tv PBS News Hour PBS July 13, 2021 3:00pm-4:01pm PDT
captioning sponsored by newshour productions, llc >> woodruff: good evening, i'm judy woodruff. on the newshour tonight, the fight to vote-- texas democrats leave the state to block republicans from passing a restrictive new voting law. then, western wildfires-- authorities struggle to contain blazes burning across ten states as the region grapples with ongoing drought and heat waves. and, raising the future-- we examine the causes of the high cost for parents and the low wages for workers in this country's increasingly unequal child care system. >> we know if you can't access child care, the impact that has on your ability to work, you may not work at all. you may have to reduce your earning. >> woodruff: all that and more on tonight's pbs newshour.
>> the john s. and james l. knight foundation. fostering informed and engaged communities. more at kf.org. >> and with the ongoing support of these institutions: and individuals. >> this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> woodruff: the battle for ballot access dominates the headlines tonight. president biden has condemned republicans in charge of state governments that are imposing restrictions.
it was that sort of bill that prompted democratic lawmakers to walk out of the texas legislature on monday. after traveling to washington, they pushed today for voting protections. we'll explore all of this, after the news summary. the white house is also watching inflation, including today's report that consumer prices spiked in june. the gain from may was nearly a full percentage point. year to year, prices rose nearly 5.5%; the most in 13 years. the federal reserve and the white house say they expect the surge to be temporary. there's fresh evidence that covid-19 infections in the u.s. are rising again. new numbers show 24,000 cases reported nationally on monday, double the daily total of three weeks ago. the peak, back in january, was a quarter million cases a day. a fire swept through a covid hospital ward in iraq overnight.
the state news agency says 92 people were killed in nasiriyah, with more than 100 injured. nick schifrin reports. >> schifrin: today all that's left of the hospital built to keep people alive is a site of mass death. dozens of families lost loved ones. their caskets became a solemn procession. iraqi officials say the fire likely started when faulty wiring sparked, and an oxygen tank exploded. firefighters tried to put out the blaze using cell phone flashlights because there was no electricity. they were too late. the bodies lined up, row after row. and the grief, unspeakable. >> ( translated ): the catastrophe that occurred tonight in hussein hospital, the quarantine hospital, is a tragedy, for which there are no words. >> schifrin: but the tears are tainted with fury. >> ( translated ): t whole state has collapsed, and who has paid the price? the people inside here.
these people have paid the price. >> schifrin: for years iraq's health care system has suffered corruption and mismanagement. a medic said the hospital lacked basic safety measures like a sprinkler system and fire extinguisher. and the construction was shoddy, with flammable, thin materials. in april, another 82 people died in a hospital in baghdad after an oxygen tank exploded. >> ( translated ): we've become scared to go to hospitals. why? because of their corruption and tyranny. >> schifrin: and a covid surge is straining a weak system. only 2.5% of the population is vaccinated. iraq's government launched an investigation, and arrested hospital and local health officials. but it's little solace for relatives, who say this tragedy, was preventable. for the pbs newshour, i'm nick schifrin. woodruff: the search for bodies in a collapsed condo tower in south florida is winding down, with the confirmed death toll now at 95. local officials said today that 14 people are still listed as missing.
the number includes 10 bodies that have been recovered, but not yet identified. in south africa, authorities say 72 people have died in rioting by supporters of a former president. police and troop patrolled today around sites that had been looted. the unrest swept poor sections of two provinces, with hundreds arrested. it started after jacob zuma was jailed last week. he had refused to testify about corruption during his time as president. the u.n. refugee agency warned today that afghanistan is facing a humanitarian crisis as u.s. forces leave and taliban fighters gain ground. at the same time, the afghan gornment estimated more than 5600 families have fled homes in northern afghanistan in recent days. the refugees say they had no choice. >> ( translated ): the government withdrew from districts without any planning and strategy and left areas
under the control of taliban. when all this happened, we had to leave our villages, because the taliban could easily kill anyone they wanted. >> woodruff: also today, it was widely reported that a senior afghan delegation will fly to qatar, trying to jump-start stalled peace talks with the taliban. the biden administration intensified warngs to businesses today about forced labor in china's xinjiang region. the u.s. and others ha charged that muslim uighurs in xinjiang are sent to labor camps and subject to other abuses. today's warning says companies with supply chains and investments in the region could violate u.s. law. record heat across the western u.s. has eased slightly, but dozens of wildfires raged on today. more than 60 fires are burning across 10 states, fueled by hot, dry conditions. we'll focus on the largest one, now burning in southwestern oregon, later in the program.
