Trump’s Legal Woes & America’s Childcare Crisis (with Gloria Riviera)

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Julián and Sawyer dig deep into Trump’s troubles, ranging from the January 6th Committee’s latest findings and New York State’s continued investigation into his seemingly shady business practices. The two also welcome ‘No One is Coming to Save Us’ host Gloria Riviera to talk about the difficulties of childcare during the recent omicron surge.

Follow Gloria online at @griviera.

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Gloria Riviera, Julian Castro, Sawyer Hackett

Julian Castro  00:13

Hey there. I’m Julian Castro.

Sawyer Hackett 

And I’m Sawyer Hackett.

Julian Castro 

And welcome to OUR AMERICA. This week, we’re going to talk about the various criminal and civil investigations closing in on former President Trump, and what that means for 2024. As well as Biden’s efforts to turn things around, amid a slurry of bad polling and bad headlines, and later in the show, we’re going to talk to a claim journalist and host of the Lemonada Podcast, No One is Coming To Save us. Gloria Riviera, about the fight for child care. But first, let’s go over the latest with Trump. Sawyer, so what is the latest?

Sawyer Hackett 

Yeah, so there is, you know, a myriad of different investigations going on under Donald Trump right now, I think it’s helpful to sort of take a step back and think about this through like the three different buckets of investigations that are currently ongoing. You know, he’s got business investigations, investigations into, you know, conflicts of interest that he had or using presidential power. And then obviously, you have the investigations into January 6. So, you know, as he’s considering another run for president in 2024. He’s facing trouble in at least two different courtrooms. His businesses are under so many investigations, both in New York and in different prosecutorial offices. His company is being accused of tax fraud. And his business is under investigation for lying to banks and tax authorities related to different properties that he has across the globe. So there’s this criminal case that’s brought by the previous Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, over his effort to cheat tax authorities that have millions of dollars in New York. And then last week, New York State Attorney General Letitia James announced that that her office had uncovered significant evidence that the Trump organization had used, you know, fraudulent asset evaluations on multiple properties, including in Scotland, where his golf course is.

Sawyer Hackett  02:09

You know, he’s also being investigated from a local prosecutor in Georgia over his efforts to get Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to quote find 11,000 votes so that Trump could overturn those election results. And there are two separate lawsuits brought by members of Congress and other groups involving police officers over his efforts to prevent Federal officers from carrying out their duties on January 6th. So there’s a lot of different things going on right now. The January 6 committee is also really hard at work. News broke on Friday that a draft executive order from Trump would have ordered the National Guard to seize voting machines following the 2020 election. And the plan included an effort to replace Attorney General Bill Barr, who has most recently spoke to the committee. Also last week, the committee received a trove of 700 pages of Trump documents sent to the National Archive, after the Supreme Court ruled eight to one against Trump in that lawsuit. And the committee has just recently subpoenaed Ivanka Trump and Rudy Giuliani. So this is all coming against the backdrop of Trump’s decision to run for president in 2024. You know, reporting suggests that these investigations actually are pushing him into running. So I guess that he’s worried about, you know, liability or jail time. And he thinks that if he becomes president, again, he can find a way out of those things. So it’s just a lot of stuff going on. It feels like the walls are sort of closing in on him legally. And this is coming right, as voters are getting prepared to, you know, cast their ballot in the 2022 midterms. So it could actually backfire for Republicans. That was a mouthful.

Julian Castro 

Yeah. That is. You know, we haven’t spent on this podcast, an inordinate amount of time on Donald Trump. And that’s for good reason. It pisses me off that we even still have to devote this much time to this guy. I mean, I wish he would do like every other former politician, even former presidents, and you know, get off the stage. But that’s not where we’re at, for different reasons. One of them is this big ego, and he has to be in the middle of things politically. I saw that he just made a slew of endorsements in my home state of Texas, he’s endorsing other places, he’s trying to build up those political chips for perhaps his run in 2024. And to remain relevant generally. Sure, he’s trying to monetize all of that as well, now that he’s back in private life, but the other is all of this shit that you just mentioned. mean, the guy is a crooked guy. And now, these different waves of investigations are coming down crashing on him, whether it’s his business, whether it’s what he did in Georgia trying to change the election, or it’s the January 6 committee. You know, I think the most serious one of course is the January 6 committee, you mentioned the memo, the Politico Uncovered. I mean, this was a memo basically, where Trump would have seized voting machines. And then, and I essentially rigged the election to keep himself in power, the more that they uncover from the January 6 committee investigation, the more you see how pre-planned, premeditated this Trump led effort was to overturn the legitimate results of our election.

