Valerie Jarrett on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Transcript

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NBC News


Sunday, October 18, 2009


Senior White House Adviser


Member, Health Committee

Chairman, Banking Committee

Senator JON KYL (R-AZ)

Republican Whip


Editor, ?The Shriver Report: A Woman?s Nation

Changes Everything?; Guest Editor, NBC?s ?A

Woman?s Nation?; First Lady of California


President, Center for American Progress


This is a rush transcript provided

for the information and convenience of

the press. Accuracy is not guaranteed.

In case of doubt, please check with


MR. DAVID GREGORY: This Sunday: cost, coverage and compromise. Inside the healthcare debate in Washington.


PRES. BARACK OBAMA: We are now closer than ever before to passing health reform, but we’re not there yet.

(End videotape)

GREGORY: What will it take to form a coalition large enough to pass legislation? Will the president have to referee between the liberal and moderate wings of his party? And will Republicans remain united in their opposition?

Plus, outrage at Wall Street. Banks prepare to pay record bonuses. Should the government step in? We’ll hear from two key voices on the Hill: a senior member of the Health Committee and chairman of the Banking Committee, Democratic Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut; and Republican Whip, Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona.

Then, a seismic shift in the makeup of the American work force; so says a new report from Maria Shriver and the Center for American Progress. By the end of the year, for the first time in history the majority of workers in the U.S. will be women. What impact is this having on American life? This morning we kick off NBC’s weeklong series exploring A Woman’s Nation with the first lady of California and NBC guest editor Maria Shriver; the president of the Center for American Progress, John Podesta; and senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett, who chairs the White House Council on Women and Girls.

Finally, our MEET THE PRESS Minute from September 10, 1972. A very different era and the fight for a very different notion of a woman’s nation.

(Videotape, September 10, 1972)

MS. GLORIA STEINEM: What kind of choice is it, after all, to be able to go out and earn half as much as a man for doing the very same work?

(End videotape)

GREGORY: But first, with the view from the White House, the president’s senior adviser Valerie Jarrett.

Welcome back to MEET THE PRESS.

MS. VALERIE JARRETT: Well, thank you, David. It’s a delight to be here.

GREGORY: Good to have you here. Let’s first talk about the economy, and here was a headline that played prominently this week from The Wall Street Journal: “Wall Street On Track To Award Record Pay,” expanding bonus pools and raking in big profits. And yet here’s a picture of what is now called the Obama economy, since he’s come into office, and let’s show it on the screen here. The debt is up 12 percent, it’s now at $11.9 trillion. The deficit’s now at $1.4 trillion. Unemployment at 9.8 percent, up 36 percent since he took office. And jobs, 4.2 million jobs lost since the president has taken office. Wall Street’s healthier, but the American worker is not.

MS. JARRETT: Well, that’s right. And–but I think we have to take a step back, David, and let’s remember the conditions that the president inherited, a global meltdown, and we now realize that it was actually far worse than we realized at the time when he came in office in January. And what the president did is take very serious steps to get our economy back on track. He has pulled us back from the precipice and as a result of that–we were losing 700,000 jobs a month, that has decreased steadily over the course of the last nine months, and we are beginning to see signs of hope. But the unemployment rate is still much too high, and the president will not be satisfied, as he has said time and time again, until every single American who wants to work has a job.

GREGORY: But what’s he prepared to do in a–what looks to be a jobless recovery, to make sure that jobs do get created to say he–the way he say he–says he wants?

MS. JARRETT: Well, first of all, first of all, he’s already done a great deal. The recovery bill that was passed by Congress in record speed really staved off a disaster, and we saved millions of jobs around the country. And we’re on track. We’re already–we’re fully on track with the recovery bill and the spending that’s going forward. But we’ve only spent about a little less than half of the money, and so we still have a ways to go with the recovery bill. We know unemployment is a lagging indicator. We’ve always known that. But what we’re doing is making sure that we have the process in place so that we can bring those very important jobs back.

GREGORY: But is–does there have to be a second stimulus, something done to specifically target job creation?

MS. JARRETT: Well, I think we have done many things to target job creation. I think it’s too soon, it’s premature to say is a second stimulus needed. There is this conundrum: You’ve got this huge national deficit, and we’ve got to do what we can to bring that down, at the same time as it’s important to stimulate the economy. And the federal government has to do its part. That’s why the recovery bill was so important, that’s why many of the measures that the Treasury Department has taken since then, whether for housing or small business, are all very important in stimulating the economy. So let’s wait and see. Let’s let the recovery bill do its, do its job and then we’ll see.

GREGORY: No commitment on a tax credit for employers, for instance?

MS. JARRETT: Well, every morning, as you know, the president meets with his economic advisers, and the first thing he says to them is, “What are we doing to tackle the unemployment rate?” There are a range of suggestions that are being considered right now by his economic team, and we’ll see what we come forward with. We’re consulting with the business community, we’re consulting with everyday Americans who are struggling. We’re trying to figure out what can we do to create an incentive to invest in our country and make our country strong again.

GREGORY: So, so, so the idea of some kind of additional stimulus to create jobs is on the table, fair to say?

MS. JARRETT: Everything is on the table. As you know, President Obama is always interested in what can we do to make our companies strong so that they’re going to grow and invest in our country. So he’s, he’s willing to look at all possibilities; but he’s also saying, “Let’s let the recovery bill that was passed by Congress work.” And we’re not even halfway through that yet.

GREGORY: All right, let’s turn to health care. The president in his radio address yesterday took on the insurance industry and some of the studies that they have submitted this week to, to challenge his version of reform. This is what he said.


PRES. OBAMA: It’s smoke and mirrors. It’s bogus, and it’s all too familiar. Every time we get close to passing reform, the insurance companies produce these phony studies as a prescription and say, “Take one of these and call us in a decade.” Well, not this time.

