Return to Transcripts main page


Post-Election Wish List; No Lights for Weeks But Bill in the Mail; Confetti Rains Down with Sensitive Info; Republicans Back Away from Tax Pledge; Tips for Cliff Negotiators

Aired November 26, 2012 - 10:30   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: We know of at least four prominent Republicans open to some kind of tax hikes on the wealthiest Americans, but what about Democrats? What will they give up in return? President Obama is in a tough place. During the election, the President vowed to help the middle class. But many of his constituents want more.

Among them, African-Americans who turned out in droves to vote for Obama, despite an unemployment rate way above the national average. 14.3 percent.

Joining me now is civil and human rights activist Reverend Markel Hutchins. Thank you so much for being here.


COSTELLO: So in the past couple of days we've heard some Republicans come out and say that they -- they're willing to violate this "no tax" pledge. Does that give you hope?

HUTCHINS: Well, it does. I think it shows that many Republicans now understand what we have come to understand over the last decade and that is if you want to remain relevant in the body politic, you are going to have to adjust your beliefs and how you govern. And I think that's a hard lesson Republicans had to learn this election cycle.

COSTELLO: It doesn't let Democrats off the hook, though. Because Democrats are going to have to give something back. And as far as the African-American community, where is it willing?

HUTCHINS: Well, I think that the African-American community, as displayed, I think, by the 2012 election cycle, has displayed a certain level of maturity over the last decade. And especially, I think, since President Obama was elected.

We understand that politics is the art of compromise. And if we are going to get any kind of real solutions to some of the problems that uniquely face African-Americans, we're going to have to stand with the President as he compromises and understand that politics is, in fact, the art of compromise.

COSTELLO: What would be off the table as far as the African-American community is concerned? HUTCHINS: Well, I think there are certain things that we just can't stand for. One a cut in social security and Medicaid and Medicare should be off the table.

And I think --

COSTELLO: But that's what Republicans want. They say we've got to curb these -- especially Medicare, because Medicare is going to go by the wayside in 12 years, I think.

HUTCHINS: Well, I think there are certainly are things that that they can find to cut in places. For example, we spend more on defense in America than any other nation in the world, and most other nations combined. We are outspending China now, something like four to one, and they're second only to us when it comes to defense in military spending.

There are places that we can find to save money and to cut budget, but we cannot do so on the backs of the most suffering people in our community. And -- and African-Americans disproportionately benefit from Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security. But we must not preserve those programs, exclusively for the benefit of African-Americans. It benefits the whole of America for us to preserve those programs that serve the underclass.

COSTELLO: But see, if -- if the African-American community pushed cuts in defense, let's say, that's something the Republicans aren't so much for. Especially since, maybe, African-American community isn't willing to give up anything in entitlements.

HUTCHINS: Well, I think that there again, there are many, many places that we can find in the budget to cut and at the same time preserve. But look, we can find ways of doing almost any other thing we want to balance budgets in America. Certainly we can do so without there again adversely impacting African-Americans, Hispanics and other minorities.

But I think what's interesting, Carol, is that this is not just a conversation about what is good for African-Americans. It's what's good for America.

Ten days after the President was re-elected, he called in a diverse constituency of people. He called in the Council of La Raza; he called in Reverend Sharpton and his National Action Network; the president of the NAACP; the National Urban League.

The President called them in to discuss how these potential cuts that will be required by a fiscal cliff will impact their constituencies. But we cannot in the African-American community deal with them exclusively and outside of the rest of the American agenda. This is not just about --


COSTELLO: Well, but having said that, I'm sure you've heard about the hundreds of thousands of people who are signing petitions to secede from the union. You know it's going to President Obama's Web site. What do you -- what do you make of that? Because it seems that we're more divided than ever.

HUTCHINS: Well, I think that that is just the latest round of what one might call visceral insanity from some people in America. First, it was the birther movement. And then it was something else. And now it's this kind of insane secession notion. We still struggle in America, to deal with issues around race and class and ethnicity.

And the fact of the matter is, that the President was re-elected in an overwhelming fashion. Many people, including those that were appearing on your show and others here on this network, were predicting that African-Americans would not come to the polls and vote -- that did not happen. And I think that that whole succession conversation is just the latest round of foolishness.

