CO expands testing TRANSCRIPT: 5/19/20, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O'Donnell

Guests: Ashish Jha, Jared Polis, Pramila Jayapal, Joseph Stiglitz

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Rachel.

And speaking of tomorrow, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is going to be here tomorrow, and I haven`t talked to her in quite a while.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS":  Really.

O`DONNELL:  So I`m really looking forward to that. She`s having an interesting week, to put it mildly, with Donald Trump.

MADDOW:  She is a professional get under the skin of the president expert.

O`DONNELL:  Yes.

MADDOW:  And she`s at her -- at the height of her powers right now.

O`DONNELL:  Yes, and we can only hope for some of that tomorrow night.

MADDOW:  Yeah, thanks, Lawrence. Well done.

O`DONNELL:  Thank you, Rachel.

Well, awe is my general feeling for Nobel Prize winners, and I would be intimidated into silence by most of them since they operate so far above my intellectual altitude, but because I major in economics and college, I can be tempted to engage in some version of a conversation with Nobel Prize winners in economics, which I will do at the end of this hour with Professor Stieglitz who has an important economic prescription for this country and how to deal with the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic and how to encourage our eventual economic recovery from the pandemic. Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stieglitz will get tonight`s last word.

The next president of the United States will do something that Donald Trump has refused to do, refuse is probably the wrong word because it has probably never occurred to Donald Trump to thank and give praise to the heroes on the frontlines of the coronavirus battle who have been killed in the line of duty. And to give them that praise by name.

The president should be honoring them by name every day, but he won`t tell the personal stories of the nurses and doctors who have been killed in the line of duty, because he clearly doesn`t want people thinking about the devastating loss of human life that this pandemic has wrought. President Trump wants people thinking about wearing their Trump hats of professional baseball games and tightly packed stadiums this summer. And Donald Trump likes to distract Americans from the death toll as it surges toward 100,000 by playing doctor himself on TV and recommending that everyone take a drug that he claims to be taking.

But he is making that claim to score political points against Dr. Rick Bright, a government whistleblower, who has complained about the way Donald Trump and the Trump administration have been pushing that drug. So, President Trump cannot be trusted when he says he is taking the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine. Just as he can never be trusted about anything else he says about anything.

President Trump is playing a doctor on TV in part to distract people from what has happened to real doctors. Some of the heroic doctors who have tried to save our lives. Dr. James Mahoney spent his entire working life at University Hospital at Brooklyn. He began there as student, studying medicines, went on to become a professor there. He was a pulmonary and critical care physicians at the hospital, he was always an approachable teacher and invaluable role model for many students.

And for some, he was a legend. As Michael Schwartz reports in "The New York Times," where he quotes who is now a doctor at University Hospital, saying, "As a young black man, I looked at this guy and said to myself, twenty years from now, I want to be like him. When a black medical student, a black resident sees him, he sees a hero, someone you can be one day. He`s our Jay-Z.

Dr. Mahoney`s older brother, Melvin, is also a physician, but he decided it was unsafe for him in his late 60s to be treating patients from the coronavirus pandemic. He was surprise when his younger brother kept running from patients. Dr. Melvin Mahoney said, he worked on the frontlines to the end. The end came April 27th when Dr. James Mahoney died after spending seven days as a patient in the hospital he had served so well.

It took little over a minute to tell you about Dr. Mahoney. Donald Trump has the time to do that every day. But he never will. And so, it will fall to the next president of the United States to honor such heroism and sacrifice with appropriate presidential attention and there is hope tonight for the people who want to hear the president of the United States solemnly honor this country`s frontline heroes in the coronavirus war.

Maricopa County in Arizona has always voted Republican until the Republicans lost it in the 2018 Senate race, and now, in this year`s Senate race, in Maricopa County in Arizona, Democrat Mark Kelly is now leading Republican Senator Martha McSally by 13 points statewide. But in Maricopa County, Mark Kelly is leading Senator McSally by 18 points. With Donald Trump`s approval rating in Arizona now at 45 percent, Arizona`s 11 electoral votes are no longer automatically Republican.

