September 27, 2021 - PBS NewsHour full episode
September 27, 2021 - PBS NewsHour full episode
JUDY WOODRUFF: Good evening. I'm Judy Woodruff.
On the "NewsHour" tonight: Democratic divide. High-stakes talks are now under way, as dueling
factions of President Biden's party threaten the survival of his legislative agenda.
Then: demanding justice. The disappearances of indigenous girls and women get a new look,
following one high-profile woman's death.
And historic reopening. For the first time in its 138-year run, the Metropolitan Opera
features a production from a Black director and a Black composer.
TERENCE BLANCHARD, Composer: I may be the first, but I sure don't want to be the last.
JUDY WOODRUFF: All that and more on tonight's "PBS NewsHour."
JUDY WOODRUFF: Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives are huddling tonight behind
closed doors, as their caucus remains divided over how to advance two major pieces of President
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised a vote later this week on an infrastructure bill,
but some members of her party are holding out, seeking more progress on a separate,
larger bill that focuses on child care, health care, housing, climate, and more.
Lisa Desjardins and Yamiche Alcindor have been covering this story from both ends of
Pennsylvania Avenue, and they join me now.
So, Lisa, to you first.
Right now, where does everything stand with these two major pieces of legislation?
LISA DESJARDINS: Judy, as you said, right now, the House speaker is meeting with her
Democrats. I passed several of them going to that meeting as I was coming to report
to you now.
This is a critical meeting, teeing up the rest of the week. Let me take a quick look
at -- remind people of the to-do list, the very tricky to-do list that Democrats are
attempting this week.
First thing they have to do, probably the most difficult thing they have to do is sort
out the size of that reconciliation bill, sometimes called the Build Back Better bill.
That's the one with child care, climate, all of those provisions in it. No agreement yet
among Democrats how large that should be.
They also then have to decide, oh, what should go in it, the content of that reconciliation
bill? How much child care? What does it mean? How much climate change? What about health
care? All of those things are contours that they're trying to work out this week, if they
If they can work out enough of that reconciliation package, then the third thing, they pass the
infrastructure bill this week. As we keep saying, the issue is that the infrastructure
bill has the votes among Democrats, no doubt about it. But progressives are holding back
their votes until the reconciliation package looks like it is cementing.
And right now, it's anything but. We do expect a lot of activity tonight during this meeting
and after this meeting to see if progressives will indicate what they need to get on board
that big infrastructure plan.
All of these bills are in Democrats' hands, and we will have to see this week if they
can get to that Thursday vote that the House speaker pledged to take.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And so, Yamiche, over to you.
President Biden has a lot riding on this. How involved does he plan to be as the Democrats
work through all this?
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Well, this is a monumentous week for President Biden and for his agenda
that has to go through Congress in order to become a reality and in order to really have
the realities that he's promised the American people he could deliver on.
So, the president is very, very involved in these negotiations. All weekend long, while
he was at Camp David, the presidential vacation spot, he was making calls to lawmakers. He
was also on video calls, on Zoom, talking to his party about how to make sure that these
bills make it through Congress to make sure that this -- his party can be on the same
The other thing I'm told is that this is really an all-hands-on-deck sort of effort by the
White House. Top aides have told me over and over again that there are top aides that are
going to be calling lawmakers. And those conversations, I'm told, really go like this.
President Biden gets on the phone with lawmakers. And he essentially says, what can I do for
you in order to get you on this bill? So, this isn't the president really getting on
the phone and trying to -- they tell me, trying to deliver a stump speech or twist arms. This
is really the president trying to say to Democrats, both progressives and moderates, what can
we do to make sure that you get on this bill?
Another thing to note is that the president said today that he's very confident, that
he thinks that this will go through. He was talking to reporters when he said that. But
he also was also very clear about the idea that there's a lot riding on this.
So he said, victory is at stake when pushed on what he meant and what this week will mean
for him. When I'm talking to White House officials, they understand that this is coming at a critical
time in President Biden's presidency, because, of course, there's still the aftermath of
Afghanistan, there's COVID spiking around the country, there are strained relations
with France, still somewhat angry at the president for his new defense deal.
So, this is really something, White House aides tell me, that the president wants to
get through in order to really be seen as having a win here.
The other thing they note is that the president ran on this idea that he could make deals,
on this idea that he could deliver transformational change to Americans. And now this is really
being tested this week. So we're going to see the president talk about this. We're going
to see the president being very, very involved in all the details here.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And just quickly back to you, Lisa.
This isn't the only hot potato. We know that, just in a matter of a few days, government
funding is due to run out. How likely is a shutdown of the government?
LISA DESJARDINS: At this moment, Judy, not likely. That's despite the fact that a bill
to fund government will likely fail in the Senate in the next few minutes. We do expect
Democrats to pull out that funding part. But we will have to watch it day by day.
JUDY WOODRUFF: For sure.
Thank you to both of you for staying on top of it, Lisa Desjardins at the Capitol, Yamiche
Alcindor reporting on the White House. Thank you.
A short time ago, I spoke with a key Democrat in this week's negotiations. He's co-chair
of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus and congressman from New Jersey, Josh Gottheimer.
Congressman Gottheimer, thank you very much for talking with us.
As you and I are speaking, you're about to head into that meeting that Speaker Pelosi
has called with all the Democratic members of the House. At this point, do you believe
that, in the end, when this is all worked out, that both the infrastructure bill and
the so-called Build Back Better measure are both going to pass and become law?
REP. JOSH GOTTHEIMER (D-NJ): I think, ultimately, both are going to pass and become law.
And the great news is that this week, on Thursday, we're going to vote on a key part of the president's
agenda. Part of that, the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which are roads, our bridges, tunnels,
helping fighting climate change with climate resiliency, that's going to come this Thursday.
