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tv   Politics and Public Policy Today  CSPAN  April 29, 2016 11:30am-1:31pm EDT

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policy development and most particularly seriousness of purpose in policy dialogue. have become ever more important as the -- what goes for policy dialogue in our country has descended ever more into ideology, politics and partisanship. our commitment is to try to do our little part in keeping alive that seriousness of purpose. from the beginning our bedrock objectives with respect to economic policy have been growth, broad based participation in the benefits of growth and economic security. and is argued they are interdependent. and that they can reinforce each other. in that context, food insecurity, in this the richest country in the world is not only morally wrong, but it is also a serious impediment to economic growth. sufficient nutrition is a requisite for productivity and
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productive engagement in the work force. and, therefore, for realizing the full productivity potential of our economy, and when food insecurity affects children. as you'll see in the hamilton project's facts that we handed out as you came in is happening far too frequently in this country. we're reducing the prospects of our economy for decades ahead as well as i said earlier being involved with a morally outrageous situation for this the richest country in the world. today's discussion is about the startling number of people who are still experiencing food insecurity in america today. supplemental nutrition assistance programs, s.n.a.p. which is designed as you well known to address this issue and recommended policy changes to make that program more effective. let me recognize the director of
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the hammentilton project. the managering director of the hamilton project and the policy director of the hamilton project for the work they have done in creating the intellectual construct for this meeting and also in developing logistics for our meeting. we will begin with diane framing the discussion and also discussing the hamilton fact sheet which i mentioned before which i'll think you'll find interesting and deeply troubling in terms of the magnitude of the problem that this country is experiencing in terms of food insecurity. and then we'll turn to an exchange between our two distinguished discussants tom villsack the secretary offing
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agriculture. and the former governor of iowa. governor state of the ohio and bob greenstein found and president on the center for benefit and policy priorities. bob is the unusual person who is both a furervent advocate for policies to help the poor and a very serious budget analyst. i first got to know him at the beginning of the clinton administration when it was said this is a man who cares about the poor and understands the pragmatics of our budget and is serious about dealing with both. i thank them for joining us. and i greatly look forward to this discussion. diane, the program is yours. thank you i'd like to welcome you to the conversation on food insecurity and policies
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to alleviate it. i'm going to set the stage right now to describe the extent of the problem. and also some potential solutions. and this comes from our document that we've released today, 12 facts about food insecurity and s.n.a.p. released by the hamilton project. in 2014, one in seven households were food insecure, meaning at some point during the year they had difficulty providing enough food for all of their members, due to a lack of resources. 15 million children or one in five children in the united states lived in food insecure households. even more troubling, in 2014, one in 20 households experienced very low food security. meaning they suffered one or more periods during the year in which food intake of household members was reduced. normal eating patterns were disrupted because of lack of money for food. as you can see on the chart here the rate of food insecurity across children, adults, or the elderly all three spiked during the great recession and remain
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elevated today. in every state, a higher share of children than adults live in food insecure households. as you can see from the map, in every state, more than one in ten children lives in a food insecure household. in nine states the share is one in four children living in a food insecure household. let me tell you more about the characteristics of the food insecure house holds with children. the vast majority are working households. 85% of households with children who reported food insecurity reported at least one earner tin 2014. also, note that these food insecure households are more likely to be married headed by a married couple than by a single mother. another fact about food insecure households is that households with a teenager are more likely to experience food insecurity. teenagers eat more and cost more
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to feed. it's true. spending on food increases when there's a teenager in the house. unfortunately, food assistance benefits do nod t increase. teenagers are less likely to participate in school meals programs. this adds up to significantly higher rates of both food insecurity and low food security status among households with teenagers. furthermore the annual rate of food insecurity i started with, masks the extent of the problem. many families cycle in and out of food insecurity. when we compare households, the h hamalton project indicates 40% more were food insecure than this year. note that even temporary periods of food insecurity may cause