And so, as of tonight, with every national poll showing Joe Biden leading Donald Trump, there`s a very good chance that Mark Kelly will be a freshman Democratic senator from Arizona listening to Joe Biden`s inauguration speech on January 20th, in which Joe Biden will surely pay proper tribute to heroes like Dr. James Mahoney. And with Joe Biden, we know those words will come from the heart.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is concerned about Donald Trump`s heart. Here is the way she put that last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  As far as the president is concerned, the -- our president and I would rather he not be taking something that has not been approved by the scientists, especially in his age group and his, shall we say, weight group, morbidly obese they say.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  And, of course, that led to this question for the president today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER:  Last night, Nancy -- Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi called you morbidly obese. I just wanted to know what you have to say in response?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Oh, I don`t respond to her. I think she`s a waste of time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  I just wanted you to see his face when he heard the words morbidly obese. Of course, Donald Trump couldn`t stop talking about Nancy Pelosi after saying says he doesn`t comment on Nancy Pelosi, which, of course, means he went on to lie about Nancy Pelosi, calling her a sick woman and saying that, quote, she has a lot of mental problems. Donald Trump diagnosing mental problems? Classic Trump lies.

Then in an interview with Nicolle Wallace today, Nancy Pelosi switched to French when referring to the president`s obesity.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PELOSI:  I didn`t know that he would be so sensitive. He`s always talking about other people`s avoirdupois, their weight, their pounds. So, for that, I don`t want to spend any more time on his distraction, because as you see in the last couple of days, so much of the time has been spent on what he said, rather than that, I think he should recognize that his words weigh a ton.

The president`s words weigh a ton, when certain people hear his words, whether it`s about our security, whether it`s about anything in terms of even their personal health, they believe the president of the United States. So don`t abuse the privilege that you have as president by not only not being fully truthful in your comments or careful in your comments, but also find those who tell the truth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  Who knows what that subject will bring tomorrow between Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi? But Nancy Pelosi will join us here tomorrow night, and we will discover where that subject lives as of that time tomorrow night.

President Trump threatened late last night to permanently halt United States funding to the World Health Organization and reconsider the country`s membership in the United Nations body if it does not, quote, commit to major substantive improvements within the next 30 days.

In the letter to the World Health Organization posted in a late-night tweet, President Trump said the world health organization floundered in its early responses to the coronavirus outbreak. According to "The New York Times," Trump`s letter also contained falsehoods and misleading statements. He wrote that the WHO consistently ignored credible reports of the virus spreading in Wuhan in early December 2019, or even earlier, including reports from "The Lancet" medical journal.

But in a statement Tuesday morning, "The Lancet" pointed out that the journal published no report in December of 2019, referring to a virus or outbreak in Wuhan or anywhere else in China. The journal said its first reports about the virus were published on January 24th, four days before the WHO declared an international emergency.

In the letter, the president said the World Health Organization was responsible for many deaths because it failed to challenge the version of events from President Xi Jinping of China regarding the origin of the virus and its initial spread.

"The New York Times" reports that criticism from President Trump was particularly ironic, given his own similar comments about China early in the pandemic when he was trying to complete negotiations on a trade deal with the country. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency, Mr. Trump tweeted, on January 24. It will all work out well, in particular, on behalf of the American people, I want to thank President Xi.

As of tonight, there are now 1,538,607 confirmed cases of coronavirus. And as of tonight, this country has suffered at least 92,566 confirmed deaths from coronavirus.

Leading off our discussion tonight, Keir Simmons, NBC News senior international correspondent.

Ambassador Wendy Sherman, the former undersecretary of state for political affairs. She`s the director of the Center for Public Leadership and a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School. She`s also an MSNBC global affairs contributor.

