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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 1/3/22

Guests: Barbara Boxer, Robert Reich, Margaret Carlson, Ezekiel Emanuel


Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. are subpoenaed by the New York attorney general. COVID cases continue to set records in the U.S. Former Senator Barbara Boxer speaks out. The wealth inequality gap is examined.




Hi, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicolle. Thank you so much.

Welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.

We have a big show tonight.

Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. newly subpoenaed by the New York attorney general, Letitia James. Neal Katyal will be here live on the developments in that and other Trump probes. That`s coming up shortly.

But we begin this first weekday of this new year -- happy new year -- we begin much like we did the last new year. I bet you have noticed, a weary world facing an enduring, mutating pandemic.

The fact is, COVID continues to break records. And its persistence, its logic, and its danger is mightier than any calendar we have created. It is stronger than any tradition we all have of trying to turn the page on days like today. Again, happy new year.

But there`s also some good news here. And I`m going to get to that in a moment.

First, let me tell you the caseload as we begin our week. The U.S. now has more cases than ever before. You can see the peak. You can see how much higher it is than any other point. We`re averaging 40,000 daily cases. COVID`s spread continues to rattle public safety, daily life and the economy, just today, over 2,000 flights canceled, most of them COVID- related and some weather.

Now, the persistence and exposure of COVID is now as prevalent as ever. In most parts of the United States, this is not a time for moving on or forgetting the virus and safety precautions we have been living through for so long.

But I also want to tell you tonight, as we begin another year together, and thank you for being here, while COVID don`t care about our calendar, and COVID don`t care about New Year`s, one thing COVID still does care about is vaccines.

The vaccines continue to work against COVID and Delta and the latest Omicron mutation. So, as we start the year, it is worth a moment to know and reflect on what we know we have learned. We know personal fatigue does not impact the pandemic any more than changing the year from 2020 to 2021 to 2022.

And yet we also know vaccines do impact the pandemic and its severity and its spread, which is why the vaccinated largely live through even the unfortunate contraction of COVID. And so many of the unvaccinated end up severely hurt, damaged, hospitalized or dead.

And we know one shot is better than none, and two is better than one, and three, boosted, is better than two. So maybe there`s a New Year`s resolution here for this pandemic era. Let`s continue to focus on what we know together. And if you want to be involved in news and information, and many people do -- we have the Internet, we`re all publishers in a way now if we want to be -- let`s try to spread facts more than we spread the virus.

And let`s try to spread facts more than we spread our own anger or judgment of others and the way they make their decisions, because, by the way, too much anger and judgment doesn`t tend to work very well if your goal is to actually reach people who might see things differently than you.

And you want to be a reasonable source for them to help all of our public safety. As for the shots working, and three being better than two, well, that`s also the word today from the FDA, as it regards teenagers, because the FDA is now formally approving for the first time a booster shot for 12- to-15-year-olds, based on their scientific review.

And now we get to the good news I mentioned. Now, let`s be clear, it`s nothing great about COVID spreading around or these cases skyrocketing. But if a version of a virus is going to be spreading, medical experts continue to approach a consensus here that this new variant is better or less harmful than some of the previous ones.

It doesn`t mean anyone wants to get it. It doesn`t mean let your guard down. But we deal in facts here. And while it might sound weird to say, the mounting scientific evidence supports a range of facts that this is less dangerous than Delta, and it is sending fewer people per capita for urgent hospital care.


DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: And we`re going to be in the throes of this wave of infection for maybe a month. Here in the Northeast, I think you`re going to see infections peak out within the next two weeks.

So this is a very fast-moving wave of infection. On the back end of this, hopefully, we`re done with COVID for a while.


MELBER: I`m joined now by Dr. Zeke Emanuel, former Obama White House health policy adviser and vice provost of global initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania, and Margaret Carlson, a Washington expert for us and columnist with The Daily Beast.

Happy new year to both of you.

Doctor, of course, I begin with you.

We begin this year a little bit like last, as I mentioned. Walk us through what it is that we know about the enduring power of vaccines, even as the variants mutate, and what it means when experts say you don`t want to get this, but it`s not as bad as the others.


DR. EZEKIEL EMANUEL, FORMER WHITE HOUSE SPECIAL ADVISER: Well, I think we have to distinguish transmission and virulence.