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lasting negative impacts on children. furthermore, troublingly, the rate of food insecurity extends higher up in the income distribution than youmecto migh think. a third of households have annual incomes twice the poverty line. this is above the reach of social safety net programs like s.n.a.p. and the earned income tax credit. another third of food insecure hoseholds have incomes between one and two times the poverty line. in the light green low food security status, that you know, when families experience hunger or things relateled to that is much more concentrated among the very poor in 2012, the most recent year available, after adjusting for survey under reporting, we find that s.n.a.p. lifts ten million people out of
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poverty. this impact is equivalent to the eitc and the child tax credit. researchers are just starting to understand the magnitude of the importance of these programs. especially on the long term well-being of children. in a study published this month in the american economic review my co-authors and i following the cohorts as part of the war on poverty. because the program was rolled out on a county by county basis over a long period of time we can compare children living in neighboring counties within the same state and different ages who had differed in their access to the program. we can trace the impact of access across the children's life span now that they're adults. children who had access to the then food stamp program were 18 percentage points more likely to graduate from high school. in adulthood those with
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childhood access were healthier as measured by their likelihood of being obese, and related measures. women in particular saw improvements from the program with an increase in their adult economic outcomes including employment earnings and related measures. as a result we argue that s.n.a.p. should be thought as an investment in children and not merely charity. there are many things we can do to improve the reach of our existing food support programs. i look forward to the conversation between bob and secretary villsack that will explore these. there are many children who are food insecure and are eligible for programs like school meals, wic and s.n.a.p. but are not participating. we have evidence that increases in benefits can substantially benefit -- impact food security. for example, it's long been known that children's food insecurity and very low food security status spikes when school is not in session. the department of agriculture
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fielded a pilot program with an exceptionally strong research program to test how summer benefits impact food insecurity. the results are important and large. a $60 monthly food voucher over the summer reduced food insecurity by 20%. and low food security status by 30%. finally, evidence showed that snap improves the well being of households not only reducing the food insecurity but by shoring up the resources available at food. it reduces the likelihood a household will fall behind on major expenses like housing or utility. households are less likely to skip a trip to the doctor when they have access to snap. i'm going to invite bill and secretary villsack to the stage for their conversations on policies to alleviate food insecurity. a quick housekeeping note.
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under your chairs you'll find note cards. at the end we'll open it up to questions and answers. the way we do questions and answers, we'll have people walking up and down the aisle. write your question down on a note card. preferably legibly if you can swing that. and we'll hand them to the moderator and he'll sift through and ask questions. so, secretary, bob. welcome. [ applause ] >> good morning, everybody.
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i want to thank hamilton for having a forum on this very important topic. and there are so many interesting aspects of this that mr. secretary i want to dig right in. i would like to start by asking you a little bit about what you see is the role of the secretary of agriculture with respect to these programs and issues. let me give a little preface. i remember when i came to washington in the early 70s,ing the secretary of agriculture was earl butts. some people in the room obviously remember him. i had the honor of serving in the food and nutrition service in the carter administration, the secretary was bob urgland. during the 40 plus years i've followed this the pattern has been that the secretary is immersed in agricultural
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policies. the food assistance programs are off to the side, secondary or tertiary. bob burgland was different in that regard. you mr. secretary, for me you've broken the mold. i've never seen a secretary offingof agricultural for whom food assistance, hunger food security insecurity has been as central as it's been for you. could you talk a little bit about how you see within the department for you as the secretary the importance of these programs and the issue of food insecurity? >> i think there's a personal reason for this and then there's a policy reason. the personal reason is when you start out life as i did in an orphanage, the one thing that you know about yourself is that you are either well-fed or not well-fed. i can tell you have a picture when i was adopted of a very well-fed child. so i know that in the orphanage i was taken care of.