Dr. Ashish Jha is with us. He`s the director of the Harvard Global institute.

And, Kier, let me start with you and one that you`ve been following the World Health Organization meeting. What was the reaction to President Trump`s letter?

KEIR SIMMONS, NBC NEWS SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT:  Well, this is the letter, Lawrence. And you can`t help but wonder whether it was written when President Trump woke up on Monday morning and saw President Xi giving the address to the assembly, the first address from a major world leader during perhaps the most important meeting in its history. And you pointed out some of the issues with this letter.

Right at the end there, what President Trump says is that if the World Health Organization does not commit to major, substantive improvements within the next 30 days, I will make my temporary freeze of United States funding of the World Health Organization permanent.

But that`s where it stops. It doesn`t tell you what those improvements, those substantive improvements are supposed to be. So where does that leave U.S. allies, like Britain, like France, like Germany, like Australia, which was pushing for an independent investigation into how China handled the early days of the coronavirus. Because if the United States just pulls out of the World Health Organization, what alternative is there? It seems it`s just very, very unlikely that U.S. allies around the world are going to follow president Trump out.

So, effectively, what the president has done is complain about Chinese, he thinks, dominance of the World Health Organization and because of that, pulled back from the World Health Organization which basically allows China, the Chinese Communist Party, to dominate that organization even more.

O`DONNELL:  Dr. Jha, what is your reading of the World Health Organization`s role in this situation, and what would it mean for the United States to withhold funding and, of course, there`s so such thing as permanent. President Trump is only president until January 20th, and possibly beyond that, we don`t know. But Congress has a role here, too. So this is, at most, a temporary withholding of that funding.

DR. ASHISH JHA, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE DIRECTOR:  Yes. So, Lawrence, thanks for having me on.

First of all, I think the idea of withholding funding from the most consequential global health agency in the middle of the most important pandemic in a century, strikes me as incredibly unwise. Not just for the world, but also specifically for the United States. Much of the world relies on the WHO`s expertise and guidance to fight disease outbreaks like the coronavirus outbreak. The WHO is running the solidarity trial.

And the idea that we`re going to walk away from that would leave us looking weak. I think others would step in with the funding, and really would be incredibly damaging to the entire global effort. I think this is -- this is pretty unwise for the president to be threatening to do this, and even worse, if he actually follows through.

O`DONNELL:  And, Wendy Sherman, China pledges $2 billion to the World Health Organization, a larger amount than we have ever contributed to the world health organization. At the same time President Trump says he wants to pull back the $500 million that the United States has contributed.

WENDY SHERMAN:  Indeed. I think my colleagues this evening have it exactly right. President Trump is handing the world over to China. (AUDIO GAP) national security interests. This is all about (AUDIO GAP) Trump has mishandled the coronavirus here in the United States. Professor Jha is exactly right. Indeed, WHO has made up of 194 members.

About 100 countries around the world have called for an investigation into China. But as you pointed out, as the earlier report pointed out, Donald Trump was excusing China well into March for really holding back the virus, doing a good job, working very hard at it, because he was working on his trade deal, and meanwhile all of the intelligence reports that were telling the president that a catastrophe was on our doorstep were ignored.

All of the deaths that began to mount up as you pointed out, Lawrence, are not attended to, mourned, or grieved by the president of the United States.

O`DONNELL:  Kier, what are the other countries saying about this China- United States conflict at this point?

SIMMONS:  Well, they`re stuck in the middle in many cases. In the case of Australia, Lawrence, Australia has been doing its best to be a good ally to the White House. It`s been leading the charge calling for an investigation and led that call for a resolution at the assembly that Australia wanted to look at what China had done in the early days of the coronavirus.

Let`s be clear about this, there are real questions that the Chinese need to answer. I mean, you`re talking about the Chinese communist party, an organization that sent security officials to talk to doctors who were raising the alarm about the coronavirus. So, there are important questions to ask about how China behaved, particularly in the early days.

