tv Washington Journal Suarez Quart CSPAN October 30, 2021 3:51am-4:34am EDT
>> "washington journal" continues. host: we are joined by guests that take a look at the topic of economic hardships in the united states. ray suarez is the host of the [booing] -- host of the "going for broke" podcast and alissa quart. thank you both for giving us your time this warning. guest: good to be with you. host: we have a lot of podcasts these days. i want to you to express in your own words what the purpose of this process is. guest: we as a group with the economic hardship reporting project took a look at a lot of
the journalism going on about america's economic challenges. the economic challenges of everyday americans. there's not a lot of good coverage where people who are struggling with the current situation get to talk about themselves and their own lives. they get talked about, analyze, and observed that rarely given the privilege of self-definition, to tell their own stories. going for broke takes a look at some of the severe downward mobility that a lot of workers have experienced in recent months and years and gives them the chance to explain to an audience what that is like, what it involves, in the workplace, trying to make ends meat, trying to make three weeks of money last tilde end of the month. the economic reporting project, i will let alissa say more about it, but it had a pool of
wonderful storytellers able to tell very finely observed stories about what it has been like getting through pandemic times. host: miss quart, i will let you take it up there on not only what he said but what the project is. guest: the project started in 2012 with the -- deciding that she did not want only the rich to write about poverty. she started this organization that let working-class and middle-class tell their own story. we have now gotten almost 1000 film makers and writers and photographers writing up and down from the richest to the poorest. i was realizing in the course of all of these years running this organization that we had these amazing stories. i wanted ticket what they sounded like. that is why i decided to do
going for broke because i thought i want to hear what the grocery store worker, while her colleagues are chasing shoplifters in the store, what it is like in the store. i want to hear what it is like with the stories of the person who is being evicted. i also wanted to hear ray's story and he tells his own story and the podcast. host: how do you find these people to talk to? how do you get people to tell you their stories? guest: we find them in a range of ways. they come to us and we are at economichardship.org. we have an address where you can send an pages. a lot of people came straight from the flush pile. that is what they call it in the business. then we find people from things like twitter storms or mass tweets. i will look on the tweets of veterans who are tweeting and look for really good writers on their or -- on there or small journals like blog sort of things.
who is writing about their experience on income inequality firsthand? then there are a ton of layoffs. unfortunately, there is a shortage. there's a lot of hedge fund type buying up newspapers, trying to turn more than 20% profit on them who have laid off their experienced reporters in different parts of the country. some of the people come to us. host: mr. suarez, being a broadcaster yourself, you are on one side of the mic and are pulled into this podcast and find yourself as the subject of one of the stories. guest: that was not the easiest thing in the world to do. for a long time, -- for a long reporter, the capital i key on your laptop is not when you use a lot in the course of the stories you tell. but i had experienced lengthy unemployment and also challenges with my health and the confluence of those two created hard times and i had to
come from behind and remove that reporters often work out, arms, and talk about my own life. i think it is a good episode so i guess it worked out but alissa had to work on me a bit. host: when you made that decision, was it something you did knowingly or did you come hesitantly to the idea guest: i had to think about it -- idea? guest: i had to think about it because it did not come naturally to me. i think there are so many career workers in their late 50's and early 60's who are experiencing the downdrafts of the labor market. when things get tough for man, the data tell a very discouraging story. there you are trying to prepare for retirement, take care of the obligations that remain during your working life, and incomes decline, tenure and jobs declined so you are cycling through jobs more quickly and it takes you longer once you are in your 60's to find the next one. i didn't tell my own story as
much as telling it from the vantage point of a man in that time of life and what we are all experiencing. host: i want to invite the audience in to ask questions and tell their own stories as we go throughout the rest of this segment until 10:00. if you want to ask our guest questions, we have divided the phone lines differently. if you are unemployed, call us at (202) 748-8000. if you would define yourself as underemployed, (202) 748-8001. for those of you who are employed, you want to give a story as well, one that takes a look at in the united states, (202) 748-8002. you can also text us at (202) 748-8003. alissa quart, you probably hear a lot of stories. the common themes through the stories, what would you say they are? guest: i think the common themes are first of all people who blame themselves for the condition they found himself in. we have a society that is very