Sawyer Hackett 

Yeah, it’s, it’s crazy to think about too, you know, thinking back to when the January six commission failed, and we had to set up a committee instead of a commission. And, you know, Republicans went out there and said that Democrats are being partisan, and they just want to investigate Trump, so they can keep him in the news. And it helps them politically. And I remember them saying, McConnell, especially saying, well, what’s this committee actually going to find? I mean, we already know the truth of what happened. We know that this was a failure of, you know, national security, it was a failure of Trump not to act swiftly. But that’s pretty much all it is. I mean, this committee, we haven’t even seen public testimony or there hasn’t even been private testimony, I don’t think from major players in the Trump family or in the Trump orbit. And we already have found out that there was an effort by Trump to seize actual voting machines, having the National Guard sees voting machines, there was a PowerPoint presentation put together to talk about how they could overturn the election results. There are these private contractors grifting Arizona lawmakers to try and, you know, push them into allowing these companies to look into these voting machines and take over these voting machines. I mean, this was a full court press by every lever of Trump’s political power to overturn the election. And we’re just at the tip of the iceberg, I think with this committee.

Julian Castro  06:57

Yeah. When there’s also that audio of him, I think talking to the Secretary of State of Georgia could be one of the other elected officials there. But were he saying, Oh, I just need 11,801 votes. You know, because we won the election, mean, the guy is at the same time, a manchild spoiled Brat, who clearly is used to getting his way, and is taking that to the ultimate level. Let me just subvert our democracy, overturn the results, because I can’t stand it that I lost here. But that’s what he was trying to do in Georgia and in these other states. The investigation has also uncovered the actions of these folks that we’re going to serve as fake electors, essentially, in a few states to provide the cover that these guys needed to suggest that now he really did have the electoral votes in a few states that he needed to win. I mean, you know, Elizabeth Warren, the other night delivered a powerful speech on the floor of the Senate, about the need for voting rights legislation. This was right before, unfortunately, you know, the Senate turns down, and she brought up the case of Crystal Mason, she was a 46-year-old mother of three from the Dallas Fort Worth area, who got sentenced and jailed for casting a provisional ballot in an election, by mistake. She didn’t know that she was not eligible to vote. So she cast a provisional ballot and got sentenced to five years. You have one person who mistakenly and she’s Black, by the way, that shouldn’t surprise people the way that justice has worked in some places like Texas. And then on the other hand, you have the president of the United States himself, trying intentionally to overturn the results of an entire election for president. And the question is, what’s going to happen to him? Is he going to be held accountable?


Sawyer Hackett  09:07

The media has largely like, come back to this point about, I guess, it’s not just the media, but lawyers investigating them. That Justice Department memo that says that a sitting president can’t be indicted. And I think a lot of these investigations, whether they’re in criminal court or civil court have just sort of been pending and waiting for him to leave office. And now they’re sort of all piling up on him to the point where he could face serious legal problems both in New York and yeah, like you said from the January 6th committee, and I think it’s important the point you just made about connecting the efforts of places like Texas voter suppression efforts in places like Texas back to Trump’s big lie. I mean, this, all of these laws that are passing 19 Different states have passed voter suppression laws last year alone. Those are all based on the lie that voter fraud that there’s a serious problem of voter fraud in this country. And those laws are now in place, in places like Texas. You know, there’s reporting this week that shows that 50% of mailing ballot applications in the biggest counties in Texas are being rejected right now under that new law, because there’s a discrepancy in the identification information on  their voter file. This we cannot let those actions Trump’s actions be separated from the actions of Republicans in the state legislatures. And Trump is I think, obviously, he has these dictatorial tendencies he, I would say he’s a fascist, he wants to be authoritarian, but the Republican Party is much more sinister than Donald Trump is. They have weaponized, his lies and his misinformation to do some of the things that they’ve wanted to do for decades, you know, the worst kind of voter suppression that we’ve seen in this country since Reconstruction. And I think it’s important that we make sure that that connection is made, because right now, you and I, we are reluctant to talk about Trump just because it’s, it seems like we talked about him for so long. But we have to connect Trump to the Republican Party, because they’re indistinguishable at this point.

