California US House races could help tilt power in Congress
S1: A look at tomorrow's primary.
S2: This has been a battleground district in the last two elections. It was Republican held before 2018 and it will remain on the front lines.
S1: I'm Jade Hindman with Harrison Bertino in for Maureen CAVANAUGH. This is KPBS Midday Edition.
S1: Then our atmosphere contains more carbon dioxide today than at any point in the last 4 million years , and long border wait times cost our regional economy millions. That's ahead on Midday Edition. On Tuesday , California primary voter ballots will be tallied , setting the stage for November. Political watchers will be paying close attention to the outcomes of a handful of U.S. House seats that could help decide which party controls Congress. And one of those pivotal seats is District 49 , currently held by Democrat Mike Levin. The district runs south from Del Mar along the coast to Dana Point and San Juan Capistrano in Orange County , and also includes parts of Vista and Rancho Bernardo Inland. Joining me to talk about what's at stake in this race and others is UC San Diego political science professor Thad Couser. That. Welcome back.
S2: Thanks for having me. Happy primary week.
S1: Happy primary week , indeed. As I mentioned , political watchers will be paying close attention to a number of congressional races in California , including the 49th.
S2: It's expanded a little bit north , a little bit east to include these areas. Right. Dana Point , Rancho Bernardo Vista , these are some of the most strongly Republican areas in our increasingly Democratic state. And so even though this is a district that the Mike Levin has won by a wide margin in 2018 , which was a great year for Democrats , but a narrower margin , I believe , about six percentage points in 2020 , which which was kind of a mixed year. Right. With both Donald Trump turning out Republicans and and a strong Democratic turnout for Joe Biden as well this year , it's expected to be even closer because it's got shifted its geography to to bring in a few more Republican voters. But also because 2022 is still expected to be such a strong year for the GOP nationally.
S1: And like many of the big races in the state , this is a race for who will face Levin in November. The most recognizable Republicans running are former San Juan Capistrano Mayor Brian Marriott. He also ran in 2020. Also running are Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett and Oceanside City Councilmember Christopher Rodriguez.
S2: Right. So Brian Marriott , who is the last candidate who actually ran very strongly against Mike Levin in 2020. He's more of your old school , San Diego , Orange County Republican , fairly moderate fiscal conservative. He's kind of more the business and the establishment candidate , Lisa Bartlett is running. You know , you go to our website , she doesn't mention her party. She's running as much more of a centrist , a new face. You know , she's Japanese-American. She represents this new Democratic demographic diversity. The Republicans have embraced that helped them to retake Orange County districts held now by young Kim and Michelle Steele. And then Christopher Rodriguez is you know , he's he's a marine veteran. That helps in this district , which is surrounding Camp Pendleton. He's an office holder in Oceanside. He's a staunch Donald Trump style conservative. So he's going to try to energize more of the party base and also reach out to have a more demographically inclusive electorate. So so three different candidates with three different styles within the Republican Party today.
S3: Who do you.
S2: Right. So Christopher Rodriguez looks a lot like Mike Garcia , who was a , you know , a veteran , a very conservative Trump Republican , but but a guy who who used his crossover appeal to in a competitive district in Congress in North L.A. , Lisa Bartlett , more experienced office holder. I think her name recognition in Orange County and her moderate stances may make her the hardest candidate to beat of of any of these. But Brian Marriott , you know , ran strong. So I think , look , each of these three candidates could pose a challenge to Mike Levin in November , especially if this turns out to be as strong a year for Republicans as many forecasters had been predicting really in until this spring.
S2: But Democrats are going to be fighting a lot of battles and going to have to play defense all over the country. This is one of those districts that probably isn't going to be pivotal to control of the House. Right. If Republicans are able to flip California districts that are held by Democrats , then Democrats are in trouble losing the House by like 50 or 60 seats. So because this isn't them , Mike Levin is has a threat but is not the most endangered Democrat. He probably won't get the kind of money. A millions and millions of dollars that some other Democrats will be getting. And so he'll need to to to raise it a lot on his own.
S2: Right. So we haven't seen a lot of national cash pouring in right now. I think the Republican Party is sitting back letting these candidates fight it out , not choosing a favorite. Whoever wins , will will get some money. But the question is , is this the best use of of Republican money when there are other districts , Orange County Republican districts , where they need to play defense might Garcia's district that they need to try to hold that has become more favorable to Democrats in the last redistricting. There's a lot of other calls and money for Republican candidates. And I think each of these candidates may struggle unless they start polling neck and neck with Mike Levin going into November.