(End videotape)

GREGORY: What’s striking about this is that the insurance industry, all along in this process, has been the president’s partner. That’s what we’ve been led to believe. And now we have the president taking on the insurance industry. Is this a sign that he believes the insurance industry is on the verge of killing reform?

MS. JARRETT: Well, I think it’s a sign of his frustration that at the very last minute they would come up with a study that has been–widely been debunked over the course of the last few days, including by the people who actually prepared this study. At the same time, you have the Business Roundtable come out with a study by Hewitt that shows how costs are escalating and how the time is right now to take on this issue. So I think what you saw was the president express, expressing his frustration that at the last minute the insurance industry would try to potentially tank this bill. And it’s not going to happen this time. And I think that the message that we’ve seen from the president and the huge momentum that is moving through Congress shows that the American people are ready for healthcare reform and they’re ready for it this year, and nothing’s going to stop that.

GREGORY: But you’ve got challenges from the insurance companies; you’ve got, in the political middle on Capitol Hill, concerns about costs; and even from the left. This was the headline in Politico: “Labor chief takes on the White House.” This is Gerald McEntee, the president of AFSCME, which is government workers across the country, and he writes this in a USA Today op-ed piece: “McEntee said union workers have often chosen to accept lower wages in exchange for better and more costly health insurance. He said union members…won’t be afraid to remind politicians of that in next year’s election. `We worked for all these people. We worked for Obama. … And what do we get for it? We not only don’t get anything for it, we get a slap in the face.'” And the criticism is that the taxes for this health reform ultimately will hit the middle class.

MS. JARRETT: Listen, David, what we’re, what we’re very cognizant here is that we have to reduce costs, we have to improve coverage, we’ve got to make affordable, quality health care for all Americans. Those are the basic parameters that the president set forth when we gan–we began this process. It’s hard. It’s complicated. If this was easy, it would’ve happened under the five decades that there have been efforts for healthcare reform. But what we’ve seen right now is, for the first time in history, five committees have passed legislation. There’s an agreement on 90 percent of what we’re trying to accomplish here and there’s some momentum to move forward right now. So are there last-minute wranglings? Are there going to be people who are trying to maneuver? Sure there are. But I think that the momentum under President Obama is clearly moving forward now.

GREGORY: Will he push for a public option before he signs any kind of reform?

MS. JARRETT: The president has made it clear throughout the process, he said it in his speech before Congress that he thinks that the public option is the right solution. He thinks it will enhance competition and he thinks it’ll reduce costs and it’ll give people choices. And he said that throughout the process.


MS. JARRETT: So he’s a big believer in the public plan.

GREGORY: But the question I’m asking is will he push for it and demand it here is the–in the final version of reform?

MS. JARRETT: He’s pushed for it, certainly, but he’s realistic to say we’ve got to look at all options. He has said very clearly he thinks it’s the best option, and we’ll see what happens.

GREGORY: So he’s not demanding that it’s in there.

MS. JARRETT: He’s not demanding that it’s in there. He thinks it’s the best possible choice. But I think, David, let’s not underestimate how much progress we’ve made. The fact that there’s agreement on so much means that we are right on the brink of delivering for the American people, and that’s a positive sign for our country.

GREGORY: But, you know, there’s a lot of stalwart supporters of this president who look at healthcare reform in the context of other things that he promised in the campaign, and what do we see? A promise for universal health care; well, you’ve got 17 million people who wouldn’t be insured under this plan. A promise for a public option; now you’re saying he doesn’t demand it. You know, the mantra of the campaign was “Yes, we can.” Has that become maybe?

MS. JARRETT: No, it has not. It has definitely become yes, we can. If you look at the five bills that have been passed, they provide more, more reassurance to the American people that they’re going to have the kind of affordable health care, that they’re going to reduce their costs, that they’re not going to have to choose between paying their rent and paying for their health care, that they–if they have a pre-existing condition they’re going to be covered, if they want to go in and have all kinds of exams that will prevent illnesses that they’re going to be covered by that. There’s so much in these bills that is going to benefit the American people. The–we’ve come so far, and we can’t lose sight of that. Are we there yet? Have we crossed the finish line? No. But under President Obama, we’re absolutely committed to delivering on behalf of the American people.

GREGORY: Before we go, I want to get your comment on a couple of developing stories. Swine flu; it turns out there’s a big delay in the vaccines reaching communities. There’s some 10 to 12 million fewer vaccine doses available, and yet we know that younger kids are getting sicker more frequently, with deadlier results. Did the government overpromise in terms of being able to deal with this?

MS. JARRETT: No. And we’ve been working hard over the course of the summer. It is science. You can only produce a vaccine as quickly as it will grow. And we’ve been working very hard to get the information out. We’ve been working with the governors and the mayors across our country. Anyone who has questions should go on to see how you can receive your vaccine. We encourage everyone to take the vaccine as soon as it is available. We are focusing every single day on making sure that we can get out ahead of this the best way we can, but you can only push science as fast as it will go.

GREGORY: But the delay is going to have an impact.

MS. JARRETT: The day–delay will have some impact, but I think what’s really important is that people are cognizant of what symptoms to look out for, that they take reasonable precautions. There’s a lot that we can do to, to keep ourselves from getting the illness. If you do get sick, please stay home. If you are wondering whether you have the right symptoms, you can go on and, and find out for yourself without having to always go to a doctor. But if you get very ill, of course, go to the doctor. And then just the reasonable precautions we know about: if you sneeze, cover your, cover your mouth, etc. So it is a serious illness. There are 41 states now where we have serious outbreaks. You’re right, the pediatric fatalities have already been larger that we’ve–than we’ve seen in normal flu outbreaks, and so it is a serious illness and we encourage everybody as soon as you can to get vaccinated.

