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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 11/8/21

Guests: Josh Marshall


President Biden seals a major bipartisan victory on the bipartisan infrastructure package. Allies of Donald Trump are hit with new subpoenas. How are some workers finding a way to beat some corporations? Republicans target Big Bird.



Hi, Ari.

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

Welcome to THE BEAT, everyone. I am Ari Melber.

And we have a lot to get to, including something that`s been covered here this afternoon MSNBC, this developing news of the subpoenas coming in from the insurrection committee and hitting some of Trump`s closest allies. We have that for you with a very special legal guest.

But our top story is President Biden sealing this major bipartisan victory on the largest infrastructure package since when? All the way back to FDR. It`s an achievement that in many ways has scrambled some of those hot takes and D.C. pieces of conventional wisdom. It`s also exposing something that we`re going to get into right now that`s very important, not only for this money that`s going to go out into the country, but really for the future of the federal government and the Biden administration.

And that is whether there are actual limits on the Republican Party`s avowed obstruction strategy in this post-Trump Biden era. Now, this bill is on its way to the president`s desk. It passed the House late Friday night. There`s money for roads, bridges, ports, airports, broadband, and much more.

And the way it went down was interesting. Everyone likes to sound smart and say they saw things coming. But I`m here to tell you, as we go through the evidence, which is what we do on THE BEAT, that not everyone and certainly not some of these D.C. pundits, saw this Biden victory coming the way it went down, with 19 Republicans voting for it in the Senate, and 13 in the House.

And to be clear, if you check the math -- and this was Speaker Pelosi`s battle -- if those 13 House Republicans had not supported this bill on that late Friday night clash, it would not have passed, it would not be law when President Biden signs it.

They did. That`s significant. Biden came into this office facing all of these pledges of gridlock. And then we have the polarization that we all know about. And we have something that has become something of a punchline, the fact that the past president, Donald Trump, literally declared infrastructure week every few months.

He turned it into a joke. But, remember, the premise was that infrastructure was something people might come together on that was worth funding. But he couldn`t get it done even when he controlled government and Republicans controlled the other branch.

Biden argued that, despite all of this, his leadership would involve working across the aisle to still get things done.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Historically, infrastructure had been a bipartisan undertaking, many times led by Republicans.

I don`t think you will find a Republican today in the House or Senate -- maybe I`m wrong, gentlemen -- who doesn`t think we have to improve our infrastructure. So there`s no reason why it can`t be bipartisan again.

If the Republicans argue that we don`t need infrastructure, indeed now, that they have been talking about the need for years now, I think the Republicans` voters are going to have a lot to say about whether we get a lot of this done.


MELBER: That`s what this new president argued. He did it in his own way. Some call it dry. Some call it calm.

But that`s what he set out to do. So if we`re going to deal with evidence, which is what we do on the news, and if the country`s going to deal in facts, which, of course, I realize is a debate, then we got to look at these new facts that rolled in Friday night, a new president arguing that Republicans should join the public support for the Democratic Party that he leads and the logical argument for infrastructure.

And we see the way he did that brought over enough to pass it, brought over the winning gap, because without them, as mentioned, he wouldn`t have passed it.

Here are those 13 Republicans. They did what apparently they thought was the right vote. Perhaps some of them -- we can`t read their minds -- but perhaps some of them were warmed by this president`s particular style, which is not made for Twitter. It`s not made for dunking on people. It`s made for governing, however dry that may look and sound.

They voted yes on this. And now they`re facing attacks, predictably on the right, not by people saying that they oppose the spending and we can`t afford it, which are valid, debatable points, but rather just saying that this is a political betrayal -- that`s courtesy of the right-wing "National Review" -- because it might help a Democrat.

"The Wall Street Journal" saying Republicans rescued Biden`s agenda, that that is the problem. Again, that`s a publication that is supposed to focus on what`s going on Wall Street and Main Street, but parts of that paper obviously more obsessed with stopping Joe Biden at all costs, no matter what.

Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress piling on.


REP. DAN CRENSHAW (R-TX): A lot of people are mad because 13 Republicans voted for it, gave Pelosi and Biden a win, in their eyes.

And, look, there is some truth to that.


SEN. BILL HAGERTY (R-TN): It was very surprising to me to see 13 Republicans basically bail Nancy Pelosi out. I think what they did was put themselves on a path to early retirement.


MELBER: Early retirement.

Again, there are many divisive issues. We know that. You could understand if this was something that the Republican Party ran against. I just showed you they didn`t. They claimed to be for infrastructure for years.