The tragedy of this is that that resolution that Australia really wanted, and that America wanted didn`t get passed. What got passed is more of a watered down resolution that asked for a more general independent investigation. A resolution that President Xi was able to address the assembly and say that he kind of agreed with, because it was comfortable for the Chinese to say yes, that will be fine. And by the way, let`s do this after this is all over. Many scientists think that the world should be focused on the coronavirus right now, and get to the questions later.

But it`s just another example of how the diplomatic strategy of this White House is not actually serving the goals that this White House has for itself in terms of pushing back on China.

O`DONNELL:  Dr. Jha, I think of the World Health Organization as being an organization of scientific research and scientific pursuit. I`m not sure what kind of layer of diplomatic core they have working there or around there or advising them. But in your experience, how much of the World Health Organization is involved in diplomacy, how much of it is involved in science?

JHA:  So, it`s mostly a technical, scientific organization, with a layer of diplomacy, because it has to deal with member states. It has to deal with governments. Every time something goes wrong, people love blaming WHO.

And, you know, to be clear, like WHO has not been perfect in this. And the Chinese government, my goodness, they certainly have a lot to account for in the way they hid information. But the question is what is America`s best strategy for itself and for the global public? And it feels increasingly like instead of America first, it`s becoming America alone. And it`s going to leave America worse off.

O`DONNELL:  Wendy Sherman, it sounds strategically as if you had a medical compliant about how a certain case was handled at a hospital, you might, you know, file a malpractice suit or something like that. But this sounds like, let`s close down the hospital instead of just try to correct whatever that particular problem might have been.

SHERMAN:  Indeed. During the Obama administration, at the time of the Ebola crisis, we had some complaints about the WHO. We didn`t think they were moving quickly enough or using their infrastructure of technical capabilities and supply chains to really get things to where they needed. So what does the United States do? The United States got into the fight. They went into the WHO, really took charge in some ways, used the best power of the United States, because we have been the largest contributor.

And indeed, got a change, got WHO to use all of those technical resources Dr. Jha was talking about to fight for the end of the Ebola crisis, and were very valuable as an instrument ultimately in that fight. That`s what happened here again around vaccines, around research, around the investigation into how this really started. There`s so much we could do together, but President Trump seems to only like to work apart.

O`DONNELL:  Ambassador Wendy Sherman, Dr. Ashish Jha, and Kier Simmons, thank you all for starting off our discussion tonight. We really appreciate it.

JHA:  Thank you.

O`DONNELL:  And when we come back, Colorado Governor Jared Polis will join us on the progress that Colorado is now making with testing and why the governor thinks students will be able to return to their classrooms in Colorado in the fall.

Governor Jared Polis joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVEN MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY:  We have provided enormous amounts of equipment. We`ve worked with the governors. We`ve done a terrific job of getting --

(CROSSTALK)

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D-OH):  You know, Mr. Secretary, I`m not going to let you make a political speech about what a great job, we hear that from the president in his news conferences, when, in fact, this country, the president did -- has still not led an effort to scale up testing. He`s played after state, state against state. He`s played hospital against hospital to get protective equipment. Everybody in the country, your comments notwithstanding, knows that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  Treasury secretary ran into more than he could handle at today`s Senate Banking Committee hearing. Yes, that was a Senate hearing that you just saw.

Some states are finally at a point where they`re able to meaningful expand to test -- meaningfully expand testing on their own. Yesterday, Colorado`s Democratic Governor Jared Polis announced that anyone in the state of Colorado with symptoms of coronavirus can get tested for free, regardless of health insurance status.

Joining us now is Jared Polis, the Democratic governor of Colorado.

Governor, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

You -- at this point, you believe that you have enough capacity to test everyone with symptoms. Is your testing program now ready to expand to any categories beyond people with symptoms?

