ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES
January 13, 2014
Guests: Betsey Stevenson, Nancy Penn, Shenita Simon-Toussant, Melissa Del Valle Ortiz, Marianna Chilton, Neera Tanden, Kirsten Gillibrand, Barbara Lee, Cathy Minehan
ANNOUNCER: This is a special presentation of ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES,
"50 Year War: The Changing Face of Poverty in America."
And now, Chris Hayes and Maria Shriver.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Good evening from New York.
Fifty years after the war on poverty was launched, America is once
again engaged in a great and overdue national debate about the tens of
millions of our fellow citizens left behind. But lurking at the edges of
that conversation is the premise that the war launched 50 years ago was a
failure. We`re here tonight to tell you differently.
LYNDON JOHNSON, FORMER PRESIDENT: This administration, today, here
and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America.
HAYES (voice-over): Fifty years ago, President Lyndon Johnson
embraced a simple but radical notion, that a wealthy nation enjoying a
post-war economic boom had a duty not to leave behind millions of its own
citizens. It was January 1964, less than 2 months since the assassination
of President Kennedy, and Johnson was making the plight of 30 million
impoverished Americans his central priority.
What he called the war on poverty.
JOHNSON: It will not be a short or easy struggle. No single weapon
or strategy will suffice. But we shall not rest until that war is won.
HAYES: Johnson turned to Peace Corps founder Sargent Shriver to lead
SARGENT SHRIVER, PEACE CORPS FOUNDER: People are interested in being
treated as human beings. They`re interested in having other people treat
them as the Declaration of Independence says, as equals. That`s the first
thing that`s need in the war against poverty.
HAYES: Shriver created and led the Office of Economic Opportunity,
which oversaw a wealth of anti-poverty programs, including VISTA, Head
Start, which reached 3 million people in their first year, alone.
He had plenty of detractors.
BARRY GOLDWATER: The thing that I don`t like about this whole Johnson
approach to poverty, no matter how high incomes -- average income becomes,
there`s always going to be somebody below it and somebody above it. This
is, again, an attempt to divide Americans.
HAYES: Johnson would crush Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential
election. The following year, he would sign into law Medicare, Medicaid
and a major expansion of Social Security benefits. Thanks to the efforts
of Johnson and Shriver, as well as Robert Kennedy, news cameras began to
document the life people would long lack electricity, indoor plumbing.
Plight of the poor was thrust to the national spotlight.
It would not last. Johnson would eventually divert money and
attention away from the war on poverty, the war in Vietnam.
JOHNSON: Our nation, tonight, is engaged in a brutal and better
conflict in Vietnam. It just must be the center of our concern.
HAYES: Gradually, the very premise behind the war on poverty, the
notion that there`s something wrong with the country that leaves behind
millions of its citizens, started to seem impossibly alien. In the 1980s,
Johnson and Shriver`s historic effort had become an attack line for Ronald
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT: Some years ago, the federal
government declared war on poverty and poverty won.
HAYES: It`s a line that conservatives are still using today as they
seek further cuts to the social safety net. Detractors are quick to note
that the official poverty rate has only fallen four percentage points over
half a century.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: We have the 50th anniversary of the
war on poverty coming up next year but don`t have much to show for it.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: After 50 years, isn`t it time to
declare big government`s war on poverty a failure?
HAYES: It`s true there are over 10 million more people below the
poverty line than there were 50 years ago, but that`s because the war on
poverty failed. It`s because it didn`t go far enough.
In the decade of the war on poverty was launched, the poverty rate
fell from 19 percent down to 11 percent. And without government programs
like those put in place at the time, the poverty rate in America, today,
would be approaching 30 percent, almost double what it is today. But over
the last 50 years, Americans became more familiar with false claims that
poverty programs had failed and the very real struggles faced by the men
and women who simply could not make ends meet.
We decided to largely ignore the fact that there are 46.5 million
people in poverty today, close to one in six Americans, instead of treating
it as a national emergency. As a new report from Maria Shriver and the
Center for American Progress lays out, more than one in three adult
American women now live in or on the brink of poverty.
This is the face of poverty today, the face of America today. The war
that Lyndon Johnson and Sargent Shriver started half a century ago is
nowhere near over.
HAYES: Joining me now is Maria Shriver, whose father, Sargent
Shriver, led the war on poverty for President Lyndon Johnson.
What was your father`s vision for this program? It was his signature
accomplishment, I think next to the Peace Corps, and he threw everything he
had into it. What did he -- what did he want to see happen?
MARIA SHRIVER, NBC NEWS SPECIAL ANCHOR: Well, he threw his heart into
it. He threw his mind into it. He threw his soul into it. He threw his
spirit into it.