If this was some hot-button social issue. And these Republicans reversed what they said they would do, there might be a logical argument. But I`m always here to give it to you straight.

What we are witnessing out in the open is just the complete concession and confession of the long-term Republican strategy that hardened under Obama, but in some ways has gotten worse. The only goal of governing, they say, is to damage Democrats, even if they`re on record saying you should fund infrastructure.

It`s a GOP playbook. It`s obstructionist politics. They`re not mad because they got caught. They`re not just mad because it`s all out in the open. Understand what`s happening here. Those Republicans are mad because it didn`t work, because they failed, because they ran up against a president who, whatever his other potential faults and stylistic differences -- even people don`t always want to see Joe Biden give a long speech. Fine.

He`s not doing a TV show, let alone a reality show. He`s doing governing. And he beat them. He beat them Friday night at their own game with Republicans involved.

So, that`s the Republican anger at a new president who apparently is effective. Now, the noise can still affect public opinion. And I want to show you, as we often reach out, we look for truth wherever it comes. Could come from the culture, could come from poetry, could come from musicians. Sometimes, it comes from the comedians.

HBO`s Bill Maher arguing, in a point that`s not so much a punchline, but a reality check, that there`s all this talk against Biden, but look at the facts and the reality of what seems to be unfolding.


BILL MAHER, HOST, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": But this is what`s so weird about it. The actual news is pretty good. The economy`s going through the roof. We added 531,000 jobs in October. That`s a big number for one month.

The Dow, there was a book, could the Dow ever be 36000? Now it is. The stock market`s never been higher. We`re out of Afghanistan. COVID is going way down. We have a shot and we have a pill. Could I please return to real life? I left the coffee maker on in my office. And...



MELBER: And I`m joined now by the founding editor of Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall, and political strategist and MSNBC analyst Juanita Tolliver.

Josh, I say all that because it`s unremarkable, because it`s just the truth. And viewers who know me know, if we find areas where President Biden`s falling down and the evidence shows that, I will report that.

But what you see here seems to be a clear victory, not only on funding these needs for America, but actually doing it the way Joe Biden said he would govern, which is trying to bring on Republicans when he could.

JOSH MARSHALL, FOUNDER AND EDITOR, TALKING POINTS MEMO: Yes, I`m in that category of people who say you should just pass things that you want to pass that are important for the country, and you shouldn`t attach all this importance to bipartisanship or getting some Republicans.

If you can pass it, you pass it. Biden and some of his supporters come at this very differently and think that`s really important. And he managed to pull it off here. And that is actually kind of a big deal. And I think what we see here is the Republicans who voted against this in the House Friday, they put out statements, and they were all running around, that they were trying to run away from the fact that even they support this.

They were -- they all started their statement saying, hey, no one wants infrastructure spending more than me. I`m Mr. Infrastructure.


MELBER: ... voted for it, right.


But -- but they had -- some people said, well, the vote was in the middle of the night. That was why I voted for it. Or there`s another bill that Democrats want to pass, not this bill, but a different bill, and I don`t support that bill, so I voted against this bill.

That doesn`t make any sense. And yet others were saying, well, this is a -- it`s not really infrastructure spending. It`s a secret socialist plan by Nancy Pelosi.

But 19 Republican senators, including Mitch McConnell, voted for this thing. And what you can see here is, this is why the united front, basically every single Republican always voting against everything, is so important for Republicans, because if they -- if Representative X says it`s a secret socialist plan, well, if all Republicans voted against it, and only Democrats voted against it, if you`re your average voter, you look at it and say, maybe it is a socialist plan.


But if 19 Republican senators voted for it, including Mitch McConnell, clearly, that`s not true.

And what you have exposed here -- and Democrats, in addition to having done something really good for the country, have an opening here to really help themselves politically, because the Republicans who voted against this in the House have basically caught themselves out by saying, well, I actually kind of support everything that`s in here, and a lot of Republicans support it, but I didn`t vote for it because, if I did, Joe Biden would get a win. And that`s my big priority, not having Joe Biden get a win.

MELBER: Right.

MARSHALL: Hardcore partisans can understand that logic, but most voters look at that and they say, are you kidding?

MELBER: Yes, totally.

And that also goes on the politics side, Juanita, that people know by this time a lot about Mitch McConnell. He`s pretty good at craven politics. Him coming in now and voting for it tells you that, if he could stop it, he would, because he said he was a hundo against anything Biden pushes.