president biden is nominating the former health commissioner of west virginia to be the nation's top anti-drug official. the white house says dr. rahul gupta would be the first physician to serve as drug czar if the u.s. senate confirms him. on wall street today, the dow jones industrial average lost 107 points to close at 34,888. the nasdaq fell 55 points. the s&p 500 slipped 15. and, the emmys made some history today. m.j. rodriguez, of the fx series "pose," became the first transgender woman nominated for a lead acting role. overall, "the crown" on netflix and "the mandalorian" on disney- plus tied with 24 nominations apiece. winners will be announced in september. still to come on the newshour: on the ground as the west fights raging wildfires. a new book uncovers turmoil and
chaos in the trump white house. we explore the u.s.' increasingly unequal child care system. plus, a new exhibit displays one artist's interrogation of the confederate flag. >> woodruff: texas lawmakers fighting against a restrictive voting bill took their case to washington today. as president biden made his push for strengthening voting rights laws nationwide. yamiche alcindor talks to leaders on both sides of the issue. but first, lisa desjardins gets us up to speed. >> desjardins: for texas democrats, a very public get away. >> we are not going to buckle to the big lie in the state of texas. >> desjardins: more than 50
democratic state lawmakers are now in washington, d.c., after fleeing austin on late-night planes to take a stand on voting laws. their exit left republicans in the texas house gaveling without the minimum quorum of people present, unable to take a vote on new election laws they say increase security but which democrats insist amount to suppression. in the current texas proposal: bans on 24-hour and drive-thru voting, new i.d. requirements for mail-in ballots, and more access for partisan poll watchers during counting. republican governor greg abbott pushed back. >> anyone who suggests this deprives anybody of the right to vote is simply flat out wrong. >> desjardins: republicans in the partially empty chamber said democrats are playing politics. >> if a quorum is not present, can those of us who have stayed in the capitol to do the jobs we were elected to do take up bills on the floor? are we able to take those issues up while the democrats are in washington, d.c.?
>> desjardins: the g.o.p. has the votes to get the bill to abbott's desk. but democrats have blocked it so far with dramatic procedural moves, like walking out in the final moments of may's regular session to deny a quorum then. that led to the current, special session. democrats admit this is not a long-term solution. >> we can't hold this tide back forever. we're buying some time. we need congress and all of our federal leaders to use that time wisely. >> desjardins: they say the “for the people act” could block some of the ideas in the texas bill. >> texas democrats will use everything in our power to fight back. but we need congress to act now. >> desjardins: but democrats in congress don't have a clear path for that yet. leaving the president's voice as one of the most direct tools for their party. and today he used it. >> we're facing the most significant test of our democracy since the civil war.
i'm not saying this to alarm you. i'm saying this because you should be alarmed. i'm also saying this: there's good news. it doesn't have to be this way. it doesn't have to be, for real. we have the means, just need the will. >> desjardins: speaking in philadelphia, president joe biden gave a sweeping speech saying the right to vote is a patriotic cause. he charged that current republican proposals are blatant racial suppression. >> the 21st century jim crow assault is real. it's unrelenting. and we're going to challenge it vigorously. >> desjardins: back in texas, abbott says he's had enough of democrats' tactics. >> as soon as they come back into the state of texas, they will be arrested. they will be cabined inside the texas capitol until they get their job done. >> desjardins: lone star democrats have promised to stay away until at least the end of this special session, which wraps august 7. but at that point, republicans can just call another one.
