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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 10/22/21

Guests: Rachel Gonzales, Jasmine Crockett, Joe Neguse, Roger McNamee, William Barber


A mother and her 11-year-old trans child fights anti-trans legislation in Texas. Rep. Marie Newman (D-IL) answers questions after being the target of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene because her daughter came out as transgender. Biden: Federal firefighters low pay is "unacceptable"; Bipartisan group unveils bill to raise firefighter pay. New bill would up federal firefighters` pay & benefits.


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: That`s going to do it for us tonight, but I do want to mention before I go that MSNBC has a really good new movie, a new documentary that`s going to air this weekend on Sunday night. It`s called "Civil War or who do we think we are?" It`s really good, really well done, really thought provoking. The executive producer is Brad Pitt, if that tells you anything.

That is going to air right here on MSNBC this Sunday night at 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time. You should watch it. That`s going to do it for me tonight though. Now it`s time for "The Last Word" with Ali Velshi filling in for Lawrence tonight. Good evening, Ali.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Hi, friend. Good to see you. That documentary is so good, and it speaks to how the Civil War is taught differently than you`d think it is. The whole idea that in many places through the south, they do discuss the fact that it wasn`t about slavery. It was about states` rights and the north invading.

But what was really amazing about it is the effect that it has to this day on students in Mississippi. I went there earlier this week to talk to some of those students about how they have to get out of high school before they learn real stories about the Civil War and about slavery because they don`t learn it in school.

MADDOW: And it`s this thing that is so big and so present in American history, you would think there would be an American history about it.


MADDOW: But it`s -- there absolutely is not an American history about it. And those of us who learned it a specific way because we went to school in certain parts of the country are totally ignorant of how it is taught in other parts of the country and vice versa. And it is -- this -- it`s so, so eye-opening and so shocking.

VELSHI: That`s right. That`s exactly right.

MADDOW: And thoughtful.

VELSHI: It does give us a different perspective on it. So I`m definitely very interested in it Sunday night. Thank you, my friend. Thank you for that remarkable explanation of what was going on on the set of "Rust" because that what as clear as it`s been to me all day. I hope you have an excellent weekend and we`ll see you on Monday.

MADDOW: Appreciate it, Ali. Thank you, my friend.

VELSHI: All right. Tonight, we begin with ugly vitriol. That`s how Rachel Gonzales describes the hate that her daughter Libby had to endure speaking out against the Texas Republican crusade to punish transgender children in order to gin up their conservative base. Donald Trump is out of office but what he introduced into American politics is still infecting our politics and our democracy.

He mainstreamed hatred. He created a permission structure that let regular people feel comfortable with spewing violent threats and worse at others simply because they disagreed with them. Now, this show has covered that ugly vitriol as it was hurled at politicians, election workers, school board members, but tonight ugly vitriol doesn`t seem to seem strong enough to describe what we`re going to discuss because the Republican base emboldened by Trump is targeting children.

A Tennessee teen was heckled and told to shut up during a school board meeting about masks after he shared that his grandmother had died from COVID. A 50-year-old father in Florida who harassed students at his daughter`s high school and recorded them wearing masks pushed, grabbed and twisted the arm of a high school student who didn`t want to be filmed.

And Libby Gonzales, whom I mentioned at the top, is an 11-year-old transgender girl. She`s been testifying before the Texas state legislature since she was 6. She wants to educate. She wants to share her perspective. She may not be able to stop Republicans, but she`s not going to let them get away with it silently. Here she is earlier this month advocating for transgender kids to play sports on teams that align with their gender identity.


LIBBY GONZALES, 11-YEAR-OLD TRANSGENDER GIRL: Stop attacking trans kids. We`re just normal kids that were normalized. If you don`t want to understand us, at least don`t keep our families, coaches and teachers from supporting us.


VELSHI: That`s civic participation. That`s what Libby is doing. She`s participating in democracy, in civil society. And some people are trying to scare her out of doing that. Here`s how Libby`s mother, Rachel Gonzales, described the harassment they faced when Libby testified earlier this year, "People were yelling at us, calling me a child abuser. We`ve been at this for a while and I`ve never seen it this bad. It felt really scary."

It got so unsafe that Libby, her mother Rachel, and Rachel`s other daughter were forced to hide in the office of the Texas State Representative Jasmine Crockett. Now, Representative Crockett has opened her office as a safe space to Libby and her family anytime that they come to testify, which is great, except no one should need a safe space to hide in a state legislature. It belongs to the people.

No one should need a safe place to hide when they come to give public testimony about public policy. Republican lawmakers in Texas are trying to legislate away Libby`s rights and conservative voters want to scare her from calling them out about it. It`s a vicious cycle.


