Melissa Harris-Perry had some harsh words for some of her guests when a discussion about class mobility came up on her syndicated MSNBC show. The topic came up during a discussion of the new book Why Americans Hate Welfare by Princeton professor Martin Gilens.
Harris-Perry was explaining how the book showed conclusively through examination of public surveys done over an extended period of time that the American public strongly supports spending money on the public good, but that sentiment basically evaporates the minute you call that spending “welfare”.
Harris-Perry immediately interjected race into the argument saying:
“The answer, according to Gilens…[is] that Americans hate welfare because media, at the behest of conservative politicians, have relentlessly linked welfare with black people, and have hammered home the idea that welfare recipients are undeserving. It does feel to me [that] part of the American story is class mobility. If there is no class mobility, we are not America, right?..And data now shows that in our current moment, class mobility is very low. I just feel like, from the bottom, you have to be able to say, ‘I deserve the ability for class mobility.'”
Financial expert Monica Mehta, a guest on the show, said that the defining characteristic of class mobility is that the people who achieve it are willing to take risks.
Harris-Perry slammed her fist on the table and started screaming:
“What in the world is riskier than being a poor person in America? I live in a neighborhood where people are shot on my street corner. I live in a neighborhood where people have to figure out how to get their kid into school because maybe it will be a good school and maybe it won’t. I’m sick of the idea that being wealthy is risky. No, there’s a huge safety net, that whenever you fail, we’ll catch you, and catch you, and catch you. Being poor is what is risky. We have to create a safety net for poor people and when we won’t because they happen to look different from us, it is the pervasive ugliness. We cannot do that.”
There seemed to be a strong disconnect with what Harris-Perry was talking about and what her guest was trying to say. Both Harris-Perry and her other guests started talking about the ability of the super wealthy to give more back to the government in taxes when Mehta said she was talking about those people who are willing to take the risk of opening a small business and struggle to pay their bills on on monthly basis.
Watch the clash in the clip of Melissa Harris-Perry losing it on her guest, which comes at roughly 8 minutes into the video.