But once he sees that it`s passing, Mitch McConnell`s brilliant Republican political calculation is better to be for it than against it.


And I appreciate Josh naming that point, because those 19 senators gave any Republican in the House the cover that they would have needed to vote for this, notwithstanding any threats from McCarthy, notwithstanding any concern about violating the sacred unification of their Republican Caucus.

But they had the political cover to do this, because what you also know is going to happen, Ari, is once those investments start hitting their districts, they`re going to lift this up and say, oh, look at all this money, look at these new jobs, look at these new projects coming into our districts.

And that`s where Democrats need to stay on their neck and continue to emphasize to the general public and to the voters that they all along helped carry this forward. Yes, those Republicans helped get it across the finish line. And those Republicans should be able to tout what they voted for.

But for all those 200 other Republicans that voted against this, they need to be called out every step of the way, Ari, because they obstructed it to this point. They stood in the way. And let`s be real. They could have voted for this weeks ago, when Speaker Pelosi kept putting out deadlines for votes and didn`t have the her caucus aligned, but the Republicans sat back on the sidelines.

And now that is passed, now that has passed, they`re recognizing the good points, and they`re going to continue to recognize the good points when those investments are made. And I don`t think Democrats need to let up on them at all. Call them out at every turn.

MELBER: Yes. And it is. It`s a big victory for this president. It`s a big victory for anyone who wants that kind of domestic spending at a time when there`s a lot of signs we need it.

As for the double-talk, here`s Republican Rick Scott. We have Florida Republican Rick Scott. Take a look at this.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN: As we saw with Republicans who did not vote for the COVID relief bill, but then went out and bragged about provisions in it, can you guarantee that`s not going to happen with Republicans, that they`re not going to be bragging about stuff they didn`t vote for?

SEN. RICK SCOTT (R-FL): Of course not.

I mean, let`s think about this. There`s probably something good in almost every bill that passes. That doesn`t mean -- that doesn`t mean you support the entire bill.


MELBER: You have something that we don`t always see, Josh, which is a Republican sort of dipping into procedure, trying to explain, like in the formulation that really haunted John Kerry, for it and against it. Oh, well, I`m for part of it, not all of it. I couldn`t really be for it.

That would suggest that, to some degree, at least today, they`re on defense, Josh.

MARSHALL: I think they`re definitely on defense.

And there is a freshman representative from California named Young Kim who -- kind of a fresh new face among -- in the GOP. And she put out a statement after voting no for this, where she said: I totally support infrastructure. In fact, I helped write this bill. But I`m going to vote -- I voted against it. Why? Because of there was another bill that I don`t support.

Well, that makes no sense. I mean, she was for it before she was against it. And she voted before she was against it.


MARSHALL: This is an example, if you`re in the political electoral process, if you have a question that your opponent cannot answer without seeming silly, you keep asking it over and over and over again.

That is a swing district. She`s -- I believe it`s the 39th district of California. Democrats need to hit her over and over and over again with this nonsensical answer. And there are many other Republicans in marginal districts or challengers to Democrats in marginal districts where Democrats need to hit this vote over and over and over again.

It`s a big part of getting the best possible result for Democrats in 2022.

MELBER: Yes. And it goes to the old saying, the only thing better than a bridge to nowhere is a bridge to somewhere.



Josh and Juanita...

MARSHALL: Exactly.


Josh and Juanita kicking us off. I appreciate both of you.

We have a bunch of other big stories, including these allies of the former president hit with new subpoenas.

Also new reporting on the criminal probe in Georgia. Neal Katyal is here.

And then we do these special reports. We will have a new one for you tonight. And it`s a deep dive on how workers are actually finding a way to beat some corporations, including ways we have never seen before.

Also, why some on the right are going after -- you`re not going to believe it -- Big Bird himself.

That story before the hour is out. Stay with us.


MELBER: New heat in the insurrection investigation. This broke late today.

The congressional committee now has six new subpoenas hitting Trump`s closest aides and allies. These are names that ran things, people like Bill Stepien and Jason Miller, John Eastman, the controversial lawyer who wrote the infamous memo that might have been part of a coup plot.

The subpoena has also been issued now to former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. He`s a Trump loyalist. He peddled election disinformation. He`s had plenty of troubles with the law from the Mueller probe. And former New York City Police Commissioner and a Giuliani associate Bernie Kerik, who also is formerly indicted, an adviser reportedly involved in the war room that was run out of the Willard Hotel.

So we`re seeing people who, among other things, have shown in their own actions and history a willingness to go up to the line or over it when it comes to criminal law.