Republicans are fostering hate with anti-trans legislation like this, and that hate fuels another round of disgusting legislative proposals. Now, let`s be clear. The hate didn`t begin with Trump, but it has been amplified by him. It has been made worse. Rachel Gonzales says the hate is worse than ever before. "These lawmakers are emboldening violence by voting on whether transgender people have a right to exist and to live their lives."

Don`t forget that part. Whatever you think about being transgender, transgender kids have a right to live their lives. So do children wanting to wear masks in schools, and it`s a blemish on this country that one political party has gotten so toxic that we even have to remind people of facts like that.

Joining us now is Rachel Gonzales. She`s the mother of an 11-year-old daughter, Libby, who is transgender. Rachel and Libby Gonzales have been activists on transgender issues in Texas for the past five years. And joining us, Democratic Texas State Representative Jasmine Crockett. Representative Crockett, great to see you. Rachel, good to see you again. Thank you for being with us.

And I have to ask you about this, Rachel. Your daughter is an activist, right? She`s exactly what we want out of a Democratic society. She -- from the age of 6, has been testifying. I have spoken to her before. But this is sort of -- being transgender is sort of part of this.

Part of it is that Republicans in Texas have made everything a battle to the death. Everything is black and white and binary if you will, not to use that expression. It`s oversimplified into if you`re not on our side, we need to shut you down.


VELSHI: Tell me a bit about how this is different from what it used to be because you`ve seen this. You`ve watched this now for five years.

R. GONZALES: Right. So, my family has been doing this very actively since before the bathroom bill battle in 2017, and this year has been unreal, the way that people have been emboldened to scream at us in the halls, in the rotundas, with kid -- my kids, their friends crying, taking photos, taking videos while telling me that I`m the child abuser.

And getting so bad that we felt like our only safe space, especially with kids, was to be in Representative Crockett`s office. And we`re so deeply grateful that she has provided that safe space for us, and not just my family but all females of trans kids that are there to testify against this horrible discriminatory legislation.

VELSHI: Representative Crockett, you and I have spent many a segment discussing what`s going on in Texas. I`ve been in Texas twice in the last, well, three times probably in the last month. It is hard to get my head around what`s happened in Texas, why everything has become an existential fight, why there is this remarkable effort by Republicans to simply shut down anything that does not conform to their life view.

JASMINE CROCKETT, TEXAS STATE REPRESENTATIVE: Yes. First of all, it`s great to see you, Ali. And I`m sitting here like getting emotional because this is a family that I love probably more than words can ever truly express. It just so happens that they`re my constituents until redistricting, and then they will not officially be in House District 100.

But I remember this specific incident, and I couldn`t believe it because usually when there`s a big testimony day, I only get 500 square feet of an office because, you know, as a freshman, you don`t get the biggest office in the building. And I remember getting a message from my office about what had happened and I was flabbergasted.

I usually give my office up, and I believe I was either in committee hearings myself anyway. And to know that these people had gone so far and been so emboldened that they would attack children was ridiculous, especially children in their capitol, right?

It`s sad that little Libby has to come and testify in the first place. But this is the world that we live in after Trump, right? I think that the hate has obviously always been in their hearts, but he`s allowed them to say, hey, I feel this way. And they found all the rest of the haters, right?

And so they`re having like a hate party. And it`s really sad, especially coming from the party that claims to be all about Christianity and loving one another. So, you know, at this point in time, all you can really ask of many of them is what would Jesus do? And something tells me that none of these actions would be approved by Jesus.

VELSHI: Rachel, Libby`s not with us this evening, but what does Libby think about this? She has put herself out there for a very long time. She would have a difficult time in the society in which we live anyway being a transgender child. But what is she feeling about how this has all unfolded?


R. GONZALES: You know, she`s very -- it`s a mixed bag of emotions, I guess. She feels a deep sense of responsibility because she is well supported and loved and valued exactly for being who she is in authentic existence. And not a lot of kids or -- you know, there`s lots of kids that are not experiencing that level of support from their families, their teachers, their neighbors, their classmates, their friends.

So, she feels a really deep sense of responsibility to show up for all those kids that can`t be there. But she`s also crushed. I mean, she`s had some sleepless, very tear-filled nights. Seeing this last bill pass was really incredibly difficult for all of us, especially because she really felt like she made good points, that she was heard in a hearing that was held in the light of day, which hasn`t often been the case for us in the past.

And she was just crushed that after 10-1/2 hours of testimony, 84 percent of the general public that came out to testify against this bill, it was immediately passed out of committee. And it`s really hard to feel like you have any ability to be heard when it`s very clear that the agenda revolves around the governor`s re-election campaign and not actually what`s best for the people.