And thank you for correcting, because all week long I`ve been hearing
about why it was a big failure.
And so many of the programs, he was an early social innovator and he
approached it, I think, as a Catholic and someone who believed that we
couldn`t be a great nation if so many people in our nation were living in
poverty, couldn`t put food on the table, couldn`t make ends meet. And so,
he came up with programs like Head Start. He challenged the legal
profession to come up with legal services for the poor. He came up with
Job Corps and VISTA.
And so much of what he believed was that Americans who were doing well
could help Americans who weren`t doing well, and the government played a
role. But so did every profession.
HAYES: I think one of the things that`s been loss is the office for
economic opportunity, which he oversaw, was a very innovative, almost
entrepreneurial place. They were trying different little pilot programs in
different places. It was not this one-size-fits-all solution that it`s
become the caricature of what it was.
SHRIVER: No, as I said, he was a social innovator. He was -- he
brought people from journalism together with people from business, from
politics, from, you know, spiritual life. And he challenged them to think
outside the box. That`s how Head Start was born. And that was a two-
generational approach and we see some exciting things going on with two-
generational approaches today.
But he went and said to lawyers, look it, you`re doing really well,
let`s go out and help people who can`t afford a lawyer.
So, all of these things, job corps, he took from I think the Peace
Corps that people wanted to serve and people wanted to help and that`s what
was in the American spirit. And he challenged Americans from all walks of
life to help people who weren`t doing well.
HAYES: In 1967, Martin Luther King, Jr. goes to Riverside Church in
Manhattan and gives this very powerful condemnation of the Vietnam War.
There`s a section of the speech in which he says, I got -- I thought we
were going to have a war on poverty and watched the money move to Vietnam
in a society gone mad on war -- I believe was his phrase.
What did your father think of the shift of resources that happened in
the 1960s towards Vietnam?
SHRIVER: Well, I think he was frustrated as was everybody who worked
on the war on poverty in the Office of Economic Opportunity. But he didn`t
give up. He kept championing, trying to push Lyndon Johnson. But
obviously in the end, the war in Vietnam won out.
But I think Johnson, himself, was deeply disappointed. This was a
person who grew up poor, who understood and who felt that he wanted that to
be his signature piece and instead the other war took him out.
HAYES: There is something deeply tragic about that transition.
Joining us now, economist Betsey Stevenson, member of the Obama
administration`s Council of Economic Advisers.
And, Betsey, you, like Maria, I imagine have been hearing the rhetoric
of the war on poverty having failed. You`ve just done a report for the
White House about the war on poverty. What`s your response to this idea
that it failed?
BETSEY STEVENSON, COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: So, that`s exactly
the question we wanted to look at, was to see how government programs
affect poverty? And so, what we needed was a measure of poverty that
included the value of government programs, of taxes and benefits, transfers
and benefits. And we needed then to look at what would happen if we took
those -- the value of those programs out.
And what we saw is, perhaps, a little bit surprising. We found that -
- we haven`t made much progress, if you ignore all the government programs.
So if you just leave it to wages and earned income, there hasn`t been a ton
of progress made in the last 50 years. I think what we saw is that
education has definitely helped lift people out of poverty, but that`s been
fighting a headwind of rising inequality and eroding value of the minimum
Now, once we added in the government programs, things like EITC, SNAP,
and we found that we`d actually done a lot to reduce poverty, so poverty
over the last 50 years had fallen by nearly 40 percent.
SHRIVER: Betsey, I think the big question, today, is that people are
saying this is not the job of big government. You know, government
shouldn`t play a role. What do you think the president, because he`s
talking a lot about income inequality and economic mobility? What can he
do today that would bring government to the right place, that would enlist
business and individuals, themselves?
STEVENSON: Well, that`s obviously an important part of the things
that we want to do to fight poverty. You know, the first stop on that is
to raise the minimum wage, to something means that if you`re working full
time, full year, you can lift your family out of poverty. That`s why the
president endorsed raising the minimum wage.
But he`s also endorsed, you know, pushing people to get more
education, to get more skills and asking businesses to do more to make sure
that there are rungs on the ladder for their employees to climb, that they
can be getting the skills they need at work, learning more, getting those
promotions, building their skill set and moving up, because opportunity is
at the heart of what we`re trying to promote.
HAYES: Betsey Stevenson of the White House Council on Economic
Advisers -- thank you for your time.
STEVENSON: My pleasure.
HAYES: Ahead on the "50 Year War", we`ll talk about the millions of
Americans who are living on the brink, just one crisis away from poverty.
Stay with us.