COSTELLO: Thanks so much --

HUTCHINS: Thank you, Carol.

COSTELLO: -- Reverend for stopping by. Reverend Markel Hutchins.

A question for you this morning: "If you didn't have power for weeks on end, should you pay for your electricity?" Electricity you didn't have?

Well, that's the case for many victims of Superstorm Sandy. "The New York Post" is reporting the Long Island Power Authority is sending out normal bills to its customers, zapping them for charges, even when they were left in the dark and the cold for weeks on end. It's the latest slap in the face of customers enraged over a lifeless response to Sandy.


ANTONY SANTINO, SENIOR COUNCILMAN, HAMPSTEAD, NEW YORK: Oceanside, this is a crisis of epic proportions. This is a natural disaster. We are here as one community together to send a message. We've had enough. LIPA is disgusting. The management of LIPA should be fired from top to bottom.


COSTELLO: Whoa. Alison Kosik joins me now from New York. Wow. You have a response from LIPA. What does it say?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: OK, so what LIPA is doing, Carol, is trying to deflect some of the outrage that you're seeing here. What LIPA is telling us, that because they had to use meter readers to help with the effort to restore power, that many residents received estimated bills instead of actual ones. And that their next actual meter reading will reflect the period they didn't have electricity.

But still, people aren't happy. No surprise there. One telling me he plans to tear up his next bill in an act of civil disobedience. And "The New York Post" talked with other LIPA customers with one customer saying he got the bill through an e-mail on Thanksgiving that he says was crass and classless because his building was flooded, boarded up. He hasn't been home since the storm and the bill came in $1 more than the previous month.

So these are people who didn't have power for weeks and they're being hit with these bills. They make everything appear like it was just normal. So there are questions about whether anything was taken off the bill during the time in the dark.

Though LIPA says what it is trying to do is hold the bills for people who still don't have power. Yes, this doesn't make them appear sympathetic at all. And you know, this isn't the first time LIPA has been accused of lacking communication skills. A state report in June accused LIPA of poor customer communications after Hurricane Irene hit last year. At that time, the company acknowledged customers weren't getting the information that they needed because of its computer system was in the process of updating.

Two residents affected by Sandy, Carol, are already suing LIPA for what they say is an archaic process of dealing with these outages. That is putting it lightly, if you ask me -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Wow. OK. Let's talk about the markets before you go. They've been open for about an hour. How are stocks doing?

KOSIK: Stocks aren't doing too well. The Dow is down about 65 points, the NASDAQ and S&P down slightly, as well. You know those worries about the fiscal cliff, you know, the tax hikes, the spending cuts happening all at once. Congress gets back to work this week so, you know, investors are closely watching to see if they're going to be able to hammer out a deal.

There are also worries about whether or not Greece can get another payment that it needs, another loan payment. So there are some questions there. That's weighing on the market, not giving much reason for investors to buy in, at least not just yet -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Alison Kosik from the New York Stock Exchange. We'll be right back.


COSTELLO: Tossing confetti at a parade, it's a normal thing to do. But some of the confetti that rained down on the folks at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade was anything but normal. It contained some very sensitive and personal information.

And as James Ford with our affiliate WPIX reports, it now has one police department investigating its own workers.


JAMES FORD, WPIX TV(voice-over): Among the crowds at the Thanksgiving Day parade was this young man, Ethan Finkelstein, and among the floats, balloons and marching bands somebody threw confetti. It sounds harmless, but a piece of it stuck on to the coat of one of Finkelstein's friends.

ETHAN FINKELSTEIN, PARADE ATTENDEE: It landed on her shoulder, she looks at it and she picks it off her jacket and it says SSN and then there is a number and it's written like a Social Security Number. And we're like, that's really bizarre.

FORD: It looked like this. We've blurred out the Social Security number and other information but it made the college freshman concerned, so he and his friends picked up more.

FINKELSTEIN: There are phone numbers on it, addresses, more Social Security numbers, license plate numbers and then we find like all these instant reports from police.