VELSHI: This is interesting, and I want to ask you about this Representative Crockett. But first I want to hear from Libby because she hasn`t been able to be with us this evening. Let`s listen to what she said after the testimony in April in which she was unable to deliver this testimony because she was cut off due to time. Let`s listen to Libby.


L. GONZALES: Who am I supposed to be if these bills pass? I told my mom and dad that if this law passes, I want to disappear. I don`t know how I`m going to go to school and pretend that everything`s okay. Why are they so against our existence? No kid should have to worry about this stuff or have to go to Austin to ask to their lawmakers to let them have the health care they need. They keep telling kids like me that we don`t matter, but I know that I matter. Please stop trying to convince me that I don`t.


VELSHI: Representative Gonzales, that`s hard to watch, but let me just ask you this. At what point does everything that Texas is doing, all of their efforts to curtail civil rights -- this is your area of expertise because you`re a civil rights lawyer. At what point do even Republicans and conservatives say, you all are just mean? This needs to stop. You can`t be our government.

You have tweeted many times about the fact that redistricting in Texas does not make it likely that Republicans will be thrown out of the Texas legislature.

CROCKETT: No. Well, there`s a lot of them vacating their seats, though. I don`t know if they just don`t want to live up to this terrible record that they have, you know, from this session or from the numerous sessions that we have, right? I don`t really think that there`s a bottom right now.

I think that these are people that are legislating not because they are doing what they believe is right for the people, but they are trying to figure out what do I need to do as far as what it is going to take to get me through my primary, you know.

To have lawmakers come up to me and tell me, hey, I had to change my vote on this or that because I`m concerned about somebody from the right coming and running against me, you know, that`s ridiculous. That is not how we are supposed to legislate. We`re supposed to legislate because we are doing what we truly believe is in the best interest of the majority of Texans, or at least in the best interest of our districts.

But instead, they are catering to a very small group, and they don`t have Trump to bring out these far-right extremists. And so they`re like, okay, well, we`ve got to figure out how we can get those people to show up because that`s how we win.

VELSHI: Right.

CROCKETT: That`s where the excitement in the Republican Party is now.

VELSHI: And now the bait is transgender kids. It`s kind of amazing. Rachel Gonzales, thanks as always and please give my regards and my thanks to Libby for participating in democracy and civil society as we hope all our kids do. Jasmine Crockett, great to see you again. Texas State Representative Jasmine Crockett.

CROCKETT: Good to see you.

VELSHI: Joining us now, Democratic Congresswoman Marie Newman from Illinois. She became a target of Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene after her daughter came out as transgender. And Representative Newman, I guess this is -- it`s a continuation of the same conversation, but Marjorie Taylor Greene is the manifestation of somebody who we didn`t likely think was the kind of person you elect to Congress.

But people get to make their choices about who they elect. She represents, I think it`s fair to say, meanness and hatred in Congress, and you`ve been a target of it, and your daughter`s been a target of it.


REP. MARIE NEWMAN (D-IL): That`s absolutely true, and I think we have to remember is that is indicative of who she is, not what the movement is about. She is all about hate, hate campaign. We often say in my office when we walk out, we see a wall of hate because it`s not just LGBTQ plus folks and transgender folks. It is -- she`s a white supremacist. She`s an insurrectionist. She has a lot of hate.

VELSHI: So I guess that -- and that`s the larger context here that there used to be -- you know this as a legislator, there used to be reasonable, rational arguments that were happening and should have been happening between Democrats and Republicans about social policy, about economic policy.

That seems to be absent from the discussion. What I`d give for a straight- up conversation about whether minimum wage should be $15 an hour or $12 an hour, you can`t have that because we`re having these major conversations about social issues that rile up a base that doesn`t want to talk policy. They want to be -- they fear for their existence, and so they want to fight.

NEWMAN: Well, it`s indicative when all you have is ginning up on social issues and you don`t have policy. What`s happening sadly in Congress, and I`m sure in the Texas state legislature, is that you`re not talking about healthcare --

VELSHI: Right.

NEWMAN: -- and how it can boost the economy and crush the vaccine. We`re talking about these ridiculous hate campaigns. So, let`s get back to that. I mean, I spend all my time talking about Build Back Better and how we`re going to fix roads and bridges and bring child care and create a better health care system. So let`s get back to that.

VELSHI: How do you do that -- how does that translate to your Republican voters because in theory, you`re trying to make the point that there are things in this bill you may not like. You may not like the size of it. You may not like every part of it, but it`s actually going to benefit you far more than arguments about transgender kids and LGBTQ and black lives matter are going to benefit your kids.

NEWMAN: Right. And, you know, here`s the funny thing is we do agree on this. Whether you`re a Republican or a Democrat, we all use roads and bridges. There`s only American roads and bridges. There`s not Republican, Democrat or independent, right? So let`s make sure those roads and bridges are fixed and we bring our infrastructure back to number one.