HAYES: Welcome back to the "50 Year War." I`m joined tonight by
SHRIVER: And, Chris, the story of poverty in America today is not
just the story of the nearly 50 million people living below the federal
poverty line. It`s also about the Americans living on the brink -- just
one broken down car, one serious illness, one family emergency away from
Take a look at the new generation of Americans who are barely holding
CARIFA ABDUL, 34-YEAR-OLD: My 6-year-old, sometimes she tells me
she`s hungry and I have nothing to give her. It`s hard, you know, when you
don`t have enough mine to buy food for your kids.
SHRIVER (voice-over): In the 50 years since President Lyndon Johnson
declared a war on poverty in this country, the portrait of America`s poor
has been transformed. If you want to know what poverty in America looks
like today, take a look at this.
CRYSTAL DUPONT: I`m not able to cover my expenses totally. As far as
food expenses, I have to eat the same things every day to make sure that
I`m in my range.
SHRIVER: The face of poverty in America today is overwhelmingly the
face of a woman and the children who depend on her. More than 100 million
Americans are living on or over the brink of poverty, and nearly 70 percent
of them are women and children. That`s one in three women living at or
near the poverty level.
As the structure of the American family has evolved over the years to
depend on women working outside the home, women have remained more likely
to be their family`s primary caregiver.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I recently got a promotion to $8. I have three
kids and a husband, but with rent, with feeding kids, you know, somebody
got to go hungry, and sometimes it`s the parents.
SHRIVER: In the modern American workforce, women are heavily
concentrated in the lowest-wage professions, while women represent about
half the overall workforce, they make up almost 2/3 of minimum wage
TABITHA VERGES (ph): I, myself, make $120 a week. I don`t have
enough to even survive for the basic necessities in my household.
SHRIVER: And breaking out of the low-wage workforce can be especially
difficult for women with children.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I used to have to choose between going to school
and working. You know, at the end of the day, it`s I got to get my
education or feed my kids.
SHRIVER: But even college-educated women face a persistent wage gap.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Over the course of her
career, a working woman with a college degree will earn on average hundreds
of thousands of dollars less than a man who does the same work.
SHRIVER: In every discipline, women are graduating college and
entering the labor force making less than men with the same bachelor`s
degree. The last major overhaul of the social safety net, the welfare
reform movement of the 1990s, was built to help Americans fight their way
out of poverty.
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: Today, we`re taking an historic
chance to make welfare what it was meant to be, a second chance, not a way
SHRIVER: At that time, I profiled a woman trying to do just that.
NANCY PENN, UNEMPLOYED PUBLIC WORKER: I was in college and I had two
kids to take care of. I didn`t have any money left.
SHRIVER: Nancy firmly believes she made the right decision to go on
welfare and stay in school. She graduated with top honors from the
University of Wisconsin. She hopes her new diploma will be her ticket back
to a middle class life.
PENN: If that doesn`t work, I`m in trouble. I`m in trouble.
SHRIVER: Today, 15 years later, Nancy Penn, along with 42 million
women in America, are living on the brink.
SHRIVER: And joining us now is Nancy Penn, the woman you just saw in
the piece who I interviewed 15 years ago as she was trying to fight her way
out of poverty. She went back to school and she is here today. You did
kind of everything right and now you`ve been out of work two years.
What happened? What did you learn?
PENN: Well, I -- my education paid off. I was -- I was middle class.
I was paying my bills, and paying my taxes, and living the American dream.
But a couple years ago, I lost my job and unemployment ran out and I`m
spending my 401(k) money.
SHRIVER: And why can`t you get a job? Do you think it`s because of
your age? Or what do you think it is?
PENN: I think it has something to do with my age, but I also think
that employers are in a place where they can pick and choose who they want.
They can pick people who have every single thing on their wish list as for
SHRIVER: Do you think it`s because you`re a woman? Do they look at
you that you have children? Do they look at you -- do you think and say,
PENN: Sure. Sure. I think and say why. I think partly it`s my age
that, you know, they look at me with my 25 years of experience and think
they`re going to have to pay me premium dollars.
PENN: And --
HAYES: Let me ask you this. You`re someone who has -- who lived the
success story that was welfare reform.
HAYES: And like the war on poverty having failed, the success of
welfare reform is one of the things you hear. Having lived through that,
what to you say to people who say it was a success?
PENN: I say that that before welfare reform came into play, I could
go to school, I`d pay for my own education, but they`d give me some money
to live on.
And I ended up making, you know, upper middle class wages. So, it
And the more people we have making good money, the better our economy
is going to be.