GREGORY: Valerie Jarrett, thank you very much. We actually get more of you today.


GREGORY: You’ll stick around, you’ll be part of our conversation about A Woman’s Nation with Maria Shriver and John Podesta coming up in a few minutes. Stay where you are.

We’re now going to introduce by remote chairman of the Banking Committee, Senator Chris Dodd; and Republican Whip, Senator Jon Kyl.

Senators, welcome both of you back to the program.

SEN. JON KYL (R-AZ): Thank you.

SEN. CHRIS DODD (D-CT): Thank you, David.

GREGORY: Senator Dodd, I want to start with you.

SEN. DODD: Yeah.

GREGORY: You are involved in these negotiations to figure out the final form of healthcare legislation. And you’re hearing from Valerie Jarrett this morning, a senior adviser to the president, he will not demand a public option as most of his supporters want. Will it be in there? Should it be in there?

SEN. DODD: Well, it should be in there, and–because for a number of reasons. Not just for the politics of it; but if you’re trying to increase competition, drive down costs, reduce the impact on the federal budget, these are all reasons why a public option is necessary if you’re truly trying to get your arms around this. And what we’ve drafted here in, in these bills, I think, gives us that opportunity and that chance. In the absence of that, the alternate is to, of course, to make this more affordable by driving up subsidies, which increase the cost of the bill. So we have some tough choices to make. But I think the public option makes the most sense…


SEN. DODD: …if, in fact, you want competition. So that’s why we’re going to do it.

GREGORY: So how is it going to, how is it going to happen?

SEN. DODD: Many states have only one or two insurance companies.

GREGORY: How’s it going to happen? The president’s not going to push for it…

SEN. DODD: Well, we’re going to…

GREGORY: …who’s going to push this across the finish line.

SEN. DODD: Well, the president’s deeply involved, and you heard the statements from Valerie that he’s very much for it, said so again the other day. And my hope is that when we bring these two bills together over the next number of days that we’ll present to the Senate an option that includes that strong public option. Then the Senate will obviously, the full Senate, as Jon knows, will have an opportunity to vote it, to take it out of the bill, to modify it in some way. But my strong belief is we ought to include that as we move forward in the Senate.

GREGORY: But aren’t we beyond–Senator, aren’t we beyond strong beliefs? I mean, isn’t this brass tacks time? What have you got in terms of the votes? You’ve got one Republican senator who’s not for it, you’ve got conservative Democrats who are not for it. They seem to have most of the influence over the final package here.

SEN. DODD: Well, David, you’ll recall just this even spring I’ve had a number of bills that have come out, they came out of committee with one-vote margins. And when you end up on the floor of the Senate, you find sometimes you get more. About half the Senate has been involved already between the Health Committee and the Finance Committee. The other half of our Senate colleagues have only had to give talks about this, and they’d like to express themselves. So I haven’t given up on this. We had the, the credit card legislation, which I drafted that came out of the Banking Committee with a one-vote margin, passed on the floor of the Senate 90-to-5. The same was true with the tobacco legislation, came out of the committee with a one-vote margin, passed the Senate 85-to-7 or something like that. So I’m still confident when we get to the floor and, and you’ve got to make a choice between bringing down costs affecting the budget as well as increasing competition, then we have a good, good chance of including the public option in the bill.

GREGORY: Senator Kyl, let me bring you in here. In terms of who’s got the most influence over this process, I mentioned Gerald McEntee, the head of the AFSCME union. This is something that he said in an op-ed for The Wall Journal this week. He writes this: “Now we’ve got a Democrat in the White House and we expect some positive things. It looks like we catered to Senator [Olympia] Snowe. My God, she’s a Republican, I thought we won.” If you look at who does have influence over here, why is the Republican Party in the Congress completely opposed? Don’t you have somebody who’s got more similar views influencing the process?

SEN. KYL: Well, first of all, it’s obvious there’s a big fight going on within the Democratic Party between the House and Senate, between moderates and more liberal members of the, of the senators on the Democratic side. Republicans are kind of on the sideline here. We offered a lot of amendments, both in the HELP Committee and in the Finance Committee, they were all rejected on party line votes. The bill that’s being written right now is being written in Harry Reid’s office, behind closed doors, with Chris and Max Baucus and the leader and others. No Republicans need apply to come into that room. I think, though, if I could, David, it’s a little bit beside the point, this whole question of the public option. It’s an important issue, but it’s not the most important issue. And at the end of the day, while I totally disagree with Chris about whether it’s a good idea to have it in there, I think he’s right that in a form it will be in there. But what they’re really good at doing is putting it in a different package, putting a different color ribbon around it and saying, “Well, that’s–it’s only the public option. If things don’t work out in a couple of years” or something like that. And that’s the concern that a lot of Republicans have. It’s why we’ve offered alternatives that do not rely upon a big government takeover and a public insurance company, but rather use the market that we have today, focusing on patients and trying to insure that we can both bring down costs and increase access to care without totally reforming the entire healthcare system.

GREGORY: I just want to pick up on, on one point, Senator Dodd, the idea of a public option in some form. One of the things that’s been talked about is the idea of a trigger, a kind of Washington language for the idea that if in a, in a private system you don’t have enough competition, you don’t have enough, you know, competition bringing down prices ultimately for the consumer, that a government plan could kick in later on down in the line. Would you support that?

SEN. KYL: Absolutely not. It’s…

SEN. DODD: Is that for me, David?

GREGORY: That’s for you, Senator Dodd, yes.

SEN. KYL: Oh, I’m sorry.