Now, there may be more subpoenas to come. The insurrection investigation was looking at up to 20 new subpoenas in total, according to reports. Meanwhile, the legal pressure on Donald Trump and his allies goes well beyond Congress.

We have been keeping an eye on the Atlanta DA who has been methodically leading this criminal inquiry since February. There`s now reports that we could see a special grand jury convened, according to "The New York Times."

Now, this report says that decision is not yet final, but it would be solely dedicated to deal with the election tampering. But at the center of all of this is the infamous call between Donald Trump and Georgia`s Republican secretary of state.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So, look, all I want to do is this. I just want to find 11, 780 votes, which is one more than we have.

The people of Georgia are angry, the people of the country are angry. And there`s nothing wrong with saying that you`ve recalculated.


MELBER: That is the language of a Trumpian coup. He`s trying to feed the kind of P.R. advice that someone else might use. He wouldn`t say recalculated. He would say he won the whole time, but he`s trying there four days out from what would be the insurrection to get other people in on the coup.

Now, the Atlanta DA says Trump`s conduct could amount to many things, including potentially the crime of racketeering.

All of this comes days after the Manhattan DA green-lit that second grand jury digging into the Trump Organization`s financial dealings, the CFO there already indicted.

Where do all these legal paths lead? We have the perfect guest for it, Neal Katyal, when we`re here, back in 60 seconds again.


MELBER: We`re back with Neal Katyal, former acting solicitor general from the Obama administration.

Good to see you, sir.

Walk us through the news that broke today on these new subpoenas hitting some high-level Trump folks out of a congressional probe and what it means if Georgia convenes a grand jury.

NEAL KATYAL, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: So, with respect to the January 6 committee`s subpoenas, they have subpoenaed a rather motley crew, Ari, of individuals, John Eastman, Michael Flynn, Bernie Kerik. I mean, these are folks, I`m not sure whether their lack of judgment eclipses their lawlessness or vice versa.

But I`m glad to see Congress is finally, after 300 days, more than 300 days since the Capitol was attacked, finally getting around to asking them to come and tell the truth.

Now, all of these folks are afraid to go tell the truth in Congress. And we have already seen people like Jeffrey Clark and others refuse to come to Congress. And so these subpoenas may need to be enforced by the Justice Department with criminal sanctions.

But the goal here of these subpoenas is to try and get answers to key questions, most notably this Eastman memo, like -- and, in particular, who asked John Eastman to write this memo? And when he wrote it -- when they read it, what did they say? How did they react?

And John Eastman famously said he couldn`t even remember who asked him to write the memo, which is just ludicrous on its face, Ari. Both of us are lawyers.


KATYAL: We -- any client who asks us to write any memo on even a boring thing, like bankruptcy, we`re going to remember who asked us to write that memo, let alone if it`s a coup memo, which is what this was.

So this is all a step in the right direction. It`s taken a long time, in my view, maybe I think too long, but at least it`s moving in the right place.

MELBER: Yes, I hear you on that.

I mean, first of all, lawyers, even crappy ones, actually have a formal duty if they are representing any client. And so to say that you don`t know who -- who requested the memo and who you wrote it on behalf of is to suggest you`re not even minding that duty, which is separate from whether this lawyer committed malpractice or worse if he was knowingly stating falsehoods or basically spring things that may have been a criminal conspiracy.


I want to play for you the Georgia secretary of state, who was on the other end of that infamous call, who actually was on MSNBC today discussing all this. Take a listen.


BRAD RAFFENSPERGER (R), GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE: At the end of the day, President Trump came up short, and that every allegation was never supported by the facts.

As it relates to Fulton County, the district attorney, they have interviewed some of our people here, and they have asked for documents, which we have supplied. If you look at grand juries, that goes back to the original Constitution. And so you comply with grand jury investigations, and we will comply.


MELBER: We`re not getting a ton of detail there, but what does it tell you that that office has already begun to comply, and yet they`re still looking at going to the more escalating legal step of a potential grand jury to deal with what Trump did or didn`t do?

KATYAL: Yes, the news reports that it looks like a special grand jury is - - has been convened or is about to be convened in this Atlanta investigation. So that`s a dedicated grand jury, Ari, focusing on Trump.

And I`m sure all that Donald Trump will take away from this is that he gets a special grand jury, unlike a normal grand jury, because everything he does is bigger. But I think it`s significant, because it suggests to me that Trump can`t get what he wants, which is people to stonewall the grand jury.

