PoliticsNation | January 12, 2012
>> are there no fair questions about the distribution of wealth without it being seen as envy, though?
>> you know, i think it's fine to talk about those things in quiet rooms. talk about those things in quiet rooms. in quiet rooms. in quiet rooms.
>> welcome to "politics nation." i'm al sharpton . tonight, i'm coming to you live from a quiet room. since willard spoke, i decided to come see what these quiet rooms are really like. so this is where the willard mitt romney says we can talk about inequality. amazing. it turns out this is where you are supposed to talk about injustice, not out in public. you aren't supposed to raise uncomfortable topics out there. you need to save that for quiet rooms like this. you aren't supposed to talk about huge income gaps in this country. no, sir. you save that for the quiet room. well, you know what? i had enough of quiet rooms. turn the lights on. get rid of this backdrop. folks, this country doesn't need to be quiet. this country needs to make some noise. i'm done with quiet conversations. when 66% of americans say there's a conflict between the rich and poor, we shouldn't be whispering. we should be shouting. when 1 in 2 americans are poor or struggling, we shouldn't be speaking in hush tones. we should say it loud. when the 400 richest americans have a greater combined wealth than the bottom 150 million, we need to speak out. we need to get loud. willard , we're done with quiet rooms. but i can see why you like them so much. we know to expect this talk from someone who casually makes $10,000 bets. from someone who says this to people who could lose their homes.
>> don't try and stop the foreclosure process. let it run its course and hit the bottom.
>> let things run their course. that's what you say in the quiet room. that's heartless. but it's consistent with someone who has trouble identifying real people .
>> corporations are people, my friend. we can raise taxes on -- of course they are. all the money corporations earn eventually go to people.
>> can you hear me now, willard ? joining me now with their loud voices are former pennsylvania governor ed rendell , now an nbc news political analyst, and joan walsh , editor at large for salon.com. thank you both for being on the show tonight.
>> our pleasure.
>> thanks, reverend.
>> governor rendell, is this a conversation mitt willard romney and the republicans are hoping not to have this year about income equality?
>> sure, but that's a false hope. there's no way we can't discuss that issue when more americans than ever are in poverty, when in my home state, 1 out of every 10 people is on food stamps . i never thought i'd tloif see that. with statistics like that, with hurt and pain like that, it's got to be the number one discussion during this entire election year. and if mitt romney believes he's got a way to put people back to work and to raise incomes, then let's hear it. but don't say we're going to talk about it in quiet rooms. you know what that means. we'll talk about it after the election is over.
>> that's exactly right.
>> joan , when you -- today, mitt romney went even further. he started trying to show a different, soft, kinder, gentler willard . let me show you what he said.
>> i think any time a job is lost is a tragedy. for the family, for the individual that loses the job, it's just devastating. and every time that we invested in the business it was to try and encourage that business to have ongoing life. the idea of making a short-term profit actually doesn't really exist in business because no one wants to buy something or buy stock in a company that's just going to be a short-term success.
>> so he says that losing a job is a tragedy. this from the guy who wrote an op ed piece in "the new york times" saying let detroit go bankrupt. this from a guy who bought chopped companies. i mean, do you think that he is beginning to understand how much his track record and the bringing it out is hurting him?
>> i think, obviously, he is, reverend al. i mean, mitt romney is the face of the top 1%. he is mr. 1%. and he's providing us with an opportunity. and this primary is providing us with an opportunity to really have a national conversation about income inequality . you know, occupy wall street did a great job opening the doors and starting that conversation. and now you have got a candidate who is tailor made to -- to help people really understand how the very, very wealthy make their money off making money and literally don't care if they throw people out of jobs. they are after efficiency. they are after a profit. that's the bottom line . so, you know, mitt romney is in a position now of having to defend that record. and it's not very much fun for him.
>> now, governor, when you look at, it's not just occupy wall street now. i think joan is right. they help to change the conversation. look at this graph of where all americans are on this question from different parties, from different backgrounds. you have republicans, 55% say class conflict between the rich and poor is real. you have independents, 68%. democrats, 73%. how would these figures, you've governed. how would these figures -- do you tell people, let's be quiet about it. you've had to deal with people, i'm sure, that were adverse to whatever decisions you make.
