congress. A progressive firebrand, the right`s new favorite villain. And now the subject of a Time Magazine cover.
Her policy proposals, like the green new deal, are being debated by Democratic presidential candidates. Ocasio-Cortez tells Time Magazine, "I used to be much more cynical about how much was up against us. I think I`ve changed my mind because I think that change is a lot closer than we think." Why does she think that? That`s next.
VELSHI: This week`s Time Magazine cover is titled "The Phenom, How Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became America`s Lightning Rod."
Joining me now is writer Charlotte Alter. It`s a great piece. It tells a lot of people if they missed the creation story of Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez, this is it.
She tweeted on March 8 about being working class, being a waitress. She said, "I find it revealing when people mock where I came from, and say they`re going to send me back to waitressing as if that is bad or shameful. It is as though they think that being a member of Congress makes you intrinsically better than a waitress. But our job is to serve, not rule."
She`s a freshman member of Congress but she has a guiding philosophy that has made her a lightning rod according to your article.
CHARLOTTE ALTER, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, TIME MAGAZINE: Absolutely. Yes, she`s basically an activist with a congressional pin. And a lot of people see her as the conscience of the Democratic Party.
I think that her working-class background is absolutely intrinsic to the story she`s telling and to her power in this moment right now because she can really authentically speak to the issues that are facing a lot of people.
And she`s faced a lot of issues that not only other working class people have faced but also millennials have largely faced like student debt, health care affordability, college affordability, climate change, those are all things that she`s really experienced firsthand. So I think she`s speaking to something that hasn`t really been spoken to before.
VELSHI: Her age is important here. She`s 29-years-old. She responded to a tweet that you had sent. So I want to read your tweet first and then hers is on the top of the screen. Yours is, "In order to understand AOC, you have to look at what she experienced, and what she didn`t, Red Scare, Reaganomics and prosperous 90s were all before her time. Her adulthood was defined by financial crisis, debt, and climate change. No wonder she and her peers are moving left."
She responded by saying, "Yes. And this is not just my story, this is true of wide swaths of our entire generation who are now poised to become a much more influential civic and electoral block as we mature into our 30s and beyond." She`s almost suggesting her ascent is inevitable.
ALTER: And honestly, it is in some ways. You`ve got to look at the math here, right. We have the oldest first-term president ever elected until 10 -- until a couple of months ago, Congress was 10 years older than it had been in the 1980s. Trump has surrounded himself with people who are rooted in 20th Century ways of thinking.
And the thing about AOC and the reason that she is I think tapping into something that is so exciting to some and threatening to others is that she is really bringing us into the politics of the 21st Century. She`s a 21st Century leader trying to tackle 21st Century problems, in a body that`s largely dominated by 20th Century thinking.
VELSHI: Do you get the sense that she understands why she`s so threatening?
ALTER: I think she does. I think there`s a lot of different reasons why she`s so threatening.
Some people are threatened because she`s a young Hispanic woman. Some people are threatened because they worry she`s too far-left. Some people are threatened because she`s kind of turning over the apple cart and disrupting the way things have typically worked in Washington.
She`s spent her first week of orientation picketing. You know, staging a protest in Nancy Pelosi`s office, that`s not something that people have typically done. So I think she`s -- I think a lot of people find her threatening but I also think a lot of people find her really exciting.
VELSHI: Thank you for a great article, Charlotte Alter.
ALTER: Thanks for having me.
VELSHI: Charlotte Alter, and her article, is in the current issue of Time Magazine. And that is tonight`s LAST WORD.
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