Raffensperger is going to go before the grand jury. And, for me, the key thing has always been this B.J. Pak character. He was the chief federal prosecutor in Atlanta. He resigned in January all of a sudden in a huff. And it looks like he resigned because Donald Trump was forcing him to use his position as a federal prosecutor to repeat election lies about the vote being stolen in Georgia.

Now, we don`t know all of that. He has been interviewed by the January 6 committee. But if that`s right, that is a serious abuse of power by the president. And this accusation is coming from B.J. Pak, who`s not some lefty. He`s a Republican former chief federal prosecutor.

And some of this, as you said, is being corroborated also by the Georgia Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger. So, taken together, all of this is very -- it tells a very, very bad, potentially very illegal story for Donald Trump.

And it`d be kind of fitting for Trump to go down for, as you were saying, racketeering charges, since he does run the world`s like least subtle crime operation. It`s kind of like "The Sopranos," except every time Tony kills someone, the narration is immediately thrown on Instagram Live.


KATYAL: That`s what he does. Trump announces it to the world.

MELBER: Yes, it would be a tweet or maybe now Parler or whatever else they`re cooking up.

Neal Katyal, thank you, sir.

KATYAL: Thank you.

MELBER: You can always go to, where we have this and other Neal breakdowns. Some of them are definitely helpful as we try to make sense of all this.

Up ahead, the special report I mentioned to you, how workers are using shifts in the labor market to challenge corporate power, as we look at late stage capitalism. It`s a special report I want to share with you tonight.

And then the COVID wars, the vax meltdown, Ted Cruz picking a fight with someone much bigger than him. I`m talking about Big Bird.

Stay with us.



MELBER: Now to our special report.

The U.S. jobs market continues to rebound, over half-a-million new jobs in the latest monthly report, pushing unemployment below 5 percent. That`s racked up a jobs record for this new Biden administration that dwarfs Donald Trump`s pretty puny performance there in his first year in office.

And while any job can be a potential lifeline, something else is also happening. The pandemic`s disruptions are actually really upending our normal labor market. It`s moving the power pendulum back to workers, who are striking, quitting and demanding much more from corporations than they have in a long time.


SHEPARD SMITH, CNBC: The people now have the power, and they`re using it, a wave of worker strikes sweeping across America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m blown away. I really didn`t see it coming.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we have to sit out from work a little while, we will.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The halt coming during a record-breaking year for the agricultural giant, $4.7 billion in profits so far.

NORAH O`DONNELL, HOST, "CBS EVENING NEWS": And we may see more high- profile strikes as unions up their demands.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kellogg`s union workers have officially been out here for 31 days, with no end in sight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And now it`s not a matter of if we will have a union, but when we will have a union. We will be the first Starbucks in the country of 8,000 stores to unionize.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of upset workers. That`s it. I mean, we`re just tired of just being in the background and watching these CEOs make all this money.


MELBER: Those are just some of the highlights around the country, what`s happening right now.

And the data shows this shift is widespread, over 170 strikes this year. A public that has soured on unions back from their heyday in the 1960s has changed. We now see public opinion warming towards organized labor, with a 68 percent approval of unions. That`s a 50-year high.

And the roots of this shift are clearly deeper than the pandemic, America`s wealth inequality also hitting all-time highs. Billionaires share their often gauche lifestyles, from their huge yachts, to their spaceships, amidst corporate welfare policies that keep their taxes literally lower than most workers, sometimes even hitting zero.

The pandemic was the last straw for many, as essential worker became another Orwellian term in late stage capitalism, essential, a corporate adjective that is not backed by corporate compensation or value, when they can get away with it.

Now, all that time at home may have lowered some of the fears associated with just walking out on a bad job, because people continue to do exactly that, even as the peak of the pandemic is now over.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In August alone, 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs. That`s almost 3 percent of the work force.


MELBER: That is enough quitting to put a dent in how much some employers can just keep taking staff or their replacements for granted.

So, this is actually different than organized labor formally pooling power in strikes. But it can yield some of the same benefits, as corporations feel some pressure from these moves.


Now, one person quitting, that could be another day at the office. A million people quitting, that`s an economic event. So, as billionaires broadcast their exploits and their space travel, some workers are tapping more populist means, breaking out their phones to share their actions against corporate capitalism.

I`m going to show you just a few highlights right now. Some of this is just creative and interesting. Other moves seem to offer a kind of a third way between pushing back at work all alone, like just quitting when you have had enough, and a formal union, which, as I mentioned, is much more technically organized.