FORD: In fact, some of the confetti strips mentioned arrest records, and had official police reports.

FINKELSTEIN: This was really shocking. It says about 4:38 a.m. a homemade pipe bomb was thrown outside the home in the Kings Grant area.

FORD: A closer look showed the documents were from the Nassau County Police Department, that's part of its official emblem there. There was even information about Mitt Romney's motorcade, apparently from the final presidential debate in Nassau County last month. And most important, the confetti identified detectives, some apparently undercover with their Social Security numbers, dates of birth and other highly sensitive confidential information that we're concealing.

FINKELSTEIN: I was just completely in shock that -- how could anyone have this type of sensitive information? And why is it being shredded and distributed at the Thanksgiving Day parade?

FORD: That's what we wanted to know, as well. Nassau County police told us they're very concerned and are launching an investigation, as well as reviewing how they dispose of sensitive documents.

(on camera): What you see right here is official Macy's confetti. That's according to the sponsor of the parade, Macy's itself, and it says that this other confetti, which appears to be shredded police documents, those must have come from some source other than an official Macy's employee. Because of our report, the Nassau County Police Department has opened up that investigation.

Reporting from the Upper West Side, I'm James Ford, PIX11 News.


COSTELLO: Wow. OK. We'll keep you posted.

Do you think talks to prevent a fiscal cliff are tough? Try negotiations on the playground. We'll hear from some pros and amateurs about working together.


COSTELLO: 46 minutes past the hour; checking our top stories.

The Senate returns to work today with that fiscal cliff looming. And another Republican this morning is distancing himself from that pledge to never raise taxes. That would be Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee.


SEN. BOB CORKER, (R) TENNESSEE: I'm not obligated on the pledge. I made Tennesseeans aware I was just elected that the only thing I'm honoring is the oath that I take when I serve, when I'm sworn in this January.


COSTELLO: Over the past few days, three other lawmakers on Capitol Hill, Senator Saxby Chambliss, Representative Peter King, and Senator Lindsey Graham have also made similar statements. The anti-tax pledge is the brain child of lobbyist Grover Norquist, a long-time power broker in the GOP.

Supreme Court justices are expected to meet in closed-door session on Friday to look over same-sex marriage petitions. The high court could decide to take up one of five challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act or California's Proposition 8 case.

Kids love those bounce houses, but parents will not love these latest figures from the journal of pediatrics. A study found injuries from the inflatable bouncers spiked more than 15 times over a 15-year period. About a quarter of those injuries were broken bones. Researchers don't know for sure why these injuries have gone up so much.

The Rolling Stones are back. Did they ever leave? Anyway, the Rolling Stones holding their first concert in five years to celebrate their 50th anniversary together. Nischelle Turner is in Los Angeles -- good morning.

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN SHOWBIZ CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. And good point, Carol. Heck, no, they never left. Those boys have still got it, yes they do. They were celebrating 50 years as a band with a special performance in London. They first played at a London club in 1962.

And it wasn't just Mick Jagger and Keith Richards for this show. They welcomed back Bill Wyman, Mick Taylor to the delight of the crowd. They ran through a bunch of their classic hits from "Start Me Up" to "Sympathy for the Devil", to the delight of the crowd once again. And by all reports, you know, they just killed it. They seemed to be having a great time.

Jagger at one point asked the fans in the cheap seats how they were doing and then he kidded about how those seats weren't actually so cheap. Fans are doing what they came to see the Stones. Tickets for the show reportedly ranged from 95 to 950 pounds, and that's at face value. They're going to be playing five shows, three in the U.S., and those tickets, you can bet, are not going to be cheap either because one of the stones' hits from 1965 says -- you remember that song, Carol -- "This Could Be the Last Time".

COSTELLO: Somehow I doubt it, though. But you're right. Hope not.


COSTELLO: Nischelle Turner, thanks for all your entertainment headlines. Watch "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT", 11:00 Eastern on HLN.


COSTELLO: The countdown is on. 36 days until we reach the so-called fiscal cliff. Can the President and Congress get a deal done? It all depends on working together. A lesson learned by hostage negotiators, high-profile attorneys, and yes, kids on the playground.