HAYES: For a little more context, joining us Ai-Jen Poo, director of
the Domestic National Workers alliance, co-director of Caring Across
Generations Campaign. Ai-Jen has an essay in the Shriver Report.
And one of things you write about the way labor force has changed
since particularly the Welfare Reform Act was signed into law, in which
there`s an explosion in employment in what are known as the caring sectors
-- caring for children, caring for aging family members, and that that work
is dominated by women and also very low-wage work right now.
AI-JEN POO, NATIONAL DOMESTIC WORKERS ALLIANCES: That`s right. With
more and more women in the paid workforce, more than half the paid
workforce is women now. And with this incredible age wave that we`re
experiencing in this country, where 10,000 people were day, 4 million
people per year turn 65 and because of advances in health care, people are
living longer than ever. We have this huge and growing need for care on
both sides of the generational spectrum.
And so, it`s actually a huge opportunity to create jobs except for the
fact the jobs are poverty wage jobs and they`re really the jobs of the
future. I mean, home care is the fastest growing workforce in the country
right now because of this huge need. If we could figure out how to turn
these jobs into good jobs that you could take pride in and support your
family on, it could be game changing.
SHRIVER: How do we raise the wage that these women, primarily women,
get for taking care of our parents, our children, supporting the women who
go out to work?
POO: Well, we raise the minimum wage and we should really be thinking
about things like paid leave, right? The Family Act. Paid sick days. All
kinds of measures that really support both work and family -- a better
quality of life and more opportunity.
SHRIVER: Do you see the political will there? Do you see the will
amongst the people that you work with and the people who employ the people
you work with?
POO: I think more and more people are recognizing that the
experiences of working women are increasingly defining of the entire
economy and society. If we think about the fact that more than half of
college graduates are women, more than half of the electorate are women,
right, and women live longer than men, we`re a huge consumer force -- I
mean, really we`re not a special interest group. We`re really defining of
SHRIVER: I think people hear Nancy`s story and say, that could happen
to me. I`m middle class, upper middle class, doing really well. All of a
sudden I`m living off my 401(k).
HAYES: And I think like, what I`d like to hear from you is what do
you say to an economy to doesn`t have a place for you? As someone who can
work and has skills?
PENN: I don`t know what I can say to the economy. I can tell you I`m
not unique. That of the 13 people I know that are unemployed, of women
that are unemployed, 10 of those people are educated professionals with
lots of experience.
SHRIVER: And you`re living off your savings right now.
PENN: I`m living off my savings. I -- I hope that something opens up
for me. My fear is that I`ll spend down my 401(k) keeping my -- staying
alive and end up homeless.
HAYES: I think one of the things this gets to, Ai-Jen, is there are
these two sides, when we talk about poverty, when Betsey Stevenson was
talking about it. What the labor market is doing and what the safety net
And what I`m hearing from you and hearing what you, there`s stuff the
safety net could do. The ideal situation is a strong labor market that
pays people living wage, has full employment for people like Nancy that
could contribute before we get to safety net, right?
POO: Absolutely. We need both and. It`s a both/and situation.
HAYES: Nancy Penn and Ai-Jen Poo, thank you both.
SHRIVER: Thank you.
HAYES: Ahead on the "50 Year War", how a Texas state senator of epic
filibuster famed Wendy Davis` story fits in all of this. Maria had a
chance to visit her former home, and it`s not what you might expect.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHRIVER: You haven`t been back here since you lived here.
STATE SEN. WENDY DAVIS (D), TEXAS: That`s right.
SHRIVER: When you look at this place, what are you feeling right now?
DAVIS: A homecoming of sorts. Definitely. I`ve tried really hard
not to put this in the rearview mirror. I`ve tried to keep it present.
Just in terms of the work that I do making sure that my perspective is
never too far removed from this.
The hardest thing in the world is to be giving something your all and
it`s not good enough. And that`s what I was experiencing when I was living
here. I was giving it my all, working two jobs. And doing the best I
could. But this was the place that I came home to with the phone not
working from time to time, or the lights not working from time to time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Maria spent time with Texas state senator and gubernatorial
candidate, Wendy Davis, for a piece that`s set to air on Wednesday morning
the "Today" show. Davis has an incredible personal story that took her
from teen motherhood in the mobile home park you just saw to Harvard Law
School, Texas Senate and, perhaps, beyond.
For women facing poverty, Wendy Davis` story is the exception, not the
Joining us now, Shenita Simon-Toussant, shift supervisor at KFC,
Melissa Del Valle Ortiz (ph), a board member of the National Alliance for
HUD Tenants, and Mariana Chilton, an associate professor of public health
at Drexel University and a founder of Witness to Hunger.
Shenita, it`s great to have you back at this table.