The middle ground may be pooling it organically and then broadcasting it, like McDonald`s workers coordinating the day they quit to send a powerful message.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. This is Katie. I was just calling to let that I am not coming in tonight or ever.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am quitting my job. So I decided to leave my boss a little message just because it`s the respectful thing to do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I went out to get my letter of resignation. It`s an "I`m sorry for your loss" card. And says: It`s me. You`re losing me.


MELBER: People can see co-workers quitting there.

Now, you can see it in your own life or at work. But then you could see it in social media. Now, we have covered social media. It has many cons, including for democracy, but there are pros. People are now using these powers online to amplify how people can make these kinds of moves, boss moves by workers.

This month, a top economists calling this a social multiplier in quitting, citing academic research that finds workers at low-wage jobs historically underestimate how bad their jobs are. When some workers quit and look for better jobs, seeing that, whether that`s in person or online, like I just showed you, seeing that can animate co-workers and observers to follow suit and quit.

Now, what are the actual results? A shift in demand, with some employers more desperate to hire than people are desperate for the jobs. So you have this gap of a million more job listings than applicants in August, applicants picking among about 50 percent more openings than before the pandemic.

That shift alone has some companies competing where they used to be in the driver`s seat. They are reportedly scrambling to offer new benefits, family insurance, and bonuses, which jumped from a rarity, just 2 percent of jobs to now 12 percent.

Now, under pressure, those companies are finding they have to actually value their workers at least a little bit more. And that shows how this pandemic provides a stress test of how corporate and government policy works.

Take the extended government benefits or the Biden stimulus check. Those led many conservatives to argue, well, too many benefits or bonuses for workers or people between jobs would dissuade people from ever looking for jobs at all. Now, that wasn`t just talk. Many red states acted on that logic. They stopped further benefits that people would have otherwise gotten from the federal government.

And the data is in. And you should know, as part of our report tonight, those conservatives were wrong. The red states that cut benefits experienced job growth similar to or slower than growth in states that had benefits. That`s a fact, not an opinion or a prediction.

Turns out supporting people during a pandemic does not reduce their desire to just still try to find a decent job, just like providing bonuses and benefits and raises doesn`t lead them to plan early retirement, but rather invest in a livable job, instead of counting down the days to get out of one that`s barely livable.

Pandemics are rare. This one affected us in so many ways. But when it comes to the economy and our jobs and our place in it, we`re seeing many people reevaluate their lives, looking more closely at what they might be able to choose or control, even if it means taking risks and pushing back in an unfair economy.

Observers say that change is real, but it`s hard to know if it will last.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the one hand, you could say optimistically this could be a great reset for labor relations in American history.

On the other hand, you could say, no, this is just like a pause. We`re in like an air bubble in history and it`s going to resolve itself.


MELBER: The reset shows a different balance is at least possible right now.

Some of the companies that were pushed into these better labor policies are still fabulously profitable, like John Deere, as mentioned, or Kellogg`s. Others have not bended much, despite racking up record profits during this pandemic, as people did desperate consumer ordering like Amazon.

This labor market is just bringing more of these savage inequalities out into the open. It`s proven many workers right, if they had long felt that they do offer value, meaning they help these companies succeed. Without them, these companies are nothing. And yet they felt undervalued in this current stage of capitalism.


To paraphrase someone who went from broke to a billion, Shawn Carter, I always knew I was a prophet, but I couldn`t find a decent job. He was saying he knew he could profit in a free and fair market. That`s financial profit. And he could see as well what that future would look like, the prophet who foretells the future.

I will say it again. I always knew I was a profit, but I couldn`t find a decent job.

How many Americans justifiably feel like that right now, that they have value to offer, they are ready to work, but they are competing still in a market with few decent jobs? Why? Because greed, like power, concedes nothing without a demand.

That`s our special report.

But we are not done, because, next, we get into Ted Cruz roasted and mocked over picking a fight with of, all people, a nonperson, a fictional character, our friend Big Bird, that and the COVID vaccine wars next.



MELBER: Partial and full vaccine mandates continue to be implemented at several levels, state, federal, through employers.

Meanwhile, the vax wars are also hitting the NFL, with one of the league`s star quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers, busted for testing positive for COVID after claiming he was following the rules for vaccination.

Here`s that claim from the summer and then his new defense.


QUESTION: Are you vaccinated? And what`s your stance on vaccinations?

AARON RODGERS, GREEN BAY PACKERS: Yes, I have been immunized.

At the time, my plan was to say that I have been immunized. It wasn`t some sort of ruse.