So, transmission is, how easily is Omicron transmitted between people? And it seems to be incredibly easy. Lots of people I talk to, they don`t know where they got it. They have haven`t been around anyone who`s been infectious. But, somehow, they got it out of the air. That`s the bad news, as you put it.

It also has a very short incubation time, much shorter than Delta and certainly much shorter than Alpha. But, as you point out, it`s very virulent. How bad it strikes people is much less, and especially if you -- as you pointed out, vaccinated and boosted.

The people I talked to who are manning the intensive care units at various hospitals, they are just like, we don`t have a patient who`s got two shots and is boosted and is immunocompetent and not immunocompromised. The immunocompromised are in a little different circumstance. They are much more threatened.

And, as you pointed out, the risk of dying is way higher, 20-fold, if you`re unvaccinated. So the simple message is vaccinated, boosted, yes, you very well might get this, but you are very unlikely to end up in the hospital. And if you do, you`re very, very unlikely to die.

That`s all the good news. And we can see that. You have got 400,000 cases a day, dwarfing what we saw in January last year. January last year, we had 3,500 deaths. We are at an extremely high 1,500. But that`s substantially less than before. And that sort of gives you the flavor of where we`re at with Omicron.

MELBER: And, Doctor, walk us through what you mean about the incubation periods.

EMANUEL: Yes, that`s between your exposure and then when you will be spewing out infection.

And it does appear to be that this variant has a very big proclivity for the nasopharynx -- that`s the nose and the back of the throat -- but doesn`t spread out in the body. And because it has a very -- it binds very quickly, reproduces very quickly, you can then transmit it even before you have symptoms, and in large quantity, because it`s in the nose and the throat.

But that doesn`t mean that it`s going to debilitate you, the way Delta has, for example.

MELBER: And, Margaret, what do you see here in this new year that is similar in some ways to the last one?

MARGARET CARLSON, COLUMNIST, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, despite all the positive parts that you -- Ari, you described and the good doctor described -- hi, Zeke -- the good parts of it are being used by the anti-vax community, which is still as active as it was last year, to say, vaccines don`t work.

Senator Ron Johnson said exactly that a couple of weeks ago. So the fact that you don`t get as sick is the fact that`s been plucked out of this current strain, the Omicron, so that it`s becoming even more virulent among the anti-vaxxers not to get the vaccine.

In fact, in several states, especially Florida, you now get paid not to get the vaccine. Five states, Republican-led, have just extended unemployment benefits to anyone who doesn`t get a vaccine. We don`t necessarily have incentives on the get-the-vaccine side, at least money ones. And we have them on the government side that`s even more than what the politicians have already done.

And it seems like with Twitter banning Marjorie Taylor Greene for spewing disinformation about the coronavirus to the public, Twitter is now more responsible than the Republican Party. And that`s not saying much.

I don`t mean to compliment Twitter necessarily. But I think we`re stuck in this place where, if you don`t get -- if you`re not going to die, then don`t get the vaccine. And that`s a terrible message.

Today in Washington, schools were closed because of the snow. Schools close because of the snow. It`s the safe thing to do. But when schools closed for the virus, that creates a huge political storm.


CARLSON: I want you to cure that, Dr. Zeke. I wish you could cure the other side of their vaccine hesitancy or denial.

MELBER: Well, we will ask the doctor about that. I was going to say storm, but no pun intended, clearly.


As for you inadvertently being seen to praise Twitter, Margaret, we will leave it up to Twitter to decide. But if you do praise Twitter, you`re more likely to get retweets. So keep that in mind.

CARLSON: Yes, I know. I blundered there. Yes, sorry.


MELBER: But to bring the doctor back into it, I mean, Margaret raises several important points, including the public health implications of information, speech, and misinformation.

And, Doctor, we`re not going to resolve every aspect of it here tonight in a convo, but the reason why fire -- shouting fire in a crowded theater is the kind of classic limit on free speech is because of the foreseeable and immediate public risk created by that which would otherwise be what in government they would call protected speech, protected because you can say it unless you`re hurting someone.

And it would seem that Twitter, which is a business and obviously can do what it wants without the First Amendment, Doctor, has landed, as Margaret mentions, on the view that, well, given what we know, someone who is saying things to a very large audience, I mean, way more people than fit into one movie theater, that has the foreseeable consequence of endangering or even killing some of them, is not something they want to host.

I`m curious where that fits in, as well as any other response you want to make to what Margaret said.

EMANUEL: Well, I do think this sort of grasping at every example to try to disprove the vaccines just shows how desperate these people are.