SHENITA SIMON-TOUSSANT, SHIFT SUPERVISOR, KFC: Hi, nice to see you
again. Hi, Maria.
HAYES: OK. So, I think a lot of us feel, when we look at the story
of Wendy Davis and other people who have this classic story, they`re
toiling for low wages and they end up bettering themselves and have a big
success. When you look at your life, what are the obstacles from here to
there for you?
SIMON-TOUSSANT: The obstacle for me is, I don`t want to be on food
stamps. I don`t to be on welfare. That is not my goal. That is not my
hopes and dreams. That`s not what I want to teach my kids.
I want to teach my kids that, you know, nobody -- at the end of the
day, nobody`s going to give you nothing for free. You have to get up and
work for it. But I am getting up and working for it.
So, what do I get in return? I get the bare minimum. So, my
obstacles in front of me is, you know, simple things like feeding my kids.
Since I last saw you, I got approved for food stamp. So, thank God
for that. But what do I do from there? You know, what help is provided?
You know, what programs are out there?
You know, there needs to be some kind of Web site or some kind of
person on the street with a picket sign saying, we`re here to help you.
You know? When are we going to get that?
So, definitely my obstacles in front of me is just a struggle,
SHRIVER: There are so many misconceptions about women working -- I
mean, living on the brink. These are women that you were just saying they
don`t want to be there. They have dreams. They want to work. They are
working. If you had a moment to talk to the president, if you had a moment
to talk to Senate leaders and Congressional leaders, what would you tell
them that they could do now that would make a difference in your life?
MELISSA DEL VALLE ORTIZ, NATIONAL ALLIANCE OF HUD TENANTS: Wow, more
than anything, I think that they should absolutely restore the budget, the
full budget for affordable housing, subsidized housing. I think it`s
really, really critical. Across the United States, you don`t understand
how these families are struggling. The one thing that you need above all
else is a place to stay. That`s your source. That`s what grounds you and
allows you to go look for work, puts your kids to school. Decides where
you`re going to vote. Things like that. All those things are so critical.
So the most important thing for any family, especially struggling families,
right, is a place to live.
SHRIVER: Yes. And obviously a job and a living wage. So many people
have this idea that government programs aren`t helping people on the brink
and they just don`t need them.
MARIANA CHILTON, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF PUBLIC HEALTH, DREXEL
UNIVERSITY: Well, that couldn`t be further from the truth. I`ll tell you
about the food stamp program or SNAP. The food stamp program we know
through our research with children`s health watch, which is a multisite
study that looks at 60,000 families across country. We know that food
stamps actually prevent hospitalizations for young children.
We also know the WIC program, which is the women, infants and children
program is a nutrition program for pregnant moms and very young children.
We know that that promotes child development. So we have really beautiful
programs helping to buffer families through hard times and know actually
reduces health care costs and promote health.
HAYES: So when people say there`s been an explosion in food stamp
usage since the financial crisis in 2008 and this is some sign of something
broken or a lot of Americans suddenly decide to get super lazy, what do you
say? How do you explain the fact we now have so many more people on this
CHILTON: The increase in food stamp participation is actually an
example of our public assistance programs actually working. When the
economy goes down and people lose their jobs, they`re more eligible for
food stamps. The food stamp program has been extremely responsive,
thankfully during the economic downturn, and as now more jobs are coming
into the mainstream, food stamp participation will go down.
SHRIVER: There is a lot that government could do to modernize.
You`re saying there should be some help out there to modernize the programs
that do exist. So people spend so much time trying to find housing, trying
to sign up for programs, trying to go over here and get another program for
your child. What do you think would make a big difference? She said it`s
housing. What, for you, would make a difference tomorrow to help you get
TOUSSANT: Well, I think it`s not only housing. For example, there
are so many programs like ACS preventative programs, you know, programs out
there that say, OK, I see you, struggling with your children. I see you
struggling to feed your children, clothe your children. Simply, you know,
shelter over your children`s heads. Right now, I`m living with my mom
because I can`t afford to live on my own.
I`m married with three children. You know, raising my own family
under my mom household. Simple things like that. You know, programs that
would say, you know, I`m here to help you with, clothes, foods, you know,
simple things, the necessities.
HAYES: Can I ask you a question, Shenita? There`s been this conversation
about marriage, and marriage, poverty and the relationship between them. I
met your husband and kids last time you were in here. There`s this idea
like, you know, single women out there, if you just got married, that`s the
way out of poverty. What do you want to say about that?
TOUSSANT: Getting married, me and my husband joke about it all the
time. Getting married was such an economical downturn it`s like, simply
filing taxes is more expensive. You know, eating, clothing, shelter, it`s
more expensive because that`s just another body. You know? That`s another
add-on. You know?