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and i think there are a lot of kids out there who are struggling in families, especially in rural areas. rural poverty among children is higher than you would expect. one out of four rural kids lives in a impoverishes home. it's part of the responsibility of the department of agriculture to take care of folks of children and folks in rural america. it's a large part of our budget. we want to make sure it's operating properly and furp functioning the way it should. in today's world these programs come under attack and get mischaracterized the people who are taking advantage and are benefitted from these programs are often demonized. and i see it as my responsibility to make sure the american public understands precisely who it is that's getting these benefits and why. and how it benefits not just the families receiving s.n.a.p. but all of us. this is about building a
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productive economy. hungry kids aren't going to be learning as well as they should. they're not going to be as well prepared for the competitive economy they're growing up in. families that are struggling with food insecurity have to make very difficult choices. and it impacts the future of kids and the future of this countries. when you combine that aspect with our school lunch program where we're trying to improve the quality and nutritional value of the school lunch program so kids get well-fed. it's an important responsibility for the department of agricultural and the person in charge of that. for so it makes sense to pay attention to this. in this climate in particular it requires a series of champions to make sure how the american public know why we have these programs. >> you have particularly been a champion of improving access to the programs by poor people who
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are eligible for them, but have been left out of them. under your tenure as secretary, the percentage of people eligible for s.n.a.p. who actually received it is at its highest level in the program history. 80% of the people eligible -- >> 85%. >> 85%. and in the child nutrition front with community eligibility, i think your latest innovation is working with states to use medicaid data to -- as well as s.n.a.p. data to identify children eligible for a free or reduced priced school meals who aren't getting it. could you talk about the emphasize you've placed on improving access. >> when we started the process we took a look at how the states were administering the s.n.a.p. program. this is a partnership between the state and federal government. the state has the responsibility to administer the program. some states did a better job than others and some states
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participation rate was in the low 50%. nearly 50% of eligible people in a state were not getting the benefits they were entitled to receive. and the consequences for their families were pretty dire. so we started a concerted effort to make sure people understood at the state level their responsibility to make it easy for people to apply, make it easy for people to understand their benefits. we started to provide information in spanish, multiple langua languages. we saw over time with some pressure on some individual governors that we saw a spike from 72% overall participation to 85%. the one place bob where we have not yet figured out how to crack the nut is where our senior citizens. the reality is the participation rate there is 41%. and i think a lot of it has to do with how seniors perceive this program. and a lot of it has to do with how difficult we've made it for seniors. the reality is, we don't really
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need to be checking income levels of seniors on a regular basis because you know, the fact is, if you're 85 years old your income is pretty set. you're probably living on a social security check. maybe you've got a small retirement income. that's not going to change. so we're looking now at ways in which we can make it easier for seniors to get into the program and stay in the program to get that number up. and i think we'll have some success over the course of the next nine months. hopefully the next administration will see the importance of this. on the school lunch program, again, the reality is a lot of the school districts have kids who are coming from impoverished neighborhoods we require an administrative burden for the schools to get kids eligible for free and reduced lunch. we expect a second grader will take an application home with them in their backpack that they'll -- and remember to take it out of their backpack give it to their parents. their parents will disclose information they may be hard for
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them to disclose, how little income they have. it has to then be returned to the second grader, the second grader has to remember to give it to the teacher, the teacher has to give it to the administrative folks so they can determine whether that youngster is free and reduced lunch. that doesn't happen as frequently as it should and kids get left out. if you're in a school district that has a disproportionate number of poor families, why go through that process? most kids will be free and reduced lunch. we have a community eligibility program where we're seeing 18,000 schools, millions of kids who otherwise would not have received assistance are now receiving assistance and it's not just in schools, bob, it's also in childcare centers. 90,000 are benefitting from community eligibility. it's an important program and important tool to make sure that kids get the food they need to be as successful as their talents can take them. >> i'd like us to get back in a
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few minutes to community eligibility. but turning back for a little bit to s.n.a.p., so you and i and ruben we were talking just so you and i we talked before the event started about the degree of cynicism in the country. about, among other things, government and its ability to help. i remember back in the '60s when teams of doctors went into appalachia and deep south and found rates of child hunger, malnutrition and nutrition related conditions akin to those of third world countries. then researchers went back in the late '70s, after intervening decade, had a national food program implemented.