And it's a huge win for the country. And we're going to continue working and I know we're
going to get done the president's reconciliation bill.
JUDY WOODRUFF: I hear you saying that you're confident it's going to happen.
But, as you know, what everybody is focused on or what a lot of us are focused on is the
back-and-forth between moderates and progressives in the Democratic Party. You have leaders
in the Progressive Caucus, like Congresswoman Jayapal, saying there's a lack of trust, that
her members are not sure they can be confident that moderate Democrats are going to support
that larger reconciliation bill.
How do you reassure them that moderates like you will be on board in the end?
REP. JOSH GOTTHEIMER: Well, I have spoken quite a bit to Jayapal, and we have speak
- - to Congresswoman Jayapal.
And let me tell you what I said to her and what I said all week long, that, for me, reconciliation
and what's in there is critically important to the country and to my district, right?
There's resources to fight climate change. We're going to reinstate the state level tax
deduction, or SALT, and get taxes down in my district. There's child care in there.
But what's also important is that we have to get done this first package that, again,
had 69 senators vote on it in the beginning of August. It's been sitting in the House.
This is the bipartisan infrastructure bill. And in there are resources to fix our roads,
our bridges, our tunnels.
In Jersey, we have got a lot of potholes, third worst roads in the country. We have
got a tunnel that's 113 years old between New York and New Jersey, where all the trains
run. We have got to fix critical infrastructure like that. We have got resources in there
to fight climate change, and with climate resiliency.
You probably saw the awful hurricane, the effect of Hurricane Ida, which affected my
state so badly.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.
REP. JOSH GOTTHEIMER: So, we have got to get both done. And it's two million jobs a year.
Hardworking men and women of labor, you're talking about on that infrastructure package.
But that doesn't mean we can't do both. They're separate pieces of legislation. And I'm incredibly
optimistic that we will get both across the finish line. And I'm talking to Democratic
colleagues all the time, Judy, and they both want both to get done.
But you can't hold one up, this infrastructure bill, while you're working on the other one.
That just doesn't make sense for the country.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But, I mean, they're in the Gordian Knot. I mean, they're saying, yes,
we will go along with infrastructure, but only after we know that we're going to be
able to come to an agreement and pass the larger reconciliation bill.
So, we know the top number, the $3.5 trillion, is going to come down. The speaker herself
has said that. What do you see being cut? What do you see the top-line number being
when all this is worked through?
REP. JOSH GOTTHEIMER: Well, just one other point, because you made an important point
In the end -- at the end of August, we all came together here in the House, and every
single Democrat voted to bring the infrastructure bill to the floor this week, right? So just
let's not lose sight of that. It's because I think everyone recognized the importance
Ultimately, what's going to -- the bill we're going to settle on, on reconciliation, whatever
the ultimate number is, what's most important is what's in there, as I was talking about,
climate -- and fighting climate change and reinstating the state and local tax deduction.
And we're not going to bring a bill to the House that we can't get out of the Senate,
where we can't get 50 Democrats, plus the vice president. And I know we can get there.
I'm talking to everyone. And I will tell you that there is an agreement to be had here.
But the idea that we would -- that any Democrat wouldn't vote for this infrastructure bill,
with millions of jobs on the line, with fixing our nation's infrastructure, and while it's
been sitting here since beginning of August waiting for us to act, that just doesn't make
any sense to me at all.
And when I talk to folks at home, they look at me, like, why wouldn't you just get that
done for the country and get those shovels in the ground, which we're waiting for?
JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.
But my question is, how do you get this done? I mean, if the number is going to be less
than $3.5 trillion, what number are you looking at? What number are other moderate Democrats
REP. JOSH GOTTHEIMER: Well, what we're all talking -- obviously, I'm not going to negotiate
here on television.
But we're all actually sitting at the table and talking to each other, whether that's
on the phone or on Zoom, all talking to each other about a place where we can get to where
everyone feels comfortable. And that's what we're continuing to work through. We worked
all weekend on that. And that's exactly the kind of deliberation that will continue.
But I'm very optimistic, and I just can't say this strongly enough, that we are going
to get to an agreement on reconciliation. But it's a separate bill. And we have -- but
we have got to -- we have got to get this first bill done on infrastructure.
And the idea that we'd let any faction of Democratic Party stop the president's agenda
on infrastructure and stop those shovels in the ground and helping people just doesn't
make any sense to me.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And just quickly, any sense, though, at this point of what is going to
end up being cut, whether it's child care, education, climate?
REP. JOSH GOTTHEIMER: I don't see anything.
I think, in the end, if certain areas come down a little bit, maybe that's how they work
it out. But I don't see anything getting cut. There's too many important priorities in there.
But, again, this is -- what's going to matter is, what can we find agreement on, and what
are the levels? What are the areas? Are there certain things we're going to be able to focus
And that's exactly what happens in these conversations, like any legislation. And we will get there.
Whatever it is, it's going to have a huge impact on the country. And that's what matters,
just like this infrastructure bill will. Let's get it done. Let's take the win for the country
and get reconciliation done as well.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Congressman Josh Gottheimer, thank you very much.
REP. JOSH GOTTHEIMER: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We appreciate it.
REP. JOSH GOTTHEIMER: Thanks for having me, Judy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day's other news: R&B singing star R. Kelly was convicted in his
federal sex trafficking trial in New York. He sat silently, with eyes downcast, listening,
as the jury pronounced him guilty of racketeering and crossing state lines for immoral acts.
Afterward, prosecutors said justice was finally done, after decades, for the young women and
girls coerced into sex.