And I think that Margaret is right. We know that, in this country, there`s some nugget of people, probably under 10 percent, maybe even 5 percent, who are virulent anti-vaxxers. But there are many more people who are hesitant, sort of slow, reluctant, who I think we can get to get vaccinated. They`re not going to be so easily persuaded.

And as I have long advocated, we need mandates. The president proposed this OSHA requirement that employers with over 100 employees get their workers vaccinated. You see CMS proposing that all health care workers get vaccinated.

That`s really the way we`re going to do it. We don`t get 85, 95 percent of children vaccinated against things like measles, diphtheria, tetanus by voluntary action .We get it by mandates. This is what you have to do to go to school.

The problem is, as Margaret points out, this has become political, cultural. It`s simply a way to win votes of a die-hard base for primaries. That is -- when it gets politicized, that`s when science takes a backseat and all sorts of misinformation happens.

This isn`t the first time we have had misinformation in American politics. It won`t be the last. What we do have now that makes a difference is, as Margaret points out, Twitter, Facebook, amplification systems that hone in the same bad message to a few people and give it to them over and over and over again, without the countervailing positive message.

That, we have never had in this country, because you had three channels that gave you the facts, as it were. You had newspapers that were more available, and you couldn`t just get into an echo chamber. Now, with Facebook and Twitter and other platforms, you can get into an echo chamber and never hear the truth. And that gets into your head once you have heard it five, six, seven times. Politicians know that.

And that`s really our problem. So if we`re going to deal with the misinformation, facts aren`t going to do it. We really have to deal with the media landscape and the amplification algorithms those companies have.

MELBER: Yes, I think those are very...


CARLSON: And, Ari, you have to add...

MELBER: And, Margaret, I have got...

CARLSON: And you have to add politicians. OK.


MELBER: OK, I will tell you, I have about 45 seconds left. So take it away. That`s what I have left.


And, today, those politicians, 13 percent of them tested positive in the Congress. The attending physician put that out just now.



MELBER: And that`s who you would want to be leaders.

Now, Doctor, you heard me. Now I got to -- I got Neal Katyal standing by. That`s the only reason I`m running the rules of the road.

But it`s an important headline. Look, there`s more problems to solve than time we have.



MELBER: Dr. Emanuel, Margaret Carlson coming out with plenty energy and problem-solving.

CARLSON: Goodbye.

MELBER: Goodbye to both of you. And thank you both.

Coming up, we have this breaking news, as I mentioned, on Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. getting subpoenaed. Neal Katyal will be here.

And this new hardball tactic from Biden and Senate Democrats. Senator Boxer is here talking about whether it`s really time to take the obstruction filibuster away from Mitch McConnell.

All that, and Elon Musk back in the hot seat.

Stay with us.




ERIC TRUMP, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: This is a place that is really special to myself. It`s really special to my brother, my father, really the whole family. And it`s just really our compound.

And I have spent so much of my life here.


MELBER: "Our compound."

That was Eric Trump`s description of an investment property, the Seven Springs Estate now under investigation for whether Trump or his company illegally inflated its value.

Now, the news here tonight is New York Attorney General Letitia James playing legal hardball on this issue, subpoenaing two Trump family members, Ivanka and Don Jr., in a probe of whether there were any ploys or illegal lies about the valuation of Trump company properties. James` office as the probe is following the leads and the facts.

She also recently subpoenaed Trump himself for his testimony. All of this is a legal battle. Many expect the Trumps to apply a typical playbook to delay or defy. And, legally, they have the right to try to ask judges to either reject or narrow these type of subpoenas.

But that doesn`t always work. We should note the courts have dragged the Trumps in before. Eric Trump was deposed just last year. And Donald Trump himself sat for sometimes damaging deposition testimony, all on video, in cases that occurred. This was before he was president.

So, if you are actually keeping track, these developments in this one New York case are actually one of several open cases Trump faces. There`s this New York attorney general probe. There`s also the separate criminal probe in New York. But the criminal case out of the DA`s office indicted his entire company, the CFO there awaiting trial.

That`s a different probe. And then, third, you have the also criminal probe of any 2020 election crimes that occurred in or pursuant to Georgia`s election.


Now, where are Trump`s legal headaches headed in this new year with this news? As promised, Neal Katyal is here live.

We`re back in just 60 seconds.


MELBER: We are back with former acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal Katyal.