We`re 13th in infrastructure right now -- that`s -- in the entire world. That`s ridiculous. And similarly, we have one of the highest maternal death rates. That`s ridiculous too. So -- in a state, and I`ll just go back to Texas. In a state where they refuse to expand Medicaid, where they have a huge electrical grid problem, where they can`t take care of their own mothers, I would think that they would think twice about going after a solution that doesn`t have a problem, and that`s what this bill is about. It`s a hate bill.

VELSHI: That`s exactly right. Well, thank you for your time today, Congresswoman Marie Newman. We appreciate you being here.

Coming up, there is something really important that`s often left out of discussions about President Biden`s agenda, particularly its price tag. How much should we be investing in ourselves and our future generations? It`s never left out of conversations with Stephanie Kelton and she`s standing by. She`ll join us next.



VELSHI: Democrats are going to be negotiating through the weekend to get a framework for the Democrats` only social spending bill. Today, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced he wants an agreement by Monday. Democratic leaders are aiming to bring both Biden agenda bills to the House floor by the end of next week, the smaller infrastructure bill, the bigger human infrastructure bill if you want to call it that.

After meeting with President Biden this morning, Speaker Nancy Pelosi had this to say about what we should expect.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Whatever it is, it`s going to be bigger than anything we`ve ever done for the American people.


VELSHI: Now, the way these bills work, it`s a 10-year package, and the big bill is dealing with climate, with taxes, with education, with child care, with family leave, by the way, which will be pared down, the whole bill will be pared down to about $2 trillion from its initial cost of about $3.5 trillion.

Steven Dennis of Bloomberg News found the bigger picture here though. He says, "There`s sort of a big fight in Washington that you may have heard about. It`s about whether we spend $62 trillion over a decade or $60 trillion."

Joining us now is Stephanie Kelton, a professor of economics and public policy at Stony Brook University. She`s the author of the very important book called "The Deficit Myth." Professor Kelton, good to see you again. Thank you for being with us. I`ve never generally speaking numbers. I don`t like talking about on T.V. except this is the one problem with talking about numbers.

We put price tags on bills, but we leave the discussion about the value within those bills till later. So the debate is about bringing a $3.5 trillion to $2 trillion. None of us know -- most people don`t know what the value was in that bill, what`s being cut and what we`re missing out because of it.

STEPHANIE KELTON, ECONOMICS PROFESSOR, STONY BROOK UNIVERSITY: Yes, that`s exactly right. We get really bogged down because these numbers feel so large, and they are large. And most of us can`t wrap our heads around it, and of course the media likes to take advantage of these very large numbers and, you know, give us some sticker shock and make it all sound really unaffordable. And so, you know, what we`re really talking about, what the Democrats started off talking about with this $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill -- and they have a framework. They had a framework for this.

What it amounts to, we use termed like $3.5 trillion, but that`s the 10- year price tag, and it`s a weird sort of thing to do, but its budget speak. Everything is sort of costed in 10-year terms.

VELSHI: Right.

KELTON: And what it amounts to, Ali, as you know, this is about $350 billion a year over the course of the next decade. It`s about 5 percent more than the government would already be on track to spend.

VELSHI: Right. So, if we as individuals decided not to think about our monthly or annual budgets for food or for clothing or for housing or heating and we thought about it in 10-year terms, we`d all be quite shocked actually by what these things cost us.

But we`re not sort of made to think about the fact that I buy this food because that will feed me and my family for a week. I pay this rent or this mortgage because that`s what houses me. What do we do to get people back on track about thinking about what we need to invest in versus just the price tag?

KELTON: We have to talk about our values. We have to talk about what is in the bill and why it`s in the bill. Why do Democrats want to extend the child tax credit, for example? This is a single provision that is lifting almost half of all the kids in this country out of poverty, and it`s going to expire because it`s a temporary provision. Democrats are saying, why would we want to allow this thing to expire when it is doing so much good for so many families in this country? Let`s extend it.

There`s a discussion about whether to extend it for a period of years or whether to make it permanent, but that is meaningful. Let`s talk about what it means to aspire to go to college and not be able to afford to do that.


Let`s talk about the struggles that families have finding affordable health care, finding, you know, a pre-k program to put their kids in so that families can, you know, deal with child care issues and people can return to the workforce if they`re dealing with, you know, caring for an elderly parent, caring for a sick child, paid family and medical leave.

These are life-changing programs, you know, policies that Democrats are talking about putting into place or extending. And we lose track of that because we get bog the down in these debates about the price tag.

VELSHI: So we -- you`ve studied other countries that do this. Actually, most developed countries do child and family -- child care, family leave better than America does, and they -- it`s sort of built into their systems. But they look at it as a return on investment, right?