JACQUELYN KASULIS, Acting U.S. Attorney, Eastern District of New York: No one deserves what
they experienced at his hands, or the threats and harassment they faced in telling the truth
about what happened to them. We hope that today's verdict brings some measure of comfort
and closure to the victims.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Kelly has been jailed without bail since 2019. He could get 20 years in
The number of murders in the United States jumped last year by the most ever recorded.
The FBI reports the total rose by 4, 900 from 2019, with some cities setting new highs.
The increase in homicides roughly overlap the pandemic and coincided with a sharp rise
in gun purchases.
President Biden today defended giving booster shots for COVID-19, now that the CDC has approved
Pfizer's booster for certain groups. He received his shot at the White House, after acknowledging
that many poor countries are still waiting for vaccine.
JOE BIDEN, President of the United States: We're doing more than every other nation in
the world combined.
We're going to have well over 1.1 billion shots. And we're going to continue going.
We're going to do our part. We have also given a great deal of funding to COVAX, which is
a vehicle that does this.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, this was the deadline for hospital and nursing home workers in New
York state to get vaccinated, or be fired.
And in North Carolina, the Novant Health hospital system did fire more than 175 workers for
violating a vaccine mandate.
In Britain, most gas stations have run dry, brought on by a shortage of truckers and panic
buying. Officials blame the pandemic and the departure of many foreign workers after Britain
left the European Union.
Today, panic buying worsened the shortage, and, for a fourth day, long lines of vehicles
waited outside gas stations.
ANDY, Fuel Delivery Driver: I haven't been out and panic bought, like all the other sheep
and idiots. So, I waited here today on my way to work, got some fuel. And the price
has gone up by nearly six pence a liter for no reason.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The government urged people to stop hoarding gas, and weighed whether
to have soldiers drive fuel trucks.
Farmers in India renewed protests today against agriculture laws that ended guaranteed crop
prices. Farmers have camped outside New Delhi for nearly a year, and, today, thousands crowded
highways and blocked traffic. There were similar protests around the country.
Back in this country, a federal judge says the man who shot President Reagan 40 years
ago can be freed from all remaining oversight next June. John Hinckley Jr. was found originally
not guilty by reason of insanity. He remained at a Washington, D.C., hospital until his
conditional release in 2016. The judge says he shows of no further sign of illness.
On Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 71 points to close at 34869.
The Nasdaq fell 77 points. And the S&P 500 slipped 12.
And Broadway is back, and so are the Tony Awards. "Moulin Rouge!: The Musical" took
home 10 Tonys last night, including best musical. "The Inheritance" was honored four times,
and made history, as playwright Matthew Lopez became the first Latino to win for best new
Still to come on the "NewsHour": why employers are still struggling to fill jobs; the high-stakes
political negotiations in Washington this week; and a preview of the Metropolitan Opera's
historic new production; and much more.
Since she was first reported missing in Wyoming earlier this month, until her remains were
found later, the case of 22-year-old Gabby Petito has captured widespread media attention.
But tens of thousands of people are reported missing or murdered every year in the U.S.
And people of color don't get nearly the same level of attention, particularly indigenous
and Native Americans.
Amna Nawaz has our conversation.
AMNA NAWAZ: Judy, in Wyoming alone, 710 indigenous people were reported missing between 2011
and 2020. In fact, although indigenous people make up only 3 percent of the state's population,
they accounted for more than 21 percent of homicide victims over the last decade.
And the problem is not limited to Wyoming. Native women are murdered at rates 10 times
the national average, a pattern that's reflected in a report from Abigail Echo-Hawk. She is
the chief research officer for the Seattle Indian Health Board and the director of the
Urban Indian Health Institute.
She joins me now.
Abigail, welcome to the "NewsHour." Thank you for making the time.
You have called it a crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. Just
give us a sense of scale and scope.
What are we talking about?
ABIGAIL ECHO-HAWK, Director, Urban Indian Health Institute: We're talking about a crisis
that didn't start five years ago, 10 years ago, but one that has been going more than
hundreds of years.
We have seen Native women go missing and murdered at astronomical rates. But despite knowing
this within our communities and having the stories, we see an underreporting of them
in the data, which makes it harder for us to advocate for and to show the disparity
that exists in our communities and the loss of our loved ones.
AMNA NAWAZ: Tell me why that underreporting is happening. What part of the system is failing?
ABIGAIL ECHO-HAWK: In 2018, my organization put out a report in which we found that law
enforcement agencies were either not collecting race and ethnicity of victims.
We found database systems that would default to white if race and ethnicity wasn't collected.
Or they would visually look at somebody and decide what their race and ethnicity is. And,
as a result of that, we are finding a complete underreporting.
And, in fact, I have actually seen Native families having to fight to have their young
relatives classified correctly because somebody mistook them for another race, and they weren't
reported as American Indian or Alaska Native.
It's a systematic problem. And, as a result of that, we have all of the stories of our
communities, but we fight to show it in the data.
AMNA NAWAZ: Tell me about what you hear from families about their missing loved ones, their
murdered loved ones.
What kinds of stories do you hear from them about the issues they run into in reporting
this and in getting justice?
ABIGAIL ECHO-HAWK: We often will hear stories of individuals who attempt to report their
loved ones missing, and officers will tell them, well, maybe she just ran away. Was she
out drinking? Does she do sex work?
We see the prejudices and stereotypes against indigenous peoples and people of color play
out in the underreporting, because nobody's listening to us. We also see a maze of jurisdiction
that exists only for indigenous peoples in this country because of the laws that exist
on tribal lands.
I worked with a family where they actually spent three days of law enforcement trying
to decide who had jurisdiction. And in that three days, their loved one remained missing,
and nobody was looking for them.