for the pbs newshour, i'm lisa desjardins. >> alcindor: for a republican perspective on voting legislation in washington and texas, i'm joined by congressman van taylor. he just returned to washington from his district near dallas. he also previously sved in the texas legislature. >> thanks so much for being here, congressman. it has been a wild 24 hours. the governor of your state is calling for democratic raw islawmakers to be arrested. lawmakers are in d.c., not wanting to be part of the state legislature. what do you make of the last 24 hours, do you think it is appropriate for the governor to be calling for this lawmakers to be arrested? >> the democratic lawmakers should do their job. they were hired by their districts and asked by the state of texas to show up and work on legislation in austin. that's what they should be doing. this is -- unfortunately you're seeing the rank partisanship infect the texas legislature, and
that is really unfortunate. what we want to see is legislation that makes our elections secure, that makes it easy to vote, and what we don't want to see is the kind of washington-style federal takeover of elections that getsrid of voter i.d. laws, that, you know, uses taxpayer money to pay for attack ads. these are the kind of things that americans don't want. and what texans expect is legislators to show up and do their job. unfortunately 521 members1 membs decided they didn't want to do their job. >> you are part of, of course, the problem-solvers' caulk here in washington, d.c., it is democrats and republicans negotiating, saying they're going to work on issues together. do democrats in texas have a point here when they say that republicans in texas, they don't want to hear their input. they just want to ram through the g.o.p.-backed voting laws without hearing at all from
democrats? >> that is not my experience. in my time in the texas legislature, democrats were given a seat at the table. they were given the opportunity to give their input, on whether or not it was the budget -- i think 97% of the texas legislators, democrats and republicans, voted on the bi. they were given a seat at the table. democrats decided yesterday they're walk away from their seat at the table. so they have a seat at the table and an opportunity for input, but they decided they di't want to take advantage of that, and they want to put sand in the gears and try to stop the process entiry. >> the democrats have said these voting laws that we're seeing passed by republicans all over the country, they're a form of jim crow laws, these racist laws in american history. what do you make of that, and the fact they're saying these laws targt black people, people of color, some of whom died for their access to the ballot box? >> well, the hypocrisy is rich. you take the president of
the united states who comes from the state of delaware, there is no early voting in delaware, and he is trying to lecture texas about expanding its early voting opportunities. it is hard to fathom where he is coming from. at the end of the day, texas, and i like to say in my home county, we've done a lot to pioneer and innovate and get more people to the ballot box. we won the highest voter participations than any other area in the state of texas. voting is a good thing. but you want to have people who are confident in their voting system. this rank hypocrisy of someone lecturing you saying, hey, we don't have early voting, but you do, you're the one trying to suppress the vote is just absurd. >> you say you want to expand access to voting, and a record number cast their ballots in the last election, and you've said to congressmen that president biden legitimately won the election. state and federal officials said this last election was the most
secure in american history. why are these laws needed if we had a secure election and a president who was legitimately elected? >> it comes down to the basic question of how much voter fraud is too much? >> but there is no massive voter fraud. >> unfortunately in my experience, and in the texas legislature and in congress, i've run into voter fraud. it is very upsetting when you run into it. deeply upsetting when someone's vote is taken from them. and you want to make sure you have a system that is fool-proof and air-tight. i've worked on those kind of bills in the texas legislature. most of those passed were largely bipartisan because mostly people agree on how to make the elections secure. but sometimes this washington, d.c. ideas affect into austin, and that's why you're seeing this bipartisanship of leaving the state, not
doing your own job, and in the hypocrisy of trying to lecture other people on how to do their jobs. >> state and federal officials have said the last election was the most secure in american history. thank you so much for joining us, congressman taylor. >> great. thank you. >> we get >> alcindor: we get a different view now from derrick johnson. he is the president and c.e.o. of the n.a.a.c.p. last week, he met with president biden to discuss voting rights, along with other civil rights leaders. president johnson, thank you so much for joining us here. president biden just delivered one of the most passionate speeches of his presidency. he called for a new coalition to be formed to push back on these voting laws. my question is: what do you want to see in addition to these powerful words? are you seeing enough action behind these words? >> the words were powerful and impassioned. but we're waiting to see the outcome of the commitment. one part of the speech i thought was profound when he quoted john lewis who said freedom is action.
