Up | May 13, 2012
HAYES: because there's not a lot of mother politicians in the grand scheme of things. So, we're going to talk to mother / daughter politicians, one of them is a member of Congress , right after this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love that piece of the mother song.
HAYES: I should note that today's bump-in music provided by the mothers of the staff. All right. House Republicans this week passed a bill that would replace the automatic defense spending cuts agreed to as part of last year's Budget Control Act , with $300 billion in cuts to domestic spending instead. We should just be clear there was a deal that was struck I just want to emphasize, there was a deal that was struck, to have penalties essentially that would cut against both political constituencies if the supercommittee didn't come to an agreement, remember? And the first thing the Republicans in the House have done after the supercommittee didn't come to agreement is to welsh on the deal. Just so that we're clear about what the terms are here, that is being proposed here. And the reason they were supposed to be scared of the supercommittee not getting anything done what that there would be large cuts to defense , relatively large, I should say. We'll still spend, of course, more money on defense than the next 20 countries combined, or something like that. All right. And the cuts they're proposing though, and this is important -- it's a one-to-one dollar transfer from these programs to the military -- included eliminating the federal social services block grant which provides hundreds of millions of dollars for child care every year, removing 1.8 million people from the federal food stamp program or SNAP which cut the number of extremely poor children during the recession in half. The bill would also cut nearly 300,000 children from the rolls of the children 's health insurance program, which is widely held as a massive policy success, and the bill would remove another 280,000 children from low income families from the free school lunch program. Democrats meanwhile have introduced a bill called the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act which would require employers could make reasonable workplace accommodation for pregnant women . This strikes me -- again, this won't get the cover of "Time" magazine because it's not as sexy as breast- feeding until they're 4 in the mommy wars. But that's a lot of money for child care .
GOLDBERG: If you still remember a couple of months, when we were talking about the Buffett Rule , we heard over and over again that the Buffett Rule was a scam because it was only going to raise $50 billion and it's not going to put a dent in our budget crisis , but a lot of the items on this list, with $50 billion, you could eliminate these cuts to the block grant program -- like suddenly kind of $50 billion becomes really important to cut out of the budget deficit when it's coming out of programs for women and children .
HAYES: And I think there's a relationship conceptually between being able to pass those things as a Republican and still say you're pro family , because if you conceive the responsibility for the family being the family itself, the responsibility of finding child care being internal to the household. Then this is not a contradiction, right?
ENSLER: Well, I think it's so much about what kind of society we want America to be. Do we want it to be a nurturing society? Or it seems like just thinking about the program and reading about parenting and thinking about how we live in this culture, which is so capitalist and so consumer and so buying -- and so, nurturing is so antithetical to that, to say you want to live in a world where people getting taken care of, right, where babies get taken care of, where people were taken care of, where teachers are valued, where nurses are valued. It's really a way of re-conceptualizing what this country actually is, you know?
HAYES: But that sounds like a -- from a conservative perspective, and I'm not saying -- I'm giving the conservative argument response to that. I think in good faith, to the extent I can. That's a society that incentivizes laziness. That nurturing is -- and this actually, the model extends to the way that we think about parenting, right? I mean, the same way that we understand giving in to, you can over nurture your child, right? You can nurture them too much, you can --
BEY: Some would argue that you can over-nurture your child. And some would say, well, that's not the case. The World Health Organization recommends that children be exclusively breastfed if possible for the first six months of their life. How can you have social policy that says we want to have healthy children , we want to decrease the rates of obesity in our children , we want to decrease the rates of asthma in our children . But you know what? Take yourself back to work after three weeks, because you've got yourself pregnant and it's all on you to do. That is a social policy issue that is backed up by science and we don't have policy in place to support that.
HAYES: I should note one aspect to the Affordable Care Act , is that it requires employers to provide a room for mothers who are breastfeeding - either breastfeed or pumps, that one small --
BEY: A room, how much time?
HAYES: Except for one that have less than 50 employees. I want to bring in two women who have lived out the struggle in their lives and in their careers as lawmakers, Democratic Congresswoman Chellie Pingree of Maine , who is elected at the House of Representatives in 2008 , her daughter , Hannah Pingree , is the former speaker of the House Maine of Representatives. Happy Mother 's Day to both of you. Thank you both for joining us. I really appreciate. REP. CHELLIE PINGREE (D), MAINE : Absolutely.
FMR. STATE REP. HANNAN PINGREE , HOUSE SPEAKER : Happy Mother 's Day to you.