AMNA NAWAZ: You mentioned these jurisdictional issues. And a lot of people think, well, that's
just limited to when you're talking about tribal lands vs. non-tribal lands. But your
report was based on 71 urban cities across 29 states.
So is this an issue regardless of where you live?
ABIGAIL ECHO-HAWK: Absolutely.
And we see this systematic issue playing out as a result of institutional structural racism.
In 2018, I put out another report related to high rates of sexual violence against American
Indian and Alaskan Native women in the city of Seattle.
Out of the 94 percent of the women we talked to, 94 percent of them had been sexually assaulted
in their lifetime, but only 8 percent of them saw a conviction of their rapist within the
We see a lack of accountability.We see a lack of an investigation and, again, the systematic
issues that place the blame of our victimization on our community, instead of looking at, why
are we being targeted and why are we being victimized at such high rates?
AMNA NAWAZ: Abigail, we're talking about this because of this intense media interest in
the case of Gabby Petito.
It's part of what our late "NewsHour" anchor and colleague Gwen Ifill once referred to
as missing white women syndrome, right, the spotlight that's granted to white women, but
not often to women of color.
Your organization has actually studied that, right, the comparisons between how these stories
are treated. What did you find?
ABIGAIL ECHO-HAWK: In our report, we actually found, of the cases that we looked at, 95
percent of them weren't covered in the media.
And this didn't mean that there weren't videos. It didn't mean that there wasn't active ways
to put this in the media. It's just nobody's cared. And I actually contributed to the report
in Wyoming that showed more than 700 people missing.
And that report, which came out in January of this year, again had very little coverage.
And, as the indigenous community, we mourn for the family of anybody whose loved one
goes missing and murdered. But what we demand is equity in this kind of coverage, because
the lives of our women also matter.
AMNA NAWAZ: In just the few seconds we have left, what does it take to fix this, to change
ABIGAIL ECHO-HAWK: We need to see not only media coverage, but we need to see changes
in policies. We need to see programming and interventions to understand that, as Native
women and Native people, we aren't at higher risk of going missing and murdered because
there's something wrong with us.
We are at higher risk because there are systems of inequity in this country that place us
at higher risk. And those are the systems we have to address. And it's going to take
the entire community of the United States to come together and do that with us.
AMNA NAWAZ: That is Abigail Echo-Hawk, director of the Urban Indian Health Institute, joining
Thank you for your time.
ABIGAIL ECHO-HAWK: Thank you for having me.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Angela Merkel is staying on as interim German chancellor after the election
to pick her successor ended in virtual deadlock.
Talks to establish a new coalition government are under way, but that could take months.
Special correspondent Malcolm Brabant is in Berlin for us tonight.
MALCOLM BRABANT: Judy, political analysts here believe that it could be several months
before the German people learn of the composition of their next government.
The two leading competing parties are now embarking on a series of long negotiations,
during which they hope to be able to forge a governing coalition.
After 16 years of conservative Angela Merkel, the bells were signaling a change of German
leadership, but how much difference were voters prepared to tolerate as they waited in long
lines for the tightest election in years?
THORBEN SCHULTZ, Entrepreneur: I think it's quite important that there's some change.
I think Germany has been sleepwalking a bit in the past decade. And I think that's got
to change, in terms of climate change, but also in terms of other things, like in terms
of providing a vision for Europe, for example, and for Germany's place in the world.
MALCOLM BRABANT: In Bavaria in Southern Germany, where some donned traditional dress for the
ballot, voter Franz Bader signalled resistance to radical change.
FRANZ BADER, Voter (through translator): What the Greens are up to is a bit too exaggerated
for my liking. As a result, I voted for a party that puts the brakes on the Greens a
bit. The thing is, I have nothing against climate protection. But we, small Germany,
can't do it alone. It costs too much.
MALCOLM BRABANT: A marathon race caused significant disruption in Berlin. Swathes of the capital
were sealed off, making it difficult for voters to reach polling stations.
Some people were still queuing to vote once the polls closed just before dusk. The loudest
cheers came from the center-left Social Democrats, who secured 26 percent of the vote, which
made theirs the most popular party. That means leader Olaf Scholz is most likely to be the
next chancellor, as long as he can find sufficient coalition partners.
OLAF SCHOLZ, Leader, Social Democrats (through translator): We are a pragmatic party that
knows how to govern. We are a confident party that wants to work to ensure that we have
a better future in Germany.
But we have also shown that we have what it takes to govern a country. That is unity supported
by everyone, and that this was the case.
MALCOLM BRABANT: It was a painful night for the man who replaced Angela Merkel as leader
of the center-right Christian Democrats. Armin Laschet had a lackluster campaign, and his
party trailed by 2 percentage points, in second place.
But there's still a chance he might become chancellor if he can forge new alliances.
ARMIN LASCHET, Leader, Christian Democratic Union (through translator): We will do everything
possible to build a conservative-led government, because Germany, Germany now needs a future
coalition that modernizes our country.
MALCOLM BRABANT: There were mixed emotions among the environmentalist Greens. They are
certain to be included in a coalition government. But because their share of the vote was less
than expected, leader Annalena Baerbock acknowledged that they won't be as powerful.
ANNALENA BAERBOCK, Leader, German Green Party (through translator): But, tonight, I believe
we cannot just rejoice. For the first time in this federal republic, we set out to shape
this country as a leading force. We wanted more. We did not achieve that, also because
of our own mistakes at the beginning of the election campaign.
MALCOLM BRABANT: A bar popular with politicians and policy wonks buzzed as they watched German
democracy take its course. But students Maya Ruerbeck and Lukas Willer were drowning their
MAYA RUERBECK, Student: There could have been much more votes of change. But what we see
in this election is that the older generations dominate our voting results, that we, as a
younger generation, have very little say, and that there's a lot of people who still
want the status quo.