in this moment, democracy is under attack, and we need to push back with actionable policy to ensure that all citizens are afforded access to voting. >> now, you talk about wanting to see the outcome here. you have the g.o.p., who has been quick and efficient. they have introduced hundreds of g.o.p.-backed voting laws around the country. my question is: what do you make of this efficiency as you see voting legislation stalled in congress and as you see the supreme court upholding some of the g.o.p.-backed laws. >> for democrats, our commitment to hold fast to traditions and protocol, but for republicans, they're very clear on what they are seizing. they're seizing power. they don't care about democracy. democracy is under attack. and for democrats, we must stand up and be very car that this type of attack will be met with equal force so that our constitution can be real. for the naacp, this isn't an partisan issue. we've been in the exact
same place from the '60s to current. we've been in the exact place for 112 years. during the '60s, we had to fight democrats. and now we're fighting republicans. it is about our constitution and our rights to vote. >> what is your biggest concern when you want to see that equal pushback. how nervous are you when you see republicans move with this sense of efficiency? >> this is sqrely in the senate. they must determine whether or not they're going to allow a procedural rule, like the filibuster, to prevent them from protectingthe rights to vote, as opposed to pushing through what is necessary. this administration had a major accomplishment. that accomplishment happened through a bunch of reconciliation. that's the only thing the citizens were willing to move on. if that's the route we need to take, then that's what we need to do. if we don't do this before the census data is released, we're going to see a troubling outcome
for every jurisdiction, from water boards to city councils because restricting is right behind that. this would be the first restricting without the full protection of the full voting rights act, section 5 or section 2, if they don't address this immediately. >> both you and president biden have really compared these voting laws to jim crow. the naacp has filed a lawsuit. you have the d.o.j. suing georgia over its voting law. my question, though, is if congress does not act, where does that leave you? because some civil rights leaders say it can't just be litigation alone. >> it is clear it will not be litigations -- not only cannot be, but it will not. the supreme court spoke loud two weeks ago when they gutted section 2. first they gutted section 5 of the voting rights act. now they gutted section 2. it must be legislature. it must be the city taking action. the house has done their part. now we're stalled in this pattern, as we are with
other policy issues because we have a republican leader who has made it his mission not to allow this administration to be suessful. the question is for the administration, would they allow mitch mcconnell to bully them and prevent democracy from really standing up and protecting the rights of voters, particularly african-americans, but all voters, because this is an issue for all citizens not just one community. >> you brought up the filibuster. president biden has not backed any changes to the filibuster, other than saying maybe we should bring back the talking filibuster. do you want to see him change his stance on the filibuster, and do you want to see what representative jim clyburn is talking about, saying there needs to be a change to the rights to the filibuster. >> i want a an outcome where the rights of the citizens are protected. i don't want to be distracted by making an exception for the
filibuster or we do away with the filibuster. i'm looking for the protection for the right to vote. we're under a state of emergency. i understand with clarity if this isn't done before the release of the census data, it will be a huge, huge problem for many citizens across the country, and we cannot afford to hold ourselves out as being a leading democracy while allowing democracy to be subverted at the hands of this administration, this senate, or this congress. >> well, do you see a way for some sort of voting legislation to pass if there is not a change to the filibuster? >> absolutely. you could do it though bear reconciliation. you could make an exception to the filibuster. or there are many other ways that i'm sure creative minds, once they get to the table, they can come up with. this is not about what cannot happen. we should be talking about what is possible. it has been the role of the naacp, it has been the role of this nation, to make what is possible what others see as impossible. we get distracted about a
procedural rule, then we will be talking about a procedural rule. i want to talk about the substance and getting to the solution to protect the right of all voters. >> we only have about 10 seconds left, but do you want to see the president change his stance on the filibuster? >> for multiple reasons, yes, i absolutely want to see the filibuster removed. it was a segregationist rule that was affected by the former senator from mississippi. that should not be the case. it was done to impede progress. but right now i'm more concerned with protecting the right of voters. if it takes the filibuster to be removed to make that happen, great. if we can do it without it, fine. i'm concerned with the substance, not the procedural rules. >> thank you, derrick johnson, president of the naacp. >> thank you. >> woodruff: the extreme heat and ongoing drought in the west are combining to make for a very
difficult fire season. wildfires are burning earlier than usual in some places. it's also led to evacuations as firefighters try to contain huge blazes in sweltering heat, with temperatures hitting the triple digits in some cases. william brangham, who's just back from reporting out west, has our update. >> brangham: judy, the national interagency fire center reports there are more than 65 major fires in western states that have burned close to a million acres so far. more than half are located in arizona, idaho and montana. in northern california, large blazes are burning in the sierra nevada hills and forests, and right near the nevada border. thousands have fled their homes. been evacuated. the largest fire in the country right now is in southern oregon. it's known as the bootleg fire. it's already burned more than 150,000 acres, or an area twice the size of portland. there are two other smaller but
still significant fires in the state too. we look at the state of the situation there with rich tyler of the oregon state fire marshall's office. >> brangham: rich tylo, very good to have you on the "newshour," especially amidst what you're dealing with right now. can you just give us a sense of the bootleg fire we know has been doubling in size every couple of days. it sounds lik an awful thing you all are having to deal with. what is it like right now? what are conditions like? >> currently, the bootleg fire, they are reporting 201,923 acres that are burned. and zero percent containment. >> brangham: zero percent? >> yes. >> brangham: and what does that mean for firefighters who are trying to get their hands around this? >> it means that we are looking at all possible tactics and strategies to not only give a little bit
