Return to Transcripts main page


The Politics of Jobs; Paycheck Fairness Act Voted Down; 'Million Dollar Neighborhood'

Aired June 9, 2012 - 09:30   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, HOST: It's a nightmare scenario for President Obama. Just five months to the election, and the job market is slowing. Good morning, everyone, I'm Christine Romans.

Even though we have had 20 straight months of job gains, it's these last five months that are so worrisome. I want to bring in Candy Crowley, CNN's chief political correspondent and anchor of "State of the Union."

Candy, the winner in November must carry some key states like Ohio, Florida and Iowa. President Obama wouldn't be sitting where he is right now in the White House if he hadn't won those critical swing states in 2008. I mean, this is what it looked like in 2008, Barack Obama won with 53 percent of the vote, and you can see these swing states went solidly for the president last time around. But where are we now with these swing states, specifically with unemployment? Two of them, Nevada and Florida, have unemployment rates that are above the national average. You can see here, Florida 8.7 percent, but it's also right about where it was when the president took office.

But take a look at this. Nevada, 11.7 percent when the president took office, it was 9.6 percent. Colorado, 6.6 percent when the president took office, 7.9 percent now.

Now the rest of the battleground states though are doing better. They are stronger now than when the president got into office, and they're still improving. I mean Iowa, Virginia, New Hampshire, all around 5 percent. Ohio has seen a significant drop in its jobless rate over the past year. Ohio now 7.4 percent. Again, better than the national average and better than when the president took office when it was 8.6.

Candy, the trend in these battleground states is employment is getting better. Can the president win on jobs in these states, and will that decide the election?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's about jobs, but you know, I think it's about more than that. It's about the feeling of the future. To me this is a consumer confidence race.

ROMANS: So President Obama has been attacking Mitt Romney for his time at Bain Capital and his tenure as governor of Massachusetts. So we checked the record, scoured the record really on Massachusetts during Governor Romney. It was a state on the upswing slightly before Governor Romney took office in January of 2003, and then during Romney's four years, Massachusetts did gain more than 48,000 jobs. These are Bureau of Labor statistics numbers.

But Candy, that is the past. When it comes to jobs, which candidate is resonating about the future, or are they focusing on the past, both of them frankly, because nobody knows exactly how to fix this thing?

CROWLEY: I think it's a couple of things. They're both resonating with their bases, which is an important thing to do. And I think you have the overall idea of which way President Obama would go and which way Mitt Romney would go, but you don't have the nitty gritty details, which frankly are useless anyway because they have to deal with the Congress, as we all know.

So you have a president, a sitting president who we know wants to raise tax rates for a certain segment of society, the sort of the wealthier part. You have Mitt Romney, who's now campaigning on this isn't about tax rates, this isn't about raising taxes, this is about cutting spending. So you get the gist of it, and they are resonating with their bases. It's that, you know, that in between part that we don't know.

ROMANS: And here's the keeping them honest part of the conversation, Candy, because quite frankly, politicians take too much credit and cast too much blame for the economy. There's a lot of different levers at play at any given time. It's taxes, it's growth, it's global business, it's labor conditions in your own, and consumer confidence. And so for somebody going to the voting booth, they really have to decide who they think can give the right outlook for the country. But nothing's going to be changed by December 1.


ROMANS: There aren't going to be a bunch more jobs on December 1st just because you cast your vote.

CROWLEY: No, or between now and then. We're not looking at a great jobs outlook, we're looking at increases, but not as big as is needed for the economy.

Everything is multidetermined. And that's why I think that consumer confidence is kind of the aura of the country, if you will. Like do you think things are getting better? Do you think this guy is sort of on the right track? Do you trust this guy to do what he says? There's so many things that kind of go into it. But I think it's under the umbrella of consumer confidence rather than the specifics of these numbers from their past, which people look at and go, I don't know what that means, because everybody understands that you can take a fact and make it look great or make it look terrible. And voters get that.

ROMANS: You know, and every jobs report, I know what they're going to say -- the job report comes out, I see the numbers and I know how both sides are going to spin it.

I want to ask you about Wisconsin. CROWLEY: Absolutely.

ROMANS: You know, a Republican governor, Scott Walker, took on the unions and he survived his recall election. And he's now, again, the her of the Tea Party. Is this the death of unions? Is it a referendum on President Obama? Make sense of it for us if it means anything ultimately for the rest of the elections.

CROWLEY: I think the one kind of thing that we know for the states is people really don't like these recall votes unless it's for a very good reason. Coming out, an overwhelming majority of folks said, really, he ought to have done something really, really wrong for a recall. So we know that.