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president nixon helped lead the way for national benefit standards. the researcher said before we saw large numbers of children with sunken eyes, swollen bellies we don't see them nim. the main reason is food programs. we had, food programs does more to strengthen and lengthen the lives of our people. when we look today, diane, i think it's fact number eight in your report, we talked about the long-term effects among some children improving in education and employment, earnings, adulthood. the latest data, i think, showed that s.n.a.p. lifts about 10 million out of poverty, 5 million children each year. that's about tied with income credit and child credit. it's more than anything else, except social security for the
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population in general. more children left out that even had social security. no program does as much to reduce poverty in children, those below the poverty line with s.n.a.p. how do we -- i don't think this is widely understood. we still hear the program is a hammock, whereas, diane, your work, as reflected indicates the worst, includes chance rather than trapping them in a hammock, not widely understood. what do we do to better communicate these important findings? >> i think, first of all, making sure that americans understand precisely who is receiving s.n.a.p. i think there's a tendency to think most people receiving s.n.a.p. are gaining the system.
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when you skpan to people as i do often, 85% of s.n.a.p. beneficiaries are either children, senior citizens, people with severe disabilities or working men and women with children, they all of a sudden have a different attitude about the program. first educate people about who actually receives s.n.a.p. secondly making sure they understand this is speed limital assistance program. nobody can survive on s.n.a.p. benefits. the reality is there is not that much in the benefit that would allow a family of four to buy all their groceries for a month. one of the things we ought to be looking at is how we calculate benefits for s.n.a.p. we base it on a food plan. that food plan hasn't been adjusted for quite some time. if we did we would find the food is inequality for the purpose of the program. so i think we also need to point
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out the benefits to people out the program. when we look at agriculture and low commodity prices, the reality is if more people can go into pa grocery store and buy more food, that means they are doing to buy more food. over 90% of s.n.a.p. benefits are redeemed within 30 days. so the reality is people are able to buy more, which means folks have to produce more, have to process more, truck more, ship more, have to package more, have to shelf more, have to sell more. all of those are jobs. we need to make sure we understand economic benefits to the community as a whole by having these programs. one of the things i often say to people in this country is we take our stability for granted in this country. yes, we have partisan differences and they sometimes get pretty passionate but reality is we're a relatively stable nation. one of the reasons we are is because we have -- we don't have many, many, many hungry people. we have food insecure folks,
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which means at some point in time that month they may be hungry but we don't have anywhere near the level of deep hunger you see in countries that have great dissatisfaction. this provides, i think, stability in our society marketing these programs, talking about it, not being defensive, going into farm bureau meetings, "into business meetings and explain to business leaders, agriculture leaders the benefits of the country and themselves as a way to make sure we understand there is a significant benefit. recent research shows kids on s.n.a.p. have better health outcomes. all of us are concerned about health care costs. all of us want to see transition from sick care system to wellness system. you can't get to wellness system unless you have adequate nutrition. there's an opportunity there also to talk about the impact that s.n.a.p. has on health outcomes reducing health care
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cost overall. there are multiple ways of marketing this program and making sure people understand it's not really a welfare program per se. it's a program that makes sure every one of our kids, our seniors, working hard but having a hard time making it have enough to basically keep themselves going. this issue of senior citizens, i want to make sure everyone understands this. it's in our best interest for the senior to be well fed. if they are, they are doing to the doctor fewer times. all of us benefit from the program. i think it's important for progressives to be perhaps a bit more vocal about this and a bit more willing to inform people about what this program is and isn't. there's also the issue of fraud. it drives you crazy. they say there's a lot of fraud
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in the program. the fraud rate is 1.3%. it's one of the lowest of any program. fraud and error rate combined is less than 5%, which is the lowest it's ever been, ever. this is not a situation where the program is taken advantage of. there are from time to time situations, but most often those situations are dealt with. so it's a good program. we ought to be proud of it, not defensive about it. >> much smaller area of fraud than statistics show we have in the tax code with respect to particularly people don't like to talk about this but business income, a degree of business income never reported. you compare it to income missed in the s.n.a.p. program, this is a night and day comparison. >> i like to talk to our farm friends about s.n.a.p. is lower