GOV. JARED POLIS (D), COLORADO:  Yeah. We`re actually aggressively testing people without symptoms that work in nursing homes and senior facilities. Both in a partnership with Colorado State University, as well as with the National Guard, we`re starting -- we started with the largest nursing homes in our state and we tested in many cases both asymptomatic residents, as well as the workers that go there, and actually screened out people that might have otherwise infected it (ph).

So we`ve been able to do this for a while, but we did it low key, because we didn`t yet want everybody to come out and get tested. We`re now in a sufficient place where we said, you know what, if you have symptoms, flu- like symptoms, cold-like symptoms, we do want you to get tested. Thirty- four free sites all over our state at COVID.Colorado.gov.

O`DONNELL:  And have you experienced any kind of surge since making that announcement?

POLIS:  You know, one of the interesting things is that because of the social distancing, it`s actually reduced the incidents of the cold and the flu, these normal conditions that cause these symptoms, because those were also contagious. So those are very low levels, historically low levels of the normal cold. So, that also means there`s a lot less people that have false positives because they have symptoms. It also means if you do have symptoms, it might be more likely it is COVID-19.

But we want you to come out and get tested so we can make sure we know, if you have COVID-19, we can make sure we alert the people you come in contact with.

O`DONNELL:  And as testing progresses, what kind of data are you hoping for that can guide you in terms of more reopening of your state?

POLIS:  In addition to testing, the asymptomatic folks that work in nursing homes, it`s really about early alerts. Finding an outbreak when it`s one, two, three people before it`s 100 people or 300 people in a community, right? So if you can find it early, make sure they`re isolated, the people they come in contact with are isolated, you don`t have to do a community- wide isolation or quarantine because you`ve caught it early enough to make a difference.

O`DONNELL:  And how much is your testing program costing the state?

POLIS:  So, a lot of it is covered under the CARES Act and other money that a bipartisan group in Congress worked on. Obviously, it`s a teeny fraction of the cost of staying open even one day too long. We`ve been able to open all of our stores for a couple of weeks. We`re working on restaurants. We`re trying to get back to normal.

The testing is a big piece of it. It`s a teeny fraction of the cost -- the tremendous human and financial cost of having to stay closed for a day longer than you need to.

O`DONNELL:  And what about schools? What are the calculations in reopening schools?

POLIS:  So, we`ve had our day care back for a few weeks now. The next step we`re working on are summer camps, not necessarily the ones that people live at and stay at, those types of facilities are prone to outbreaks, but certainly, the daycare-like day camps.

And then it`s a dry run, we`re working on the protocols for schools. We told our superintendents, expect schools, by and large, to be back in- person in the fall. We say by and large because if there`s an outbreak in a community or at a site, that school may -- may need to move online for a few weeks until that`s resolved.

O`DONNELL:  What are the protocols, what are the standards that you would establish for reopening schools?

POLIS:  Well, we want to make sure it`s reasonably safe. Obviously, there`s a social contract there with parents. Parents aren`t going to send their kids to school if it`s not reasonably safe.

We do expect that some parents are going to want to continue to be online with their kids. And you know what? That`s fine, if 10 percent, or 20 percent of parents or kids living with their grandparents who are retired are able to do the online, that means we can have more spacing in the schools.

We`re working at how we have different staggered schedules so they`re not all lunch on the same time, they don`t have passing time in the hallways at the same time. Kids should mostly be with members of their class, rather than mixing with all members of the whole school community.

O`DONNELL:  And what about at the university level, reopening college dormitories, what will that require?

POLIS:  Our colleges have generally announced, it`s -- you know, a decision will be made by each college. But they`re generally expecting they`ll be back.

Again, I would expect that some students are going to want to continue online. We expect that the college level, that testing will be part of that, as well, both for the students as well as others who work and service the dormitories.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: And then, to November, you are a vote by mail state already; everyone in the state can do it. Do you expect that that will be obviously used more this year than it ever has been?