of direction to the fire, but primarily protect lives and homes and infrastructure. there is a major power line that runs through the middle of that fire that is headed south to california. >> brangham: and do you have a sense of the kinds of structures and homes and communities that might be in the line? >> yes. let's see. we have approximately 1,926 homes that are threatened, with 21 that have already been destroyed. and we have 54 other structures, outbuildings, that have already been destroyed. those are the ones we know of. we will continue to assess and look at it, but that is a slower process because our priority is saving lives, protecting homes and values. >> brangham: what about for the firefighters themselves? i can't imagine dealing with something, one, of thatthat size, and also in those conditions, it has
been incredibly hot out there? >> yes. typically fires have a fire front, it goes in a direction. which allows us to anchor from the start of the fire area and work along the flanks and work to the front of the fire. the unique characteristics that the bootleg fire has, there is no one fire front. in fact, at times, there is three, or a horseshoe-shaped fir front, which means your flanks are very limited. >> brangham: it is still relatively early in the summer. for you guys to be fighting something as big and ferocious as this in july, i mean, what is that? is that this ongoing drought, the heat? what is that? >> i think it is all of it. i was talking to our administrator, and we haven't deployed a task force under the state fire marshal's office prior to july 15th ever. >> brangham: ever? >> ever. so now we are at july
13th, and we've had five already in the state of oregon. >> brangham: is there any sense in the forecast -- do you have any potential relief in sight from mother nature helping you out? >> right now all of the weather experts are telling us we're going to get more of the same. stability for us wild land and infrastructure firefighters when it comes to weather is good news. it is when the weather changes, that the wind direction changes, the temperatures spike and the relative humidity drops, and it changes drastically in a small window, that it becomes more dangerous. >> brangham: we know that human-caused ignition is a major driver of these kinds of fires. is it your sense that people have gotten a better sense of controlling their own behavior with sparks and cigarettes and campfires and things like that, and done a better job of defending their homes and properties in case fire comes? has that improved? >> absolutely.
in 2020, 70% of oregon's wildfires were human caused. 70%. that means we have an opportunity to really push the education while people are aware of -- while our citizens are aware of the devastation wildfires can have. people want to get out of their homes. they want to get out of their isolation. they're headed back out to wilderness, and they're headed out to the parks and to where the forests are. but when you s take people who may never have been in the fest or haven't been in the forest for a long time, they're having to relearn or learn for t first time how do you be smart? how do you be responsible for your actions to reduce the chance of ignition of wildfires? >> brangham: allight. rich tyler with the oregon state fire marshal's office, thank you very much for being here, and we wish you the best of luck out there. >> thank you so much, william.
>> woodruff: it has been nearly six months since donald trump left washington, after losing the presidential race to joe bide and for months, the former president has falsely claimed the election was rigged against him. but his defeat and his chaotic, controversial final year in office is the focus of a new book, "frankly we did win this election: the inside story of how trump lost," by michael bender of the "wall street journal." his book is out today and he joins us now. >> woodruff: michael bender, welcome to the "newshour." it was a famous quote the president gave as he was talking on television after it was becoming clear he had lost, but he goes before the american people to say i won. it was the beginning of this process of denial, wasn't it? >> yeah, that's right.
it was an unscripted line uttered after 2:00 in the morning. he didn't even want to come down to address the nation and the guests at the white house where he was planning a victory party. and he decided on stage to blurt out that he had won the election, obviously quite falsely, and that set off a chain of reactions for the next six months. into 2021. bo>> woodruff: the book is a remarkable collection of stories. you follow the administration and the campaign. you had a number of interviews with him in person. you talked to what, over 150 people working for him, and you paint this picture of this chaotic, disorganized campaign that never really could settle on a message or a strategy, surrounded by people who basically didn't stand up to this president. >> this book focuses on 2020, but it is informed
by over five years of covering him and the people around him. and i use a lot of the stories to give context to what happened in 2020. and you mentioned the chaos of the trump administration. it was beyond chaos, and the people closest to him thought he was, at different points of the year, a danger to the country. and tried various ways to stop him, or to keep him in line and try to act as guardrails, some without very much success. >> woodruff: and as we said, many of them were afraid to stand up to him. as you point out, michael bender, some were. you have that fascinating episode in here where he is with general mark milley, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, after the death of gedeath ofgloorved. george floyd. he said, we need to crack their heads, shoot them if
necessary, and milley says no. >> that's right. this is in june of 2020. if you recall, trump opened up the year in 2020, really primed for re-election. yes, he had just been impeached, but he survived it. his poll numbers were as high as they have ever been. the issue he w wanted to run on was the economy and the chee was red-hot. then all of a sudden the covid happened and george floyd died. he lashed out at the people around him. he tried to back to his law and order image at any cost. and you are right, it fell to general mark milley. the top general in the world's most top military was the only one who could sit in front of trump and tell him no. he points to the portrait of abraham lincoln behind trump, and tells him, that man, sur, had an
insurrection, what we have is a protest. >> woodruff: this is when they were discussing whether or not to invoke the insurrection act. you mentioned covid, and all of this taking place during the pandemic. it turns out from your reporting, the president had tested positive for covid before it was made public. and went on to do a fundraiser in bedminster, new jersey, where he has a home. why was that allowed to happen? >> there was very few people around him at that point who was in a position to tell him no. anyone who was pushing back on the president, this is year four in the administration, was long gone. you can argue in the first three years, it din't happen all that affectively. on that morning when some of his -- when one of the senior aides tested positive, it is kind of chaos in the white house.