Julian Castro  11:08

You know, maybe the main reason that it’s important, as you say, to talk about this, to connect these dots, to continue this investigation to get accountability is because it’s not just about the past. It’s about the future. It’s about a full blown, ongoing attempt to subvert democracy to rig it in state after state and at the federal level, so that the party stays in power as long as it wants to. And if there’s no accountability here, for Donald Trump for his co-conspirators, for those who are carrying out this big lie, then they’re going to get away with it. And our democracy is not going to resemble what we have right now.

Sawyer Hackett

Yeah. And so speaking about the future, I mean, it’s clear that Republicans are already trying to sort of diminish the work of the committee. They’re trying to paint this as just another partisan game. I’ve seen a lot of reporting, bad reporting in the media, suggesting that January 6th, has just become another wedge issue for voters. And Newt Gingrich went on Fox over the weekend, and tried to make this point, and I think ramped up the pressure even more on Republicans to attack the committee, he said, quote, I think when you have a Republican Congress, this is all going to come crashing down. And the wolves are going to find out that they’re now sheep, and they’re the ones who are in fact, face a risk of jail for the kinds of laws that they’re breaking. He’s essentially threatening or saying that a new Congress should threaten the members of Congress who are currently investigating the president for various crimes that he has committed. And, you know, his staff have committed around one of the greatest attacks in our democracy since the Civil War. I mean, this is like third world country type shit.

Julian Castro  12:53

And then on the other end, when Democrats try to hold them accountable at all, like they have by sending out this eight-page letter to Ivanka Trump, not subpoena in her just asking her to come before the January 6 Commission, to please answer questions that have been brought up because there’s strong evidence that she was directly involved, spoke to her father on January 6, trying to I guess, calm him down and get him to say something. So she has very relevant evidence about how involved or uninvolved he was in all of this on that day. And before then probably, they sent her this letter, and right away, Donald Trump says, they’ll go after children. Never mind that this is legitimate work. This wasn’t even a subpoena but it was really galling because this is a 40-year-old woman. This is not a 10-year-old, not teenager, 40-year-old woman who played an informal advisory role in the White House while Donald Trump was President

Sawyer Hackett  14:00

Hell of a top-secret security clearance.

Julian Castro 

Yeah. I mean, she was basically a White House staffer. So with that comes these responsibilities and she has direct knowledge, but it’s also galling, because this is the same guy that put that ad in the paper. When the Central Park Five were falsely accused of a heinous crime in 1989. This ad in the paper essentially suggested that they should be executed. This is the same guy who amped up a policy to separate little children from their parents to traumatize them to cause them a lot of pain in their lives. And I understand I mean, any parent would not want their child to go through an uncomfortable experience, but it’s so disingenuous really disgusting.

Sawyer Hackett 

And you know, he wouldn’t have said a damn thing if it was a Don Jr Eric, facing that committee. It’s the golden child. But yeah, so this is all coming in the middle of this decision that Trump is going to make about whether to run for president in 2024. He’s probably also seeing a lot of these bad headlines and bad polling. You know, about the Biden presidency, NBC just had a poll over the weekend that says that 72% of Americans say the country is headed in the wrong direction, which is the sixth time in history that it’s been that high. You know, this is amid this spike in inflation. The cost of living is like straining a lot of families, obviously. And now we have a potential conflict with Russia and Ukraine, which is sort of bogging down the Biden presidency after the failure to pass voting rights after the failure to pass Build Back Better. And so Americans are, I think, are pretty stressed. And the thing that worries me most, you know, you see here in this poll that 70% of Americans think that the country is too polarized to solve major issues, and a whopping 76% Say there’s, there’s an ongoing threat to democracy and a majority rule in the United States. I mean, it’s hard to get past some of these numbers, but it’s a little bit terrifying.

Julian Castro  16:10

As we’ve said before, we know usually these midterm elections are tough elections for the incumbent presidents party. That’s definitely what the polling reflects this time. I think Biden needs to get some quick wins, you know, do what you can, through executive orders, work on legislation that, you know, you can get past. They’ve said, they’re going to try and do some of this stuff piecemeal, if they can, whether on voting rights or Build Back Better. Representative Jim Clyburn recently also brought up a good point, which is you need to talk about what you already have gotten done, and perhaps not focus as much on what hasn’t gotten done. That’s hard. Because really, what happened was that Biden raised expectations for a lot of people on Build Back Better, on voting rights. And now that those expectations have not been met, on the left, you’re going to face that deflation and enthusiasm that always kind of be devils, you in a midterm year anyway, just today, there was polling about the enthusiasm levels of each party’s voters going into the midterm. And the enthusiasm level for Republicans is something like 14 points higher than for Democrats. That’s a much bigger gap than we saw, even in 2018 for Democrats versus Republicans. This is something that mirrors more closely, the blowout years of 2010 and 1994. So there’s a lot of reason to be concerned. The other thing is, for all of those people that are running down ballot, whether you’re running in statewide race, you’re running for Congress, you’re running for your local county seat, you need to hit the pavement, knock on doors, can’t take anything for granted.