Here's CNN's Kyung Lah.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We cannot afford to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, (R-OH) SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: 700,000 jobs would be destroyed.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two sides, ground into their positions but they can meet in the middle. Just ask tough negotiators outside the Beltway.

JACK TRIMARCO, RETIRED FBI HOSTAGE NEGOTIATOR: I'm the negotiator who knows how to deal with bad guys.

LAH: He's not talking about politicians. But crooks, literally. Trimarco was the FBI's negotiator in mutable high-profile bank standoffs. He says he peacefully freed dozens of hostages over his 20 years with the agency. He negotiated seemingly impossible deals and says he never lost a life.

(on camera): You have to plan for everything going wrong as a negotiator.

TRIMARCO: Yes. You've got to be ready for it. And to deal with it. And you've got to be flexible.

LAH (voice-over): But not too flexible.

The lawyer for Hollywood heavy weights like Harvey Weinstein, James Cameron and Tom Cruise knows about ugly divorces, public fights with studios and, yes, fair deals.

BERT FIELDS, HOLLYWOOD ATTORNEY: At what point is it better to have no deal than the deal that's being offered? LAH (on camera): Do you have an appreciation for what Obama and Boehner are looking for?

FIELDS: Oh, absolutely. I sympathize with both of them. It's not fun for these guys, because there's too much at stake. Fun for me, because the worst that happens is my client gets less money, not the end of the world. It may seem so.

LAH (voice-over): Maybe you can't please everyone, but even children know, you have to cooperate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maybe you can work together, build together? Maybe connect it? What do you think?


LAH: A daily lesson on the playground, working together sprouts even better solutions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a great idea. Do you want to see my great idea?

LAH (on camera): Do you think these lessons on the playground need to be transferred to D.C.?

PADDY LUDWIG, "THE NEIGHBORHOOD SCHOOL" OWNER: Absolutely. Absolutely. We need -- we need to find a way to work together, to figure out what's going to be acceptable to everybody. We've got to figure it out. Otherwise I mean we all lose.

LAH (voice-over): there's nothing surprising here, because maybe it's just that simple. So if they can do it --

(on camera): How old are you guys?



LAH (voice-over): Maybe the political playground can do it, too. Kyung Lah, CNN Los Angeles.


COSTELLO: Come on, Congress, make a great mud pie. You can do it. "Talk Back" question today: What should Republicans expect in return for new taxes? Your responses next.


COSTELLO: For many of us, the holidays mean hitting the road, and that makes staying on your diet extra challenging. In this "Daily Dose", Bob Harper from TV's "The Biggest Loser" gives us tips to stay on track.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BOB HARPER, "THE BIGGEST LOSER": Hi, I'm trainer Bob Harper. And I'm on the road for about 200 days out of the year. One of the best travel stories that I have when it comes to "The Biggest Loser" is that we got to go to Washington, D.C. And I got to work out the First Lady. I mean, that was the coolest thing I've ever done in my entire life.

When I'm on the road, I always find time to work out. This is exactly what I do. Being out on the road does not excuse you from working out. I don't want to rely on someone else giving me the food that I need to eat. So that's why I always travel with the certain necessities. I'm going to have strawberries and blueberries with me every single time. They're rich in antioxidants. You've got plenty of fiber. And this is what I want to be able to snack on.

Nuts are so easy to travel with, because they don't need to be refrigerated. They're going to be full of fiber. They're going to be full of protein. Packed up, ready to go. Maybe I'll see you on the road.


COOPER: OK. "Talk Back" question for you this morning: What should Republicans expect in return for new taxes? You know, as in entitlements.

This is from Tom. "He says social security is not an entitlement. I paid into it. Don't mess with it."

This from Leonard. "Raising the retirement age is great. We need reforms all over. But we still need to make sure everyone is paying their fair share.

This from Marsha. "Republicans should expect nothing in return. It's the American people that should expect something that our politicians work for us. And not Grover Norquist."

Thanks for taking part in the conversation. Please, the conversation should continue. It's a good one.

Thanks for joining in. And thanks for joining me today. CNN NEWSROOM continues right now with John Berman.