POLIS: Coloradoans are sort of mystified by this national discussion, because here, Republicans, Independents, Democrats, we all love vote by mail. We`ve been doing it by more than a decade. I don`t even remember ever going to a voting booth, because we`ve had vote by mail even before everybody got it.

Now it`s like 99 plus percent, but even ten years ago, it was half the vote, more than half was via mail. So we`re sort of mystified by this national discussion. Because here, it`s worked for Republicans, Independents, Democrats, it`s very popular, it`s very convenient. People can do it in the convenience of their home and it`s very secure, and no one has had a problem with it.

So of course, it should be available across the nation, not just as a matter of public health, but as a matter of honoring other franchise and the right to vote.

O`DONNELL: Governor Jared Polis of Colorado, thank you very much for joining us in our discussions. I really appreciate it.

POLIS: Always a pleasure.

O`DONNELL: Thank you. And when we come back, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal will join us with details of her Paycheck Guarantee Act, because she believes when people need money, they need money.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Now, the Republicans have done everything they can to bail out giant corporations, Democratic Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal has introduced legislation aimed at helping the over 36 million Americans who have lost their jobs in the past two months due to coronovirus pandemic.

The Paycheck Recovery Act will give businesses of all sizes grants to cover the full wages of workers earning up to $90,000, and would allow employers to rehire workers who have been laid off or furloughed since March 1.

Additionally, it would keep workers enrolled in benefits, including health care and help businesses cover a portion of their operating costs such as rent, so that those businesses can stay open.

Joining us now is Democratic Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal of Washington State. She`s a member of the House Budget Committee. Thank you very much for joining us tonight, Congresswoman. So, you seem to have the feeling that, when people need money, they actually need money, and the best way to deliver it is through their employers.

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): That`s right. I mean, what we`re talking about right now is stopping mass unemployment, which is killing this country right now. We`ve got 37 million people who have filed for unemployment just in the last eight weeks.

And what this act would do is it would say the federal government will ensure that you continue to get paychecks, that we put money in people`s pockets, and that we allow businesses to survive this crisis. This is the approach that many European countries have taken, also South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia.

And it`s really the most streamlined way to both make sure that we have a faster economic recovery, if we stop this mass unemployment that`s happening, to keep as many people off of unemployment insurance as possible, so that we don`t overwhelm the system, and to make sure that there is certainty and scale for these workers and these businesses, because there is too much uncertainty right now, and this program would help to provide some of that.

O`DONNELL: Yes, and you`ve got a streamlined delivery system by going through the employer. You`re keeping the employer alive. So many of these - we see the unemployment numbers that are staggering, but they are unemployed by businesses who are losing business, and are losing their ability to stay in business. So you`re trying to address both of those things at the same time.

JAYAPAL: That`s exactly right. Because, we think this is a really important factor of our economy, the productive relationship between workers and businesses. That job is critical. And of course, as you said, in your summary at the beginning, this would also keep workers on their health care, because we know that at this moment, 27 million Americans have lost not only their jobs, but their health care in the midst of a pandemic.

That number is projected to increase. So, by doing this very streamlined approach, we`ve preserved that relationship between businesses and workers, we allow the businesses to continue to operate so they don`t have to make that decision about permanently shuttering, which is happening to so many, and we make sure that there`s no hunger games going on, where a bank or the Treasury Secretary or the Trump administration gets to pick winners and losers between businesses.

Everyone gets to qualify for this and it would cover 36 million workers. And again, I think it also addresses both the public health piece of this, as well as the economic piece. Because, if we want to beat the virus, we do need people to stay home until they have contact tracing, testing, isolation capacities in place.

If we want people to stay home and follow public health guidance, then we must make sure that we are relieving the economic pressure on workers so that they can pay their rent, pay their mortgage, put food on the table, and that we allow businesses to continue to stay open.

O`DONNELL: What is your sense of legislative momentum here? Are there similar ideas floating in the Democratic side of the Senate and around the House?