You just mentioned lifting children out of poverty. It`s a return on investment. What do you get for the dollar that the government spends today or over the next 10 years in terms of development of a child, in terms of all of these other things? Other countries tend to do this well, and they tend to have better outcomes than we do.

KELTON: They do. I mean you look at a thing like investments in early childhood education, and you`re exactly right. For every dollar that you spend investing in early childhood education, the research tells us that we get more than $7 in terms of the return on that investment. But, again, you know, that sort of gets us back to talking in terms of the numbers and making the sort of fiscal or economic argument for some of these.

And I think, you know, it`s just the right thing to do. Do we want to live in the kind of world in which we`re supporting families, in which people who get sick have a right to see a doctor, in which people who aspire to go to college have the ability to go to college without leaving with, you know, millions of dollars -- trillions in the aggregate in debt, but deeply in debt as a result of these things.

So, it is a moral issue. It`s about the kind of society that we want to live in and the investments that we`re willing to make to make that a reality.

VELSHI: I know you`ve written lots and lots of pages on this and you`ve spoken about it. But what`s the simple answer to people who say, we can`t spend on things we can`t afford?

KELTON: Well, look, the federal government, as it proves time and again, is able to fund whatever it deems, you know, a priority. So, look, we just spent about $5 trillion supporting the economy through the pandemic. From March of 2020 to where we are today, the federal government has stepped up with about $5 trillion. Your viewers probably know that there was a vote taken just recently to authorize defense spending, to fund the Pentagon budget.

VELSHI: Right.

KELTON: And, you know, senators came in and they said, listen, you made a request. You asked us for money. We`re feeling generous today. We`re going to give you $10 billion more than you even requested. So, money is no object. The barrier to entry is the votes. If the votes are there, the money will go out.

VELSHI: Stephanie Kelton, good to see you as always. Thank you for joining us. Stephanie Kelton is the author of "The Deficit Myth" and she`s a professor of economics and public policy at Stony Brook University.

Coming up, they are putting their lives at risk to save us from wildfires, but many cannot afford a place to sleep. You`re not going to believe this story. Firefighters are facing grueling conditions while being underpaid and not having benefits. Congressman Joe Neguse of Colorado joins us next to tell us what`s he -- what he wants to do to protect the firefighters.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I learned that some of our federal firefighters are being paid less than $13 an hour. Come on, man. This is - that`s unacceptable to me.

One-time boost is not enough. These courageous women and men take an incredible risk of running toward the fire, and they deserve to be paid and paid good wages. You know that old expression, "God made man. Then he made a few firefighters"? Well, it`s true. They`re incredible.


VELSHI: Federal wildland firefighters are responsible for combating all major wildfires in the United States. But shockingly, most are paid an hourly wage of $13.45. That`s because wildland firefighters are classified as "forestry technicians" by the federal government. There`s no classification that takes into account the dangerous work that these men and women do.

A bipartisan group of House members want to change that. Congressman Joe Neguse of Colorado, Congresswoman Katie Porter of California, Congresswoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming, introduced legislation this week to improve the pay and benefits for federal firefighters. The bill would raise their hourly pay to at least $20 an hour. $20 an hour to run into a forest to tackle a fire. And their salaries to at least $20,000 a year.

It would guarantee these firefighters to receive health care, including mental health support. It would improve paid leave and retirement benefits and secure funding for housing and tuition assistance. The bill is called the Tim Hart Wildland Firefighter Classification and Pay Parity Act. It`s named for a smoke jumper from Wyoming who died earlier this year, while parachuting into a wildfire in New Mexico.

Tim Hart`s widow Michelle has been among those speaking out about firefighter`s unreasonable conditions. And sometimes Michelle Hart said the housing shortage is so bad that they have nowhere to stay. "Tim lived three summers out of his truck, because there was no housing available at his base in Idaho."

Joining us now is the Democratic Congressman Joe Neguse of Colorado. He`s a member of the House Select Committee on the climate crisis and the Co-Chair of the Congressional Bipartisan Wildfire Caucus.

Congressman, you and I have a lot of conversations. We`ve never talked about this one. And I guarantee there are a lot of Americans who do not know this. We only sadly hear the stories of these people when one of them parishes and we realize how brave they are and how they go across the country, chasing fires, dropping into fires, doing what they have to do to keep our forests from burning. The problem that`s not going away. And they are in $13.5 an hour.

REP. JOE NEGUSE (D-CO): Well, you`re precisely right. And good evening, Ali, and it`s great to be with you. Thanks for having me on.

Look, we are pushing our federal firefighting workforce to a breaking point and it has to change. I think the president is right when he talks about the need to ultimately ensure that these firefighters who are sacrificing so much on behalf of our communities, that ultimately they are well compensated.