I think this is a defeat for big labor. They will tell you behind the scenes and some of them upfront that this was not a good time for them. It does speak to the waning power of the unions as a political force.

It also speaks to the power of money. As the unions are saying, we can do stuff on the ground, but we need to match the air war, and they didn't. They were outspent I think 8:1 or something. So money matters, the union power is significantly waned over time, and I think the other thing you have to look at is the Obama people are pointing to the exit polls showing that despite the victory for the Republican governor, folks coming out gave President Obama a seven percent edge over Mitt Romney.

True enough, however he won over John McCain by 15 percentage points, so that's been -- 14 percentage points, so that's been cut in half. So that's -- I would be looking at it if I were the re-elect committee, going OK, we need to pay some attention to these states we thought were safe.

ROMANS: Candy Crowley, so nice to see you, have a great weekend.

CROWLEY: Thanks. You too.

ROMANS: All right, coming up next, the gender pay gap divides Congress. The Paycheck Fairness Act voted down. Politicians on both sides are pointing fingers. I'll tell you why it's all political theater.

And forget the Kardashians, there's a new reality snow that's all about fixing your finances.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our security guy is going to walk through and he's going to take your credit card for the week.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can hear it already, I'll miss out on the air miles. But let's face it, these people are in trouble.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMANS: Taking away your credit card for a week. We'll explain how you can create your own million dollar neighborhood next on YOUR BOTTOM LINE.


ROMANS: The Paycheck Fairness Act was voted down in the Senate this week, right along party lines, no surprise there. President Obama and Democrats accused Republicans of putting partisan politics ahead of women. Republicans fired back saying this legislation is just another attempt to increase government regulation. But what's getting lost in all of this bickering is that there is a gender pay gap in the U.S. Women earn about 82 percent of what men do. The median income of a man in this country is $44,000; for a woman a little more than $36,000. Lisa Maatz, director of public policy and government relations at American Association of University Women joins us now. Lisa, welcome to the program.


ROMANS: You were on the Hill this week supporting this bill. I want to take the politics out of it for a second. What are the economic implications of this gender pay gap? I want to be clear for everyone who is watching that a lot of this is election year politics surrounding all of this, but the core issue is something really important. Why is there this gap?

MAATZ: Well, the core issue is hugely important, you're right, and the gap is there because in many instances, women are in different job fields, there's stereotypes about what kind of employees we'll be because we're going to be moms or we're moms right now. And also unfortunately, there's also just blatant discrimination, and that's really what we were trying to get to with this particular legislation.

It's updating a law that's almost 50 years old. And considering the fact that we still have a gap, it's clear that we need to make sure that we close those loopholes, because people are driving mack trucks through them.

ROMANS: When I talk to people in business and women who have gone up the business ladder, you know, they talk a lot about negotiating, even when you say we have the same education or a better education, I do a great job, or this or that. I don't choose -- I have a nanny, or I don't choose to take time out to have a child, there still is this gap. You say that gap starts the minute she throws her graduation cap in the air?

MAATZ: Oh, that's absolutely true. AAUW has done some great research using government census data. And one of the things we're able to do with that is to really compare apples to apples. And when you take a first-time graduate, one year out of college, same major, same field, men and women, there's already a gap. Already a gap. Now, that's the time when they should be pretty level. But not so much. So one of the things we know about the pay gap is that it is alive and well. We have made some progress, but the law that we currently have is not enough to get it done.

ROMANS: How much of it is women negotiating on their behalf? Because by the time you get to -- if you're a young woman in your career, you're talking about a half a million dollars in pay difference, if you don't ask for a raise when you are at 25. Most women at 25 don't ask for a raise. Most men do.

MAATZ: Well, you know, especially in this economy, a lot of people are just happy to have jobs. But you have to remember with negotiation, it can be a double-edged sword. I mean, we believe at AAUW that you need to teach women to negotiate, so that we can ask for what we deserve. At the same time, if it's not done appropriately, that can really be used against women, because we all know what aggressive women are called.

ROMANS: Absolutely, and you are totally right there. It takes a different kind of fine set of skills. I want to talk about different industries and how the pay gap varies across industries. In some occupations, the gap is wider. In legal positions, women take just a little more than half of what men make. In sales, 65 percent. Women health care practitioners make about 69 cents on the male dollar. But then the gap closes in other fields. Social services, women make almost as much as men do. Installation, repairs, construction, the gap is a little smaller than average too. In education, the gap is about 80 percent, just a little wider than the average. What's a lesson here for a young woman beginning in college thinking about a career? Is there a lesson?