S1: I've been speaking with UC San Diego political science professor Thad Couser. Dad , thank you very much for joining us.
S2: Thanks for having me.
S1: The primary election is tomorrow. And KPBS has one place where you can find out key information about races. Get email updates , find out what's on your ballot and where to drop it off. It's the KPBS voter hub found right on our website at KPBS dot org. And here to talk about it is KPBS digital editor Elma Gonzalez. Lima Brando. Elma , welcome.
S3: Hi , Jane.
S3: EDGE So voters can go on to our website , put in their address or their zip code , and they get everything that's on their ballot for them to look at information. Also select anything that may be , you know , what they are considering to vote , voting for and save that information , print it out , take it to the polling location and use that. It's all personalized based on where the voter is located. The other thing that we have are also polling and ballot drop off locator maps. So you can put in your address and find the nearest place for you to submit your ballot. We have all of our reporting from the KPBS newsroom on candidates and issues. And of course , on election night , we have the live results that are coming in at 805 June 7th.
S1: You mentioned that you'll have candidate information on there. How can people learn more about the candidates they'll be voting for.
S3: When they're using the personalized sample ballot ? Our ballot guide that we have there , they submit their address , their zip code , and they get every single race , a list of every single race that's on their ballot. And each of those races contains information of every candidate that's there. We have information from , you know , what are the top priorities , who's funding their campaign , what are perhaps some answers to big issue questions that they've been asked by media before ? So all of that information will be available to voters. Hmm.
S1: Hmm. And there's also a quiz voters can take. Tell us about that. Yes.
S3: Yes. So this year we have an interactive quiz where the public can answer some of the same questions we asked candidates. So basically , we asked candidates about COVID , housing , law enforcement funding , and we asked them to respond to the yes or no or other or choose not to respond , as well as a short explanation for each of their answers. And voters are able to do the same quiz. We we we presented candidates. Once they complete the quiz , they can explore which candidates answered in the same way that they did. And so it's kind of helping voters figure out which candidates align with them on the most important issues.
S3: Also , the ballot dropoff locations , very , very important. But election results are coming in right after they are made available by the registrar at about 805. So we'll have that on our website for folks who want to follow that live. So everything can be found on KPBS at our Exhibitor Hub.
S3: I think a lot of people what they really like is the how simplified it is this year. Our goal was really making it so that the voter didn't have to navigate a bunch of different pages or that we didn't have to share multiple links to get results here. Stories , they're like , you know , the ballot got here. We all have it in one page that folks can just bookmark and easily get back to by remembering it's just the voter hub. And so that was the goal , to make it just easier this year to find and to kind of consolidate everything in one spot.
S1: And this is the first year the voter guide is also available in Spanish.
S3: All of the information that I mentioned before , the polling locations , the the news content that's coming from our newsroom. The. Personalised ballot and the live results. All of that will be available in Spanish this year. And it's really important because we wanted to make sure that for communities that prefer to have that content in Spanish and read what's on their ballot and learn what they might be voting for , that that was available to them in a language that they preferred. So we're doing it for the first time this year with stronger electoral , and we're hoping that that's going to be a resource that we can offer in future elections as well.
S1: The Spanish language voter hub was sort of a personal mission for you. Tell us about that. Sure.
S3: Sure. I mean , for me , it was really important and it was kind of this personal initiative that I really wanted to get done this year , because for the longest time , for us , as you know , as young as I can remember , I've been that person who fills out the ballot for my parents and for people in my family. So you could say I was kind of like the most important voter in my family because , you know , whatever I found from resources that were available to me in English , I communicated that to my family and that decision was kind of made through me. And this year , it was important for me to empower my parents , empower my Dios , my kids , who never felt confident enough to make those decisions on their own and be able to find those answers themselves and fill out their ballot without having to worry about feeling like they didn't understand or that they felt maybe they needed extra help to get that done. To me , it was important because I just wanted my family and my community to feel empowered to exercise the right to vote.
S1: I've been speaking with Alma Gonzalez , Lima Brando , KPBS digital editor. Alma , thank you so much for joining us.
S3: Thank you , Jade.