JAYAPAL: Yes, it`s both bicameral and bipartisan. When I wrote this out about eight weeks ago, Josh Hawley, Republican Senator from Missouri, had rolled out a very similar idea. Cory Gardner, Republican from Colorado, has now embraced that idea.

On the Democratic side in the Senate, we have Mark Warner, Bernie Sanders, Doug Jones and Richard Blumenthal that have released a similar idea. And in the House, I released the actual bill today, and we have 93 co-sponsors across the ideological caucuses.

We also have 100 economists, including Nobel Prize winning economist, Mark Zandi, the Chief Economist at Moody`s, thinks this is the right way to go. Janet Yellen, Former Federal Reserve Chair, thinks this is the right way to go. So we`ve been able to really get a lot of endorsement for my bill.

O`DONNELL: At this point, the President`s approach seems to be, all you have to do is tell businesses that they can reopen and government doesn`t need to do anything other than just tell a business they can reopen and everything will be fine.

JAYAPAL: Well, this is the crazy thing, the options before us are these. Number one, we could just reopen as the President is saying. And what will happen is we will have tens of thousands more deaths, we will have a longer spread of the infection, which will actually be worse for our economy; businesses will have to open and close. That is not an acceptable option.

The second option is to try to keep people home, but that`s not realistic, because people got to - they have to get money in their pockets, as you said at the very beginning. And so, what this would do is it would put money in worker`s pockets with a certainty.

You would have that paycheck, you would be able to pay your rent, you would be able to pay your expenses, and you would, as a business owner, you would actually get some assistance, not only to keep those workers on your payroll to be ready when the economy starts to ramp up again, but you would also be able to keep your businesses open.

I just have to say it`s been so hard to watch many of these small and medium-sized businesses. But also some of the larger businesses make this decision about shuttering, because they just are not getting any assistance. And we need these businesses to survive, we need the workers to be on payroll, we need people to know that they`re going to have a job at the end of this.

And one thing I think is important is, the disproportionate burden on communities of color and workers of color, and low-income communities, this also helps with all of that. Because, having the certainty of a paycheck makes sure that people know that they`re going to be able to survive this crisis.

O`DONNELL: Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, thank you very much for joining our discussion tonight. We really appreciate it.

JAYAPAL: Thank you, Lawrence. Great to be with you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you. And when we come back, the coronavirus crisis has exposed some harmful preexisting conditions in the American economy. Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz believes we can emerge from the pandemic with a stronger economy if we make the right decisions now. Joseph Stiglitz joins us next.

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O`DONNELL: Countries don`t get rich from more or bigger gambling casinos, real estate empires or even financial sectors. They get rich from scientific discoveries and advances in technology based on those discoveries.

You don`t have to take that from me. Those are the words of Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, whose recent article in The New York Review of Books offers a blueprint for how government can respond to the coronavirus in ways that will strengthen economic recovery, when the virus is eventually under control.

And joining us now is Joseph Stiglitz, Professor of Economics at Columbia University. Professor Stiglitz - and also I want to mention his most recent book title is People, Power, and Profits: Progressive Capitalism for an Age of Discontent.

Professor Stiglitz, thank you very much for joining us tonight; we really appreciate it. What should this government be doing at this stage in the pandemic, given that it`s already passed three gigantic relief packages of sorts through the Congress?

JOSEPH STIGLITZ, NOBEL PRIZE-WINNING ECONOMIST: Well, we used a fire hose to try to deal with the fire, but we didn`t target it very well. So yes, we spent $3 trillion, but that was supposed to protect the most vulnerable, to provide a wherewithal for families, those who are sick not to go to work, to prevent the growth of unemployment.

We have to say, after all these weeks, we failed in important ways in each of those objectives. The unemployment rate, Representative Jayapal was describing how high it`s gone. We were supposed to make sure that people stay connected with their employer, for all the reasons she pointed out, and we failed.