And as wildfires grow across the west, they become more intense, they become more dangerous exacerbated, of course, by climate change as you know, federal firefighters are leaving behind their lives, their families for months at a time, working on average 16-hour daily shifts, as you said. In some cases, literally sleeping in the dirt with incredibly limited time off to reset and to reconnect with loved ones. These are highly skilled individuals and their vital services support literally every major wildfire response in the United States.

Ali, my district, I represent Northern Colorado, a district that`s larger than the State of New Jersey. Over 50 percent of it is federal public lands. And we had the first and largest wildfire in the history of Colorado - 137 years - both happened in my district last year. And we relied on these federal firefighters to ultimately protect our communities to save lives, to save homes, to save businesses, and to save our state. And we owe them this.

So I`m grateful to Liz Cheney and Katie Porter and my colleagues for joining me in this effort to ensure that we take these steps.

VELSHI: And you are all from states where this idea of climate crisis is very real for people. It`s not even a political distinction. They get it. This problem of wildfire is growing worse. NBC reporting more than 47,000 wildfires. 47,000 wildfires - not acres - wildfires have burned across the United States this year, destroying 6.5 million acres or 15.5 acres burned every minute. That`s according to Fire, Weather & Avalanche Center.

This is not going away, Congressman. So this problem about this almost informal firefighting source, the fact that we`re not really - we have not until now taken seriously these federal wildfire firefighters, our need for them is only going to grow at a time when we don`t pay them enough, we don`t give them enough support services.

NEGUSE: That`s exactly right. I mean, look, Colorado is no stranger to wildfire, historically. But the wildfires are becoming more intense, more pervasive. We no longer have fire seasons in the West. We have fire years, where literally you could have wildfires raging in January and in December. And those fires are ultimately here to stay.

It`s important when we talk about climate change, that we also talk about climate adaptation, which means making investments in wildfire resiliency and mitigation through programs like the Climate Conservation Corps, which we`re fighting for right now as part of the Build Back Better Plan with President Biden`s support.

But that we also invest in our workforce, because at the end of the day, we are going to rely on federal firefighters for many, many years to come and that`s why these steps such as bumping the annual salary by $20,000 to $57,000 annually as the floor, not the ceiling. And guaranteeing housing, guaranteeing health benefits, and mental health benefits are such important first steps in terms of investing in this workforce, as I said for many years to come.

VELSHI: Thank you for this work, sir. Good to see you as always. Joe Neguse is a Congressman from Colorado. We appreciate your time tonight.

And coming up, Donald Trump is launching his own social media company, but this new toy might be putting democracy in danger again. That`s next.


VELSHI: So Donald Trump is trying to get back into the social media game not - on Twitter, not on Facebook, he`s still banned from those. He`d like to be back. Instead, Donald Trump is launching his own social media platform called the TRUTH Social, which basically a knockoff of Twitter. This could be Trump`s latest failed business venture.

But in all seriousness, it could be a huge problem for democracy itself. Social media networks are probably the most powerful non-state actors in existence right now. And governments have failed to understand them, to hold them accountable, or to regulate them, even as social media companies do things that boost their profits, but undermine democracy.

Now, if you`re competing to be the most undemocratic force in America, Donald Trump is also in the running. And now Donald Trump will control a social media company. He and his supporters and conspiracy theorists will have a truly unfettered space to spread their lies. It could also put money into Donald Trump`s pockets with very little work on his part.

We saw what happened in 2016 when the Russian government used social media to interfere in the American presidential election. Now, imagine that scenario with not Facebook`s Mark Zuckerberg, not Twitter`s Jack Dorsey, but the TRUTH Social`s Donald Trump actually in charge.

Joining us now, Clint Watts, a former Special Agent with the FBI, an expert in counterterrorism and misinformation. His book on the subject is, "Messing with the Enemy: Surviving in a Social Media World of Hackers, Terrorists, Russians, and Fake News." He`s a distinguished fellow - research fellow at Foreign Policy Research Institute and an MSNBC National Security Analyst.

And on the right of your screen is Roger McNamee, and early Facebook and Google investor, the author of "Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe." You`re the perfect guys to talk to gentlemen tonight.

Roger, it never leaves me that you have said that you believe social media is incompatible with democracy, or at least social media the way we have it today. I think there are a lot of people watching this show who think Donald Trump is incompatible with democracy and now the two have paired up.

ROGER MCNAMEE, FACEBOOK & GOOGLE EARLY INVESTOR: Well, Ali, they`re perfectly made for each other. If you think about what Facebook, in particular did, they connected 3 billion people on one network with no barriers, and then they enabled advertisers to target literally anyone individually with perfect data.

The result was something that transformed the world of scammers and extremists. They can recruit their marks and then fleece them, or radicalize them on Facebook at will. And Facebook did a lot of things to empower them. And this was hugely important for Trump.