S4: You're listening to KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Harrison Bertino , in for Maureen CAVANAUGH with Jane Hindman. Today , our atmosphere contains more carbon dioxide than at any point in the past 4 million years. That's according to the latest readings from scientists taken from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii in May. The latest in a long , steady rise of CO2 levels known as the Keeling Curve. And here to talk more about what the latest findings mean is Ralph Keeling , professor of geochemistry at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. He's also the son of Charles David Keeling , who began measuring CO2 levels more than 60 years ago. And Ralph , welcome to Midday Edition.
S2: Thanks for having me.
S4: So these latest readings from May saw an average gas concentration of more than 420 parts per million. Break that down for us.
S2: When my father started measuring back in 1958 , levels were around 315 three 1:05 p.m.. We know now from reconstructions of even earlier atmospheric composition that it started out in before the Industrial Revolution at around to 80 parts per million. So now we're up. I mean , some people may remember a few years ago we crossed over 400 parts per million and now now we're up above 20. So it's just up and up and up.
S2: But the main thing causing to build up is the burning of fossil fuels. So tailpipe exhaust , power , plant exhaust , airplane exhaust , we're just treating the atmosphere as a big waste dump for all the CO2 that's produced by burning fossil fuels. And it's it's kind of a one way ticket. The carbon comes out of the ground , it's released into the air , and then it's around us. Some of it spreads into the ocean. Some of that's taken up by plants , but a lot of it just stays around in the atmosphere like a big pile of excess.
S4: Well , to that point , I'm hoping kind of take us back to science class here.
S2: Like you stand in front of a fireplace , you hear that , you feel the glow. The earth is basically glowing to space , which is offsetting the input of sunlight energy. And it achieves a balance that depends on the greenhouse gases. And carbon dioxide is a powerful greenhouse gas. We have more in the atmosphere. The Earth will adjust to a warmer temperature. So it's just basically that simple. More gas in the atmosphere of warmer planet. It's like a thicker , thicker layer of insulation. It's harder for the earth to cool off , and so it heats up.
S4: These measurements have been collected since 1958 and show a steady rise up to the present day called the Keeling Curve.
S2: My father started in the late fifties when I was an infant , so I don't remember them , but he was quite busy when I was young. I do remember that he was traveling around. He did go out to Hawaii to take care of the measurements at some point. So the measurements were actually done on the on the big island of Hawaii at the Manila Observatory , which is now run by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration with Scripps as a collaborator of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego , where I work and where my father worked. And even in the first , first couple of years of measurements , he could see for the first time no one had really got a clear indication of this prior that carbon dioxide was building up. Was it was that stark a result ? And he realized that was going to be important to keep this going. And he he battled through his career to keep these measurements going. And the record itself is is a beautiful scientific achievement , showing in detail just how bad our problems are. Unfortunately , it's not good news , but it's a good record of bad news.
S4: Well , more on that. You say that the latest numbers have us , quote , still racing at top speed towards a global catastrophe , unquote.
S2: Other than that , possibly CO2 hasn't emissions haven't continued to grow. But as I said , the CO2 stays around. So we are still emitting fossil fuel at about as high rate as we ever have. It hasn't really peaked yet. It has sort of plateaued , but it's like you stepped on the gas and you're going 70 miles an hour and someone's getting afraid because you're going so fast and you say , okay , well , at least I'm not going 80. I'm only going 70. We're racing into a world with a completely different climate than we've had in the past , and the consequences are already upon us and they are going to get worse. So it's hard to be really optimistic about the next few decades and 50 years. On the other hand , you can turn it around and say what's happening is still substantially under our control and that future climate change. Mostly dependent on what we emit from here on out. So we do own the control knob. We the throttle is is our use of fossil fuels. And I'm no expert on alternate energy and everything else that could be done , but that is clear. There are ways to live well without using as much fossil fuel. And we should be exploring that and really , really relishing in that possibility as much as we can as a society and as a humanity as a whole.
S4: Well , a possible solution to combating these increases in carbon has been getting a lot of attention and investment , and that's carbon removal.