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than crop insurance. >> i'm sure that's popular. >> it makes a point, rather than make a decision on one or two newscasts about egregious situations. there are a egregious situations but we have one or two keeping those rates significantly lower than they have been. >> i want to pick up something said a few minutes ago. you were talking about how the benefit level is really based on a formula set many years ago. as i recall it goes all the way back to the '60s we had something called economy food plan, then it was sort of renamed thrifty food plan. for people who don't know maximum level for people with no other disposable income equals the cost of that thrifty food
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plan in the previous june, i think it is. then if you have some income, the benefit is reduced. so that food plan was designed a few decades ago when the norm was mother stayed at home. it's based on buying a lot of raw ingredients and cooking food from scratch. today we expect poor mothers with children, we skpet them to work, but we still have a food plan in place that kind of assumes they don't. diane, correct me if i'm wrong, i think you have a paper hamilton commission looking at this you'll be releasing at an event on the 23rd? >> that's right. >> i'm putting in a plug for this event may 23rd. hamilton is going to come back to this issue and look at it. when we look at the snap program, i think you and i and
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many others are struck at here enormously responsive it was in the great recession. i was startled when i look at the figures on how much less poverty broadly measured -- how much less it rose in the deepest recession since the great depression than one would have otherwise realized. when you dig into the numbers, the enormous responsiveness of s.n.a.p. had a lot to do with th that. of course as we mentioned earlier we had national benefit standards. before we came into effect in 1971, we had some states cutting people off the program, people who worked, when their incomes reached 50% of the poverty line. if you were above that. so this is a lead in to something i want to ask you about. in increasing debate on poverty, the speaker of the house paul ryan is elevating poverty, which
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i think is really welcome. we ought to have a vigorous debate. in the summer of 2014 he rolled out a plan called an opportunity grant, which would take about 11 programs, including s.n.a.p. and allow a state to merge them into one big funding stream. we used to call this mega block grant, speaker calls it funding stream. it's the same thing as far as i can see. the state gets a fixed dollar amount and money wouldn't have to be used on food assistance. it could be. it would be up to the state, used for any of the broad array of purposes. no longer an actual benefit standard or structure. wouldn't be automatic responsiveness and recession. you were a governor for two terms. the interest in your sense, would this be a good move for the s.n.a.p. program and in particular for its purposes
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helping low income families, or is it a step backward and in the wrong direction? >> well, with due respect to the speaker, he's never been a governor, so he doesn't know how governors think. the reality is when you have a block grant, it basically will fund your priorities. not necessarily the nation's needs. part of my scepticism about this, iminventories from the program we have with employment and training s.n.a.p. that's another thing people don't realize, there are limitations on how much -- how long people receive s.n.a.p. if they are able body without dependents. if you're able-bodied, you have to be working or receiving training and education for a certain time each month or you're limited. we give states last year $320
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million. the stakes here $320 million, and your job is to take this money and connect the work opportunities that are being created in an kbrufd economy as unemployment coming down, jobs created, you link the jobs you know are being created in your state with s.n.a.p. beneficiaries you also know who they are and where they are and give them an opportunity to work their way out of s.n.a.p. you would think that every governor, every conservative governor is great. last year $92 million was unspent by governors. this is 100 money. this is not requiring a match on the part of the states, this is 100% money. $92 million of it was unspent. yet you have governors at the same time saying we need to reduce snap, we need to get these people working. when i hear people talk about block grants, i have deep concerns about precisely what's going to happen with those
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resources, how they are going to be utilized and what the oversight is going to be. i honestly tell you if you were to block grant this program, you would have nowhere near the satisfaction in terms of the ability to get money to people quick quickly, the ability to administer money quickly, guarantee participation rate, i guarantee not 85% and serious consequences for plok grant because it would not be used for purposes it was intended. it would be used for the pet project, the pet idea. i'm all for innovation. i'm all for trying new things. that's why we put $200 million in the farm bill to say for governors, if you want to be innovative about connecting people for training opportunities, here is the opportunity. apply tore this money. let's see what you come up with. if you come up with a great idea, we'll be happy to put more money behind it. we'll see. we have 10 states participating in this effort.