and trump -- this is new reporting in this book -- had several false positive tests throughout the year. and several people tell me that trump tested positive that morning and assumed it was false and had another test showed negative, and then he left for bedminster. that account is disputed. but, judy, even the fact that we have competing accounts of whether or not the president tested -- or tested positive for covid, the morning that one of his top aides was sick is a story in itself, and tells you a lot about the struggle to address, you know, one of the biggest health crisis in the country in a century. >> woodruff: there is a fair amount of -- a lot of time spent in the book, michael bender, on some of the unraveling at the end. after the election results
are known, people around the president, as we said, are just not able to say directly to him you lost in a way that he would even hear. and then you see the rise of rudy giuliani. what was going on at that moment? >> people who were around him in a position to act as the guardrails never quite told him no directly. they always sort of left a little wiggle room that this president heard and latched on to. and so those first couple of weeks after the election, vice president mike pence,onna mcdaniel, even mark milley, saying the president just needs a little bit of space, give him time, and he'll get to this himself. he'll find his own path out of this. buthey gave him space, won that did was create an opening for rudy giuliani and some of these
characters to come in and tell the president exactly what he wanted to hear. >> woodruff: we hear donald trump teasing a lot about whether he is going to run for president again in 2024. how does that keep him at the center of what is going on in the republican party? and do you think he will run again? >> yeah, that's where it comes back to -- you're right, judy, he wants to be the center of attention about what people are talking about, about the subject of the headlines, right? one of the things i try to do in the book here is show how trump's priority from day one was to win re-election. and very few people around him shared that priority. they all had their different reasons for wanting to be around trump, mostly their own personal reasons. but trump is going to -- he has to wait to see what happens in 2022, because right now the republican party has a choice: are they or are they not going
to try to redefine themselves post-trump? and how they answer that question will inform what president trump decides in 2024. i think what this book does is provide new information and a new set of data points that shows that republicans, when they make this decision, are doing it with their eyes wide open. they know who this president is, and after reading this book, what kind of political candidate he is. >> woodruff: it is a book full of astonishing stories. frankly, we did win this election: the inside story of how trump lost. michael bender, thank you very much. >> thanks for having me. >> woodruff: now, to the second report in our week-long series called raising the future: america's child care dilemma. tonight, special correspondent cat wise and producer kate mcmahon report from mississippi where many working parents have
struggled to find affordable, quality child care long before the pandemic. among those most impacted: single mothers who often are stuck in low-paying jobs and have a difficult time accessing government support. >> reporter: mississippi is one of the poorest states in the country, has the highest rate of child poverty. and like pretty much everywhere, child care is expensive. >> a lot of times i would quit jobs or just stay at home because it was easier that way. >> reporter: ethel williams is a 42-year-old sile mother of five. she grew up in jackson, mississippi and worked for years in low-paying jobs. like many parents who can't afford reliable child care, she had to come up with patchwork solutions which included having her older kids watch their younger siblings. >> i wanted to be able to work. i wanted a career.
i wanted a place where my kids could grow and be kids and not have to worry about the responsibility of taking care of the younger kids a having such a burden on them at a young age. >> reporter: ethel's story is not unique. mississippi has the nation's highest rate of women as primary breadwinners for families. and most are in low-paying jobs, living below the poverty line with little to nothing left to pay for child care. according to one study, a typical family in mississippi, with an infant and a four-year- old, has to spend about 20% their income on child care. but there are federal programs to help low-income parents-- head start and child care subsidies in the form of vouchers. and neither program is universal. carol burnett is director of the nonprofit mississippi low income child care initiative. >> we do a lot of work trying to help parents navigate the minefield of applying for a child care voucher. it's not just the funding.