Neal, not my view, just math, that you were one of our most frequent and thus favorite guests in the past year, and we posted about that. So shout- out to that. Happy new year. And good to have you back today.

NEAL KATYAL, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Good to be back. And happy new year to you. And I love those maths.

MELBER: There we go.


MELBER: So, we just walked through some of these developments. Give us your breakdown, starting, of course, with the news in the attorney general case, but any of the other cases I mentioned, and see what you think as well.

KATYAL: Yes, I think it`s a significant step.

The investigation appears to be centering in on some key facts in the New York attorney general civil matter. So they know Trump inflated his assets. They know Trump pretended to be more charitable than he was. They know that Trump avoided -- try to avoid paying some taxes on these properties.

And they know that Trump overpaid his children for helping him do all this. So, say what you will. Donald Trump ran the country the same way as he ran his businesses.

And, here, what the New York attorney general is trying to do is seek under oath testimony from two of his children. And so, of course, the Trumps want to resist that. I mean, to use the SAT analogy, it`s kind of like a vampire is to garlic in the same way as a Trump is to an oath. They`re always afraid to be under oath, Ari.

But I think what the oath -- what the testimony being sought is to say is, how did you value these properties as part of the Trump Organization? Because it looks awfully suspicious. The values decline when they`re talking to one audience, tax folks, but they go up a lot when they`re talking to banks and lenders, where they have to show that they`re financially solvent.


And we throw these words around sometimes, and people can forget what the core distinction is when we say civil or criminal. And I just want to put up the way "The New York Times" puts it here in the James case, which is the one that is more civil.

"If Ms. James finds evidence of wrongdoing, she can file a lawsuit. As her investigation is civil, she cannot file criminal charges."

Explain to us why that matters when -- in contrast to the other two cases that are criminal in nature.

KATYAL: Yes, so our legal system broadly has this distinction between civil and criminal. Criminal is obviously more serious, because you`re dealing with jail time.

The criminal laws require a kind of criminal intent. And so it looks very suspicious, these facts. Like, for example, "The Washington Post" reports that the Trump Organization bought 40 Wall Street, an office building, and claimed it was worth $527 million when they were talking to lenders, but then said it was only worth $16.7 million when they were talking to local property tax officials.

I mean, that kind of wild swing is very, very concerning and potentially criminal. It`s at least civil. I mean, but look, we should think about this as someone who engages in basically theft, who walked into the New York Treasury and took millions of dollars away from taxpayers, because that`s what it is.

The difference is, to be criminal, you got to show criminal intent, that this was done for the purpose of avoiding taxes. And that`s why they`re trying to get at the information from Trump`s children, from Trump`s former lawyer Michael Cohen, who I think kicked off a lot of this investigation and the like. So they`re trying to figure all that out.

It`s looking bad no matter what. The question is, are we talking about jail time? And while the New York attorney general, Tish James, is not pursuing criminal cases, she has an agreement, it looks like, with the Manhattan local prosecutor to potentially bring criminal action should the evidence lead there.



And you mentioned those local prosecutors in New York. Earlier in the program tonight, we were talking about how, look, COVID doesn`t care about the calendar. COVID doesn`t care that we have a -- quote -- "new year" and we want a new vibe.

Of course, when it comes to the law and jurisdiction and who`s in charge, the DA does care a lot about the calendar. There`s a new incoming DA here in 2022 from the off-year elections that takes over for Cyrus Vance, who viewers may remember was a longstanding DA there.

What do you see, if anything, mattering there, because the new DA obviously has to get up to speed. And for those who were hoping -- and, again, lawyers may just have to do their jobs regardless of what the public hopes, but there were those hoping that that`s Cy Vance`s natural exit on the case that he`d been involved in for years would be a time to find out once and for all whether they were going to go up the line beyond this money person, Weisselberg, and hit anyone else in the Trump Organization.

So walk us through all of that and what you see in that case with the new DA.

KATYAL: Yes, so there is a new DA.

But I think the old DA, Cy Vance, did exactly the right thing in trying not to rush some sort of decision and bring a criminal case, particularly such a major one, putting it basically as a fait accompli onto his successor. I think he did -- Cy Vance did exactly the right thing in saying, look, I`m leaving.

Here`s this big investigation, probably not all the facts have been uncovered, because the Trumps delay and delay and delay. I mean, Donald Trump has already been subpoenaed by the New York attorney general, and Donald Trump went and filed a lawsuit, saying, I can`t possibly comply with this because I`d have to tell the truth under oath and the like.