unforgiving to people who have economic struggle. i see a lot of that. i see a lot of self blame in people who tell their stories. i also see a lot of little things that could be done differently. we have a contributor whose mother could not afford hearing aids on medicare and i think this is common in a lot of different programs. a lot of health insurances do not cover hearing aids. that little fix would make a huge difference. she would have been able to communicate with her mother during covid. those smaller things that when you live closer to the ground, closer to economic struggle, you just have your finger on the pulse of these experiences. that is part of what we are trying to capture. like fireflies, how do we capture that suffering, that struggle, and get it out? we copublished that with the washington post, and i so recently that some policy on hearing aids is starting to change. guest: mr. swat --
host: mr. suarez, same question to you. guest: the stories that emerge from our chapters tried to give a fleshed outlook at what is going on -- fleshed out look at what is going on. one of our writers became homeless and tells a searing story about the difficulties of getting a good night sleep and how that works against you trying to get re-housed. one person put themselves through college with hopes of making a career in colleges and universities as an instructor about the academic market exploded and fell apart after the 2008-2009 recession. now that person works behind the register at a supermarket. one of our contributors was a star reporter for one of america's great old newspapers. the san francisco chronicle. it ended up having to tend bar,
drive mover -- he happened to have to tend bar, drive uber, and the newspapers caught him even though he was a senior veteran member of his paper's staff. so the stories are in there as individuals as a thumbprint but talking about some of the challenges individual workers face. host: when it comes to the format of the program, is it straight interview? how does it work and how do you put stories together? guest: it is a mixture of atmospherics. we visited washington heights, the neighborhood in the northwest side of manhattan island with the daughter of dominican immigrants who talks about where she grew up. it is a chapter on administrative burden, how there are challenges for people who are not english proficient have
to fall somewhere and she became in effect her parents'social worker as she was trying to get benefits. one of our chapters talk about how difficult it is to go to the bathroom when you are living on the street and some of the stratification's, the layer is that show up among working-class service employees when challenges come up. there is a serious policy in a lot of them. we go to the world these workers inhabit and also we talk to experts who can talk about how we could redesign some of these challenges and make these peoples' lives better. some of the problems in the design of where homeless people sleep and how paradoxically it works against them getting rehoused. so some really meaty policy
questions and there but also moving first-person stories and serious exposing tori writing -- exposatory writing on the challenges they live with everyday. host: we are going for broke and, alissa quart, i should also add nation magazine as a participant if i understand it correctly in this project. guest: our partner. guest: yes. our partner. host: this is frank in west virginia, considering himself underemployed. thank you for calling and go ahead with your question or comments. caller: in this infrastructure, why don't they let the american people vote on it? in north carolina and places like that, there are buildings down that are abandoned that used to be clothing factories and factories that we made here in the united states.
congress goes in there and they bid on whatever they want and they do not ask the american people what they want or need. host: that is frank in west virginia. i suppose as a host and producer of these programs, one of the themes his i had a vision of the certain industry. that went away and now i have to do something else. guest: yeah. that is the story we hear over and over again in our show. just because things went away does not mean there is not hope as pointed out. we do have stories of people who have found second and third chapters. they are not quite as exalted as the earlier time in their life but they are back on their feet. we see that again and again where these massive transitions have changed -- one of the subjects of our show, i called him the forrest gump of the american experience because he was a different -- in different places from being laid off to
being an uber driver and working in a strip club. these are the cycles people are going through. they are not staying with one job for their entire career. host: in this case, this happened personally directly to you. guest: yeah. i have had to reinvent myself and i am now self-employed. in part because a lot of the places that reached out to me after my last employer went belly up declared bankrupt, went out of business and paid off all of its workers, they just stopped calling back. they ghosted me. they acted as if they had never spoken to me in the first place. it happens. i make a living and i do ok but i have had to reinvent the way i work and who i work for. but those mills he is talking about, in a lot of cases, it would not just be a question of walking in, bringing in workforce and turning on the lights and going back to work. the equipment in those mils was dismantled and shipped to other places in the world where they are making t-shirts and cloth and toys and other things.