And I believe that the status quo cannot be upheld in the current circumstances.
LUKAS WILLER, Student: We cannot keep on living the way we have been living the last 50 years.
And I feel like the older generation, the generation of my parents, but also my grandparents,
they don't understand that, like -- that massive changes in our living standards need to be
made in order for us to keep this planet, basically.
MALCOLM BRABANT: Another student, Henry Axel Brauer, supported the business-friendly liberals,
who will demand concessions from the environmentalists in a future coalition.
HENRY AXEL BRAUER, Student (through translator): We need to combine economic and climate issues
and stand up for ourselves better in Europe and on the international stage.
MALCOLM BRABANT: After this election, Germany isn't likely to change much, says of Jana
Puglierin the European Council on Foreign Relations.
JANA PUGLIERIN, European Council on Foreign Relations: We are very much set up for a middle-of-the-road
approach. I think it will be increasingly difficult to govern because for, the first
time, we will see a three-party coalition on the national level, more compromise, and
it will be difficult to bridge some issues like on financial and economic policy.
MALCOLM BRABANT: Thirty-two years after the Berlin Wall came down and Germany was reunified,
the country is once again split in two. The division is between the generations.
It seems older Germans don't seem to share young people's sense of urgency over climate
change. Their desire for policies, aimed at saving the planet, may be watered down still
further once the politicians cement their new uncomfortable liaisons.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Malcolm Brabant in Berlin.
JUDY WOODRUFF: As the American economy recovers from the worst impacts of the pandemic, questions
remain about the labor force and the larger problems that plagued the economy prior to
the start of COVID-19.
In the final installment of Paul Solman's Work Shift series, he looks at what we have
learned and what's at stake for workers and employers.
PAUL SOLMAN: All around us, jobs going wanting. But it couldn't just have been pandemic unemployment
benefits and low wages keeping workers in dry dock, because a host of high-paying jobs
have gone unfilled for a very long time.
VINNIE SPOSARI, Owner, Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Seattle: I have got plumbers that work
for me today that make $200,000-plus a year.
PAUL SOLMAN: And yet Seattle plumbing contractor Vinnie Sposari has been unable to find workers
VINNIE SPOSARI: I could hire six, eight experienced plumbers right now.
PAUL SOLMAN: So why the labor shortage?
SARAH SCHNABEL, Electrical Apprentice, LaMorte Electric: You're doing manual labor. Some
people tend to look down on that.
PAUL SOLMAN: Sarah Schnabel, a Cornell grad, became an electrician.
SARAH SCHNABEL: For people my age, it's definitely more glamorous to think of the tech job, where
you're in a really nice cushy office building.
PAUL SOLMAN: High schoolers in Southwest Louisiana had an added explanation.
JORDAN HOFFMAN, Student: That's not an option that's often presented to us. Like, this is
not for you.
JACOB BREWSTER, Student: It's like, go to college, go to college. There's barely anybody
saying, go to trade school.
PAUL SOLMAN: Right, said Mike Rowe, famous for his cable TV series "Dirty Jobs."
MIKE ROWE, "Dirty Jobs": The push for one form of education, in my view, really was
the beginning of a long list of stigmas and stereotypes and myths and misperceptions that
to this day dissuade millions of kids from pursuing a legitimate opportunity to make
six figures in the trades.
PAUL SOLMAN: A final reason the trades are underpopulated, up until recently, some two-thirds
of Americans were excluded, women, people of color, or both.
ADRIENNE BENNETT, President and CEO, Benkari: Dead rats in my lunch box, like the women
before me. They wanted me to leave.
PAUL SOLMAN: Plumber Adrienne Bennett, who now runs her own firm.
ADRIENNE BENNETT: I was in a porta john one time. They picked me up with a crane. And
you're bouncing around in there, you got this sewage. It's splashing all over you. You're
PAUL SOLMAN: Electrician Tonya Hicks also has her own company.
TONYA HICKS, President and CEO, Power Solutions International: I had a foreman to tell me
that all Black women do is get fat, have a bunch of kids and collect welfare.
PAUL SOLMAN: But it's not just the trades that can't fill jobs today. Tons of low-wage
workers seem to be fed up with their pay and work and just aren't taking it anymore. And
maybe they shouldn't, says economist Byron Auguste.
BYRON AUGUSTE, President and Co-Founder, Opportunity@Work: During the pandemic, we saw tens of millions
of essential workers do amazing things, things that required skills, that required adaptability,
that required problem-solving, that required teamwork, that required communication under
very difficult conditions.
PAUL SOLMAN: And given data collected by his firm, Opportunity@Work, they could be earning
a lot more.
BYRON AUGUSTE: Thirty million today have the skills, based on the work they're doing, for
jobs that pay at least 50 percent more than the jobs they're in.
PAUL SOLMAN: So, how to get those tens of millions of low-wage workers better opportunities?
Government job training programs are one route, like Back to Work Rhode Island, where then-Governor
Gina Raimondo used federal CARES Act money to fund training programs in areas where employers
couldn't fill jobs.
GINA RAIMONDO, U.S. Secretary of Commerce: We will tailor these training initiatives
so that, when you hire someone, you have confidence they're going to be able to do the job.
PAUL SOLMAN: Some 4,000 Rhode Islanders have already graduated into new higher-paying jobs.
But, in general, says Professor Doug Besharov, government isn't the ideal overseer.
DOUGLAS BESHAROV, University of Maryland: It doesn't learn fast enough. It fights the
last war. And change is happening more rapidly as we speak. And it will continue to happen.
And I think government will be left behind.