SEN. DODD: Oh. Well, listen, I–as I said, in the HELP Committee bill we have a very strong public option that does exactly what I’ve described. And obviously, to move forward here, my hope is we’ll keep that. But let me also suggest something to you, David, here. I thought Olympia Snowe, my–our colleague from Maine, said it very well the other day. When history calls, history calls. What are the alternatives here if we do nothing, as apparently some are suggesting? And by the way, as Jon knows, in the Health Committee, which I chaired over the summer here, 161 amendments, more than half the amendments adopted in that mark-up were amendments offered by the Republican side, which we accepted as part of that bill. But if you look that in the next seven years we could have premium costs go from $13,000 a year to $24,000, 3.5 million jobs could be lost in the process. The cost of business could double to nearly $1 trillion as a result of doing nothing. The impact of doing nothing is so much more costly than what we’re talking about here that my hope would be that we, in these coming days here, get together on this. The American public cannot withstand more years of rising costs, rising premiums and more unemployment. That’s why this is so important.

GREGORY: You know, it’s interesting, Senator Kyl, in that vein, in terms of this kind of moral imperative, you and other Republicans have said this healthcare reform should be opposed, and one of the major reasons you cite is how much money it costs, how much it could potentially add to the deficit, although the president says it’ll be deficit-neutral. And yet when you talk about the war in Afghanistan and the commanders should have more of their troops, I’ve never heard you say that that should be deficit-neutral, that war costs should somehow not break the bank. Why is that disparity there?

SEN. KYL: David, no country can afford to scrimp and save or try to win a war on the cheap. The president himself has said that the war in Afghanistan against these terrorists who killed over 3,000 American on September 11, 2001, is a war of necessity. You have to win it. And Americans throughout our history have sacrificed when war has called for us to do that.

GREGORY: And is it a, is it a necessity to tackle the fact that there are more and more Americans who die because they don’t have access to health insurance?

SEN. KYL: I’m not sure that it’s a fact that more and more people die because they don’t have health insurance; but because they don’t have health insurance, the care is not delivered in the best and most efficient way. Republicans have a lot of good ideas–and all those amendments Chris was talking about where technical amendments. We have very good ideas about how to tackle this problem one piece at a time and basically regain the trust of the American people by taking one step at a time rather than saying that we have to have a trillion-dollar bill. Yes, that will hurt our deficit. Remember, we just had the figures come out earlier this week, a $1.4 trillion deficit, more than all of the last four budget deficits combined. So when we’re spending on war and when we’re spending on other things we need to have, we don’t have to spend as much on health care. We can do it one step at a time to target the problems that we have with targeted solutions.

GREGORY: Senator Dodd, one more question on health care. And to bring a bottom line in here, crystal ball time. After all of this debate, you have said getting a pretty good bill is not enough. So in the end, what version of healthcare reform gets passed?

SEN. DODD: Well, I think it–a strong bill that does exactly what we’ve talked about: increasing that access, increasing quality and making it affordable. Affordability, affordability. Just to site two states, by coincidence; in Jon’s state there are 900,000 people without insurance, one in five in Arizona. He loses 280 people a day that drop insurance. I lose 100 a day. I’ve lost 28,000 people in Connecticut that have had their insurance dropped because they’ve lost their jobs in the last year alone, David. Those kind of numbers cannot continue. The people in Arizona and people of Connecticut, for every uninsured person, pay almost $2,000 in premium costs per year to pay for the health care showing up in an emergency room of the uninsured. We need to address this issue. So I’m hopeful accessibility, profitability, but affordability for middle-income families is going to be critical.

GREGORY: Let me move on…

SEN. KYL: David, I…

GREGORY: I want to just move on to the–with a couple of minutes.

SEN. KYL: No, can I just respond to that?

GREGORY: All right, go ahead, quickly.

SEN. KYL: In my, in my state this Oliver Wyman study, not the one that Chris criticized–or that you criticized earlier, in my state increased premiums for a family under this bill, $7,400. That’s not the kind of reform that Arizona families are looking for.

GREGORY: Let, let me move on to the issue of what’s happening on Wall Street and this expanded bonus pool and record profits. This is what The Wall Street Journal reported this week: “Major U.S. banks and security firms are on pace to pay their employees about $140 billion this year–a record high that shows compensation is rebounding despite regulatory scrutiny of Wall Street’s pay culture. … Total compensation and benefits at the publicly traded firms analyzed by the Journal are on track to increase 20 percent from last year’s $117 billion–and to top 2007’s $130 billion payout.” Senator Dodd, you’re chairman of the Banking Committee. All of these bailouts, the state of the American worker, is there something upside down and wrong here?

SEN. DODD: Well, no, David. Look, first of all, the good news is the economy’s getting stronger and getting better, and that’s the positive news. We went from 700,000 job losses a month in January to numbers today which are not great, but they’re a lot better than they were. And obviously, we’re not talking about a depression as we were a year ago. So things are getting better. Now, obviously, when you see these bonuses being paid out, it’s a source of outrage in the country, and it should be. What are these people thinking about at these companies? We have poured a lot of hard-paying taxpayer money into these firms to stabilize them, to get our economy moving again. We have banks that are not providing credit to smaller businesses and others to get the economy moving. Now, things like the clunker bill–Johnny Isakson, the senator from Georgia and I are working to extend the tax credit for home purchases, not just new homebuyers, things that will get the economy moving again. But these firms on Wall Street need to understand that what they’re doing by providing these bonuses, particularly when they received so much federal money, is an outrage in the country. And my hope is that Ken Feinberg, who’s walking on this–working on this, and others, we can do something about getting these firms to back up and reduce these bonuses.

GREGORY: Senator Kyl, should there be dollar amounts, should there be limits on compensation that the government sets?