When the opportunity to do this, the homeopathic stuff came up, it was a way to stimulate my immune system to create a defense against COVID.


MELBER: Yes, well, we saw how that defense worked out.

Now, he couldn`t play in Sunday`s game, but was the topic of conversation and mockery across this weekend.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Did you ever lie about being vaccinated?


I took all my teammates into a huddle, got all their faces three inches away from my wet mouth, and told them, trust me, I`m more or less immunized.

Go, team.



MELBER: The joke is on Rodgers. He`s getting fact-checked for the misinformation.

And many sports fans basically had what became a kind of a national reckoning here, because this was a particularly egregious thing when you go past the liberty interests and into the lying.

NFL vets like Terry Bradshaw weighed in on the issue and the lies in a highly watched halftime show.


TERRY BRADSHAW, FOX SPORTS: It would have been nice if he would have just come to the Naval Academy and learned how to be honest.



BRADSHAW: Learned not to lie, because that`s what you did, Aaron. You lied to everyone.

We are a divided nation politically. We`re a divided nation on the COVID-19 voted whether or not to take the vaccine. And, unfortunately, we have got players that pretty much think only about themselves.


MELBER: Only about themselves.

I`m joined now by editor in chief at Jezebel, Laura Bassett.

What does this issue and the way it played out in America`s favorite pastime, what does it do to the conversation on vaccines, do you think?

LAURA BASSETT, MSNBC COLUMNIST: Well, look, Aaron Rodgers lied. Aaron Rodgers is a hero for lots of little kids. Lots of people look up to him. He`s a major, famous quarterback.

And so the things that he says mean something to people. And he used that pulpit to spew disinformation and just straight-up lied to his teammates, whom he literally butts heads with every single day. He put them in danger. He put their friends and families in danger for a really selfish reason.

And I think, if we`re going to talk about the NFL, we need to talk about the fact that Colin Kaepernick basically got fired from the sport for taking a knee to say something that was really honest about police violence against black people. And here we have Aaron Rodgers refusing to get vaccinated, violating NFL policies, straight-up lying about it, and he`s probably going to be back on the field next week.

So what does that say about the NFL as an organization?

MELBER: I think that`s a great point, and also goes to the fact that this isn`t -- quote, unquote -- "politics hitting the NFL." This is workplace safety, as you mentioned. And the Biden mandate, for example, offers testing.

So you could get regular testing in those workplaces, and then your peers and colleagues have at least the knowledge that you tested negative recently or that day. That`s very different than if you fake your tests or lie to your colleagues. So it really goes to something deeper.

We did want to get your views on more than one aspect of this, because, boy, it has been a busy time for the COVID culture wars.

So, Laura stays with me.

Let me bring everyone up to date on something I have been mentioning all our. The vax wars have gotten so fierce that Sesame`s Big Bird is not even safe. The beloved character said he got the vaccine today, and his wing is a little sore. I hear you, Big Bird. But it`s important to keep everyone healthy, he explained.

Now, who could quibble with that?

Ted Cruz, who may be trolling his way into the public enemy role that he relishes, because he`s jumped on this, claiming it`s government propaganda for your 5-year-old.

If that sounds stupid and off-base, that`s because it is. Children get vaccinated for school, so it`s not propaganda. They learn about this as a medical fact, so they`re informed at whatever level they can understand as this affects them.

And Big Bird -- we checked -- was out getting his measles shot in public as far back as 1972.

So, yes, America, the news tonight is that Big Bird has been repping vaccine safety. You might say he`s been out in these Sesame Streets.


And Senator Cruz might want to think twice before picking this particular fight with a bird at least twice his size, like he ain`t in these streets more than Sesame.

Laura, your thoughts?

BASSETT: Look, all right, we`re talking about a Muppet.

Ted Cruz today has picked a fight with a Muppet. It`s sort of perfect in a way, because the man is entirely useless as a senator. Texas froze over, and he flew South to Cancun to go on vacation with his family as people were literally dying in their homes. So, we already know that...

MELBER: And, boy, were his wings tired.

BASSETT: Boy, were his wings tired.

He and Big Bird have something in common, in that they both fly south for the winter.


BASSETT: Ted Cruz obviously does not give a hoot about public health or public safety.

If he wants to make this a bodily autonomy issue, I would say you obviously don`t care about that when talking about women`s reproductive rights.

I would say Ted Cruz is an idiot and a hypocrite, and it does not surprise me that he is trying to get attention for picking a fight with a giant feathered bird.