ARIELLA SPITZER, Mathematica Policy Research: There's a huge body of research on government
job training. And, overall, I would say the results are unfortunately disappointing.
PAUL SOLMAN: Economist Ariella Spitzer studies job training.
ARIELLA SPITZER: The good ones, we're seeing at most 5 to 10 percent earnings increase.
PAUL SOLMAN: Moreover, government job training programs reach only a couple of hundred thousand
people a year. So what about those coding camps we hear so much about? Well, many of
them cost money to attend, at the very least cost trainees the income they forego while
training. Plus, they tend to be short-term.
ANKUR GOPAL, CEO, Interapt: The idea is great. The execution is not.
PAUL SOLMAN: In Louisville Kentucky, entrepreneur Ankur Gopal has hit on apprenticeships, lengthy
programs where trainees are paid, as a way of staffing his mobile software firm, Interapt.
An especially stunning success story, single mother April Hickman, raised in foster care,
homeless before she applied for an Interapt apprenticeship.
Of all the foster kids you have known, given the same kind of opportunity, same kind of
training, what percentage of them could what you're doing now?
APRIL HICKMAN, Apprentice, Interapt: Oh, gosh, a great number, because it's problem solving.
And if there's one thing that we're good at, it's problem solving, because we have had
PAUL SOLMAN: Alex Hughes worked in the coal industry before making the switch to software.
What percentage of people in the coal industry could do jobs as sophisticated as what you're
ALEX HUGHES, Lead Software Developer, Interapt: That's 100 percent. It's a very technical
industry. And so they're always having to learn and adapt.
PAUL SOLMAN: In fact, every successful apprentice I interviewed for this series claimed that
between 50 and 100 percent of those in their position could do the same, given the chance.
IBM human resources executive Kelli Jordan agreed.
KELLI JORDAN, Director of Career, Skills and Performance, IBM: Anybody can make that transition.
PAUL SOLMAN: But it can't be anything, right? It's got to be a lot of people who just can't
do this, no?
KELLI JORDAN: I think it's possible that anybody probably could if they have got the right
motivation, but I think the other side of that coin is, companies have to be more willing
to think differently.
PAUL SOLMAN: Differently enough to look for talent among those without the usual educational
credentials and experience.
At IBM, that included rideshare driver Adquena Faine, nail technician Mariana Perez, dog
trainer Jennifer Burgess, retail store manager Ray Rodriguez. They all turned underappreciated,
underpaid skills into high-skill/high-paying jobs at IBM. How high-paying?
JENNIFER BURGESS, IBM: I have tripled in salary that from what I have ever made in my life.
PAUL SOLMAN: And though Jennifer burgess was trained and credentialed as a project manager,
she says her skill set isn't that different from dog training.
JENNIFER BURGESS: Because it's about training the humans to be able to do what you need
them to do.
PAUL SOLMAN: But is Jennifer Burgess typical or unusual?
DOUGLAS BESHAROV: The answer is we don't know how many people can do it.
PAUL SOLMAN: This is Doug Besharov.
DOUGLAS BESHAROV: The more people see other people doing these jobs, the more they will
change their behavior in school, in the community. It is a dynamic process where people get expectations
and decide, you know, I can be like him.
ARIELLA SPITZER: There's an inclination to focus on the success stories. But we also
have to be realistic about the fact that there are a lot of cases where this is not working.
PAUL SOLMAN: On the other hand says, Ariella Spitzer:
ARIELLA SPITZER: I think that just because prior job training programs have not been
as effective as we had hoped they would be doesn't mean that the next generation of job
training programs can't be.
PAUL SOLMAN: And so it could be that IBM, for example, or Interapt have a model that
could be replicated and could be extremely effective?
ARIELLA SPITZER: Absolutely, and I think that it's important for companies like that to
be really transparent about what they're doing, so that we can make those strategies available
to other people.
PAUL SOLMAN: Other people like formerly homeless single mother April Hickman.
APRIL HICKMAN: This company is amazing because I came in knowing that they saw me and they
wanted to help me. Before, I didn't have the skill to get out of where we were. But I do
PAUL SOLMAN: And she's already gotten her first promotion.
For the "PBS NewsHour," Paul Solman.
JUDY WOODRUFF: It's a critical week for the president's agenda on Capitol Hill, as Democrats
try to reach a deal on two key measures.
Here to explain is our Politics Monday team. That's Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report
With Amy Walter and Tamara Keith of NPR.
And hello to both of you on this Monday. It is good to see your smiling faces.
But, Amy, let's talk about what is going on, as we just said, on Capitol Hill. It is not
just the infrastructure. It is this great big reconciliation bill.
It is not Republicans who are standing in the way of the president's agenda. It's Democrats.
So, we have heard the arguments, but what is really going on here?
AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: I do think it is important for us to step back
for a minute, that there are some things that haven't changed at all.
We have known since the end of January that Democrats have a very narrow margin in the
House, three- or four-seat margin in the House, and a zero-seat margin in the Senate. They
need every single one of those Democrats to get anything done. So that hasn't changed.
What has changed is the political environment and, specifically, the approval ratings of
Joe Biden, right? And I think if you go back and you think about where Democrats were,
where the White House was not that long ago, let's say in early June, the assumption was,
COVID is going to be gone, the economy is going to be good, I'm going to keep my approval
ratings in the 50s, I'm going to have all this momentum, we have this legislation moving
its way down the tracks.
This is going to be great. I will bring my momentum to that legislation, bing, bing,
boom, we're done, except part one didn't turn out so well, right? COVID hasn't gone away.
Optimism is down. Pessimism is up in the country. And, of course, then there was Afghanistan.
And so now the president, he's not bringing his momentum into this process. He needs his
own party to give him momentum. So it's a very different environment than they thought
they were getting.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But, Tam, I mean, the party also needs this. The Democrats, they are connected
to the president. He's their party's nominee.