He used Facebook to suppress votes in 2016. He used social media to radicalize MAGA and then enrich himself from them. He undermined the country`s response to COVID. He tried to suppress votes again in 2020 and then organized Stop The Steal, which led to the Insurrection.

And the latest scam is his media company, which he pitched to his followers, and which they`ve now bid up by a factor of eights. So it`s now got a market value of $3.3 billion, having done absolutely nothing with a thing - a shell inside of it.


MCNAMEE: It may be dangerous.

VELSHI: Let`s talk about that, Clint. You and Roger come from different places on this, but you both arrived at very similar conclusions, and that is, unfettered social media can be subject to too big a distributing mechanism for disinformation and misinformation. Did the - did this new development of Donald Trump pairing up or developing a social media company alarm you?

CLINT WATTS, MSNBC NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It alarms me, but it`s completely expected. I think for any campaign, and that`s what this is, it`s a campaign. For any campaign, you ultimately want to bring your users and close their minds by bringing them to an app of your own design. That way you can deliver them content that they`d like, from people that look like them and talk like that. It is literally an extension of a propaganda machine over time.

The problem with this is, all of it distorts what is reality. People will then go there for their news, which will be shoveled to them by news outlets that are confirming their beliefs, which are largely false with a mixture of truth. They will then go there to organize so that they can then facilitate information distribution to other applications, which will make it harder for them to police false and misleading information. And ultimately, it can lead to things like mobilizations.

But what the users don`t realize is they`re oftentimes giving up a tremendous amount of personal data. We already know this about social media. But when you look at what`s going on with this app, how its administered, how it`s already been rolled out, and essentially compromised almost instantaneously. We just don`t have any protections there and it definitely won`t be policed in a way that`s sufficient to stop things like a mobilization we saw on January 6.

VELSHI: So Roger, we have ongoing grievances from conservatives that their voices are squelched on mainstream social media. And yet, day after day, including tonight, there are more reports about what some of these social media companies, particularly Facebook, actually knew about the extremism that they were spreading about, the misinformation that they were spreading.

But the bottom line, as you write in your book, is that this is by design. It`s not a bug. It`s a feature. They make money out of this stuff. Misinformation and salacious stuff gets more clicks. So what, if anything, should be done at this point? You both have called for a degree of regulation of which none has happened.

MCNAMEE: Ali, that`s the fundamental problem. The issue is not with social media, per se. It is with unfettered social media with no regulation. We really need regulation of three kinds. We need a Food and Drug Administration, FDA for tech products, because today without any regulation, many of the products are incredibly dangerous. Not just Facebook, but if you think about AI, if you think about, whether it`s crypto currencies, or facial recognition, or deep fakes, a lot of these things should not be allowed at all and all of them need to be regulated.

We also need to regulate the business model itself. There have to be rules to protect people from being manipulated by people who have perfect information about them. And so you have to prohibit the use of private data like health and location, things that are so intimate they give us away.

And then lastly, we have to allow for competition. The hardest problem Trump will face with his new platform is that Facebook and Google are monopolist and can block his access to new people. But I do think Trump has advantages there. And as Clint says, the thing is dangerous. This has ability to organize a militia or something on this platform.

VELSHI: Guys, thanks very much for your analysis tonight. Clint Watts and Roger McNamee, we`ll always appreciate your time.

Coming up. Senator Joe Manchin is against parts of President Biden`s agenda that would actually help a lot of people in his home State of West Virginia, especially low income people.

Reverend William Barber, Co-Chair of the Poor People`s Campaign standing by to talk to me about this when we come back.


VELSHI: The Democrats` ambitious domestic agenda could be voted on as soon as next week. Now, the Democrats are reportedly close to an agreement with the two holdout senators.

At a town hall last night Joe Biden tried to explain some of Joe Manchin`s opposition, for example, to a climate provision.


BIDEN: Joe Manchin`s argument is: Look, we still have coal in my state. You`re going to eliminate it eventually. We know it`s going away. We know it`s going to be gone. But don`t rush it so fast that my people don`t have anything to do.


VELSHI: We`re not rushing anything so fast with coal. It`s an economic argument that will hurt people in state short term. West Virginia still have to live on planet Earth, so preserving coal for an extra day is not a good medium or long-term plan.

But how about free community college? In West Virginia, were only 21 percent of the population is college educated. What about a robust permanent child tax credit? In West Virginia 16 percent of the population lives in poverty and nearly one-third of West Virginia children live in households that don`t have enough food to eat, or are behind on their rent.

Joining us now is the Bishop Dr. William J. Barber, the Co-Chair of the Poor People`s Coalition, the President of Repairers of the Breach, and we can add expert on all the ways that the democratic agenda could help people economically.