HAYES: Can we talk a little bit about -- I want to talk about the relationship between the kinds of policies we see and the social contract we have, which I think is very incomplete in how it responds to mothers and children and the fact that we don't have more mothers as politicians. It's a basic brute demographic fact of who we elect to represent us in state houses and in Congress .
H. PINGREE: Sure, well I mean first of all, most people probably understand this, there aren't enough women in politics . Congress is now 17 percent women . Where I'm from in Maine , the legislature is less than 30 percent women . And, obviously, many of those have been mothers , but not all. So, we have politics still very male dominated. Which means women 's perspectives and mother 's perspectives are very much left out.
C. PINGREE: And many of the issues you were just talking about, it feels like they're extending the war on women to the war on mothers and families. And I do think when you get, you know, women who have been mothers , who are thinking about family issues, the cost of child care , the cost to feed your kid, what it takes to get a kid through school and educate them in college, women bring a different sensibility to that. There's no question, whatever party you're in.
HAYES: Representative Chellie Pingree and her daughter , Hannah Pingree , former speaker of the Maine House , I want to talk to you about how you have negotiated the twin poles of being a mother and a career in politics right after this break.
HAYES: Congresswoman Pingree , I want you to talk about how -- how you got into politics. My understanding is that Hannah played a role in it. But also when I think about right now, going through this myself, I have a five and a half-month-old daughter and people in my cohort are trying to navigate, particularly moms who have taken maternity leave, re- entering the workforce and me as a dad, figuring out time constraints of being present in my daughter 's life and also doing my job -- politics seems like a 24-hour commitment. And I think there are social expectations of motherhood that make it hard to go to the local Kiwanis Club at 7:00 at night and be out of town that much. And I 'm curious how you -- how you negotiated that.
C. PINGREE: Well, it's an important thing to think about. Hannah can give her perspective, too, as a mother now. But when I was considering this, it was really the furthest thing from my mind. I ran a small farm. We lived in a very small town . But I took -- Hannah was another mom and he daughter was about 14, to go listen to pat Schroeder speak. It was a long way from our home and it was a big adventure, we heard Pat Schroeder , who was in Congress at the time, one of the few women at the time, this was in '92, and she said not enough good people running for office. And somebody actually came up to me afterwards and said, you ought to think running for the state legislature . And it was the furthest thing from my mind. As most mothers , I was trying to put together my own, you know, working situation, our own family situation. I just couldn't visualize it. And I turned to Hannah and she said, you should go for it. It was an interesting kind of validation, as a mom, you worry about, oh, my God, I won't give enough to my kids. I had three kids, she was the oldest. So for her to say it to me, it helped me to have the opportunity to think about it to say, maybe I could do this. In the end, I -- just as you said, I've been forced to spend a lot of time away from home. Sometimes I found -- I missed my kids more than they missed me because they were busy with their own lives.
HAYES: Hannah ?
H. PINGREE: No, I mean, for me, obviously I was 14 years old. So, she wasn't changing diapers and my brother was a little bit younger, but you know, the three of us were thrilled for our mom, we got to go knock on doors and be involved in her campaign -- which probably is how I got the political bug and why I got so involved in politics today. So, for me I think it was amazing to have a mom as a political role model. And, obviously, that's how we changed politics, to have a lot more moms as political role models.
C. PINGREE: But Hannah is a mom now, too, so you have a very different perspective.
H. PINGREE: I mean, I will say I was term limited from the legislature a year and a half ago and have a 14-month-old. And there -- I mean, it would have been an incredible challenge to have speaker of the House with a young baby. And, you know, I think there are some realities in politics, especially when you're at the highest level of politics and leading your party and caucus, that would be very difficult. And I could not imagine obviously having been, having a 3-month-old while being speaker of the House would have been very difficult. So, women do it. I mean, there are women in Congress who have had babies. It's possible. My partner, my husband is -- you know, he's very supportive and he's encouraging of the political work I'm doing now. To try to take chemicals out of children 's products, but it is not an easy balance. Chris , you know now, you know, 5-month-olds, they like to make you in the middle of the night and they like to make you tired and they don't like it when you leave. So, you know, there are a lot of special challenges for women who want to try to be in politics and have small children .
HAYES: I'm curious about how the conversation about supporting mom and supporting women and mothers relates to some of the legislation you've both been pursuing. And I want you to talk about that right after we take a quick break.
