Harris-Perry launched a discussion based on a new book titled "Why Americans Hate Welfare" by Princeton professor Martin Gilens.
According to Harris-Perry, the book examines public opinion surveys that found that Americans approve "spending for the social good," but oppose that spending when it's labeled as welfare.
Harris-Perry wondered how this could be the case. "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."
Harris-Perry contrasted this theory with Mitt Romney's GOP convention speech on Thursday, in which the Republican presidential candidate said that Americans deserve better.
"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," Harris-Perry said. "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, who was a guest on Harris-Perry's show, interjected that class mobility is "enabled by taking risk."
Harris-Perry immediately interrupted her and demanded, "What is riskier than living poor in America? Seriously?" After slamming her hand on the table, she continued:
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.
During last week's program, Melissa Harris-Perry gave viewers an inside look into her New Orleans neighborhood. Last month, Harris-Perry and her husband closed on the purchase of a home that had been damaged and abandoned after Hurricane Katrina.
Harris-Perry described the property as a site of crime in her neighborhood, so her goal was to rebuild the home and contribute to the safety and security of the community. Harris-Perry called the home "just a physical thing" but also a "symbol of hope."
Just a few days after the segment aired on her MSNBC show, Harris-Perry's new home was destroyed by Hurricane Isaac. "House was vacant except for my dreams," she tweeted.
Watch the clash in the clip above, which comes at roughly 8 minutes into the video.
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