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we'll see what they come up. i'll tell you, i think block granting these programs, my governor colleagues would not be happy with this answer, but do not -- do not tell me that states are going to use every dime of that appropriately. people talk about states being the laboratories of democracy. they are laboratories of democracy with federal money. people often forget that. it's not state money but federal dollars. there's off not the credit the federal government should get for investing in these innovations. i'm leery about block grants simply cass i haven't seen governors step up. alluded earlier when i came in in 2009, there were states a little over 50% of eligible people actually receiving s.n.a.p. because that particular governor, that particular administration did not care enough to make sure this people
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knew about these benefits, did not care enough to make sure the beaurocracy was getting language out people could understand, did not care enough to simplify the process, so i'm skeptical. >> one that's consistent with your operations. if you take temporary assistance for needy families block grant that was established in 1996 under the welfare law, in the law its core purposes are employment, child care and cash assistance for poor families. if you look at the latest data the states themselves have provided to hhs, only 50% of dollars go for those three core purposes. the other 50% have been dissipated all over state budgets. it's sometimes hard to find where they are going. in some cases states were able to take the federal dollars and substitute them for state dollars previously being spent on a low income service and then the freed up dollars can go
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wherever you want if you're a governor. >> that's the game that's played, or you disproportionately provide administration expense. there's a multitude of games you can play. that's why it's important for there to be this partnership between the federal government and the states, because very, very frequently we come in and we review what the states are doing. if they are not actually doing what they are supposed to be doing, we make them pay the money back. we make them adjust and change their programs. if you block grant this money, you're going to use control of it and you're not going to see the benefits from it. >> a minute ago, you actually anticipated my next question. could we talk for just a moment about the work demonstrations and in particular the requirement you mentioned for people aged 18 to 50 who aren't disabled and who aren't raising dependents. so there's an interesting history here i find most people
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don't remember. when the '96 welfare law, which is where this requirement comes from, was being written, and the final bill had been put together by the republican congress at the time, and it was going through the final time, when it got to the house floor, all of a sudden an amendment offered that had not been anticipated by the bill's authors. the amendment was one to say that for these people aged 18 to 50, they could only get s.n.a.p. for three months while unemployed out of every three years. the amendments sponsor got up on the floor and said, this is not a harsh provision. everyone of be offered a work slot, an actual job. only those who don't take it will be limited to three months out of every three years. now, i was watching this occurrence scratching my head.
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you looked at the amendment, there were no work slots in it. i think he sincerely thought that somehow the program already had all these work slots. they never do. bob may remember when the bill got downtown, i remember leon panet panetta, president clinton's chief of staff, bob, i think this three months -- leon had been mr. food stamps in the house, the budget committee, i think leon saying this the most troubling provision in the entire welfare law, because it means people who want to work, search for a job and can't find one, are cut off after three months. and we see that the people who are cut off, their average income is only about 20% of the poverty line. so i guess our task is how do we actually have work opportunities for people, not just cutoffs. that's what you're trying to find working and partnership with the states and these
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demonstration projects. ten states. >> it reflects the fact it's all well and good to suggest you're going to find work slots for folks and find work, what if you live in a rural community that's isolat isolated, you don't have public transportation to larger communities and you don't have a functioning automobile or vehicle and there are no jobs created in your small town. they may be 50 miles away from where you are. how do you help this personnel. returning veteran and dealing with consequences of having experienced the horrors of war and having a hard time adjusting, how do you -- how do you work through that and still be able to be employed? or you're a single mom and you've got child care issues and you can't find decent child care. you want to work, you'd love to work. you want to be self-dependent
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but the reality is you can't find decent job care and can't afford it for a multitude of reasons. so what we're trying to do with this project is try to figure out what the barriers are and how we can creatively work around them or work through them so we actually do what we all want done, which is to link people with jobs created in an improved economy with people who can and should be working, providing the skills, making sure they actually have skills that are marketable, which are is a training and education component. we're looking at ways states want to be thoughtful, innovative, try something different, we're willing to let them try something different. maybe it's cash assistance, maybe paying for child care, maybe it's providing transportation, voucher, whatever. it's some process we're helping them overcome the barrier and determine a serious component, evaluation component of this, which will then be used for informing the future direction
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of that program. >> i think there's a really bright note here. so the $200 million you're mentioning came out of the farm bill developed 2013, finally signed into law in 2014. in the house, intense over the work program but the bright note ultimately in conference there was bipartisan agreement and support for the $200 million demonstration project. then after it was enacted before the demo started, mr. secretary, i remember a conversation you and i had. we said, bob, we're going to let flowers bloom. we're going to let conservative states test conservative solutions, progressive states test progressive solutions.