SEN. KYL: Well, in the event that the government basically bails one of these outfits out, it has the, the right and the ability currently, as Chris just noted, to put limits on the compensation and the kind of compensation. But I think we need to get–be a little careful about this. In the Baucus bill that passed on–last week on the health care, there’s a limit on insurance company salaries; not just for the top executives, but any employee or any consultant, the people that work for any consultant that’s hired. So let’s be a little bit careful that we don’t get the government intruding in the business of America to the extent that our free enterprise system is crippled by business regulations.

GREGORY: All right. Finally, a final question, Senator Dodd, on politics, the politics of 2010. According to recent prose–polls, rather, your job approval rating in Connecticut is below 50 percent, at 43 percent. Why do you think voters are losing confidence in you?

SEN. DODD: Well, well, David, I’m not sure how to answer. We’ve been through a tough time, obviously, over the last year. But I’m confident, again–do the job, work hard on behalf of the people you represent–that those numbers’ll turn around. These polls are a snapshot. Obviously you pay attention to them, but wish they were better. Obviously had difficulties. But I’m confident, again, a year from now that if I continue working hard on their behalf that these things will turn around.

GREGORY: We will leave it there. Senator Dodd, Senator Kyl, thank you both very much.

SEN. DODD: Thank you, David.

GREGORY: And coming up next here, A Woman’s Nation, our special report on the state of women in America: Maria Shriver, John Podesta and more with Valerie Jarrett. Plus, our MEET THE PRESS Minute. A look back at a very different time for women with activist Gloria Steinem, only here on MEET THE PRESS.


GREGORY: A special report on women in America with Maria Shriver, presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett and John Podesta after this brief commercial break.


GREGORY: We are back, rejoined by senior adviser to the president Valerie Jarrett, who chairs the White House Council on Women and Girls; and the first lady of California, Maria Shriver, who co-wrote “The Shriver Report” with the Center for American Progress, headed by John Podesta.

Welcome to all of you. This really is, Maria, I have to say, it’s such an interesting report, and it has really gotten people talking. More people will talk, I think, around tables like this and their kitchen tables and at home. So here is the report, and I think that there’s a couple of real standout takeaways that’ll get us started here this morning. The first thing is about the status of women in the work force, and here it is. We’ll put it on the screen. Look at that. Now nearly 50 percent–and by the end of the year they will be 50 percent of the work force. Compare that to 1950, when women were just 29.6 percent. And there’s more. Almost 40 percent, 40 percent of working wives are earning as much or more than their husbands, they are the breadwinners. How do those two points underscore the title of this report, “A Woman’s Nation”? How do those make this a woman’s nation?

MS. MARIA SHRIVER: Well, I think what’s really important is these changes are permanent. Women are now half of the work force, two-thirds of mothers are primary breadwinners or co-breadwinners, and that this is where we are now in this country. And that change affects every institution that this country is dealing with. Less than 30 percent of kids have a stay-at-home parent today. What impact does that have to the government, to business, to men, to women, to faith-based institutions? So this report tries to chapter those things out and say all of these institutions have failed to adapt to this change that has happened, and that in order for them to survive and become smart about the American worker they must adapt and must change.

GREGORY: Valerie Jarrett, we’ll talk about the government’s role in a little bit. But as a woman, as a top adviser to the president, as a former business executive and most important, as a mom, what does this mean?

MS. JARRETT: Well, first of all, I want to congratulate Maria and, and John for having pulled this report together. It’s phenomenal. We’ve reviewed it. We are just, just overwhelmed by their willingness to put the effort into this and to bring this to the national spotlight. And frankly, to you, David, for giving us this forum on MEET THE PRESS to discuss this very important issue. I was a single mom. I know what it’s like to try to figure out how to meet the goals of your job and, and be professional and still raise a child and have her turn out as well as I think my child has turned out to be. You can’t do that alone, and the existing institutions really have to change to foster this new dynamic.

GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

MS. JARRETT: And the fact of the matter is it isn’t just about women. I chair the Council on Women and Girls, but we say all the time that this is a family issue. This is a family issue. And so we have to look at this from the perspective of how can the family thrive in this new work environment and how can we foster the changes that we need both in business and in government, faith-based institutions, not-for-profits, all of it coming together? Because that’s what it’s going to take to really meet this new dynamic that we have in the work force.

GREGORY: And, John Podesta, what’s interesting–I mean, look, this is very much my life. I mean, this reflects my life. I’m blessed to be married to my wife, Beth, who’s a prominent trial lawyer, and, and so some of these realities I’ve been living with all the time that I’ve been married. But these are profound changes.

MR. JOHN PODESTA: Right. And I think they kind of snuck up on us. I noted in the book, my mother in the 1950s went to work. They–my parents had a tag-team marriage. My father was a blue collar worker, my mother worked at night as a pink collar worker. But they kind of snuck up on us. And what we thought in doing this report and the partnership with Maria was really focusing on the fact that now two-thirds of women in America are breadwinners or co-breadwinners would force a change in the way business and government, faith-based institutions, the media take a look at these issues and provide more flexibility for people…

GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

MR. PODESTA: …to try to relieve the stress that comes from having people trying to work. But look, the battle of the sexes is over, David.


MR. PODESTA: Three-quarters of American public think this is a good development, it’s here to stay.


MR. PODESTA: And it’s really critical to the economic success of American families.

GREGORY: That idea–I just want to get to that, Maria, the idea of the battle of the sexes being over. In your essay in the report you write about that, and this is what you say: “What we heard loud and clear” as you’ve been around the country, “is that the battle of the sexes is over. It was a draw. Now we’re engaged in negotiation between the sexes. Virtually all married couples told the pollsters they’re negotiating the rules of their relationship, work and family. An overwhelming majority of both men and women said they’re sitting down at their kitchen tables to coordinate their family’s schedules, duties and responsibilities, including child care, elder care, at least two to three times a week. Men said it was more like every day.”


MS. SHRIVER: That’s right. I’m sure you would probably agree with that.