Reverend Dr. Barber, good evening to you. You are really going out of your way to make the point to Joe Manchin, in particular, that there are things in this large bill that would be of direct help to many, many people in his state.

BISHOP WILLIAM J. BARBER II, POOR PEOPLE`S COALITION CO-CHAIR: Your right. And his people have said we want to have a revival rally on the Capitol step, because many of us voted for him, we`re tired of these lies saying he`s doing this for us. 40 percent of West Virginia is either poor or low wealth. The people that want to speak out are those people, and so on Sunday at 4:00 o`clock that`s what`s happening.

Senator Manchin has basically become Senator No. He`s no full family leave. He`s no on the environment. He`s known seniors having better Medicare. He`s known students go into community college. He`s no own voting rights. The only thing that says he`s yes to, is yes to corporations and yes to the greedy. He`s not a moderate. He`s really politically mean and immoral. His plan will actually cost West Virginia 17 - I mean, 10,000. Biden`s plan would bring 17,000.

And this man says he cares about working people, but Ali, doesn`t even want people to make $15 an hour living wage - minimum wage, like firefighters, like the people in his state. And so the people have said, they want to speak out and tell the truth, and say, he`s not doing this for us. Even the coal miners have said, they know - that they want the things in this plan, because they understand where the country is headed, and where the environment is headed.

VELSHI: So every time you bring up $15 an hour, I like to remind people that`s $30,000 a year, this is not people running away with something. That itself is a hard amount of money to live on. But you make an important point that in all of this discussion, the people who don`t have lobbyists and don`t have representation in the offices of the of the lawmakers are the poor and low wealth people of this country.

And you have worked for the last several months to try and get their voices heard, so that folks can understand how they actually live, how this these changes will actually affect them and raise them up. Tell me a bit of what you`ve learned.

BARBER II: Yes. Well, I actually agreed with one of your earlier voices - guests that said, we should have never - Democrats should have never - I`m an independent - but should have never gotten tied up in these number arguments. You`ve said that it should have been about values. What is the cost if we don`t do this?

And to be quite honest, we begged, we pleaded even with the hammers at the White House, let us bring some folks - low income poor folks from West Virginia, Arizona, Texas, to the Oval Office privately. Let them sit with the president, some economists and some on these, and then let them go to the mic and talk about the impact of the plan on them.

For some reason, I don`t know what it is, it seemed like even some of Democratic friends are afraid of the people that they`re trying to help. So on the one hand, you have Manchin, lying on the people, trying to claim that he`s helping them. But then for some reason, other people don`t want to put the people in front of the mic, who are actually going to be impacted. That`s what we`re going to be trying to do Sunday at 4:00 o`clock at the West Virginia State House, because we need to put a face on this, Ali, of course and not just numbers.

VELSHI: But it is hard, whether it`s this or its voting rights, it`s hard for working folk and low income folks and people who live in poverty, to take that time out. It`s a privilege for the rest of us to be able to protest and get out there. You have warned that we must not discount these people. We think of them as voiceless, and so we talk around them and about them, rather than to them.

And you have warned that they in fact, they are a voting bloc, they are powerful, and if they are rejected, they will remember the fact that they were rejected.

BARBER II: Exactly. And one of the things we better hurry up and understand America is that 40 - 30 - a third of the electorate is now poor. And in all of the battleground states 40 percent are either poor or low wealth. And we`re working to mobilize them into a powerful bloc around an agenda, because that`s actually the sleeping giant.

We just released a study called "Waking the Sleeping Giant" and it shows in all the battleground states, the real power that can turn axis (ph) is poor and low wealth people.

VELSHI: Reverend Dr. Barber, it is a pleasure to speak to you again. Thank you for joining us tonight. The Bishop William J. Barber of the Poor People`s Campaign, always appreciate your time, sir.

Before we go, we`ve got an important programming note. We`ve got a very big night planned Sunday here on MSNBC, when you are going to get a chance to see the new Peacock original documentary "Civil War," looking at the roots of division in this country. The film, which is executive produced by Brad Pitt and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. will air Sunday, at 10:00 pm. Eastern.

And tomorrow morning on my show, "Velshi," I`ll have a first look at the film. I`ll talk with the director Rachel Boynton and one of the history teachers who is featured in the film. And I had a chance to travel to Jackson, Mississippi this week where I talked to a group of students, professors and school teachers about race and education in this country. It was a fascinating and important discussion. You`re going to see that and much more tomorrow morning at 8:00 am Eastern right here on MSNBC.

And that is tonight`s LAST WORD. "THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" begins now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again as we bring another week to a close day 276 of the Biden Administration tonight. The January 6th Committee appears to have scored a win and its fights against Donald Trump`s claim of executive privilege.