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this issue isn't ideology but what works. we want to find out what works and have it inform future policy. >> we took an additional step after that, establish a center of excellence in washington. the state of washington does a particularly good job linking folks with employment opportunities and we took another nine states and linked them up with this center of excellence. we actually have 19 states that are working collaboratively on took ig to figure out innovative ways to do this better so we can give state's direction. we're happy to continue to give you this 100% money, 50/50 money, but we want you to utilize these resources in the most effective and efficient way to connect people with job opportunities. that's the right way to deal with reducing s.n.a.p. numbers. seriously if people were genuinely interested in reducing s.n.a.p. numbers, the simple and easiest way would be to increase minimum wage. we know if you increase minimum
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wage you're going to take millions of people on s.n.a.p. and put them in a different category. they are doing to need less s.n.a.p. or in some cases no s.n.a.p. at all. i always say if you're really truly interested in reducing s.n.a.p. numbers, why weren't-of- aren't we debating in the halls of congress an increase in minimum wage? why are we depending on individual cities, counties and states to have that conversation but it relates. i would like us to look at some point looking more at subsidized jobs. we had a subsidized jobs program. they are mostly in the private sector as part of the recovery act. within a year there were 250,000 job slots for people who otherwise couldn't get hired. republican governors were as enthusiastic as democratic one, haley barbour of mississippi supported it. in the brookings report that came out in december there was a bipartisan recommendation to
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look at a subsidized jobs program. as you say, jobs and wages are the way. >> we should be looking at unemployment compensation system to ask ourselves is that the right model for 21st century. are there ways that could be modernized, ways to try things different. at the end of the day summarily reducing s.n.a.p. numbers by creating impossible standards in terms of access to jobs, when you aren't providing and not taking full advantage of the resources as states are, you know, states on nutrition issue when we set up school lunch program we provided states with resources to administer that program, the new standards. many states left money on the table in terms of that program as well. so it goes back to the block grant issue. if they are not utilizing the resources available to them because they don't like a program or don't philosophically agree with a program, how can you trust them with a block
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grant? >> let's, indeed, turn briefly to child nutrition. a disappointing development this morning. yesterday the chair of the subcommittee and house that has jurisdiction over child nutrition programs released the draft child nutrition bill, associated the bill on bipartisan basis. it's not a perfect bill. it's a bipartisan compromise but i think overall it's a step forward and bipartisan. we're not yet at the bipartisan stage in the house. i hope we get there. the bill that was released yesterday, i was just looking at it this morning, you talked earlier a few minutes ago about community eligibility. my staff who looked at these numbers looked at it and tell me the draft bill, or the bill just
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introduc introduced, would take community eligibility, a program where schools in high poverty areas can serve breakfast and lunch, free, save money on the paperwork, applications and reach all the kids where we always miss some kids when you have to do all the paperwork. 8,000, 11,000, 7,000 schools already doing community eligibility and bar them from doing it in the future. there are more than 3 million kids in those schools. so i was disappointed to see that provision. i don't know if you've had a chance to look at the bill yet or you thought about it. >> you should feel better about the fact virtually everyone paying attention to this issue does not like that provision, from school nutrition association to the folks at usda, to advocates for better chi
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child. everyone sees the wisdom of community eligibility that reduces burden on schools at a time when they would like to redirect those resources into improving quality of the meals or expanding a school breakfast program that didn't exist before or figure out ways they can provide healthier snacks. at the end of the day that's not a very good provision. i can't imagine at the end of the day it will ultimately be part of a final bill. if it were, i would strongly encourage the president to take a very, very serious look at the bill. i don't think the president is interested in having hundreds of thousands, tens of thousands of kids disenfranchised from a program designed to help them make sure they have adequate nutrition during the day. >> at the end of the day i hope we get a bipartisan bill we can look at and hope you get a
