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Nation editor John Nichols, Senator Bernie Sanders on Countdown

Nation editor John Nichols, Senator Bernie Sanders on Countdown 

chers—

this happened by mistake. but i might be able to do it again.

—rk

The Nation’s John Nichols and Sen. Bernie Sanders discuss the importance of unions and social welfare programs in this country as a boost to the middle class and a check against the power of multinational corporations.

Watch “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” live each weeknight at 8/7c on Current TV. Click here to find the show in your area.

transcript after the fold

SHUSTER: The Republicans war on organized labor has been going on since — well, since labor got organized. One of the most vocal opponents against organized labor is Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, whose anti-union legislation led to several recall elections in Wisconsin, with talk of his own recall coming in January. But a recall may turn out to be the least of Governor Walker’s concerns. In our fourth story in the Countdown, another Walker staffer has had their home searched by the FBI. The year-long investigation into Walker centers around allegations of county staffers doing campaign work while on county time.

Cynthia Archer worked for Walker as his deputy administration secretary until last month, when she left for another state job. FBI agents raided her Madison home for three hours on Wednesday, taking at least one box of evidence. Mrs. Archer claims that she has nothing to hide.

(Excerpt from audio clip) CYNTHIA ARCHER: They came to my house. They wanted to look at my records and computers and looked through the house, and they certainly didn’t need a search warrant to do it, I would have allowed them in.

SHUSTER: Governor Walker did his best to avoid showing any knowledge of the investigation, saying today, “We don’t know what exactly is involved.”

While the continued investigation into Walker may be a small bit of good news for Labor on a local scale, nationally, the news is not so good. According to the latest Rasmussen Poll released today, 48 percent of Americans believe that unions have outlasted their usefulness, with only 30 percent disagreeing. Although, I have a feeling that the 17.7 million people who were members of a union last year might disagree.

For more, let’s turn to John Nichols, Washington correspondent for The Nation magazine, and standing beside him is Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont. They are both attending a progressive conference in Madison. Thank you both.

Senator Sanders, I want to start with you because at the top of the show we mentioned that you would like a primary challenge against President Obama. Any indication that is going to happen, and is it really such a good idea?

BERNIE SANDERS: No, I don’t know if it’s going to happen. I think the main point is that at the grassroots level, we have got to make the President understand that with the middle class collapsing and poverty increasing, he cannot be talking about cuts in Social Security. He cannot be talking about cuts in Medicare. He cannot be talking about cuts in Medicaid.

And, in fact, what we need is a jobs program which is a lot stronger than what he’s talking about. We need to rebuild our infrastructure, put millions of people back to work. We need to transform our energy system, and we need a series of new trade policies.

SHUSTER: Would you at least acknowledge though that he’s —

SANDERS: The point that I am trying to make — Excuse me.

SHUSTER: Go ahead.

SANDER: The point that I’m trying to make is that it is very important that the President understands that the people who elected him wanted him to stand up to the big money interests. That is the right thing to do, and that is good politics.

SHUSTER: Would you at least acknowledge that he has been at least more aggressive in terms of turning the tables on Republicans the last two weeks than he has been in the last two years?

SANDERS: Well, I could — yes. I think that — I’m glad that he’s out on the road. I’m glad that he is talking about the need, asked the wealthiest people in this country — who are doing phenomenally well, whose effective tax rate is the lowest in decades — that demand must be that they start paying their fair share of taxes. We’ve got to end all of the corporate loopholes. When we do that, we will have the money to rebuild America and put millions of people back to work.

But here’s the point, the president cannot compromise with himself. He’s got to take the case to the American people who will support him if he sticks to those issues, and then we can win some important victories in Washington.

SHUSTER: John Nichols, turning to this investigation of Governor Walker’s aides in Wisconsin — how serious is this, and is their any possibility that Walker could eventually be impeached?

JOHN NICHOLS: I think it’s a serious matter, but I would suggest that waiting for impeachment is really not the issue. In Wisconsin right now, we’re — Senator Sanders and I are at an event called Fighting Bob Fest, and that event will attract thousands of people from across the state who are passionately committed to recalling Governor Walker, to removing him from office — and my sense is that the scandal, the investigation into his aides, simply feeds the energy for a popular revolt against this governor no matter where things end up with his legal troubles.

SHUSTER: And so you see, essentially, the recall perhaps being more successful on the Democratic side than they would have, say, before this investigation or before it became public that these raids were happening?

NICHOLS: I think Wisconsinites were furious with the governor for attacking labor unions, for undermining local democracy in Wisconsin, there’s no question of that. But when you feed in a corruption scandal of this kind, I do believe it becomes easier to talk about a recall. Yes, no question to that.

SHUSTER: Senator Sanders, let’s turn to the — to Labor on a national scale. This new Rasmussen Poll we mentioned, saying that nearly half of Americans believe that unions have outlived their usefulness, are people buying into the anti-union message that the Republicans have been pushing?

SANDERS: Well, Rasmussen generally is a Republican pollster, and their results often are at odds with other polling. My experience is that people understand that not only is collective bargaining a Constitutional right, that when workers are able to negotiate decent wages it impacts not only the workers in the union, it impacts the entire community.

One of the reasons — one of the many reasons — that the middle class is collapsing and real wages are going down, is unions are not as strong as they used to be in negotiating decent wages, and when they are not negotiating decent wages, the other people in town are being paid lower wages, as well.

In my view, we have got to expand the union movement, we’ve got to build the union movement. We’ve got to, once again, create a strong middle class where working people are earning a living wage. In many cases around America today, that is not the situation.

SHUSTER: John Nichols, I know that progressives and union members always get fired up when they see Senator Bernie Sanders and some others who advocate for the cause in Congress, but what is the mood of this Congress — of the conference in terms of the low poll numbers for President Obama, the difficulty getting legislation through with Republicans, and the sense that perhaps unions are in some trouble?

NICHOLS: Well, look, unions have been under attack. There’s no question of that, but my sense is that the Senator’s right.

Don’t look at a poll that asks whether people like a union or feel good about it. Look at polls that show that, overwhelmingly, Americans want collective bargaining rights, and they understand that trade unions are the fundamental tool that we use to offset the power of multinational corporations in this country.

And, also, I think that the one thing to think about here is not so much that people are feeling put down or put upon. My sense is that Senator Sanders will walk into a hall in about two minutes from now and be greeted with thunderous applause from folks who don’t  just like him as a person, but who are excited about the things that he’s saying.

These are popular messages — defending Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, getting a real jobs program — this isn’t just smart policy. This is smart politics. It’s winning politics, and I don’t think that people are feeling frustrated, I think they’re only hoping to hear more people like Senator Sanders.

SHUSTER: John Nichols and Senator Bernie Sanders both joining us from Madison, Wisconsin. Thank you both so much tonight for being on Countdown. We appreciate it.

NICHOLS: Thank you so much.

SANDERS: You’re welcome.

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