HAYES: How does the conversation about women and mothers transfer into political arguments about policy is what I'm curious to hear from you, both. I want to give someone statistic that I feel that one of our producers found that to me embodies the challenges that parents of both genders face. This is child care . Child care costs more than double public college tuition in New York -- more than double public college tuition. And college tuition is not cheap. In 2010 , the average annual cost of public tuition in New York was $5,790. You see it's almost double there. Child care is more expensive than public tuition in 40 states. Every mother who works outside the house has to find some way to make up those hours. It's a zero-sum gain. And I don't feel we have a particularly robust political conversation about that as a political issue.
C. PINGREE: Absolutely true. You were talking about earlier, some of the budget cuts that we've been facing. And just to sort of enhance this idea of the war on women going to be the war on mothers and families. I mean, it's not a choice for most families today, whether or not you work outside the home and whether or not you bring in extra income, or for a lot of single moms, that's the income that you need. And without the support systems, whether it's child care allowance or for some families, just basic, you know, food and shelter, people can't make it in the workplace any more. So, the idea that this would be optional or that these are cuts we can make in a country that wants to be pro- family or good on child development , it's crazy.
H. PINGREE: Yes. We live in a state run by a Tea Party governor and one of the cuts currently on the chopping block is significant cuts to the Head Start program, which is obviously a program for three and 4-year-olds to get a good start. But it's part of sort of a child care network. So we're obviously having a big conversation about child care costs. Child care costs are very acute. My husband and I are dealing with the cost of hiring a babysitter and it's significant, and we do make decisions about how we're going to balance things and how we're going to manage it. And it's something that if you're working a low-wage job, I honestly don't know how people do it. I mean, the cost of child care and daily living expenses really are significant.
BEY: One of the problems that I personally have as an American with the cuts to Head Start , is we see that these tend to be children who are of lower income parents, when you put them in school and you teach them, they do better academically later. Their parents tend to do better because they can go and seek work, seek education. It is a policy issue when you show up, when you have children showing up to kindergarten who don't know their letters, who aren't read to, who can't write their name, and these are things that children and Head Start learn. You save money later teaching the kids sooner and it's better for the family . Why would you cut -- why would you cut Head Start ?
ROIPHE: I think it's important to say what you were saying before, when we say, when Republicans say they're pro- family , we're pro certain kinds of family . I think it's important to get behind the rhetoric and what does the language really mean, and just thinking about Orwell and his work on politics. The language we use to talk about these things really shapes our thinking, it's not just words, it causes people to think about things in certain ways. And that language I just think needs to be interrogated, because we're not talking about pro family , we're talking about pro some kinds of families.
C. PINGREE: Let's be clear, that's a myth that there's -- you know, that there are these insular families today where people can just, you know, get off the grid and stay home. The truth is, almost everybody has to engage, almost everybody has to be working in the workforce today. And it's really impossible to do this. And the other side is you were saying earlier. We know so much about early childhood development , brain development -- the idea that we want to be a great nation and we want to have a great workforce and a well-educated workforce that we would take away that opportunity from young kids to get the brain development . Also for many kids, they need to be there to eat. They eat breakfast , they eat lunch. This is an important part of their nutrition as well. It's just ludicrous to think we can cut that and have a real future for our country .
HAYES: But it has enough political -- it has enough -- it's politically viable enough that they're trying to do it. My question is: why is that the case, right? I mean, is there a backlash in Maine for this kind of a cut or do people see it as not affecting them? Is it a convenient scapegoat to say, yes, those are exactly the kind of programs we should be cutting right now?
H. PINGREE: Well, it's interesting. I mean, right now, I'm hopeful there will be a backlash -- that Head Start is a program that should not be cut. But in the next couple of weeks, the Maine state legislature , controlled by Republicans , will be making that decision. I'm hopeful they won't, but the fear is that they will make that decision.
A couple of years ago when I was in the legislature, the then Senate President Libby Mitchell proposed a program to fund breakfast , to make state funding go to public school breakfast programs. She got an unbelievable backlash that we should be having to pay for breakfast for kids. This was from the public. So, I mean I don't know. I mean, I would hope that the public would be outraged. I would hope that the public would realize that, you know, kids -- taking care of kids between 0-5 is one of the most responsibilities our nation and families and out communities should have. But, you know, honestly, after seeing the breakfast backlash, I don't -- I mean, some people's priorities, are obviously very difficult.
HAYES: Congresswoman Chellie Pingree and daughter , Hannah Pingree , the former speaker of the Maine House of Representatives -- thank you so much for your time this morning. Happy Mother 's Day.
H. PINGREE: Thank you.
C. PINGREE: Thank you.
HAYES: This week's controversial "Time" magazine cover on moms and the author of "Bringing Up Bebe," coming up in the next hour.