it's the application process that's incredibly burdensome, the multiple obstacles that stand in the way. >> reporter: nationally, only one in seven children who are eligible for child care subsidies under federal rules -- actually receive them. child care as a safety net program is just not working, according to u.c. berkeley's lea austin, she's the rector of the center for the study of child care employment. >> there is not enough of those child care subsidies today to make sure everybody who needs it gets access to it. that just has a domino effect, right? we know if you can't access child care, the impact that has on your ability to work, you may not work at all. you may have to reduce your earnings. >> reporter: ethel williams is one of those who had challenges with government child care assistance. she says the co-payments required of parents in
mississippi were manageable when she was making minimum wage but when she began earning $3 more an hour, her subsidy decreased and at that point child care was just too expensive. >> i had to think like, what do i do? i will be working to pay child care, and so i made a conscious decision to go back to working at mcdonald's because this is how the system was set up. >> we're constantly looking at our processes. how can we make them better? >> reporter: chad allgood is in charge of the state's child care assistance program at the mississippi department of human services. >> we haven't had a waiting list in four years. but i don't think that we are serving all the children that need to be served. i think there are parents out there that don't know that the assistance exists. and that's one of the things that we're looking at is how do we how do we market this program better? >> reporter: he says tracking child care needs is difficult, but there may be as many as 170,000 children in the state living at or near the poverty
level and potentially eligible for assistance. currently only 24,000 children are in the program. but more families may soon get child care help thanks to pandemic relief funds. mississippi received about $520 million from the american rescue plan for child care. $319 million will go to providers around the state. and the state is still finalizing how to spend the rest. but allgood says if the federal funding isn't permanent providers may be hurt in the long-run. >> when we look at expanding the vouchers that we offer, we just want to be very intentional that we do so in a way that our current child care providers are going to be able to meet the need without putting additional strain on them. you don't want to build up all this capacity and then not be able to sustain it. >> reporter: carol burnett sees things differently-- she wants more funding to get to low- income voucher-eligible parents as soon as possible. >> there need to be more vouchers and theouchers need toe easier to get and keep. that is the story of child care in mississippi.
>> reporter: she says the issues in her state are similar to questions being asked all around the country. >> we're very conflicted about whether we really want moms to be able to get that child care or not stay home with their children like they're supposed to. it's rooted in gender bias. it's also rooted in racism, because a lot of the assistanc for poor families, and especially in my state here in mississippi, the recipients of these vouchers are largely black families. and the inequities that they face thwart their efforts every at every turn. >> reporter: those inequities were a driving force behind a program burnett created in biloxi a decade ago-- “women in construction”-- which combines job training with free, easy to access childcare, and has helped transform the lives of ethel williams and about 800 other single, low-income mothers. after completing the program,
williams became the program's lead instructor. she now earns $20 an hour plus benefits teaching construction- related skills. following the devastation of hurricane katrina, the program was started to meet a large need for skilled construction workers. hourly wages in construction typically start around $15, nearly double the hourly wages of most women earn in the state. nearly double the state's minimum wage. combining job training with child care. is that a powerful combination? >> it is the magic road for economic security because job training is super helpful. but if a mom doesn't have child care, she can't do it. child care is super helpful. but if it's only to allow her to go to a 7.25 an hour job, it's not all she needs. >> reporter: 26-year-old ayanna ruffin recently enrolled in the program. she's a single mom with a nine- month-old son who says she has a
hard time putting food on the table working as a hairstylist. >> i can see the future. >> reporter: how ds the future look? >> man, i'm loving the future. i'm stepping out now so i can get into a new field and be able to be a provider for my son. and i have to depend on nobody else to take care of him. >> reporter: ethel williams is now living the future she saw. and she's started taking her family on out-of-state vacations, something she says she never had the money to do before. >> i feel like have all the tools after coming to the program to get anything to accomplish anything. >> reporter: she'sow passing along those, to the mothers coming along behind her. for the pbs newshour, i'm cat wise in mississippi. >> woodruff: join us tomorrow night as our series travels to nebraska, where a lack of affordable child care highlights how rural parts of the country face a dilemma similar to that in major cities.