MELBER: Yes, and it`s not just him.

Take a look at some of the right-wing media picking it up.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of propaganda about the vaccines being not directed to the parents, not information given to parents, so they can make that decision, but really getting it directly to the kids in some really creepy ways, including "Sesame Street."

ERIC BOLLING, NEWSMAX: Big Bird is now hawking the jab for 5-year-olds on "Sesame Street." I told you 15 years ago "Sesame Street" are a bunch of communists, and they`re proving it once again.


MELBER: Laura?

BASSETT: Again, I would like to ask the right-wing media to look up the definition of communism.

This is not a political issue. The FDA has approved the vaccine for kids at this point. This is an issue of public health and safety. As you brought up earlier, measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox, tetanus, I mean, we require all kinds of shots. We have since the 19th century. This is how we eradicated polio.

And this is not a political issue. It`s being weaponized as such by the right. And no one should take this seriously.

MELBER: Yes, fair.

And, Laura, you know what COVID and Snuffleupagus have in common?

BASSETT: Oh, please tell me, Ari.

MELBER: They can be hard to see, but that doesn`t mean they don`t exist.

BASSETT: Ooh, OK, yes, that`s good.

MELBER: Do you remember how Big Bird and Snuff, they often didn`t find each other?

BASSETT: I don`t remember that. I will take your word for it.

MELBER: You don`t remember that?


MELBER: Yes. So, Snuff would come and then leave, and then everyone else, sometimes kids, sometimes the other characters, would say, oh, he was just here.

And it was like they didn`t believe, because, if you don`t see something with your own eyes....

BASSETT: How long have you been planning that joke, Ari?

MELBER: To be honest, the bad jokes come to me off the top of the dome. I did not -- it`s not in the prompter, if that`s what you`re asking.

In fact, we have talented people at THE BEAT who would never write a joke that bad. That`s only from here.

Good to see you, Laura.

BASSETT: Good to see you, Ari.

MELBER: I just held the silence for the -- because of the joke.

It reminds you...

BASSETT: Yes, it really hurt.

MELBER: Yes, keeps it real.

BASSETT: It really hurt. Thank you.


MELBER: Good to see you.

All of our jokes end in silence around here. That`s why we`re in the news business, not a different line of work.

I appreciate Laura, always a good sport on more than one issue, including sports.

When we come back, we have an update on one more civil rights issue I want you to know about.

Stay with us.



MELBER: Finally night, updates on to the murder trials we have been covering.

Major testimony today in the trial of teenager Kyle Rittenhouse, who fatally shot two protesters at a BLM rally, the jury hearing testimony from the third person Rittenhouse shot that night. He survived and recounted his experience to the court.


THOMAS BINGER, KENOSHA COUNTY ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY: What was going through your mind at this particular moment?



MELBER: He also got emotional when asked why he didn`t shoot Rittenhouse in self-defense.


BINGER: After seeing the defendant shoot at one person at close range twice, shoot at Mr. Huber in the chest once, and having already been told by others in the crowd that he had previously already shot someone else, why didn`t you take your own gun and shoot the defendant first?

GROSSKREUTZ: Like I said, that`s not the kind of person that I am.


MELBER: Also more testimony today shining light onto the killing of 25- year-old jogger Ahmaud Arbery, who was unarmed when he was accosted.

The first officer to arrive on the scene there telling jurors that the suspects never even mentioned anything about a citizen`s arrest at the time. That`s the supposed defense, but talked about -- quote -- "blocking" and -- quote -- "cornering" Arbery.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did Bryan ever say he was trying to make a citizen`s arrest of Ahmaud?

RICKY MINSHEW, FORMER GLYNN COUNTY POLICE OFFICER: No, ma`am. He did mention on several occasions blocking and one time he said cornering him in.


MELBER: This is how trials work. They will piece together all of this evidence. And the defense will also get their turn.

But what we`re seeing here is some pretty strong testimony that prosecutors are putting forward that cuts against the types of defenses they anticipate these killers to offer, that, somehow, they did something they had to do, they had no choice, or they were making somehow a lawful arrest.

Of course, if you knew you were making a citizen`s arrest, if you felt, wrongly or right, that that`s what you were doing, wouldn`t you tell the police when they arrived if you were making an arrest on their behalf?

These are important cases. And we will continue covering them for you.

Thanks for spending time with us here on THE BEAT. Our time is up.

But you can keep it locked right here. "THE REIDOUT" is next, with Jonathan Capehart in for my colleague Joy Reid.