So, because delay is their name, it`s not surprising that Cy Vance has taken some time. So now we have a new district attorney in Manhattan, someone who`s very good, who`s going to follow the evidence and figure out where it leads. And I suspect it`s going to lead to something that looks really mighty fishy and potentially criminal.

MELBER: Yes, all really interesting to pull on these strands.

Again, it`s a new year with a lot of open leads here. And we will see what filings we get out of the Trumps as well on the level of participation in those subpoenas.

Neal Katyal, good to see you, sir.

KATYAL: Good to see you, my friend. Happy new year. Thanks to all our viewers.

MELBER: Absolutely. Happy new year to you as well, sir, and everyone out there.

And let me remind folks, for more of Neal`s insights, you can always go to, where we post these and the past archive. Many of them, as I have said, are like a little trip to law school.

Now, coming up tonight, there is major news as we start the workweek, because Chuck Schumer just explained that he has a new plan out today to take the filibuster away from Mitch McConnell. Former Senator Boxer live on that next.

And then, later, the $28 billion man, Elon Musk, under fire.

Robert Reich is here to talk about how to value people`s labor in the new year.



MELBER: Welcome back.

We turn now to something very important. It`s about the future, but it involves the past, because, in some ways, this new year is starting much like the last one in Washington.

President Biden has public support for his domestic spending plans. Democrats control the White House, the Senate and the House. But Mitch McConnell continues Republican obstruction of many Democratic priorities, even though he is out of power, in the minority.

So, even though voters put Democrats in charge of both political branches, and even though McConnell`s failed to find a majority for many of his positions, he uses old Senate rules to obstruct and to constantly try to require a supermajority vote of support for most items to go anywhere.

This is really the governing story of our time. Big things routinely pass the House and have the president`s support, but are blocked by that minority of Republicans in the Senate.

I could give you examples, like the George Floyd Police Reform Act, which the House passed, or the For the People bill, or campaign finance reform, which the House passed, or voting rights protections, which the House passed.

Now, I`m not telling you whether those are good ideas or not. I`m not telling you they all should automatically pass the Senate. I`m telling you, as a newscaster, that a majority passed them in one house, and that a minority is blocking them from getting a vote in the upper body, in the Senate, and that, in a functioning democracy, although there might be exceptions along the way, but, most of the time, you would expect to have majority votes on those big issues.

So, for example, the police reform bill could then go to the Senate and be voted on up or down. Right now, it is just blocked. And liberals have been pushing Senate Democrats to play hardball and just gut the old filibuster rules that McConnell`s using.

Now, Democrats have the technical power to do that. They could reform or end the filibuster if they hold their caucus together with 50 votes. But a year in, neither Biden nor Schumer up through the New Year`s were emphatically pushing for this, until now.

And that`s the news. The news for the new year is Chuck Schumer formally announcing that he has a plan to change the Senate rules once and for all, at least so a minority cannot obstruct the protections of voting rights, Schumer vowing to hold a formal vote this month, by Martin Luther King Day.

So this is new today. He put out a letter. And he says he`s going to do it. It`s a big deal. Schumer telling Republicans, if they don`t stop obstructing voting rights, he will push to change the rules and limit filibuster obstruction in some way.

As for that letter I mentioned, he says plainly: "The Senate must evolve like it has many times before." And he directly addresses his colleagues there, saying: "We hope our Republican colleagues change course and work with us. But if they do not, the Senate will debate and consider changes to Senate rules on or before January 17," he writes, "Martin Luther King Jr. Day, to protect the foundation of our democracy, free and fair elections."

This is exactly what progressives have been demanding. This is farther than anything we heard all last year. And it is, to be a bit of a Washington type about it, it is in writing.

Now, to actually win this battle, Schumer needs all 50 Democrats in the Senate. And the two typical holdouts on many issues, Senators Manchin and Sinema, have not publicly embraced reforming the filibuster yet. This push now, with a real timeline, may dial up the pressure on them, as this becomes a moving train linked to the foundational issue of voting rights.