GREGORY: Right, absolutely.

MS. SHRIVER: I think what’s, what was interesting to me about that is how often people were sitting down, what they were negotiating, how much more involved this generation of men are in raising families; but still overwhelmingly, women feel that the–they are primarily responsible for all the child care and all the elder care. Elder care is a huge issue in this country today. And when we talk about people being able to take time off from work to care for an elderly parent, something like 300,000 teenagers in America today are caring for people with Alzheimer’s. The institutions need to adapt to who the American family is today. They need to get smarter.

GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

MS. SHRIVER: They need to get more progressive. And I think we should even throw out this term “family-friendly.” It’s smart family policy. It’s smart for business; businesses retain women, do well with the bottom line. This is smart government policy to figure out how to help and support the American worker who is stretched, men and women, on both ends of the spectrum.

GREGORY: But, but there’s still–I mean, as I’ve been thinking about this, Valerie, there are still very different expectations on, on women vs. men. We can talk about negotiations. You know, negotiation in, in my own marriage over all of our various responsibilities with two careers and with, you know, three children; and yet whether it’s the kids and how they respond to my wife when she comes home at the end of the day or the, the, the reaction they have when she leaves that’s different than the reaction than, than I leave, when I leave. There, there are different expectations that women are still challenged by.

MS. JARRETT: Well, that’s right, there are, and that’s why we have to make sure that the workplace setting is one that is sensitive to those. And that–and also, though, David, more and more men are getting more involved in child care, they are taking more of a role. And I think what we want to do is to create for the family more flexibility in the workplace environment. We are all telling personal stories, and I think it’s important to reflect on the president’s life.



MS. JARRETT: He was raised, too, by a single mom, and he experienced firsthand what it was like to have a mother who had to make difficult choices, often involving him to be, being away from her so that she could do her work. He is married to a professional woman who, until she became first lady, had her own independent career…


MS. JARRETT: …and was trying to balancing raising…

GREGORY: Made more money and outranked him.

MS. JARRETT: And outranked him, exactly, and was trying to raise these two beautiful children and balance the needs of being a good mom and yet trying to be professional and being a spouse. So I think that these are issues that they have lived throughout their entire life, and so it sensitizes them and makes them challenge our administration to do whatever we can to make sure that we encourage the private sector to–and the government to develop the necessary flexibility. The first woman recently spoke at a conference involving corporations that are supporting family-friendly environments, and so figuring out what are the best practices in the private sector that we can duplicate in government and that we can share around the country, because there are many corporations out there who are very successful while being flexible. In fact, you can make the case that part of why they’re being so successful is because they give their employees more flexibility.

GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

MS. JARRETT: So what are we going to do collectively, as a society, to, to make the necessary shifts to support this new family structure?

GREGORY: Right. And I, and I want to get to some of the, the issue of changes, but I still want to kind of live in this changing dynamic a little bit. Because, Maria, even if there is a change in this kind of how we see power between men and women…

MS. SHRIVER: Mm-hmm.

GREGORY: …you still have the male ego, you know.

MS. SHRIVER: Mm-hmm.

GREGORY: Still a lot of men uncomfortable…

MS. SHRIVER: Yeah, I know about that. Yeah. (Unintelligible)…with that one.


MS. SHRIVER: Not here at the table, though.

GREGORY: Yes. No, of course.

MS. SHRIVER: No, not here. No, not at all.

GREGORY: Because no, I have no ego. But no, but the issue of, you know, are men comfortable talking about the fact that their wives earn more than they do?

MS. SHRIVER: Well, I found men really receptive to this conversation. That’s why we really wanted to make sure that this report had a whole chapter on men, because men are asking, “What is expected of us today? We want to be more involved in the caretaking of our children.”


MS. SHRIVER: “We, we don’t like, really, the way our fathers did it and we, and we are more involved. We understand that elder care is a huge issue, and we don’t know how much we should be involved or we want to be involved.” But one of the–Valerie was talking about some of the best practices of businesses.


MS. SHRIVER: Businesses that bring men and women together do better than those that don’t, because men don’t know what women are talking about.


MS. SHRIVER: And they need to be brought up to speed about what women want, what women expect and what women need in order to be successful at work and at home.

GREGORY: Well, and it’s interesting, too. You talk about–from, from the report about businesses should deal with the issue. And what the report talks about this, about–specifically about businesses. The conversation’s no longer about whether women will work, but rather about how businesses are dealing with the fact that the work force is increasingly made up of women and that most workers today, men and women, share in at least some of those care responsibilities.

MR. PODESTA: Right. And, and clearly women still bear the burden of caring for both children and elderly parents more than men, but I think that’s changing. There’s more equality in the workplace.

But to, to your previous question, David, I think that one of the reasons we did the poll with Rockefeller and Time magazine was to ask the question of men, how do they feel about this?


MR. PODESTA: Eighty percent said they were fine with women earning more than, than men in the household. So I think attitudes have really changed. And the reason they’ve changed is because families are extremely dependent today on the ability for a woman to bring home that paycheck.


MR. PODESTA: To, to provide for the well-being of the family. And I think that’s, that’s not a women’s issue or a men’s issue, that’s a family issue and it’s an economic issue. And I think that government and business need to get on board on that and I think businesses need to be, as, as was noted…


MR. PODESTA: …more flexible about creating the circumstance where women and men can have the flexibility to lead good lives.

GREGORY: So, Valerie Jarrett, before, before the woman leaves the home, you know, to go to the business, what about dealing with her husband and the idea of kind of what, what, what should we do as men here to sort of adapt? Jamal Simmons–Maria and I have talked about this–wrote a terrific essay in the report in which he says this: “Relationships these days are different. The woman you committed to today may have the same name and Social Security number as the woman you were–you are with tomorrow, but she may want completely different things in her life at different times in your life with her. The only remaining rule seems to be: Stay flexible.”