it would take some time to readjust the last 40 years of reengineering the american economy and off shoring those jobs to get them back in places like west virginia and north carolina. host: from monica in california, kentucky who is unemployed. monica, hello. caller: good morning. thank you for taking my call. i am in a little bit of a different situation that i have no job. i have an adult child living at home with a grandchild because the economy is in the toilet. i have spent the last 3.5 years living in another state taking care of my grandson while my son served active-duty military. and it is really busy. the money financial situation, we are struggling.
everybody says now hiring, now hiring, but there is low wages, despite everybody saying come work for us, we will pay you more, that is not the reality we are seeing here. it is really tough, and trying to reinvent yourself when you do not have the money to put on your boots because you don't have boots to put on. that is where i am. host: monica, appreciate your story. mr. suarez, if you want to respond. guest: childcare in the united states is a crisis. if people are reluctant to go back to the workforce, or simply the numbers do not work when you write down what you will make friday versus what you will spend getting your kids taken care of, what is the incentive to go back to work? some people mocked the idea that childcare was in an infrastructure bill when the first version of the biden plan rolled out.
it is a crisis. affordable childcare is distorting -- the lack of it is distorting the economy. it is distorting people's desire to go back to work. it is a big problem and one we are not addressing. guest: i found when i was reporting my last squeeze where families cannot afford america, that middle-class life in the last 20 years has -- the cost of it has increased by 30%. that is costs. and i also think with childcare in particular, we have a nonsystem. we have a non-childcare system. the caller has other kinds of people they're responsible as well. that is why think these childcare credits should remain permanent. a care oriented universal basic income to help people either care for disabled loved ones, care for elderly, and care for kids.
right now, what i think we are seeing with the biden administration, even if this does not get through the bill that is so stymied, what has happened is a window has opened. there is a window in which people are not going to be laying back and saying paid family leave is an impossibility, childcare is an impossibility. i think that has been accomplished in the last year or so or two years, there is a recognition that we need these things as citizens. i say to the caller and i kudos to her for doing this work. host: this is monica in kentucky and finds herself unemployed. caller: i just told you everything. host: i apologize for that. let's hear from shawn in california that considers himself underemployed. good morning. caller: good morning, pedro. and the panel. i was laughing about the kentucky color because you still
-- caller because you still had her on. i was so compassionate about your kentucky caller. it touched me heart -- my heart because there are some any americans that are going through tough things. for my own personal life, i am underemployed. i have received my masters degree back in 2015 and i was not able to find a job after that. so i went back to one of my own fields in health care. i did that for $10.50 an hour with a masters degree in california, still trying to pay my bills. i work now in a case management position, which i'm still totally underpaid and under positioned. during the pandemic, i have been going through it a lot and hanging in there as an american. i have to still go to work, i
had to be mandated to be vaccinated, which was fine. i just want to be a part of the help. and i had to pay the federal government $1360. when i hear a lot of people going through things, i say to myself, they are going through more than what i'm going through, maybe this bill will have something for me down the line, but i do not see anything in the bill for what i call people like me, the lost population or forgotten population. i just wanted to voice my opinion a little and hopefully we will have something better and also i think we need more in that bill, more than $3.5 trillion, we need in the trillions of dollars to help us what -- us for what we have been going through. host: sean in california. thank you for the call.