Now, a broader change to obstruction rules could also clear the path for other Democratic items. The D.C. narrative has been focused on Biden`s tough road ahead. And there`s some reasons for that. But it`s worth remembering, last January, there was similar talk in Washington that Biden`s huge COVID spending bill also faced an uphill battle.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On his second full day in office, President Biden`s agenda clashing with the looming impeachment trial of Donald Trump.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN: They might have some trouble in a deeply divided Congress. Even this $1.9 trillion COVID bill, again, that`s a big price tag.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s already getting some pushback from Republicans, who say, look, we just passed a $1 trillion package We`re not in the mood to consider another $1.9 trillion spending bill.


MELBER: But the headlines tell the story.

That big spending bill passed with Democratic votes, as did a later infrastructure bill, a reminder that D.C. predictions may not always be worth much.

Now, with this new timeline from Chuck Schumer today, January will be a pivotal stretch to see where Biden`s remaining agenda heads in this divided Senate.

And so, for insights on this, we turn to someone that BEAT viewers know from many issues. Today, we go to her knowledge of these very players, including former Senator, now President Biden and Senate Leader Schumer.

We are joined by Barbara Boxer, former Democratic senator from California.

Happy new year.


MELBER: I mentioned it because this is about people. Joe Biden clearly was not eager to do this. He didn`t do it on month one or month two. Chuck Schumer has his reasons.

What do you see happening here? What do you see in this letter? And for people who aren`t obsessed with the Senate, is this a big deal?

BOXER: It`s a very big deal.

But I think it`s so important to go back to history, because the filibuster is not sacred. It is not in the Constitution. It`s kind of a fluke of history. If you really want to go back to it someday, it`s fascinating. When we formed the Senate way back then -- I wasn`t there -- and formed the House, the House had a motion.

You could just immediately make a motion the vote. It was call the question. That was how you put it. Any time, call the question, and you would have a vote. So, in -- when the Senate wrote his rules, Aaron Burr was around.

He said, oh, you don`t have to explain that. It`s obvious. Well, it wasn`t obvious. So, for a long time, there was no way to stop debate. And then, eventually, it was 70 votes. And it became used as a tool against people who wanted civil rights legislation, and finally it got to 60 votes.

So, now it is time to carve it out for things that are essential, but to our democracy. And it`s been done before. Frankly, my brother Harry Reid did it, and I supported it for nominations, including lower court judges. We kept it for the Supreme Court.

What`s the first thing Mitch McConnell did? He took it away for the Supreme Court, so they have been able to stack the court with fewer than 60, way fewer than 60 votes. So there you go. It`s time to change it.

Knowing Chuck Schumer the way I do, it would be hard for me to believe that he doesn`t have the votes lined up for something, to make it a talking filibuster, to really reform the rules. It would be hard for me to believe he would put something in writing if he wasn`t sure he had the votes, yes.

MELBER: Well, that`s -- I want to hear more exactly from your thinking on that, because it can be so hard to understand some of this stuff.

And people sometimes want it to be simpler. Like, why didn`t they do this immediately? You`re saying that you don`t think, based on your knowledge of Chuck Schumer, that he would put out a letter like this gearing up for a clash this month, start of the new year, over this issue unless he thought he had Manchin and Sinema agreeing to do something?

BOXER: That`s what I think. And I could be wrong, wrong, wrong.

So, please. I mean, he may be doing it for other reasons. But I honestly feel, because I have listened to Joe Manchin, and he seemed to be willing to move toward a talking filibuster, and that would make life absolutely miserable for those who are trying to obstruct.

They`d have to stand on their feet. They couldn`t go home, et cetera, et cetera. And having served in the Senate for 24 years, commuting to California literally every week, going home to my family, I can tell you, to stay there for an hour upon hour because people don`t want to give you the chance to vote, that gets people very annoyed.

And that is something that I don`t think they would like very much. So let`s see what happens here.


Frankly, I hope they carve out voting rights. I mean, that, to me, is the simplest thing. Mitch McConnell`s set the trend. He carved it out for Supreme Court justices. They just carved it out for debt ceiling, saying they can bypass the filibuster.

So it`s time. And, by the way, I defended the filibuster for a while. So I want you to know this isn`t something I have always said.

MELBER: What changed your mind, just the way it rampantly became a roadblock to most votes?

BOXER: Bingo. That`s what happened.

I mean, in the beginning, I felt it was a way to reach across the aisle and get those senators to work together. That`s how I grew up in politics. But when I realized that it became an obstructionist tool again, and again and again -- the only reason we got the bipartisan infrastructure bill is, we did get a handful, two hands full, I think, of them to vote for that.