So what what's driving this?
TAMARA KEITH, National Public Radio: As Amy said, the margins are incredibly narrow.
And at this point, there hasn't been -- though this week, we will get a little taste, but
there hasn't been anything to force people to move off their positions. There hasn't
been a heated negotiation, really. There have been people sort of staking out their positions.
One of the challenges of this for Biden and for Democrats is that they're spending a lot
of time and we're spending a lot of time talking about how they're arguing about size and scope
and pay-fors and using terms like reconciliation. And there's not that much talk about what's
actually in this legislation, in part because they haven't agreed on what is in this legislation.
So, it's a little bit difficult to hold an event saying we're going to give you this
thing, just wait, when it isn't clear yet if it really, truly will make it in, in the
JUDY WOODRUFF: Is part of the issue, Amy, though, that there is a lot of different stuff
in the reconciliation...
AMY WALTER: Yes. You're talking about transformational legislation, right, $3.5 trillion. This is
the most expansive government spending bill like, ever, right?
And so there's a lot of moving pieces in this. I think that the grand -- the sort of overarching
reality is that Democrats support that, but getting into the details becomes -- it becomes
problematic, although when I think back to other times where we had this last minute,
to Tam's point, it kind of always feels like this.
It comes down to this last minute.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Right before...
TAMARA KEITH: There's all the negotiating, there's all the drama, and then something
can come together.
But the debate isn't just between progressives and moderates. It's also between the House
and the Senate. And if you're a House member, if you have been there for a while, you know
that sometimes things you pass end up dying in the Senate. And that's especially what
progressives are desperate to not have happen.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And a lack of trust for both sides.
AMY WALTER: Yes.
TAMARA KEITH: Yes, this is not just a lack of trust between Republicans and Democrats
on the Hill. There is a massive lack of trust between Republicans and Democrats.
AMY WALTER: Yes.
TAMARA KEITH: But there's a lack of trust between progressive and moderate Democrats,
a lack of trust within their own party. And that is a challenge.
JUDY WOODRUFF: I'm hearing from our producer Stephanie Kotuby that, just in the last few
minutes, Senate Republicans have blocked the bill to fund the government, which we thought
might happen. Now we know it's happened.
Another big headache for the president.
AMY WALTER: Right.
TAMARA KEITH: And not a massive surprise here.
AMY WALTER: Right.
TAMARA KEITH: This is something that included raising the debt ceiling. Republicans made
it clear they don't want their fingerprints on raising the debt ceiling. They want to
be able to blame Democrats for that later.
So, again, this is one of those things where there could be a government shutdown, or this
could seem like everything is about to go off the rails, until it jumps on the rails
and then the government doesn't shut down. And Joe Biden can once again say, look at
this, government can function.
But that's what's at stake here, is Joe Biden's whole theory of the case that he can prove
to the American people that government can still function in America.
AMY WALTER: That's right.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Just more than two minutes left, but I really want to ask you about this,
both of you.
And that has to do with elections past and present.
Amy, Arizona, for months, we have seen this Republican-funded effort to recount, re-audit,
or whatever, election results from 2020. They have concluded, after all this time, that
Joe Biden did win this the county, Maricopa County. He won the state of Arizona. People
are still not accepting that.
Not only that. You have Republican legislatures around the country now looking at ways they
can question voting in their states. What - - is this going to have a material effect
on what happens...
AMY WALTER: Yes, it absolutely is.
I mean, it's a very jarring situation that we have here, that this isn't just about somebody
having a theory of the case that they didn't - - or they just -- they didn't like the outcome
of an election.
This is after the state has certified. In many of these states, including Arizona, the
Republican governor signed off on this. The Republican attorney general signed off on
the final vote count. These are rogue elements.
And the goal of these recounts is to undermine the faith in the electoral system itself.
And that is the scarier part, because it does not reassure people who believe that this
election was stolen. And it takes people who do believe that their vote counted. They do
believe in the results that were certified. It tells them, I don't know. Maybe the next
time you vote, this is going to look different.
JUDY WOODRUFF: People are looking at this, questioning, is this going to change what
happens next year?
TAMARA KEITH: Well, the questions that are out there, that these audits, they put questions
out there, maybe not genuine, definitely not genuine questions. These elections were certified.
But then the existence of questions and the existence of concern becomes a pretext for
laws, becomes a pretext for candidacies of people who don't believe in the election system
as it exists.
JUDY WOODRUFF: More misinformation, more disinformation. And it just begins to feed on itself.
AMY WALTER: And feeds -- this is not good for democracy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: For democracy.
AMY WALTER: No, the system works. Losers, winners agree to the rules.
TAMARA KEITH: But losers have to agree they have lost for the system to work.
AMY WALTER: Exactly.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Tamara Keith, Amy Walter, thank you.
AMY WALTER: You're welcome.
JUDY WOODRUFF: History is being made tonight at the Metropolitan Opera, one of the country's
most important cultural organizations, and for several of the artists involved.
Jeffrey Brown has a preview for our arts and culture series, Canvas.
JEFFREY BROWN: When the opera "Fire Shut Up in My Bones" opens tonight at the Metropolitan
Opera, the stakes will be incredibly high, the first production in 18 months at The Met,
the country's largest performing arts company, after the COVID shutdown, the first opera
by a Black composer in The Met's 138-year history, the first ever with a Black director.
But there's also a deeply personal side. Ask composer Terence Blanchard.