Sawyer Hackett 

Yeah. And I mean, you know, I, of course, agree that we need to be talking more about what we have achieved. And there is a lot, I think, 2.2 on that, especially on the economic record, unemployment being where it is, you know, the biggest job creation year in in US history. Of course, there’s a lot to tout, but respectfully to Clyburn, I mean, the point you just made about enthusiasm gap, that that isn’t because of our inability to talk about what we’ve achieved, his Biden’s biggest drops in support have come from young people, especially as the biggest cohort, Black and Brown voters, Latino voters. I mean, his numbers have been hurt the most with the coalition that got him elected with the people who are going to mobilize in a midterm year and vote Democratic almost all the time. You know, while I agree that we should be talking about what we have achieved and not being so negative about what we haven’t achieved, you know, a lot of the things that are outstanding, you know, that if Biden could do via executive authority, like canceling student loan debt would probably benefit him tremendously with the cohort that he’s been losing ground with.

Julian Castro 

No, that’s true. Yeah. I mean, that’s where that’s where I think the expectations are there. There’s that deflation, and enthusiasm, because on some of these things, the expectations haven’t been met. But there’s still time. Yes. And you could take action, student loan debt as a great example. I mean, through executive action, to do something about it. I mean, here’s the thing, even if you do something about it, you still got to be able to sell it. And I think maybe, you know, that’s part of the point, too, is this was a challenge during the Obama administration. It’s clearly a challenge in the Biden ministration. This seems to be a pattern for Democrats. Trump was a huge bullshitter the biggest talent he had, I think, as a politician was marketing, and probably as a businessman. He always pumped up far beyond his accomplishments, far beyond what they actually were. Well, you know, we face the other problem is that I think we don’t pump those up enough or least don’t do it successfully they gotta figure out a way to both substantively meet those expectations with great policy and then also sell it effectively. And there’s not much more time left to do it.

Sawyer Hackett  20:15

Right. I mean, I think we would both agree that there isn’t much time, but there’s enough time to turn things around. I think the COVID situation is improving with Omicron. You know, we can pass some version of Build Back Better, that’s not going to include everything that that we wanted, but, you know, includes some big-ticket items, we can pass some version of voting rights legislation, you know, probably not going around the filibuster. So that means working with Republicans maybe on something around elections subversion that electoral account act, even though I think that that’s a, you know, a red herring to distract from other voting rights legislation. But there’s time to get things done. Before we go to break I wanted to quickly talk about some news out of your home state of Texas there. You know, last week, there was news that the FBI raided Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellare home and office seeking records about array of different companies and advocacy organizations that he’s been involved with, specifically around this former Soviet nation of Azerbaijan. You know, we still don’t know a lot of what’s going on there, whether he’s the target of these investigations. There’s also been reporting indicating that his wife is also, you know, being looked into but some really big news out of a one of the most critical primary races in the state of Texas with voting starting in just a couple of weeks between Henry Cuellar and Jessica Cisneros, who is challenging him in that primary.

Julian Castro

Cuellar represents the 28th Congressional District of Texas, which basically runs from Webb county that includes Laredo, his home base, also the home base of his 2022 primary opponent, Jessica Cisneros, all the way up takes in a good swath of South Texas and actually catches part of San Antonio part of the south side of San Antonio and the east side of San Antonio. In 2020. Jessica Cisneros ran against in the first time, I think within three points, there’s a lot of uncertainty about where Cuellar stands because the FBI has not been clear about whether he’s a target. They just haven’t said anything so far other than, you know, generically what the investigation is related to now, when the FBI raids your campaign off his and your house, that can’t be good. You know, I don’t want to speculate, he is do a presumption of innocence of any wrongdoing at this point. But I will say that he was already going to have a tough time politically, he I think, is the only anti-choice Democrat left in the Democratic caucus, in the House of Representatives. He has taken a lot of money from private prisons, from Big Oil, you name it. He’s done these things that really fall in line more with what Republicans usually do and views that they espouse than a Democrat and justice. Cisneros, you know, impressive, bright, hard working. She’s from Laredo, she has a great story to tell. So she’s a compelling candidate, the 20 Democratic voters of the 28th congressional district are going to have a compelling alternative. That’s going to make it hard for Henry Cuellar, I think, to hold on. Even more so because of this cloud of suspicion that hangs over him. Right now. His campaign, as I understand it, has also imploded. Several of his campaign staffers left the campaign as soon as this news of the investigation came out. He did go up on TV with an ad buy. But one of the groups this group called Better Jobs Together that was putting out ads, TV ads for him, pulled their TV ads. So it looks like his campaigns in a lot of trouble. And I wouldn’t be surprised at all, if Cisneros narrows pulls off a victory in the March 1st primary.