S2: And one reason people are talking about carbon removal is that you look at the numbers and say , wow , we're going to be in a bad place unless we do more than just cut emissions as fast as seems feasible. So the removal technologies I'm aware of are are not really developed yet at scale and they have a long way to go and there's a question of who pays for them. I don't think we should be relying on them , but I do think we should be investigating them in full at this point , because I think we're we're not in a good place and we need to sort of have all options on the table to figure out what but what can be done. I mean , I think CO2 removal does get at the heart of the problem in the sense that the problem is we're emitting all the CO2 in the atmosphere. We should be taking it back out. I am more positively inclined towards solutions that really bury the CO2 out of sight and less optimistic about strategies that involve growing more trees or more vegetation because that's still pretty volatile carbon. We could think that we're doing a good job at growing a forest and then ten years later it all goes up in smoke and a forest fire. So didn't actually help. So it's really hard to know that it's out of the picture unless it's really below ground. And we see.
S4: A lot of stories with dire warnings on climate change and it can get overwhelming.
S2: I mean , that's the sad truth. And I know the world is still a great place. And then there's there's fun to be had and taking on a big challenge. So this is a challenge and I hope people gear up for it and enjoy the ride. It could be a rough ride , though.
S4: I've been speaking with Ralph Keeling , professor of geochemistry at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. Ralph , thank you so much for joining us.
S2: Thank you so much for having me.
S4: Experts say long cross-border wait times are a drag on our regional economy. A group of binational business leaders are trying to change that. KPBS border reporter Gustavo Solis has more on these efforts.
S5: These are the sounds of the busiest border crossing in the country. Cars screaming out in frustration against a backdrop of idling engines and street vendors. Roughly 90,000 people crossed the San Ysidro port of entry every single day. But before they cross , many have to wait for a long , long time. It's not unusual to lose 3 hours waiting to cross the border. TIJUANA Residents who work in San Diego leave their homes as early as 5 a.m. to get to work on time. County Supervisor Nora Vargas says that all of that waiting costs a lot of money , and it keeps both San Diego and Tijuana from reaching their full potential.
S3: The economic potential.
S6: Of this region , I think , is really something that we haven't really maximized yet. I think there's so much unknown.
S5: The border regions , best and brightest , have spent decades trying and failing to make crossing the port of entry more efficient. They realize now that they have to be more creative in their thinking.
S7: We needed to find ways to make it easier to cross the border. So we need to innovate. Innovate.
S5: That was Kurt Honnold. He is the former mayor of Tijuana and is now the secretary of economy and innovation for the state of Baja , California. He was one of dozens of academics , economists , business leaders and government officials at a cross-border business forum last week hosted by the South County EDC. It was at this forum that Honnold laid out a vision for alternative border crossings. One includes a special border crossing just for people who are at the trolley. It's essentially the same idea as the popular cross-border express or CPCs , a border crossing exclusively for people who fly to and from the Tijuana airport.
S7: The trolley , S.B. , asks what that means. I said , We will have a bridge in the Mexican side in San Isidro that will land there and the CBP installations when people are cross. And then they can go to the to the to the trolley right away.
S5: Another out of the box idea is a ferry that would take people from Canada directly to San Diego. Hoddle says the ride would take a little over 2 hours , but that's still faster than driving across the border. These aren't just pie in the sky ideas. Honnold says he's actively working with private investors and government officials in San Diego.
S7: So we will have less people traveling in the highways , less people crossing , and less people also using the highways in the United States and in San Diego. And if that goes through , like we relieve and we're working with the already with the Port of San Diego to say name or you and see we can do a piece on the summer.
S5: Economists say innovations like these ones are especially needed in an era of supply chain bottlenecks. Mexico imported $74 billion in goods to California in 2020 alone. Experts say that number could be even higher if trucks didn't have to wait so long at the border. Jim Dolan is the regional investment director at U.S. Bank. He says the pandemic showed us just how crippling these supply chain disruptions can be.
S7: On the supply side , the story of supply chain , right. The disruptions of the supply chain due to COVID , you know , the backlog.
S2: Of goods that just aren't.
S7: Reaching the demand causing all of this inflation on top of that.
S5: Which is why he and others say that finding ways to shoulder long border wait times needs to be a top economic priority. Gustavo Solis , KPBS News.
S4: And joining me now is KPBS border reporter Gustavo Solis. Gustavo , welcome back. Hello.
S5: Hello. Thank you.
S4: So you talked about long border wait times in your story. Can you give us a sense of how long people and freight are waiting to cross ? Hours.