But other than that, they`re just absent, all of them, every one of them. And it`s -- maybe Lisa Murkowski is for voting rights. But I hadn`t heard that any other Republicans were, which is the saddest thing in the world, the party of Lincoln. Come on.


And to your point, in fairness, there were some Republicans in previous decades, who, for example, worked on a bipartisan basis to extend the Voting Rights Act and do some of these things. So it`s not that it always was this way or has to be this way.

It doesn`t have to be partisan, but it certainly -- it certainly seems backwards to many people to say a minority of politicians can prevent votes on the very laws that protect the people`s right to vote, to entrench their own power, which is the carve-out thing.

The larger thing is whether they want to just look at the way the Senate works and change it, which, again, is a Senate question. We`re just tracking what seems to be big news out of Schumer.

Always good to see you, Senator.

I want to mention -- I want to thank former Senator Boxer here as our special guest.

I want to mention to everyone that Senator Schumer, who made this big news, will be on "THE REIDOUT WITH JOY REID." That`s in just a few minutes. So I would -- I would keep it locked, quite honestly. I`m not just saying that because I`m interested in the story and that`s with my pal Joy Reid.

I mean, that`s a factor, but it`s not the only reason.

All right, now, coming up: Joe Biden has been facing down mounting inequality. There are staggering numbers coming out on the billions and billions of dollars going to the rich, windfalls in a pandemic, the wealth gap, what can be done, and a special guest -- next.



MELBER: Imagine making $30 billion in a day.

That is how tech titan Elon Musk kicked off the new year, the value of Tesla`s stock jumping today on news of huge car sales, Musk`s fortune estimated to be over $300 billion in total. He is now formally, and without a close call, the world`s richest person.

Another tech company, Apple, making news as the world`s first company worth $3 trillion with a T. Now, tech billionaires contribute in many different ways. They spur innovation. And they do things that rewire our economy and can even enhance our democracy, our knowledge. It`s a complex story.

But we`re talking specifically about the tax and labor policies here, how the soaring wealth feeds inequality; 100 million people, meanwhile, live in extreme poverty. And the world`s richest people control the largest share of global wealth ever in world history.

This is a problem of economics, of society, of democracy.

And back with us is our friend, former Democratic Senator from California Barbara Boxer, who has written tax laws and is equipped to talk about this.

In full disclosure, since I like to be transparent on the news, we also had former Labor Secretary Robert Reich standing by. He had a Zoom problem. Another way the new year is kind of like last year.

If he`s able to jump in this segment, he will. If not, the senator agreed to stick around longer.

Thank you for doing that.

And let`s get right to it.

What do you see here in the windfall during a pandemic, and with that poverty, which is not to take away from the contributions that Musk has made to the green economy, among other things?

BOXER: It`s just not healthy for a society that prides itself on a thriving middle class to be losing the middle class.

And Robert Reich, I hope he connects if he`s listening to me now. He was one of my great advisers. Every time there was some kind of economic problems, I always said, what do you think? And he was very clear.

And so many people who have a heart and also have the knowledge understand that it just isn`t healthy. There was a strike by some of the workers in grocery stores recently. And I remember that my son, a long time ago, when he was in high school, worked as a checkout person.

And he joined a union, and he made about $9 an hour then. That`s about what they were making when I checked last, about a year or two ago. I think they have gone up since, if you look at it. And so you cannot raise a family like that. So it`s unhealthy.

And this -- to compound it, we know that, if you look at the taxes that a nurse pays, that a secretary pays, that people who are working for these billionaires make, they pay more percentage-wise, for sure, than these billionaire. So they`re not paying their fair share.

Some of them come out and say, like Warren Buffett, I want to pay more. There are others who have done that. I had a friend who founded the Price Club, which became Costco. And he would call me, say, "I have a favor."

"What`s the favor?"

"I need to do more. Can you work on better ways to get me to pay my fair share?"

And so it`s just not good for the society.


When John Kennedy said a rising tide lifts all boats, it was true then. It`s not really true now.

And just because you make it at the top, top, top doesn`t mean it trickles down. That has been disproven.

MELBER: Yes, and a rising tide does not lift all personal spacecraft.

We`re at a level of wealth and spending that`s just completely divorced from I think what people really thought was possible or what they thought was the outer end of inequality.

I want to just put up one more example. We have covered this story before. I know you have touched on it in your career, but it`s really hard to get your mind around. Take a look at this from the World Inequality Report.