Sawyer Hackett  24:20

Yeah, and you mentioned this in the tweet that you posted about this news. But of course, he is, you know, entitled to that presumption of innocence in this investigation. But you know, voters I think are also entitled to the truth and are entitled to more information before they head to the polls in two weeks. So I would hope that the FBI is, you know, at least going to confirm whether he is or isn’t under investigation, whether he’s the subject of that investigation. I think that they owe it to that district to his hundreds of 1000s of constituents that he represents, to share that information or, you know, he owes it to the people that he represents to give a full accounting of What’s being investigated? Because, you know, we have voters are going to start preparing to cast those ballots in two weeks. And they’re incumbent, you know, Congressman is under it looks, appears to be under investigation for all kinds of problems. So, yeah, it’s a wild story, but I guess we’ll see what happens in the next couple of weeks.

Julian Castro 

Oh, well, the Biden administration and Congress tackle voting rights and legislation like Bill back better. We’re going to talk today about one of the perennial challenges that families across the country face, which is childcare. Its affordability and availability. And we’re going to talk to Gloria Riviera, who is the host of the Lemonada Podcast, No One is Coming to Save Us. Stay tuned.

Julian Castro  26:11

Gloria Riviera is an acclaimed journalist and host of Lemonada’s childcare theme series, No One is Coming to Save Us whose first season is available to stream now. Gloria, thank you so much for joining us on Our America. Like for those who, who haven’t had a chance to listen to the podcast, it premiered last spring. And it’s a four-part series that really magnified the shortcomings of the American childcare system. You were at ABC News for a number of years, you’ve reported from across the world on Foreign Affairs, and of course on domestic politics and affairs. What was it that drew you to this subject matter? In this moment.

Gloria Riviera 

I think I was feeling what mothers and fathers and caregivers all across the country were feeling. And now in retrospect, it seems like that moment, you know, the spring of 2021, when we started work on this podcast was sort of a walk in the park. I remember the New York Times had come out with a special section called the Primal Scream. I don’t know if I made that up in my head because that’s what I felt or if there was actually those words were in the headline. And they profiled several families who were at their wit’s end with child care. And I say, when I speak to people about the show that COVID put child care into technicolor the crisis into technicolor for this country. So that’s what I felt. And that’s why I was drawn to the show.

Julian Castro

When I was gonna ask you, I mean, true or false. For many American families, the issue of child care availability, and affordability is a crisis.

Gloria Riviera 

Oh, for sure. I mean, it’s only gotten worse. And I spoke to the director of Ellis Early Learning, which is in Boston, which we focus on during the show. And she just sounds I mean, I don’t know how many times I said, I’m so sorry. I mean, the what they’re describing what they’re facing with early education and childcare right now with Omicron no one’s ever been through this before. I mean, it feels like there are no options.

Sawyer Hackett  28:26

So Gloria, I mean, obviously, the pandemic has sort of exposed so many different issues and systems, you know, shortcomings of our government. And I think in particular Childcare and Education has been like a central one for families. And it’s been at the front of our political debates. What do you see is like the biggest gaps and inequalities that parents are experiencing that they may not have noticed before the pandemic?

Gloria Riviera

I think what COVID exposed for these families was just how strained their facilities were right? They were strained before, but what COVID exposed is the extent to which they were hurting. So we’re talking about what they were paying their teachers, I’ve spoken to several teachers who are leaving the industry, far more educated than I am, because they’re going to higher paying jobs in places they’re not passionate about, but because of that paycheck that they can get, I think they recognize and this is families I’m talking about, they recognize that spots at these facilities are highly sought after every single place. And still, the focus of our show Ellis Early learning. They still are at maximum capacity. It’s not an issue of demand, families want this, but they saw how, during COVID When one thing went wrong, it was a domino effect and everyone was affected. So the upside of that is that families saw how just all of these facilities become these communities, these very tight knit communities. And before COVID It was sort of a joy if you got a spot because you met other families. Kids, your own kids ages. And there are all sorts of lovely things that happen out of that connection that your children had. And that has gone to another extreme, which is that now you’re all just trying to survive it together.