ray suarez, you can start. -- alissa quart, you can start. guest: i would like to ask questions, what are things helpful to you? host: the caller has gone. apologies. [laughter] i will try to leave them on in the future. guest: just a common thing in the show, a number of people have secondary degrees and this is something ray and i talk about a lot, that that has become actually not the second act people are hoping for and it is sometimes the source is dead and anxiety where people are now getting these masters and certificates and these cooking diplomas and they cannot get second jobs. that sounds like the caller there has fallen into what i call the precarious middle-class and they are growing in this country. i know maybe ray has other thoughts about this. guest: she mentioned home health
care work, and that is consistently some of the lowest paid work in america, which meshes badly with that we are in the middle of a title wave of demographic change. we have one of the largest generations in american history moving into its late 60's and 70's, and soon, the 80's. yet we have not worked out a system where people can age in place and get the help they need at home without being institutionalized. home health care, which can be an early warning system to serious health problems, can be an early warning system to keep people out of nursing homes, keep people out of hospitals, thus saving society billions of dollars. we pay those people who do this critical work. what did she mention? $10.50 an hour which does not amount to much. the burden of this work incidentally falls
disproportionately heavily on women and immigrants. host: while we have you here, because you are a longtime observer of washington and particular what has played out over the past weeks and months over the bill back better agenda, you have seen a lot of this go on -- how does this compare to other efforts by democratic presidents to pass initiatives? guest: this one is stuffed with a lot of different moving parts, which gives legislators on capitol hill the opportunity to pick off pet peeves and because congress is so divided and because the republicans are refusing to give any help on passing anything, it falls on a divided democratic caucus, which is why really there has been so much paralysis around getting these initiatives passed. in the old days, you would find complementary members who had interests that were included in
a big bill like this who would trade off their vote to either sweeten something they wanted or get something they did not want removed and thereby you would win their vote. there is none of that anymore. because you have 50 republican senators who simply will not vote for the bill under any circumstances, which means it falls entirely to democrats, an odd situation, and because there is divisions in any big caucus, you get this kind of odd situation with a democratic senate, a democratic house, and a democratic oval office unable to move democratic legislation. host: what do you think about the power of progressives and they have paid on not only senate but on the house side over this process? guest: i think as alissa mentioned, the fact where having any of these conversation -- in the old days, any infrastructure bill that mentioned human
infrastructure, investing in education or investing in care for seniors and childcare would have been simply not even made it into the proposal stage. this one has gotten pretty far down the road before people started to pick it apart. i think our ideas about what infrastructure consists of have to broaden a little bit. we have to live in this country. in order to live, we need things that answer different parts of our common lives. the fact we have to do it in legislation is not because people are dying to have government pay for everything, it is that our private lives have not offered a solution. the reason that home health care workers are so poorly paid and have such a critical job is not because there is a system that decided this, it is in the face of there being no system, which is what we are dealing with now. host: alissa quart. guest: that is absolutely right.
the human infrastructure, the care of economy, or whatever you have it, the fact that is given space, even though it will need a granite wall of republican opposition and turncoat democrat opposition, i think we need to keep our eye on that. i'm not sure how long ago but hillary clinton said about paid family leave, we are not ready for that. when he asked her about that. this is happening in the near 10 years, this transformation of the understanding that america should look like other developed nations in the world that has some kind of structure. it has given me hope, the level in which the progressives were able to get their messaging out there and sort of influence in terms of language and i think human infrastructure was originally an bernie sanders, who is in my book too, but it was a term bernie sanders used.
i think these are the ways we are going to lead to change. it might not happen this time but it will happen next time. host: the podcast is going for broke and we are joined by ray suarez and also alissa quart of the economic hardship reporting project. michael in richmond, indiana. you are on on our unemployed line. caller: yes, sir. i just recently got awarded disability in june of this year, i am 52 years old and i cannot work anymore. the job i was at, the guy did not take out taxes anyway, so it has been a hardship. my wife is 72 and she is in bad health, knee replacements, everything else, getting ready to go in for another one. they put me on medicare and i am starting to get all of these bills in here. the money that we give them, they cut her all the way down to $120. i called my bank this morning and we got six dollars in there.