Getting involved with this movement has really changed my life because
it gave me the courage to actually file again, because the first time they
actually closed my face and say, OK, you get paid too much money. You
know, the movement actually said, no, you know, you deserve better.
HAYES: You`re talking about the workers that you`ve been working with
in a fight for higher wage.
SHRIVER: Know that the polling in the "Shriver Report" said that
really the government should support families the way they are now.
There`s a difference often, you know, I think to shame women who are not in
marriages and who have left them because they were abusive or they didn`t
work isn`t really the answer.
HAYES: Why do you think that affordable housing doesn`t -- why does
it get left behind? We`ve seen a succession of cuts to them through the
ORTIZ: You know, I understand where the government is coming from.
There`s fraud, there`s this, there`s that. There`s a huge base of
residents that live there. You know, in my community, alone, we have only
400 units of housing left in Sunset Park in Brooklyn.
HAYES: In all of the neighborhood.
ORTIZ: For all of the neighborhood. Not for a long ways -- again,
not for another ways again and so it`s very important in our community
where people are living there and have been there for a long time that they
continue to stay.
HAYES: I think it highlights the fact that right now we also have a
mismatch in the way the economy works in terms of where jobs are created
and where affordable homes are made and sometimes engines of job creation
lead to places that are expensive. You have people paying 40 percent, 50
percent of their income for rent. Shenita Simon Toussant, Melissa Del
Valle Ortiz, and Mariana Chilton, thank you so much.
Coming up, in the 50 year war, we have a rare chance tonight to talk
to some people who are in a position to push through concrete solutions to
recommit the war on poverty.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The idea
that a child may never be able to escape that poverty because she lacks a
decent education, or health care, or a community that views her future as
their own? That should offend all of us and it should compel us to action.
We are a better country than this.
HAYES (voice-over): Right now, in America, we are in the midst of a
rare political moment. Politicians and the media are actually paying
attention to poverty.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The debate over how to help families in poverty
continues in Washington.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So why are so many poor Americans trapped at the
SENATOR HARRY REID (D), MAJORITY LEADER: The rich are getting a lot
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We should have done better than this. We can do
better than this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That is one in five of our kids in this country
live in poverty.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The 49.7 million Americans still live below the
HAYES: "Shriver Report" shows that there is widespread support for a
whole variety of initiatives that would make life better for people on the
bottom of the economic ladder especially women, 73 percent favor an
increased minimum wage, 77 percent favor aid for low income single mothers
who go to college, 90 percent favor ensuring that women get equal pay for
equal work. Politicians are talking about poverty, the media is covering
it, and people support an array of policies that would help. Big question
now is, what happens next?
SHRIVER: When we come back, we`re going to talk about what the future
holds for the war on poverty and who and what is standing in the way of
HAYES: We`re back. I`m Chris Hayes here with Maria Shriver.
Government cannot wave a magic wand and make poverty disappear tomorrow,
but there is a whole lot our government could do to improve the lives of
tens of millions of people especially women toiling in poverty.
Here to talk about a proactive agenda to do just that is New York
State Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. New York -- Senator Gillibrand, you have
a kind of platform that you`re pushing to deal precisely with this issue.
What is it?
SENATOR KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: A number of things. First,
we have to create workplace rules that actually reflect who`s in the
workplace. Almost half our workers today are women. Women are earning
more than half the college degrees, more than half the advanced degrees in
this country. So if we`re ever going to reach the full potential of this
country, we really have to tap into the full potential of women.
So something as simple as paid family medical leave. More often than
not when there`s a new baby in the family, a new infant, or an ill parent
or a dying family member, it`s the women who have to side track off their
careers to take care of the loved ones. We need to have paid family
medical leave. We need equal pay for equal work.
We need to make sure we raise the minimum wage as Maria noted in her
report, 2/3 of minimum wage earners are women, something as simple as
affordable day care or universal pre-k. You could make sure that women can
stay in the workplace longer, can actually reach their full earning
potential. Put more money back into the economy and help the economy grow.
SHRIVER: Senator, of all those things that you just outlined. All
are needed. In our poll, respondents said the thing that would make the
most difference to them was getting paid leave. Where do you see the most
movement of all those things you just talked about?
GILLIBRAND: Well, I think paid leave is something that really
resonates with all Americans because most of our families, today, are dual-
income families. If you had a block of ten families today, five out of ten
would have two parents working. Three out of ten would be single moms and
only two would be a mom staying home and a dad going to work. So most
American families know that they need flexibility.