Julian Castro  30:13

Yeah, a few years ago, when my family and I were living in Washington, DC, we had a newborn who, you know, grew to about one and a half when we were there. We realize how expensive childcare is. And that’s true, of course, in cities like DC, but that’s also true across the country. I mean, what have you found in hearing the stories of families, you know, scrounging to try and afford decent childcare?

Gloria Riviera

Very often I heard that childcare is more than a mortgage. Right? So when you look at your budget, that’s the number one expense, it’s more than you pay for where you live. How do you sustain that? A lot of families who had their kids, first of all, they had one child in early learning in early childcare, then they had two, and they thought, Oh, this is feeling tight. And then the next conversation is okay, who quits his or her job to stay home, to alleviate that cost on the family, and then you’re giving up all sorts of incredible things. Because we all know that early learning is incredibly important for brain development, and socialization, and community, all of those great things that people get from early childcare. So pretty immediately, the conversation for families around early childcare becomes one about what they’re willing to give up. And those are pretty extreme things that they’re willing to give up, because the cost is just unsustainable for them.

Sawyer Hackett 

Gloria, both you and your husband are prominent reporters who have traveled the globe, you’ve had to, you know, navigate the childcare system before the complexities of finding childcare at a moment’s notice. So you’ve probably also experienced different approaches to childcare across the globe. What do you see as like, the best model for childcare? What do you think the US is? What are our shortcomings that you’ve noticed when you’ve traveled to other countries?

Gloria Riviera

Well, the shortcomings are a long list. But what I’ve noticed in other countries, I was based in Beijing, when my children were three and one. And I remember covering a story and all of a sudden, there was this big crowd outside these gates, and they were parents, because the schools there are open much later to enable both parents to work. Now, of course, there are many, many things that we could talk about that are not things I would support about how China approaches children, but I will say they do have this approach in which they value the idea that both parents should be able to work. And that is one of the driving factors to how they organize their schools. So from a very young age, your child will be well looked after, until a later hour in the day to accommodate different kinds of work schedules. That was a revelation to me. And again, you see that community and connection, when the parents or caregivers come to pick up the child. They’re all there together, their children have been together have spent a day with people they trust, that’s a big thing that I saw, whether it was in reporting out, no one is coming to save us with examples from Berlin or Quebec, where high quality teachers high quality facility somewhere that you trust with your child’s life, is what is being provided. And that immediately values not only the parent, but the child. And we just completely, we don’t have that in this country.

Julian Castro

You know, of course, these last two years almost have been unlike any other two years that any of us have lived through in this COVID era. And that’s presented some new challenges when it comes to childcare. I mean, there are a lot more people who are working from home. And in many ways that’s problematic also, for families, because some might think, well, you could just, you know, now that you’re going to be at home, you can, you know, just take care of your young children, as well. But it doesn’t work that way for a lot of folks. What have you found there?

Gloria Riviera  34:12

Oh, my God. I mean, I’ve heard story after story that breaks my heart at Ellis Early Learning in Boston, they actually have a split among the parents. Okay, so these are parents who are leaving their children for the very first time. So in some cases, babies and there is one group of parents who say, listen, we understand the risk, can you just put all the parents who raise their hand to say we understand the risk can just put us all together? Because if my child can’t go somewhere and be well looked after and cared for, I can’t go to work. I actually have to be at work. I mean, let alone be at home and try to work. But this is slightly more extreme because these parents are considering giving up their jobs because of COVID because they

Gloria Riviera 

can’t rely It’s like a domino effect of disrupted reliability left and right. One mother described it to me as a cortisol shot every morning. She works at a school and her email inbox is filled with who’s not coming that day. And whereas before Delta, they were able to keep COVID at bay. Now, it’s everywhere. I mean, she said, the Director of Finance was at the front desk, because they just don’t have enough people. I mean, people are leaving the schools is very much a workers market in early childcare. And so it’s a scramble every single day. I don’t know what the options are. I am an optimist, which has been hard lately on this issue. But I am an optimist.