and you can watch last night's story on our web site, pbs.org/newshour. >> woodruff: as statues of generals robert e. lee and stonewall jackson were taken down in charlottesville, virginia this weekend, communities around the country continue to grapple with reminders of confederate culture. an exhibit in lincoln, massachusetts at the decordova sculpture park and museum features a look at the making of and meaning behind the confederate flag. special correspondent jared bowen of gbh boston explored the exhibit of sonya clark, the 2020 winner of the museum's prestigious rappaport prize, as part of our race matters, and arts and culture series, canvas
>> reporter: unfurled as a monumental sea of off-white filling much of this gallery space is the confederate flag of truce. or as the title of this exhibition explains the flag we should know. >> i want everyone to know what this flag is so we can conceive of what truce really means. >> reporter: history has largely forgotten this simple white flag, actually a towel, used by confederate troops to signal a truce during general robert e. lee's surrender in 1865. the original is now housed at the smithsonian's national museum of american history. that's where artist and amherst college professor of art, sonya clark discovered it during a visit in 2010. >> i have to tell you, i was like, how come i've never seen this thing before? and that question is why there is the show that you're in right now. >> reporter: haunting this show is a flag that's not seen here. the confederate battle flag, that unlike the truce flag,
survived to become a ubiquitous emblem in this country. as clark documents, it adorns all manner of merchandise from baby onesies to nipple pasties. >> my thought was, what would this nation be like if that was the image of the civil war that had endured, that something was surrendered? but instead we have the confederate battle flag in our consciousness. yeah. >> reporter: deeply so. when clark and a curatorial team assembled this show in philadelphia two years ago, they sought out red paint to pop in the exhibition's otherwise neutral pallet. >> because the confederate flag of truce has these three minimal red stripes on it, i said, "well that's the color we'll use." >> reporter: the benjamin moore sample they inadvertently selected? >> was confederate red. that paint chip color confederate red lived in between two other paint chip cors. one was called raspberry truffle, and the other was called cherry wine.
in between these two confections is a color that is about insurrection, about enemies of the state, about people who wanted to keep black and brown people enslaved. >> reporter: clark has interrogated the legacy of the confederate battle flag both intellectually and physically. in her piece reversals, she used a dishcloth featuring the confederate flag to remove dust covering a section of the declaration of independence preamble. and in unraveling, she collaborated with audience members to literally deconstruct the flag. thread by thread-a metaphor for thglacial pace of dismantling racism. >> i think that when people see the confederate battle flag being paraded through the u.s. capitol, sonya's work offers some toolso process what does that incredibly complicated age mean for us. >> reporter: the decordova's sam
adams oversaw both this installation and the companion show heavenly bound. in constellation, clark delivers us into a night sky-honoring the guidance it provided enslaved people escaping to freedom on the underground railroad. >> we're thinking about people whose stories were incredible. they're full of bravery and they're inspiring and deeply important to the foundation of the country. but they're not recorded. >> reporter: however, their history may live in the artist's hair. here clark offers a white sky dotted with black stars created from her own head. >> if you pluck a hair, in that hair is this genetic code for all the people who have come before you. so your hair is both singular, like it's the hair that i grow, but it's also absolutely collective. >> reporter: clark is mindful of the “we” throughout her work. she wants museums patrons to become pollinators-taking her ideas with them as they leave.
but not before participating. >> all the way to the other side, just give it a nice push through. >> reporter: visitors here are invited to help make truce flags on looms in the gallery. >> and then you'll send it through again. take it out. let your foot off the lever. bring the beater down. pull it tight. back up. and then the next pedal. it's important that we all participate in this collective work of healing,f racial and social justi. >> reporter: and how does weaving do that? >> so we do that at a symbolic level. every single visitor participates will contribute to a collective truce flag. >> reporter: with some deft pedal work, precise shuttling and maneuvering, the visitor weaves their own self into the show-imperfections and all. are you mindful that people will leave their interaction with your work or leave a museum exhibition different? >> maybe they leave with a question, which actually is more powerful, i think than an answer. because a question is an
invitation to keep thinking. that's actually how the artwork grows and lives beyond me. >> reporter: for the pbs newshour, i'm jared bowen in lincoln, massachusetts. >> woodruff: on the newshour online right now, a look at the racist backlash against members of the english soccer team and how it spotlights an ugly history within the sport. find that on our instagram account, @newshour. and that's the newshour for tonight. i'm judy woodrf. join us online and again here tomorrow evening. for all of us at the pbs newshour, thank you, please stay safe, and we'll see you soon. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by:
>> carnegie corporation of new york. supporting innovations in education, democratic engagement, and the advancement of international peace and security. at carnegie.org. >> and with the ongoing support of these institutions >> this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. captioning sponsored by newshour productions, llc
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