They need that flexibility to care for their families, to be able to
be at home with an ill or dying parents, to be able to be at home when they
have the blessing of a new baby, if the women in their lives aren`t earning
the full potential, it`s going to be less money for share kids and less
money in the economy.
SHRIVER: You`re right. Americans say they know, but they say that
Washington doesn`t know and they can`t get the law passed. So tell them
why you know and how you`re going to fix it?
GILLIBRAND: Well, when the first time we had family medical leave, it
was a bipartisan solution, and today we just want to make sure it`s paid
leave. Because first of all, not that many workers are even eligible for
family medical leave. And also, most people can`t afford to take it. If
you say you`re not going to be paid during that time off, most people have
to pay their mortgage. They have to pay their rent. They have a car
payment. They can`t be unpaid.
So I think we can draw more members of Congress, Democrats and
Republicans, around this shared common value that we want our families to
be happy and healthy and well looked after. But we also want to make sure
the economy is growing. It`s better for businesses, too, if you could have
paid family medical leave because you invested in the employee.
If a woman needs time off and she can`t be accommodated because it`s
not paid, well, she may have to quit her job and that means you have to
hire and train someone new. It`s a wasted opportunity for that company not
to retain that original employee.
HAYES: Senator, before there`s even a space politically for a
proactive agenda like the one you`ve outlined, it seems to me that a lot of
people in Washington are forced to fight these rear-guard actions against a
lot of whittling stuff we have and know that works. There`s $40 billion in
food stamp cuts that are slated on the House side. There`s unemployment
extension that we have not seen. We`ve seen Medicaid expansion being
blocked in the states. I mean, how do you think about the kind of first
do-no-arm job of legislators in Washington on that score?
GILLIBRAND: Well, we have to keep making our case and food stamps is
the perfect example. I`ve never met a New Yorker who wants to be on food
stamps. The people on food stamps are providing for their kids because
their kids are going to bed hungry. It`s for seniors on fixed income who
don`t have enough food at the end of the month. It`s for veterans, even
active duty personnel. I don`t know why we`d be tightening our belts
around the waists of our children.
Of course, we can reduce the debt and deficit, but this is not place
to cut, equally important, unemployment insurance, that`s a safety net for
families who desperately need it. Nobody wants to be on unemployment.
They want to be working. And so, again, I think, unfortunately, Congress
gets these things wrong, and they have to start going home to their
districts and states and talking to real people.
HAYES: Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. Thank you so much.
GILLIBRAND: Thank you.
HAYES: Joining us now, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Democrat from
California, co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Out of Poverty
Caucus and Neera Tanden, the president of the Center for American Progress,
the think tank that partnered with the "Shriver`s Report."
Do you think that the conversation, the policy conversation in
Washington is too backwards focused in terms of fighting off these cuts and
too narrow in terms of how we`re thinking about solutions?
REPRESENTATIVE BARBARA LEE (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, Chris, we have to
play offense and defense. Last year, we celebrated 50 years of the war on
poverty. We had Linda Robb, Johnson Robb and she came and talked about how
Headstart, Job Corps, food stamps, Medicaid, how all these great
initiatives during her father and mother`s time were still appropriate
today and they were bipartisan.
And I have to say thank you, Maria, for continuing with the legacy
with your mother and your father because your father was the architect of
these great society programs. So we`re trying to preserve this right now
against these budget cuts and against this very backwards thinking with
regard to issues of income inequality and poverty reduction.
SHRIVER: Barbara, Neera, how do you think we bring, you know, bring
this down the line so to speak? Get some movement on this? We have a
moment here. There`s a lot going on, a lot of discussion, seems to be some
-- how do we take it across the goal line, as they say?
NEERA TANDEN, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Well, I think what`s very
interesting about this moment is actually how you`re seeing a bipartisan
interest in the conversation. Obviously there are different views about
solutions, but the fact that rising inequality is becoming something that
even Republicans are talking about. I think is really a demonstration of
what we`ve seen in the "Shriver Report" and the poll, itself, which is that
there`s bipartisan support for issues like paid leave, childcare, because
people recognize we`re in a new economy.
That people are working harder and their wages are down, and they need
more family support. That`s why I think some of the arguments in the past
about how we couldn`t afford to do these things are actually being
overcome, not by Democrats but by Republicans, too, recognize that we
actually are going to grow better when we invest in our families. And I
think that`s actually an important moment that we should recognize.
HAYES: We`re going to talk about some other solutions, one
innovative, one in particular in Boston that`s being tried. Stay with us.
We`ll be back.
SHRIVER: We are back, and still with us, Congressman Barbara Lee and
Neera Tanden. We`ve been talking about a proactive anti-poverty government
agenda might look like. There are also things that the private sector can
do in partnership with government to narrow the wage gap and lift millions
of Americans out of poverty.