MS. JARRETT: Well, isn’t that, isn’t that probably the best advice is that as you grow up in relationships, of course they evolve over time and you do have to be flexible and you do have to communicate.

GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

MS. JARRETT: You have to talk to each other about the challenges. I think that more and more men are paying attention to the challenges that their, that their significant others are facing and, and what it’s like to get your child before you have to leave for work in the morning and having appropriate day care. We have to be investing more in day care so that women have a safety net. On the campaign trial the first lady used to often say, and I thought she said it so well, that if you’re worried about your children, you can’t breathe.


MS. JARRETT: And every mother knows that feeling. And so making sure that there is a safety net around. But I also make–want to make another point, just to be clear. Although women are oftentimes making more money than men, let’s be clear that in the same jobs they’re not. Women are still paid, you know, significantly less than men for the same job. And so as we’re looking at the work force, we also have to be cognizant of what we need to do to make sure that women can compete at equal levels. And so that begins with education. And one of our investments in the Obama administration is trying to get more women into science, technology, engineering and math, so that they can go into fields and really compete on a level playing field with men. So I don’t want to give the impression that in the work force women still are paid at an equal level. They’re not.

GREGORY: Right. The–yeah.

MS. SHRIVER: No. And I think a very important point is that 70 percent of the job losses in this recession have been in male-dominated businesses, and therefore, the women are the primary breadwinners and they make less than the man. They don’t have the benefits very often associated with the man’s job. So all of this–that’s why all of these institutions need to change. The government can become a model employer. Best practices that businesses are, you know, putting forth, whether it’s Deloitte, whether it’s 10000 Women, whether it’s IBM, virtual employers, telecommuting; there’s a lot of really interesting stuff going on in the country, but it all rests on you need to be paid equally for the work.


MS. SHRIVER: And, and that the, the government can really step forward and set an agenda for a modern workplace.

GREGORY: It’s interesting, but–and to that point, because this is not–you know, in, in some couples it may be both people are working and maybe that, that’s a choice that they’re making, that it’s not about money. In a lot of homes it isn’t a choice, you know; they–you need both men–the husband and the wife working. This is–one of the polls associated with this report found what needs to change in the workplace, and what do workers want to change. And look at that, among men and women by far the biggest demand was for more flexible work hours. And, Maria, it was interesting. Just this week I had a conversation at NBC News with a, a female executive about some of the things that I’m doing inside of–not my hours, per se, but some of the things that I should be engaged in. And one of the things that came up in that conversation, I said, “Look, I need to factor this in a little bit with my wife’s schedule, because she’s traveling more as a lawyer.” And I thought to myself, you know, 20 years ago with–and her response, by the way, was, “Absolutely. Well, you’ve got to come to me, let me know what works.” And I thought, would that conversation have happened 20 years ago, you’d have a female executive and somebody in my position bringing these issues up?

MS. SHRIVER: No. And the other point of that is that so many women in our poll also expressed a fear about asking for that in their workplace.


MS. SHRIVER: They feel that if they do go forward and say, “I need time off for elder care or child care,” or “I’ll be late,” or “My spouse is traveling,” or “I’m a single mom,” they can’t ask for it or they’ll be penalized…


MS. SHRIVER: …by asking for it.

GREGORY: And, John, let’s be fair. I mean, if we were both in that position, would we have brought that same issue up with a male executive? If it hadn’t been a female executive, would we have felt safe saying, “Hey, listen, I’ve got to factor this in with my wife a little bit”?

MR. PODESTA: Well, you know, this is an ongoing conversation, David. That’s why we’re negotiating across this table and across kitchen tables around the country. But there’s no question. Look, UK–the United Kingdom took the step of giving people the right to at least have a negotiation with the boss, that they have a legal right that they can raise it with their boss. And I think that one of the things that the administration could do, that the federal government could do is become a model employer with respect to this–we tried to do that to some extent during the Clinton administration, I think the Obama administration’s trying to move that forward–so that people do have a right and a comfort zone to go in and say, “Look, I’ve got a sick child, I’ve got an elderly parent, I need to accommodate my schedule to take care of this.” Valerie mentioned in the earlier segment, if your kid’s sick, make sure that they stay home if they have the flu. Well, if you’re telling that to a person who doesn’t have the ability to take that day off with pay, that’s a very different request than telling someone that who, who does.

GREGORY: Right. Well, ultimately…

MR. PODESTA: So I think we need to, we need to alter the way we deal in the work force, and we need to provide people with more opportunity.

GREGORY: But isn’t the issue–I mean, whether it’s, whether it’s the workplace or whether it’s government, ultimately there has to be more momentum that’s built up. And maybe it’s more and more men saying, “Hey, I need this kind of flexibility, too.” What really forces change? Because what you see out of that graphic up there is that, you know, the way we work, the way our institutions operate–you’ve mentioned this, John, in your writing on this–like school getting out at 3:00, it’s not compatible with this desire among more and more men and women to say, “Look, I need to stagger this up so I can try to make more of this work.”

MS. JARRETT: Well, I think that’s exactly right. And part of what we do is what we’re doing right now, we’re putting the spotlight on the issue. And when the president created the White House Council on Women and Girls, he put the spotlight right on the issue as well. The fact that he has a woman who’s the Labor secretary, whose office is looking at these issues right now and figuring out what’s the best way to support our labor force and encourage positive behavior, not necessarily penalize negative behavior. But let’s put the spotlight on companies that are absolutely doing the right thing and who are successful, who are growing, who are expanding and who recognize that if you give the flexibility to your work force, you actually have a more productive work force.