MAATZ: I think there is a lesson. I think looking at -- and it's not just for women, it's for men too. Looking at the hot sectors right now, a lot of it comes from the STEM fields, the science, technology, engineering and math. And that's a place where the gender gap is smaller. It still exists, but it's smaller. So these non-traditional fields, where women make up less than 25 percent or so of the actual population in that group, that could be a good field in terms of earning a little bit more money.

ROMANS: We just hope that this is not just an election year, that people aren't just trying to score political points, but really trying to solve the problem. Election year politics always make it so icky. Lisa Maatz, thanks for joining us. Nice to see you today.

MAATZ: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right, coming up next, ten weeks, 100 families, a million dollars. We'll look at a new reality show that's all about fixing your finances.

Plus, addicted to drugs at 11, an eighth grade dropout, homeless at 14. But that wasn't what scared Harold Barrow.


HAROLD BARROW, ACHIEVABILITY ALUMNI: Bullets and guns and things were such a part of my environment, that you know, I just became adapted to those things. But the idea of going to college was terrifying. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: More afraid of college than bullets. With the help of one organization, an education became his ticket out of poverty. We'll show you how they helped him and countless others next on YOUR BOTTOM LINE.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our security guy is going to walk through and he's going to take your credit card for the week.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can hear it already, I'll miss out on the air miles, but let's face it, these people are in trouble.


ROMANS: All right. Let's face it, the government isn't coming to save you. The only person who can fix your finances is you. A new show wants to empower communities to help themselves. Bruce Sellery is a financial expert and co-host of "Million Dollar Neighborhood." It's a new show premiering in the U.S. tonight on the Oprah Winfrey network. Bruce spent ten weeks in Aldergrove -- that's a suburb of Vancouver -- with a population of 13,000 people. Over the course of the series, he worked with 100 families to increase, get this, increase their collective net worth by a million dollars. Where do you find that kind of money?

BRUCE SELLERY, CO-HOST, "MILLION DOLLAR NEIGHBORHOOD": That's too big a challenge! I'm exhausted just thinking about that challenge!

ROMANS: This is the antithesis of "Survivor."

SELLERY: It is. The only way this community could be successful, these 100 families, is if they worked together, right? So "Survivor," vote him off, I don't like him! Here, we have to work together, week on, week on, week on. And each week they increased their net worth by 100,000. They got to vote for a family that was the biggest contributor. Leading to the finale, which if they become the million dollar neighborhood, someone wins 100 grand. But it's all about incenting this community behavior where you say, you want that, I could help you with that. I could help you with that.

ROMANS: It's also the antithesis of everything about the North American dream for the last 20 years, where it's me, more now, I want more, and I am going to borrow money to get it. This is --


SELLERY: We're better as a collective. And it's not like, it's, you know, this is not Russia in the 1940s, no communism here.

But what we realized is in neighborhoods, we do so much for our neighbors when they have a kid, and yet we don't do anything necessarily to help them get a handle on their family. And that's the big idea.

ROMANS: So most families won't be part of a reality show, and they won't be a part of your show, but when it comes to taking control of your finances, you say there are four things that you can do. What are they?

SELLERY: Find hidden money. Because it's out there. It's out there. You know, I mean, spare change in your couch, but there's also things like going cash only. You played that little clip there. Credit cards have anesthetized the pain of spending. We need that pain. Pain protects us from danger. So go cash only. You're not leaving here with your credit card, by the way. I am taking it. And also, really makes sense to look at your taxes again. We brought in H&R Block, and they did a second opinion on all 100 families, and they found buckets of money. People who had incorrect filing status, they had job relocation expenses they had not used. Sandwich generation, care for their parents, stuff like that.

And then the third thing I'd say is start talking about money.

ROMANS: Don't fight about it. Talk about it.

SELLERY: Talk about it. What do you want, how could I help you.

ROMANS: You say that individuals succeed when the whole community comes together. That's the whole point of the show. How do our viewers at home start their own million dollar neighborhoods?

SELLERY: Well, first of all, they can watch the show because they'll start to see these--

ROMANS: Subtle plug.

SELLERY: They'll see these challenges. But also online, we are going to have weekly challenges that say this is what the families did. Here's how you can do. So for example, we do job support groups, where we had members of the community go out and get people jobs. You can do that. You can reapply that, and we'll show you how to do that.