and they owe me over $14,000. i have been trying to get it. they said you will get it after your first social security payment. i called yesterday, and it has been five months. they said i would have to wait another month. i do not understand the concept of our leaders wanting to hand out all of these money to all of these people. we have worked our whole lives and paid into this. what would you do if you went to your bank and said i needed $500 and they said well you better get a lawyer and fill out this piece of paper? you would close the account and get rid of the bank. that is our money. when we cannot work anymore, we depend on edge. host: that is michael in indiana telling us his story. mr. suarez. guest: a lot of people, when they're asked by public opinion researchers, how long do you want to work? they will give a number, and age , but -- an age, but the
majority of americans do not work until the age they planned. there are various reasons why, often illness and truths, often chronic pain that comes from their own working lives, shoulders that ache, backs in constant pain, knees that give out. we have any idea that we have to work longer in order to support ourselves in the life that is left after full-time work, but the mechanics of the systems we have set up to do that, as we heard from our caller in indiana, they do not often serve us well. disability is something that is resorted to by a lot of -- especially men -- across much of the country that has been dein dustrialized. there is a broad swath of south into the midwest where the primary employer is gone and a large share of the men, older men in the working population,
are on disability. we do not treat chronic pain well. we keep coming up with white-collar middle-class answers to blue-collar problems. so we say how will we make social security last longer? it looks like it will only be able to pay $.75 on the dollar in the mid-2000 20's and mid 2000 30's. the bland answer is we will have to tell people they have to work longer. that is not an answer. when you get out of bed in the morning, your shoulders ache, your back aches, and your knees are killing you. the idea that let have you work another four years or five years , not an answer for everybody. guest: there's a difference between working to live and dying to work. that is part of what ray is talking about where we deny people's bodies and the natural organic process of aging when we are asking them to continue to
be economically productive citizens. i was also thinking back to our show when i heard you talking about the form because we have a whole show called administrative burden where one of the subjects of our show was having trouble getting unemployment money for her father and he could not fill out the forms. he was not a native english speaker. so the whole level of complexity, what we discovered when doing the show, was a lot of the burdens were put in place to make it harder for people to get the money. so it's not an accident that many of these mechanisms, the caller mentioned medicare but there are other mechanisms especially targeted at lower income people, that the forms are really onerous and are there to make it harder. there is a whole historical tradition going back to the 1930's to where you create a welfare state but made it difficult for the people to obtain the goods they were
deserved. so that really interested me, that particular episode. you too, ray, right? guest: a lot of this is done out of contempt. a lot of it is done out of condescension, and a lot of it is done out of the sense that when you sit in the state capital and vote to approve a program, since we are "giving you" this money, we are going to make it hard for you to get it. if you want it, you will work hard enough to get it. it is maddening. host: ray suarez and alissa quart are our guests for the next couple minutes. at 10:00 today, we will take you to a hearing featuring the special inspector general for afghanistan talking about his suppressions, in light of recent events in afghanistan. he has been a frequent guest on our program but that starts at 10:00. you can see on c-span, c-span.org, follow along on the c-span now app. we go to danny in arizona who
considers himself underemployed. thank you for calling and go ahead. caller: good morning, pedro, and thank you for taking my call. i have a couple points here. for one, i am a retired guy. ok, i cannot afford to have an mri for micronic back pain -- my chronic back pain but these illegal aliens can come in and joe was thinking about giving them $450,000 each. where's is the justice in that? it does not make any sense. joe and the democrats are running this country into the toilet. that is my point. thank you, sir. host: i will let either of you start with that if you wish. guest: no one would be more surprised than undocumented people that they are about to get $450,000 each. that is simply not happening. guest: that's not happening. guest: i don't know if i can elaborate on that anymore. that is not happening. that does not exist. host: let's go to our next
caller, larry, in tennessee. caller: good morning, sir. just a comment. i think a very large portion of our problems in the economy is our trade policy. and it has been for probably two decades. the one that really stands out is the fact that our trade policy with china. corporate america is the real problem. we continue to kick that around like china is a bad situation with us. it is not china, it is corporate america. we made the trade policies, and that is why we have a substantial amount of unemployment in this country. it is our legislative bodies along with corporate america. it is very problematic. host: thank you, caller. ms. quart, go ahead. guest: they are not wrong.