S5: Hours. I mean , you mean it's hard to get an exact number or time on the crossing because it fluctuates so much and there aren't very reliable ways of telling. But it's not uncommon to wait 3 to 5 hours crossing the border. I mean , it's a big deal for the people who cross daily. They schedule their entire days around when they're going across their entire weekends on when to come back , when to go. There's entire Facebook pages dedicated to documenting how long the wait time is , where members take photos in real time and say , like , Hey , cross now there's not that long. Or like , Hey , avoid it right now. It's a whole is a big deal.
S5: More and more San Diegans have been moving south , commuting north to work. There's more cars on the road. There's a limited number of traffic lanes , but there's other factors to it , right ? Like the fact that Customs and Border Protection doesn't always staff all the lanes. What ? I'm south of the border and coming back , I normally see 3 to 5 lanes that are closed , which is frustrating because we and by we , I mean the taxpayers , we've invested millions of dollars on lanes to speed up border wait times , but those investments go nowhere if those lanes are not actually staffed. And to be fair to CBP , they have the incredibly hard task of balancing mobility with national security. Right. Part of the reason it takes a while to cross is because they're inspecting vehicles , searching for drugs and human smuggling. And it takes not just time , but it also diverts staff from manning those lanes that are left closed.
S4: Local leaders say long border wait times are keeping the regional economy from reaching its full potential.
S5: But but it is in the billions. Right. I mean , and we can look at previous SANDAG studies to kind of put some context or get a sense of just how big the scale is. Right. There's a 25 study from SANDAG that said if border wait times increase by just 15 minutes , that would mean an additional 1 billion in lost earnings in the cross-border region. Right. So 15 minutes , just 1 billion in lost productivity. A more recent study , one from 2021 , said that the current border wait times as it is right now resulted in roughly $3.4 billion in lost economic activity on both sides of the border , saying zero is the busiest port of entry in the country. It's hard to wrap your head around just how many people , vehicles and goods cross through that.
S4: Now , you report that experts have been trying and failing for years to come up with more effective methods of border crossing.
S5: Right. This isn't as simple as just Tijuana and San Diego coming together and figuring out how to solve the issue. Right. You have to bring officials from the state of Baja , California and Mexicali with leaders in Sacramento. You have to include people in Washington , D.C. and Mexico City. And when was the last time elected officials in D.C. accomplished something very quickly ? There's layers and layers and layers of bureaucracy. And because you need consistent attention , consistent focus and support and political will , because we're dealing with state and federal governments on this issue. We're also competing against other projects and other priorities.
S5: That's how long the border wait times are outside of commuters. I mean , they get to work late sometimes if their employers aren't understanding of what it means to be cross border , they can lose their jobs for going to work late consistently right at the border , wait time at the pedestrian line. Specifically , I see a lot of people wearing uniforms to fast food places , to hotels , different institutions throughout San Diego. We also have to consider why there are so many people living in Tijuana and working in San Diego , right , is because of the region's high housing costs that is driving people south. I mean , long border wait times aren't normally framed as an affordable housing issue , but I think it's certainly a factor. And outside of the commuting impact , there's also the environmental impact on border communities. Right. San Diego and San Ysidro have poor air quality and that's a direct result of having tens of thousands of cars stuck along the border every single day.
S4: A number of alternative border crossing ideas were pitched at last week's Cross Border Business Forum.
S5: Yeah. Two that were floated that I thought were particularly interesting where a cbcs trolley crossing and an instant out of ferry. The CBCs trolley crossing is basically a copycat of cbdcs or cross-border express , which some of the listeners will know is a border crossing exclusively for people flying to and from the Tijuana airport. All you need is a passport and a boarding pass to use the CBCS , and because it's only for people going to the airport is a lot faster than going through the normal normal port of entry. The trolley CB would be the same thing , but for people who ride the trolley to work , if you have a trolley ticket and the proper passport and visa , you can cross through a special border crossing and avoid all those long wait times. It would also boost reliance on public transport. The other idea that I thought was interesting was a ferry that would. Take people directly from incinerator to San Diego. The whole trip would take about 2 hours and 10 minutes , which sounds like a lot , but it's still faster than driving from Cincinnati to San Diego. Honnold said he is already working and having advanced talks with people from the Port of San Diego , so that could happen in a testing capacity like a feasibility test as early as this summer. So they're not totally pie in the sky ideas. They are kind of working and talking with higher levels that the respected government agencies.
S4: You just mentioned him , Kurt Honnold , the Secretary of economy and innovation for the State of California , is proposing ideas that would help move people and not necessarily the trucks bringing in goods.