ROMANS: Excellent. Well, it's called "Million Dollar Neighborhood." It premieres in the U.S. on the Oprah Winfrey network tonight at 9:00, 8:00 Central. Bruce Sellery, lovely to see you.

SELLERY: Great to see you, and I know where you'll be tonight.

ROMANS: Exactly.

SELLERY: At your television.

ROMANS: With no credit card in my pocket.

SELLERY: That's right.

ROMANS: Bruce Sellery, thank you, sir.

All right, education is supposed to be the great equalizer, but not everyone has equal access. That's where former basketball star Marcus Allen and his organization step in.


MARCUS ALLEN, CEO, ACHIEVABILITY: We believe that, you know, once that first person goes to college and gets that education, that can break that generational cycle of poverty.


ROMANS: All right. Next we're going to meet him and some of the people he's helped succeed.


ROMANS: More than 46 million people in this country live below the poverty line. So in the largest economy in the world, how do you fix it? One word -- education.


ALLEN: This is about tomorrow. This is about future generations.

ROMANS (voice-over): Marcus Allen used to play professional basketball. Today he's with a team that invests in poor and homeless families. It's called Achievability. The program provides housing through a combination of federal tax credits and other public funding, and it opens the door to an education with student loans, grants, and incentives.

ALLEN: Many of our families are the first in their families to graduate from college. We believe that once the first person goes to college and gets that education, that can break that generational cycle of poverty.

ROMANS: Allen is a walking role model.

ALLEN: I was homeless, you know, when I was a kid and came from a very low-income family. My mom raised me, and one of the things that set me apart from most people in my family, I was the only person in my family to go to college. And from there things just began to take off for me. And that's what we see with a lot of families in our program. Those who are able to look that fear in the face and really go and do it anyway.

ROMANS: Harold Barrow knows that fear.

BARROW: I am the same guy running around the streets not scared of bullets, but I was terrified to go on to--


ROMANS: Barrow grew up on the streets of Philadelphia, addicted to drugs at 11, an eighth grade dropout, homeless at 14.

BARROW: I just kind of got headlong into street life and obviously that came with, you know, issues with the police, then, you know, inevitably my incarceration.

ROMANS: At 31, it seemed his choices were grim. A social worker at his homeless shelter told him about Achievability. Twenty-two years later, he's sober and has a masters degree. He is a self-sufficiency coach for the program that saved him.

BARROW: It's such a rewarding experience, you know, to watch somebody walk down the aisle who thought, you know, to get a degree, who thought it was never possible.

ROMANS: Elaina Howard pauses when looking back at her life five years ago.


ROMANS: Dropping out a semester before graduating community college, living in a shelter with three children, to now a master's degree in social work.

HOWARD: I'm speechless. I'm grateful. I'm appreciative. You know, it was a long journey. I thank Achievability for being that vehicle.

ALLEN: Many of us are only one paycheck away from living in poverty. You know, poverty is only a circumstance of today, but it doesn't give you any indication of what it can be tomorrow.


ROMANS: And here's the thing. It's about an education for the parent. What Marcus Allen and his team are trying to do is get education for the parent, to break the cycle of poverty so that the family can grow and move forward. That means securing housing first, and helping get the building blocks there so someone can concentrate on an education and break the cycle. So kudos to Marcus Allen and his team for everything they're trying to do, and for the wonderful people who are working so hard to get that education and move forward. I love that story.

For more information on Achievability, you can head to their website,

That wraps things up for us this morning, but you know what, we like to keep this conversation going online. I read every comment you share. A lot of you felt strongly about our segment on class size last week and about the role that parents play in it. Michael Smith wrote, "I'm an educator. The one component that we somewhat overlook is the student's behavior and attitude. In theory you can have a class of 20 students, but if you have two to three children who choose not to achieve and become disruptions, the whole class suffers."

On the topic of choosing a major, you heard me say this a lot, with tuition skyrocketing and jobs scarce, I believe students simply can't afford to find themselves in school anymore. They need to choose their majors very carefully. Peter Franklin, though, disagrees with me. "Please, don't be daft. I'm glad that some people know what they want to do with their lives in high school, but not everyone is that self- aware. Everyone will not know what they want to be. That's what college is for, to find yourself. That's when you discover what you want to be, if you don't already know, where you find your passion, where you make your lifelong friends and contacts."

All right. Keep sharing your thoughts. Let me know what you think. Find us on facebook and Twitter. Our handle is @cnnbottomline. My handle is @christineromans. Back now to "CNN SATURDAY" for the latest headlines. Have a great weekend, everybody.