GREGORY: The, the issue in all of this, though, Maria, that has to be factored in, is are all of these changes really the best thing for society? And there are different views about this. Look at the polling on this. The impact of fewer stay-at-home parents on society, positive or negative? Most people thing it’s negative. And now look at this, in terms of the political divide. Among Republicans, 81 percent think it’s negative; among Democrats, a much different number, 53 percent. There are still very different views, and it does break down politically about whether this is the right thing.

MS. SHRIVER: Well, I think everybody thinks it’s a good thing that when a child comes home from school or a child is home sick to have a parent or a caretaker there. That’s why the right to request flexibility is so important in this country today. What people said in this poll over and over again is that these institutions have not kept up with the change in American life. They don’t see themselves reflected in the media. They don’t see enough of these kinds of conversations going on in the media. They feel government is not modern, is not smart about the way it deals with the American family. So I think that people, people also overwhelmingly think it’s been good that women have gone to work. But if they can go to work, come home, split their day in some way, be there for their children, then people, I would think, get the best of both worlds.

GREGORY: Let’s talk about this in the context of, of politics. You know, you see Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail last year. You know, a lot of people think she could have certainly been the president had she defeated Barack Obama in the primaries. Sarah Palin was first woman running as a vice presidential candidate for the Republican Party. John Podesta, when, when does–when do our politics reflect some of the change that we’re seeing in this report?

MR. PODESTA: Well, so far, I think it’s a lagging indicator. You know, I think that if you look at what’s happened in the professions, etc., and you look at what’s happened in politics, it’s still a tough road to hoe. I think particularly an executive, although we’ve had women governors and obviously we’ve now had women run fairly successfully for, for the top jobs in our country. But I think it’s a kind of lagging indicator. And I think that as society changes, though, we’ll see more and more women. Obviously, we now have a women–woman speaker of the House.


MR. PODESTA: And so the society is changing; more and more that will be reflected, I think, in the way we see our politics. But right now I think it’s still a, a tougher burden for a woman to run for, for office.


You talked about your own mom, Eunice Shriver, in that she–today she could run and she could probably win. And yet Hillary Clinton, with all the access that she had in the Democratic Party, with a former president as a husband, she was unable to prevail. Are there other women who really have the ability to marshal those kinds of resources and that kind of momentum behind a candidacy?

MS. SHRIVER: Well, I think–sure. I think what was interesting to me in going around the country, though, a lot of women looked at well-known women who were in politics or running businesses and they said, “I don’t want that life, because those women are treated poorly, they get knocked around. Why would I want to put myself out there and just get the you-know-what kicked out of me, for what?” So I think it’s not that women aren’t confident, but women view success differently than men, they view power differently than men and they often want very different lives than men.

GREGORY: To be continued, for sure. As I say, I think this conversation will continue in a lot of places. Thank you all very much. You can find much more information on A Woman’s Nation, including the entire report, it’s on our Web site,

And up next, a woman’s nation in 1972? A look back to the year of the Equal Rights Amendment, Title IX and the publication of Ms. magazine. The activist editor Gloria Steinem right here on MEET THE PRESS, September 10, 1972.


GREGORY: And we’re back with our MEET THE PRESS Minute this morning. In the 1960s, the civil rights movement in the United States was in full swing. Women, angry about economic, social and political inequality between the sexes, took their fight to the streets, demanding equal pay for equal work. By the 1970s, the idea of equality for women had become more mainstream, but the fight for equality in the workplace continued. Women made up 36 percent of the work force but earned only 59 cents to the dollar of their male counterparts. Equality, sexism and the women’s movement, all issues discussed right here on MEET THE PRESS in September of 1972. The guest: activist Gloria Steinem, who had just launched the first mass circulated feminine magazine, Ms.

(Videotape, September 10, 1972)

MR. LAWRENCE E. SPIVAK: Miss Steinem, may I ask you a question? You made a speech before the National Press Club this year and you said, and I quote, “Women are not taken seriously. We are undervalued, ridiculed or ignored by society, which consciously and unconsciously assumes that the white male is the standard and the norm.” Now, what’s your explanation for this serious state of affairs, in view of the fact that men–males are at least virtually controlled and dominated by women from birth to puberty and often beyond that? Why haven’t you done a better job, if you’re as smart as you say you are?

MS. STEINEM: Well, that’s your statement, not mine, that men are virtually controlled by women from, from birth onward. I mean, if you take a very–an intelligent person with the normal hopes and ambitions and confine her to the home, she becomes sometimes overdominating within those four walls, as a man would be as well. But the truth of her situation is that she has no real power over her life outside the home, nor does she have power over the economics or the politics of her life. So, you know, I, I wouldn’t accept the premise of that statement.

MR. SPIVAK: Well, hasn’t she an opportunity to brainwash the male during those early, formative years? Why doesn’t she do it?

MS. STEINEM: Well, the–I think it’s beginning to change not to brainwash, but to, to be objective for a change and to eliminate the sex and the race stereotypes. But women have been encouraged to invest their hopes and their dreams in their male children, and convinced that their female children could not meet those expectations and to depend on their male children in their old age and so on, and have, have been made to realize the, the, the rather severe danger and risks of not perpetuating the small amount of well-being that they have in the system as it is. What kind of choice is it, after all, to be able to go out and earn half as much as a man for doing the very same work? Could she support her family? Could she support her children? Could her daughter–should she tell her daughter that she could? I think not.

(End videotape)

GREGORY: We’ll get reaction to that interview and ask our panel of Maria Shriver, Valerie Jarrett and John Podesta about the women’s movement of the 1970s, plus answer your questions submitted online in our Take Two Web Extra posted later today on our MEET THE PRESS Web site. Also, look for updates from me throughout the week. It’s all at And we’ll be right back.


GREGORY: That’s all for today. We’ll be back next week. If it’s Sunday, it’s MEET THE PRESS.



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