Sawyer Hackett 

So obviously, like during this crisis, there’s been in the backdrop, this debate in DC about passing, you know, the bill back better bill, which has a number of different provisions related to childcare, what do you see? And I’m not necessarily asking you to endorse the whole plan, but what do you necessarily see as important investments that are in that plan that would help our childcare systems right now?

Gloria Riviera  36:11

I think you have to look at where your priorities are for the next generation. And I am happy to tell you exactly what I think I feel like podcasting has allowed me to do that, especially with this issue, and you have to invest in our young people, if you want to see a return on that investment. And, you know, when we look at the Build Back Better plan where it is now I was happy to see in Biden’s recent marathon presser that there is, you know, universal pre-K is still on the table. I believe that Senator Manchin, I mean, he knows, he knows all about it had happened in his home state, four-year-olds are offered public pre-K. So I choose to believe that that’s still on the table. And I think that’s what we need to do first and foremost, is provide that because everywhere you look in the country, even in private companies in the US, there is a return on that investment. And it’s tangible.

Julian Castro

You know, a few years ago, when I was mayor of San Antonio, we ran a ballot initiative called pre-K for SA, and the voters approved investing money to significantly expand high quality, full day pre-K for four-year-olds. But during the course of coming up with that, we were told over and over again, really, you need to do something as well, about zero to three, on the one hand. And then on the other hand, invariably, in public forums, we get pushback, especially from conservatives that, oh, that’s just daycare, it’s daycare, you know, it almost like it’s worthless, whether it’s pre-K, or it’s other childcare, just babysitting. That attitude continues to be, you know, as a strong strain of thought out there. I mean, what do you make of that?

Gloria Riviera 

I grew up on the West Coast going to Idaho a lot. So I saw what Idaho decided to do and offered money for COVID relief for kids, which was to reject it. At Yeah, that through line that you’re hiring strangers to watch your kids is the exact opposite of what is actually being proposed. Right now. We’re not talking about strangers that you dumped your kid with and come back four hours later, we’re talking about high quality, affordable, accessible child care. So I try not to be driven too crazy by that. I think the real question is, how do you do your best? And I want to know how you did it to get through to people. I mean, even what you just said, like voters approved an increase in taxes to pay for, you know, pre-K for four-year old’s. That’s wild and amazing. And we need to see that happen across the country.

Sawyer Hackett  38:54

So in your conversations with people about this issue, like do you think parents see this issue as political? I mean, traditionally, the federal government hasn’t totally been involved in the childcare systems in this country. But you know, right now, we’re seeing this heated debate over whether schools should stay open and that it’s like voters haven’t connect the dots between that and that Democrats are fighting in Congress to invest in childcare, which would actually address that situation and help them with remote learning and help them you know, care for their kids while they’re trying to, you know, work from home all these things. Do you think parents view childcare as political? Do you think that they see it? Do they go to the polls with childcare in mind and cast a ballot?

Gloria Riviera 

Well, I’m hoping that they will. I mean, I was not a childcare voter before this podcast, and now it’s one of my top priorities as a voter. So I hope they will. I don’t think they do now. I think that we have lived so many decades as women I’m 47. So I feel like I grew up with a mother who went back to work and had to knock on doors to find someone to watch my sister. And she just thought that’s, you know, that was pretty normal. I think that people are so tired for salt like physically tired. That getting to a place of understanding about using their vote, about figuring out where your representative, your Senator, your governor stands on child care. That is where we need to light a fire, that it is not that it’s just not burning right now. Right? It was and it’s still, it just needs to be a highly flammable issue at the top of everyone’s minds. And I think that we need to do better messaging about it. And hopefully this podcast will do that to some extent.

Julian Castro  40:43

And so, in terms of the podcast, four episodes in that first season, was there any particular aha moment or guests that you really think folks should be sure to take a listen to?