This shows 50 percent of the population basically has 2 percent of the wealth; 10 percent has 75 percent. And then the 1 percent, right, when you look at the inequality at the far right, the 1 percent, for itself, has 38 percent of all wealth in the world.

I`m wondering -- I`m wondering if you can give us any thoughts, Senator, on what does it mean for the body politic in America or around the world to understand that? Because we look at old Renaissance paintings of royalty and such, and we think of it as somehow bad or antiquated.

This puts them to shame in regard to what our capitalist royals at the upper, upper end control.

BOXER: It`s true.

If you look at the graphs -- I once had a lecture by some brilliant economist. He showed us the graphs. And we were doing so well in terms of making sure everybody came along.


MELBER: Oh, and stay with -- Senator?

BOXER: Yes. Yes.

MELBER: Stay with me. Your New Year`s Wisconsin has come true.

Robert Reich rice joins us.

Can you hear us, Professor?


Can you hear me, Ari?

MELBER: You`re great.

With the senator`s blessing...

REICH: And the senator...


MELBER: Go ahead. I will let you go first. And then she will go after you.

REICH: Well, there`s a little bit of a delay.

But I have been watching the program and trying to get in here. Technologically, we`re in a little bit of a difficult situation. But let me just say that, undoubtedly, we are in a kind of second Gilded Age right now, in terms of witnessing a consolidation of wealth and income and power at the very top reaches America, such as we haven`t seen in over 100 years.

I think it`s dangerous. It`s not only bad for our economy, but it is very, very dangerous for our democracy.

BOXER: Yes, I was going to say -- hi, Bob, anyway.

I was going to say, when people lose hope that they can`t make it from poverty into the middle class, and then when they`re stuck in the lower middle class, they can`t make it a little bit higher, it`s a very unhappy place for the country.

We need that kind of sense that, if we play by the rules, if we just play by the rules, we can move forward. And that`s why it`s so important -- and I hate to shift to something more parochial -- that Joe Biden`s vision of this Build Back Better, because that`s investing in the human infrastructure, making it possible for women to get back into the workplace by doing something on child care, making it possible for seniors not to be a burden on their kids because they can get at-home care.

And I could go on. That`s why this piece is so important to give people the ability to get in there and have that positive attitude and be productive for themselves and their families.

MELBER: Yes, it`s so important.

And both of you have been on THE BEAT before.

Robert Reich, thanks for hanging with us. We will have you back again with more time to make up for Zoom.

Thanks to both of you.

Let me tell everyone, coming up: Vaccine hesitancy remains, but there are important ways we can go out and talk to people about it. I will show you that when we come back.



MELBER: What we think of as media continues to evolve.

And there`s an old-school radio show that`s become more influential than ever, thanks to the Internet.

"The Breakfast Club," broadcast out of New York City, often goes viral online. It`s become a major stop for top politicians and thinkers and artists. President Obama has stopped by. And you might recognize the hosts. We have had them here on THE BEAT.

Well, they just asked me to drop by. And we had some fun. We talked about how music goes all the way back to Stone Age campfires, what album listening parties are like nowadays. And we also touched on why we don`t have a full democracy in America right now.

Here are just some quick highlights.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congratulations for breaking records.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have seen you outside a lot too, Ari.

MELBER: We`re out here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You be outside a lot, a lot of album listening parties.

MELBER: When we were around the campfire, like...


MELBER: Drums.

We don`t have a democracy in this country. If you actually look at, like, power right now, there are corporations that are more powerful than countries, which has more power than governments.

Like, here`s how I will tell you it`s politics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take a sip of water, Ari, first. I know -- you look parched. I see you wanted it.


MELBER: Well, you know I`m so thirsty in the game. That`s why I`m always drinking the water.


MELBER: You have been, they let him come to some of the parties. Let him show up. He still seems thirsty.

It`s like, yes, this is how I am.


MELBER: Well, Moneybagg Yo did say, the hate be so real and the love be so fake.



MELBER: Of course, we still believe in love around here.

That`s just some of the fun parts here. I want to thank them again for having me.

You can find a link to the whole interview and more on my social pages @AriMelber. We also spent several minutes talking about the vaccines and vaccine hesitancy in certain communities and how to have respectful dialogue. So, if that interests, you can check it out. I`m going to post it online.

Now, that does it for me.

We have a very special edition of "THE REIDOUT WITH JOY REID" coming up next.