Joining us to talk about that is Catherine, Cathy Minehan, who is
chair of the Boston Women`s Work Force Council, which is leading the effort
to make Boston the first city in the country to close the wage gap between
men and women. Welcome. Thank you for joining us.
CATHY MINEHAN, BOSTON WOMEN`S WORK FORCE COUNCIL: Thank you, Maria.
Congratulations on your report.
SHRIVER: Thank you so much. What you`re doing is really innovative.
For most people who don`t know about it, tell us what the Boston compact is
and what can other cities to do emulate it?
MINEHAN: As you indicated, the Boston compact is a private/public
partnership aimed at making the Boston metropolitan area the best area in
the United States for working women by closing the wage gap.
SHRIVER: How are you going to do that?
MINEHAN: It`s a simple process. The compact, itself, is a single
sheet of paper. On the front is the mission to make Boston the best place
in the U.S. for working women. A set of core beliefs, i.e., it makes sense
to care about your women employees and treat them well because they are a
predominant share of the workforce, highly educated people in Boston.
Young women highly educated in Boston.
The reverse of the compact is an agreement to do three things. The
first thing is, recognize if you have a problem. The second thing is use a
bunch of research that we`ve developed. We spent two, three months, a lot
of time and efforts pulling together all the research on what are the
things businesses can do if they see they have an issue of a wage gap
nature or of a workforce nature?
A whole bunch of different -- 33 different what we call interventions
and then the third agreement is that you will report every couple of years,
anonymously, the data about your workforce. We`re trying not to make this
a new data reporting requirement. We believe we can build on what
companies are already collecting and reporting. We`re going to do a
baseline report in 2014, and in 2016, we`re going to do a report that`s
going to show we`ve made progress on the wage gap.
HAYES: What`s interesting about this is, and this connects to the
family -- to paid family leave, higher minimum wage which is that local
governments, municipalities have been piloting a lot of different
solutions. There`s higher minimum wages in a bunch of different cities.
Something like the Boston compact. There`s paid leave in California, which
is one of two states. There are ways in which you can try things out at
the local level and get metrics for success that are very difficult to do
currently in Washington particularly.
MINEHAN: And we see this as a major moment in time because businesses
have recognized that they`re investing in women and the women are not
progressing in the way they want them to. So they see this as a win for
them to retain their best assets. It`s a win for women and it`s a win for
LEE: In the House, we have our initiative when women succeed, America
LEE: Has to do with pay equity, paid family leave, also access to
universal quality childcare.
LEE: We have to do this. I think we can do it both Democrats and
SHRIVER: Barbara, you`re from California. Paid leave has been a
LEE: There`s been a huge success for men and women and it helps
people move forward in terms of not only taking care of their families,
being off when children are born, to care for their elderly parents.
Economically, people don`t lose wages and the economy continues to benefit
as a result.
TANDEN: I think a really critical point here and one of the
distinctions is people in Boston, companies in Boston, recognizing that
their women workers are a real asset and want to invest in them in the long
term. One of the things you see even in the private sector, where
companies are adopting paid leave or providing assistance with health care
and other things, seeing your workers as a long-term asset to the company
and not a cost.
TANDEN: I think that`s the big distinction we have to make over the
long term, which is these are people you need to invest in because they`re
your human capital needs for the future, and they`re actually helping you
instead of always seeing these things as some kind of tradeoffs on the
bottom line. I think as we do that, you`ll see greater action by the
private sector, but hopefully we`ll see greater action by the sector to
support paid leave as a legislative item, childcare as a legislative item
to level the playing field for all workers.
HAYES: Let me say one of the things that hangs over this entire
conversation in this context, of course, is what Nancy was talking about,
which is the fact that we have a very slack labor market.
HAYES: Very long unemployment for a very long period of time and the
relative power between people seeking jobs and people doing the hiring is
out of skew in that environment. There`s a surplus of labor.
MINEHAN: The best labor force participants we have are women.
They`re more highly educated, better trained. Those are the people
business should be going after.
LEE: Sure, and also women constitute the majority of low-wage
workers. When you look at women of color, they`re the majority of low-wage
workers. So we have to factor in a whole racial equity piece when we talk
about gender equity and --
SHRIVER: "Shriver Report."
HAYES: You can go download the "Shriver Report" online.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Neera Tanden and Cathy Minehan. Thank you.
That is the special edition of ALL IN. I`d like to thank Maria Shriver for
being here with us tonight. For more information you can download the
"Shriver Report" for free at shriverreport.org.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>