TERENCE BLANCHARD, Composer: When I was a kid, my father loved opera. And my father
was a big fan of it and always played his opera recordings at the house, man. And it
was pretty funny. I tell people all the time, as soon as he would put his records on, you
would hear doors slamming in the house, because people were trying to find some peace and
And he didn't care. He would just sit up in the front of the house and listen to "La Boheme"
or "Carmen" or any one of those classics.
JEFFREY BROWN: Everybody else is running away, but he's happy.
TERENCE BLANCHARD: Yes. Yes.
JEFFREY BROWN: Terence Blanchard would come to love opera himself, and his father would
be plenty proud of this musical renaissance man, known first as a jazz Trump player and
composer, a six-time Grammy winner, and then for his 60 film scores, notably his work with
Spike Lee, including two recent Oscar nominations for "BlacKkKlansman" and "Da 5 Bloods."
This opera is his second, with a libretto by Kasi Lemmons, best known as a filmmaker.
It's based on the 2014 memoir by New York Times columnist Charles Blow, the name taken
from a verse from Jeremiah in The Old Testament.
It's a coming of age story of poverty, sexuality and race in the South, moving and poignant,
but also at times harrowing, including childhood molestation.
Does it makes sense to you that this is the stuff of an opera?
TERENCE BLANCHARD: Of course, because it's the stuff of real life.
The thing about Charles' book that really makes it operatic is the fact that he says
in his book he was a boy of peculiar grace. It pulled me in, because I knew exactly what
I was never molested as a kid, but being a kid who wanted to -- who had interest in the
arts, who was walking to the bus stop every Saturday with his horn to go for a lesson,
while the other kids were playing in the street, looking at me, I understand what that feels
like, to be different in that way.
CAMILLE A. BROWN, Co-Director: With Terence, I was so nervous the first day when he came
into rehearsal to watch.
JEFFREY BROWN: Because?
CAMILLE A. BROWN: Because it's Terence Blanchard. And I don't want to disappoint.
JEFFREY BROWN: Camille A. Brown is co-directing "Fire Shut Up in My Bones" with James Robinson.
An acclaimed dancer and choreographer, this is her first time directing opera.
And, like Blanchard, she wanted to bring her full experience and toolkit to the production.
One likely showstopper? A college fraternity hazing scene she choreographed using traditional
CAMILLE A. BROWN: There's a lot on the stage that probably or Metropolitan Opera audiences
have never seen before, in terms of step dance, the Black church.
JEFFREY BROWN: Some of the rough issues raised.
CAMILLE A. BROWN: The issues.
So -- but I think, in anything, in anything that you create, of course, in the back of
your mind, yes, you want people to like it and receive it, but that can't be the thing
that is driving you. What has to drive you is your personal connection to it. If you
believe in it, then that's what you have to move forward with.
JEFFREY BROWN: The Metropolitan Opera itself has seen plenty of drama recently off-stage.
A $300 million-a-year operation, it lost half that in earned revenues during the shutdown,
furloughed workers, and wound up in bitter disputes with its unions that were settled
PETER GELB, General Manager, Metropolitan Opera: Well, it's been incredibly painful
for the entire company.
JEFFREY BROWN: Peter Gelb is The Met's general manager.
PETER GELB: The most difficult part for us is not to get, I think, the local opera fans
back. I think they will come back. The hardest part is the tourists.
JEFFREY BROWN: A recent performance of "Verdi's Requiem," the first time The Met orchestra
has performed, drew a packed audience and prolonged ovation.
"Fire Shut Up in My Bones" was planned several years ago, but Gelb is now hoping the historic
nature of this first offering will help bring in a new, more diverse and younger audience.
The obvious question is, why did it take so long?
PETER GELB: Well, that's a very good question. Part of it also is opportunities for composers
and for African-Americans in this art form have been limited.
One of the things that we need to create are greater pathways and pipelines of talent,
so that we can actually give opportunities to composers.
JEFFREY BROWN: Gelb points to new commissions and upcoming productions by Black composers,
as well as other programs designed to diversify backstage leadership roles.
PETER GELB: There's no question The Met was slow in terms of bringing works by African-American
composers to the theater. But we're not going to be slow going forward.
JEFFREY BROWN: For her part, co-director Camille A. Brown told us she's pained it remains an
issue in 2021.
CAMILLE A. BROWN: As I am in this position, I know that it's just not about me. It's not
about the opportunity that I'm given. It's about Katherine Dunham. It's about Carmen
de Lavallade. It's about Marlies Yearby and Dianne McIntyre and all of those Black women
that came before me and struggled and paved the way for me.
And I feel like it's a responsibility to show up, not just for myself, but for my community.
JEFFREY BROWN: Composer Terence Blanchard had a similar response to his history-making
TERENCE BLANCHARD: I was shocked. I didn't know. Yes, it seemed a little crazy to me.
I was totally caught off-guard by it.
And my next thought was, well, I'm not the first qualified. And the thing that I have
been saying about my opera being here -- and it still feels weird to say that.
JEFFREY BROWN: It feels weird to say "my opera"
TERENCE BLANCHARD: Yes, it does. I mean, it still does.
JEFFREY BROWN: You got to get used to it.
TERENCE BLANCHARD: I know. Everybody keeps telling me that. Maybe in time.
But I think the thing that feels weird about it is how I really don't want this to be a
token. I want it to be a turnkey. You know, this -- I may be the first, but I sure don't
want to be the last.
JEFFREY BROWN: An onstage story of personal trauma, a bigger story of an art form and
one of its leading institutions going forward. To that end, The Met is simulcasting opening
night in Times Square and, for the first time, in Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Jeffrey Brown at The Metropolitan Opera in New York.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So exciting, and it's about time.
And that's the "NewsHour" for tonight. I'm Judy Woodruff.
For all of us at the "PBS NewsHour," thank you, please stay safe, and we'll see you soon.
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