S5: And that is the new Otay Mesa east border crossing. This border crossing would be technically for both personal and cargo vehicles , but it would mostly be for trucks that are crossing already through Otay Mesa. The U.S. is already building infrastructure on our side of the border for it. Mexico just last month announced that they've acquired 90% of the land and are planning to start building their end of the infrastructure. Congressman Juan Vargas is already pressuring CBP to hire more staff to manned the traffic lanes. So we don't get a similar situation to San Ysidro and all parties are optimistic that it should open by 2024 and that really should help speed up the cargo time.
S4: I've been speaking with KPBS border reporter Gustavo Solis. Gustavo , thanks for talking with us today.
S5: Hey , thanks for having me. Really appreciate it.
S1: Recently , a group of Californians gathered in Oakland to discuss their visions for reparations. It was the first listening session hosted by the state task force studying reparations for descendants of enslaved Americans. The task force has already heard from academics and other experts about how state sanctioned discrimination as affected the lives of black Californians. The task force released a report on those findings last week. Now , in partnership with community groups , the task force is exploring what state reparations might consist of. KQED was at the first listening session , and here's some of what they heard.
S2: My father was born in Mobile. Alabama.
S7: Alabama. My mom was born in Ocala , Mississippi. They still remember Kojo.
S2: Lewis , one of the last slaves.
S7: To be brought over from West Africa.
S3: Reparations should look like people working together so that we can actually achieve the goal. And I thank you for letting that old Asian lady be able to speak up here , because I really do believe oppression on any group of folks is really harmful to everybody's lives and souls.
S7: Because we're trying to bring a people out of the hole that slavery and Jim Crow and all of that terrorism within the United States has brought them. We talk about reparations for enslavement , Jim Crow and now and reparations. What does it look like ? Compensation , restitution , rehabilitation , satisfaction and guarantees of not repetition , at least when we talk about 40 acres and a mule. Order number 15 from General Sherman. What we're talking about is expropriation of land. That was a order from the United States military. And the military is now sending $40 billion over to Ukraine , but they didn't give us our land. My great grandfather was a sharecropper. But really what I came up here to say is I'm a businessman and all I care about is the numbers. I care about cutting the check , the cost.
S6: Of reducing class sizes so that our kids can get the personal attention and the support that they need. That , to me , would be one of the ways in which we can provide reparations , because when this boat rises for black folk , it rises for everybody.
S7: You know , we're still here. We've lost half of our population in the last 30 years. So it is with no heroes. So that's the first piece. The second piece is the question around the genealogy.
S3: And we're talking about.
S1: Blacks who have.
S3: Descended from American chattel slavery. And that's an important distinction , right ? Because these are legal claims that we're asking and bringing to the government. I think that's an important part.
S1: That you do not hear necessarily.
S3: And why a lineage standard is so essential versus a racial standard. We have been here for a very long time and as one of the representatives that we held said , when she puts her fingers in the soil , she can feel the blood of her ancestors there. When you go back and actually make these discoveries , it repairs something in you. It takes a separation and it brings it back together. And what this coalition is doing is a Herculean effort , and I have full faith that will all come into fruition. But I want to remind you that come hell or high water , we will survive. That is what we do.
S1: Those were the voices of people who spoke at the first listening session of California's Reparations Task Force. The segment was produced by KQED , Amanda Fonte with and Elise Feeney as contributing reporter. The next task force listening session will be held in LA's Lambert Park neighborhood over a Juneteenth weekend. You're listening to KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Jade Hindman with Harrison Bertino filling in for Maureen CAVANAUGH. As anyone who's cared for young children knows , it's a very demanding job. But child care providers are generally paid very low wages , and the child care industry operates on razor thin margins. There are few government subsidies for child care and no public schools for kids under five. So most parents are pretty much on their own. But how did it get this way ? The Podcast. No One's Coming to Save US digs into the history of child care and what could be done to heal the industry. The podcast host Gloria Riviera recently spoke with KPBS reporter Claire TRAGESER. Here's that interview.