starting in nafta or before and after, we have had trade policies that have not benefited american workers. we tend to indeed demonize other nations when we should be looking at the corporate sector that is benefiting most from getting companies sending them to mexico and business in china and not keeping as much business as possible here. he is not wrong. host: as far as the trend you have probably seen reported on because of covid, people willing to leave jobs they have to go to better paying jobs or being able to maybe now ask a better rate because employers are -- how does that factor into the reporting on this and the stories you tell? guest: you mean the fact that there his now -- there is now this great resignation what they are calling it? host: correct? guest: i think the great resignation is showing -- it is another way workers are showing resistance. they say this is a terrible job,
especially in gig workers other professions, people are not protected, especially special orders. it is hard to forget that. it is hard to say i want to go back and earn even $15 an hour or $20 an hour when i was exposed by my employer. i think you're seeing people who got cynical about the whole employment situation here and they know that they are in the driver's seat. i think it is good in a sense that it is putting employers on warning and raising wages. host: mr. suarez? guest: before the pandemic, you could look at a newspaper or turn on your local tv news and see an employer that had listed 45 to 50 jobs with a line of 800 people stretching out from their front door in order to apply. that was a sign of a certain kind of need. what we are seeing now with them having to up the ante and also
address the conditions is a different kind of power dynamic. so yeah, people are realizing that job is going to have to be a better job in order for me to give my life to it. the power dynamic between employers and workers has not changed entirely, but if there is a couple more chips on the employee's side of the table, maybe that is not a bad thing. host: our guests are with us for a few more minutes. this is romney in texas on our employed line. hello. caller: hello. this is one of the most ridiculous conversations i've ever heard in my entire life. you are responsible for your children, you are responsible for your bills, you are responsible for everything you do in life. i live in an area where people are selling their homes because they cannot afford their house payment because they are living beyond their means.
there are some any things to cover on this. it is ridiculous. as soon as people realize that if we become more responsible we will have less problems. you are talking about giving up -- giving people an income, talking about free health care. your health is your responsibility. all of these are your responsibility. you need to own up to them. if you'd cannot afford something, you don't buy it. i drive a 2011 pickup truck because i do not need to buy a new one. guest: would you say that if you cannot afford to have cancer, you shouldn't get cancer? would you submit that? caller: no. see, you're going to the extreme. guest: that's not an extreme, that is a common experience in people's lives. caller: my dad had cancer and he didn't pass away because he could not pay his bills. he had a job where he had health care. i am self-employed. i buy my own insurance.
i go out and if i do not sell, i do not eat. i have been working my whole life since i was 13 years old. i have never had an issue because i have always been able to live within my means. host: you made that point already so we will leave it there and let our guests respond. mr. suarez, you can go first. guest: yes, people should not live beyond their means and they should be careful about their finances. but some of the people that we are talking to in our series, they did not do anything wrong, they did not do anything irresponsible, they just felt the downdrafts and declines in the economy in a way that left them having to cope with downward mobility. they are doing it. listen to the series. not saying people are not responsible or should not be responsible for their lives. we are saying the structures that surround us, to cope with some of these things, should work better for the people that they are established to work for.
i think that is a pretty basic, simple proposition. if you are paying a third of your income in taxes, that is something you as a consumer should want as well. host: alissa quart. guest: you will see when you listen to going for broke, which you should subscribe to, is each one of the subjects have one bad thing that happened. i think the caller has lack of empathy really for this fact that in human experience, people get sick. people have mental illness, people lose their job, people have nasty divorces. people can't get a job. there's a whole set of things that can go wrong, and that is usually just one big thing, that cascades into many little things. also how we can get back out of it. we don't want to give handouts. we want to see redesigning innovation keeping people from