And the result is we put an unacceptable burden on our unemployment system and they`ve not been able to cope. And so, every day, there are stories of so many people applying for unemployment insurance and not being able to get it. And all of this means that, when the pandemic is brought under control, we are going to - not to be in a good position to restart the economy.

O`DONNELL: And what needs to change in order for that to happen? Obviously and whatever is the next round of legislation you would like better targeting, what`s an example of better targeting?

STIGLITZ: Well, Representative Jayapal`s proposal is one example, and she pointed out there is bipartisan support on both houses of Congress. It was the kind of proposal that I had advocated before they passed the PPP program, the Paycheck Protection Program, which in its very design, it was destined to failure, relying on the banks to funnel money was predictable what would happen.

Those who are better connected with the banks would be the ones who got the money, not the people who needed it the most, and we`ve seen the disaster that is associated with that program. We also need to be more comprehensive, and I think we have to have a vision of what kind of an economy we want to emerge after the crisis.

So, for instance, the states and localities are at the forefront in fighting the disease, but also in our education, our state universities, they`re going to be facing enormous strain. The revenues are plummeting.

In the 2008 crisis, the revenues plummeted twice the rate at which GDP fell. And they have a balanced budget framework, which means when the revenues go down, they have to cut expenditures.

That alone will be enough to keep us in a recession, and yet there is reluctance on the part of some to provide any help for the states and localities. We ought to be thinking about a green economy.

We know we have to make a transition to a green economy, and we could have used this moment when there is massive government intervention in the economy to steer the economy towards a greener economy. We haven`t done that.

Other countries have done all the things I`ve talked about. I was just talking the other day with one of the ministers in the New Zealand government, and they too have adopted a program very much like Representative Jayapal, and it`s worked fantastically well. It`s kept the unemployment down.

And as you may know, New Zealand is one of the countries that has almost wiped out the disease, because they got strong citizen support for staying at home and obeying the rules, and it`s worked on all the accounts, on both the health account and on the economy account. So, they`ve been a winner in both ways, and we should have followed some of those ideas.

O`DONNELL: Professor Stiglitz, we`re going to squeeze in a commercial break here. When we come back, I want to get more about your view of the role education plays in our economy, because I think people think of them as separate things, that education lives somewhere outside of our economy. We`re going to be right back with that after this break with Nobel Prize winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: And we`re back with Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize winning Professor of Economics at Columbia University. Professor, I quoted you at the beginning of our discussion saying that countries get rich from scientific discoveries and advances in technology based on those discoveries. And because of that, you argue that our research universities are central to our economic future. You`ve got two minutes to explain that to the country.

STIGLITZ: Well, a very simple question, why is our standard of living so much higher than it was 250 years ago? What happened? And it was the advances of science. We all know about them.

Right now, we`re fighting this virus. We figured out that what caused the disease was a virus. We figured out, because of science, how to develop vaccines. We`re doing it very rapidly. We analyzed it very rapidly.

So, all of this is the advances of science. And the very, very sad thing is that, over the last few years, we haven`t been supporting science. The current administration has called for cuts of 30% in science budgets every, every year. And it`s undermining our research universities, which are - I think the basis of our future.

You think about the success of the United States, it has to do with Silicon Valley, high tech all of that are the product of science. And let me emphasize much of this has been supported by the U.S. Government and by governments elsewhere and done by government.

The very notion of DNA, RNA, which is critical to understanding a virus, that was government funded research. So sometimes we denigrate the role of government. In fact, this is an area where government has been at the forefront.

The private sector has helped bring the insights of that basic research to the market. But, we haven`t supported the basic research to the extent we should have. And if we did more of that, it would be great for our future.

O`DONNELL: Professor Joseph Stiglitz, an honor to have you join us tonight. We really appreciate it. Thank you very much, Professor.

STIGLITZ: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz gets tonight`s last word. "The 11th Hour" with Brian Williams starts now.

 

 

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