S3: So the childcare industry was already on the edge , and then COVID came in , made it even harder with shutdowns and new rules and health concerns. Were you already working on this show when COVID started ? That's a good question. I think we did get very lucky with the timing of the release of the show. It was May 20 , 21 , and parents across the country were I mean , I was going to say at their breaking point , but they were just beyond it in a place of total pain. And and and that had turned into an anger. So so it was a good time to release a podcast on child care. So then and I know , I know this is a big question , but how did childcare get to this day ? It's in today. Yeah , we say , how did we get into this mess ? Yeah. How do we get into this mess ? Yes. I think I can lay it out for you. I'll try to be concise. I mean , first and foremost , if you look at it from the perspective of race , like just think about how we thought about black families , black women , black children. Right ? Black women were hired to take care of white children. So think about all of what goes into that and in terms of how we value the role of a black mother and a black child. So that's one thing. Secondly , I think it's really interesting. I did not know this that the U.S. during World War two created incredible childcare and early education , sort of I call them pop ups now. But all the men were going off to war. So a few smart people said , these women who are now going to work to support the war effort , they will need help taking care of their children. And it was high quality. It was smart people. You know , in some cases they were in church basements , but in other cases , they were beautifully designed buildings. And my favorite tidbit from that is that women would come home from their hard day , you know , in a factory and they would be their child would be returned to them , having had an invigorating day , a creative day , you know , a happy kid. And they would also be handed in some places a warm meal because God forbid , they go home and have to cook dinner for their family. When the war ended , those schools went away. Those facilities went away. You also talk on the first season about a historic stigma around childcare , where the women who needed it were maybe lower income and maybe had husbands who couldn't work. Do you do you feel like is that stigma still at play today ? Yeah , I think the stigma has a lot of elements that go into it. So you look at the obsession with material wealth in our country. I mean , I remember on an ill fated foray into law , I was a paralegal and my lawyer that I worked for was sending , you know , presentations from the laborer. You know , she was about to have her baby. She was in the hospital and she was setting up presentations like right before or , I mean , in the middle of contractions. And there's a part of our society we all know this that thinks that's kind of badass and like thinks that's kind of incredible and go her she's , you know , working to the last minute and that's so removed from a government , a country , a community that pauses to appreciate this moment in a woman's life when she's about to become a mother or , you know , a couple's life , when they're about to , you know , adopt a child or anyone who becomes apparent. There's no pause in this country to say , wait a minute , how can we help you ? So so , yeah , I think that that that's our , you know , our societal obsession with achievement has gotten seriously off kilter. So we've reported it , KPBS , and I know you. As well about the staffing shortages that have plagued childcare , especially during COVID. Are there areas that you feel like the government failed the industry ? Right. I think it's a really hard discussion to have. I think if you look at where we started , childcare providers have never been paid really a living wage. So it's a very underserved even though we educate , you can go to college , you can get lots of degrees to qualify you to take care of kids under the age of kindergarten age , right under five , under four. So the landscape to begin with was desolate and dire. And then COVID happens. And what a lot of places like Starbucks or Walgreens or Walmart , there's a long list of companies that were able to increase wages. So I guess that's more the corporate the corporate perspective. Like it started to look really good to go to a place that could bump up your minimum wage significantly. And these child care centers just couldn't do that. So if your question is , where was the failure ? I think the failure was not. The failure was in not supporting the small , small companies. I'm thinking of home care facilities. You know , if you were taking care of 50 kids , 100 kids , you got small business loans , home care providers did as well. But it just I feel like it was not as smooth a process as it might have been right to to a lot of these places. We spoke to someone in Alabama and in Alabama , there are a lot of child care providers who take kids who are on subsidies. I did not know this , but if a child who's on subsidies , meaning , you know , they're getting help from the state to pay for their place at these facilities if that child doesn't show up. And think about how many kids didn't show up during COVID. The child care provider does not get paid. So it's like this domino effect that's lightning fast and devastating. And so what are you delving into in season two ? Yeah , absolutely. I mean , season two is all about a weekly conversation. So when I talked about this , a wound that child carries every week , now in season two , we get to rip off the Band-Aid and look a little bit more closely. And what that looks like is conversations with people who are in this. I think. I feel less alone listening to these conversations , and I think that's the connective tissue we need right now , because like I said , I really don't want to go back to my kids early years. We got through them , you know , everyone's still standing , but I don't want it to be that way for my kids. And unless I , like , make everyone move to Sweden or , you know , somewhere with a childcare policy that's friendly to families , they will be facing this absolute desert. Well , I've been speaking with Gloria Riviera , the host of the podcast , No One is Coming to Save US , which is now in its second season. Gloria , thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you , Claire.