>> the most insulting thing to tell people in pain is to be quiet about it. suffer but suffer in silence.
>> right. what mitt romney 's got to do and do it, i think, fairly quickly, even though for the republican base, none of this has hurt him so far. but what he's got to do fairly quickly is say to people, okay, look. the president cares very deeply about people in pain and people who have gone into poverty. but he hasn't been able to do anything about it because he just doesn't know how to run an economy, how to get an economy started. i'm going to tell you how we can put these people back to work. so he's got to change the conversation from, let's not talk about it to, yeah, let's talk about it. it's the central issue facing america today. and i have got a better plan. he's failed. i have a plan that's going to work. if he doesn't quickly move to that dynamic, i think he's sunk.
>> joan , when you look at the reality, the reality is that willard lives in quiet rooms. i mean, he has a co-chair of the private equity firm blackstone group doing fund-raising -- two fund-raisers this week. i think he's in west palm beach tonight at a fund-raiser. so i guess quiet rooms is where they do their business. but this is a guy who called proposed tax increase on private equity partners a war and i'm quoting him, like when hitler invaded poland in 1939 . he later, to be fair, apologized for saying that, but he said it.
>> but he said it. it is outrageous. i think one of the reasons mitt romney doesn't want to release his tax returns is not so much that it shows he's wealthy, because we all know he's very rich. but because it probably shows that he pays a rather low tax rate given that all of his income comes -- most of his income comes from investmentinvestments, and those tax rates are very different than the tax rates most of us pay on our income. my jaw dropped last week when andrea mitchell asked him, would you release them if you become president, and he wouldn't say yes. every president in history has released his income tax returns . i mean, that is the height of arrogan arrogance. that combined with the quiet rooms comment just shows a sort of elitism and a fear of democracy and what people will really do and think if they knew the truth.
>> now, governor, when "the washington post " today called him to release his tax returns , i know even when you run for president if you do public finance you have to disclose everything. so, i mean, this is unprecedented that you are not disclosing things if you are a candidate for the highest office in the land.
>> al in the 34 years i've run for office in the last 20 for my two races for mayor and two races for governor, of course, i released my tax returns . there wasn't any question or doubt about it. joan , i'd also like to see bain capital 's tax return .
>> that would be very interesting. republicans are always arguing corporate taxviate too high. it's 35%. you saw the "forbes" study out. the top two corporations paid 17%. 17%. so i'd love to see what bain capital paid.
>> maybe that's what they are doing in them quiet rooms. joan , i think the other thing that is very disturbing is that when you now are looking at 50% of the country -- i think the exact number is 49% -- that are at poverty level or near it, we're not talking about just sections of the country now. we're talking about almost half the country really have an insecurity about where the future lays for them and their children. and i think the governor is right. if you are not saying this is my plan to restore the economy, to give jobs, to protect you, if all you can say as he said better than most nights, but he still only said the criticisms of the president, really what are you saying? he made a better speech than i've heard him make lately the other night when he won new hampshire but it was all on attacking president obama . i still have no idea what is willard 's jobs plan.
>> i really don't think he has one. he talks about oh, it's hundreds of pages. but, really, there's nothing that he can articulate because it comes down to the same republican policies of reduced taxes. and so, you know, you made a really excellent point right after that speech when he came up with the line, the bitter politics of envy that, really, it's not about jealousy. it's about justice. we're not envious. we just want fairness. so all he can do is insult people who raise the question and insult the president who, by the way, has created more private sector jobs, i believe, than the bush administration did in eight years, and has -- and even the stimulus. they say the stimulus didn't work. the stimulus worked. it was just too small. while we had the stimulus, employment was rising. so the president knows what to do. the president has a jobs plan, but mitt romney doesn't have a jobs plan.
>> governor rendell and joan walsh , thank you both for being with us tonight.