Gloria Riviera

Well, anything that Kristen Bell did in each episode was amazing. And they should all listen for that because everyone has a kid who’s obsessed with frozen. So she was brilliant and chimes in and is amazing, and really sums everything up. So when I think about each episode, one thing that I didn’t know was that this country has done this before. We did it during World War II, we created high quality, affordable, accessible childcare centers, that people still remember, we interviewed one of the teachers who was with one of our students at the time. So we’ve done it, we’ve been there, one of the aha moments for me was hearing about one center in California, and the woman women would work, you know, towards the war effort all day and then come get their kids and they would be handed a warm meal, because you know, they’ve worked a long day. And you know, God forbid, they go home and be expected to cook for their family. So for me, that made me feel like, oh, there was a moment when this country with federal dollars, really thought about the person as a whole, the woman is a whole, most of these people were women who were called into action during World War Two. You know, that’s good and bad. I wish it was still like that. Another thing that was a complete aha moment was hearing how the military created childcare in the 90s, when we were slashing the military budget left and right. And the woman who ran that effort, had to walk in and ask generals who were, you know, basically laying off soldiers, you know, for more money, and they gave it to her and they created a really good system now. It’s not perfect. And, you know, I hope as this podcast goes on, we can get into that. What I learned from how this country created a child care system within the military, was it they created something that was uniform. So no matter what base you were on, you knew you would have access to good care for your child. And we spoke to a lot of single mothers with more than one child who decided to join the armed services because they knew they would get good child care. So that was another aha moment for me for sure.

Sawyer Hackett 

that’s always fascinating to me is that is the military, like, as an example of what government can do when it actually tries and like, whether it’s education, childcare, you know, the health care system like we’ve created their own little system that can be and isn’t always a shining example, but can be on so many issues. That’s fascinating.

Gloria Riviera 

World War Two was a while away, but like the late 90s, that’s when I graduated from college, like that happened during my lifetime, when it was created. And it was refined and improved. during my lifetime, like that to me, is wild.

Sawyer Hackett 

So before we before we let you go, you did this special bonus episode in October. I think you’ve referenced the episode earlier, where it called where you direct your primal scream surrounding the battle to pass the Build Back Better act. And you talked a little bit about contacting your representative about this issue. Can you tell us a little bit about that experience?

Gloria Riviera 

I don’t know how proud I am of my own experience. I mean, listen, I live in DC. So we don’t actually have a vote on the floor. But I did want to figure out where my representatives stood. And after several phone calls and being switched back and forth. I mean, you couldn’t have written this for a Hollywood movie. It was like we’re going to transfer you to this person. And then I get to that person and I’d say I talk to you two minutes ago. But finally, you know, I got this one-line email that said the representative supports the President’s plan in early child care. I think the first step is figure out where your representative is on the issue. If your representative is not supportive of it, call write letters do what you need to do. I mean, we profiled a very small community in Multnomah County, Oregon, tiny, tiny little area, and they managed to pass universal pre-K for three- and four-year-olds, against all odds, right? They were up against I mean; I can’t believe that they were able to do this. They had to go out and get signatures during COVID and they managed to make it happen. So I would underline the power of community movement. And get out there and figure out how you most effectively let, listen, all these people are going to run again. And the message needs to be you’re not going to have my vote if you don’t support early childcare. That’s the big headline.

Julian Castro 

Well, thank you so much for joining us. Thank you for the work that you’re doing. Shining a light on such a critical issue for millions and millions of American families, especially in this moment. And folks should check out Gloria’s podcast. No One is Coming to Save Us. It’s streaming now. Check it out.

Gloria Riviera 

Thank you so much.

Julian Castro  46:08

Welcome back to our America. We talked a lot about our democracy today. And at the foundation of that is the vote. We’re headed into a spring and summer of primary elections, whether you’re Democrat or Republican across the country here in Texas, the primary happens on March 1, that means that the deadline to register to vote is on January 31. I hope that no matter what state you’re in, if you’re not registered to vote already, that you’ll take a look at That’s to get details on registration deadlines, and how you can get registered to vote. We’ve had a huge fight for voting rights over these last few months. And really, these last few decades. I hope if you’re not registered to vote, that you’ll get registered. Go to I will to get started today.

Sawyer Hackett

And as always, folks can leave us a voicemail sharing any sort of stories or happy news in their week. You can do that at 833-453-6662. That’s 833-453-6662 And as always, you can subscribe to Lemonada Premium on Apple podcasts. And follow us on social media I’m at @SawyerHackett, at @JulianCastro and @LemonadaMedia. We’ll see you next week.


OUR AMERICA is a Lemonada Media Original. Our Producer is Xorje Olivares, with executive producers Jessica Cordova Kramer, Stephanie Wittels Wachs and Julian Castro. Mix and scoring by Veronica Rodriguez. Music is by Xander Singh. Please help others find the show by rating and reviewing wherever you listen and follow us across all social platforms at @JulianCastro, at @Sawyer Hackett and at @LemonadaMedia. If you want more OUR AMERICA, subscribe to Lemonada Premium, only on Apple podcasts.


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