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signature on. that's a process to get there. >> the senate, they worked hard. they did listen to one another. they did find a way to increase our summer feeding program. we haven't had a chance to talk about that. that's a program equally important. there needs to be focus on it. reality is kids are in school 10 days, they are out of school the rest of the year. the reality is during that period of time unless we have more aggressive programs, there are many, many kids who are very food insecure during summer months, weekends and vacations. >> we should note, fact number 11 in the hamilton document cites really if you look at this the results are dramatic on the degree of which summer ent, enhanced nutrition program, when they don't get nutrition in the summer months. the degree it helps on food
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insecurity front is dramatic. mr. secretary, maybe you can say a word. you have a terrific provision in my view on summer e.n.p. >> we do. given the current state of that program, i'm proud of the fact we've improved the number of meals served from summer 2009 to last summer by 26 million additional meals. we're serving half a million more than we did in 2009. that's the good news. the difficult news is that roughly 20 to 20 million kids participate in free and reduced lunch. during summer feeding programs, we're probably feeding about 4 million people, 4 million children. the reality is there's a significant delta between what we're doing during the school day and summer months. one way to address that delta would be to provide parents and children this ebt card, similar to a s.n.a.p. card. >> kind of a debit card.
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>> which they could use to purchase additional food. why is it important to have the program? it's important because there are many people who don't live near a summer feeding site. these are congregate sites. this would give families ability to purchase additional food during summer months so their kids would be better fed. that would allow us with the president's proposal over the next 15 years to increase the number of children we're covering to get to the ultimate 20 million kids having access to food throughout the entire year. the president's budget proposes 10-year rampup were to be passed by congress, we would see an additional million kids next summer receiving the benefits of the presidents program. >> i just want to note, something i've also said on
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other occasions, yes, this is the final budget of president obama. a proposal like your robust key proposal, it's not going to happen this year, but i can't remember, it's been a long time since i've seen a budget from a president that has as many interesting, innovative, i think, important new proposals to deal with poverty as this budget does. and from a poverty standpoint, i'm hoping people see it as a vision for the future. whoever the next president is, they look at the number of your proposals, including center ebt proposal as starting points for when they think about developing the first budget for the next administration. >> this is a president who grew up relying in part on some of these very same programs. the question you would have to have to congress is what future
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president are you going to limit today, a kid who is living in rural area today could be president 25, 30 years from now needs the benefit of these programs. the reality is there are millions of kids. we know if they don't eat right during the summer, they are not as well prepared to begin school in august and september. that means they will be a step or two behind. if they are a step or two behind at the beginning of the year, maybe they won't do very well. if they don't do very well, maybe they get disinterested in school, eventually they drop out. we end up in many cases unfortunately feeding these people three meals a day in a confined facility called prison. it makes no sense for us to short change our kids. it's in our long-term best interest, including theirs, to invest in them, make sure they are well fed, well educated. if they are, more times than not
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they are going to succeed. the fact we have 16, 17 million kids today, who in the summer struggle to find adequate nutrition is as bob suggests in the richest country in the world, morally unacceptable. >> we're going to go in just a second to questions and answers from the audience. >> the answers, too, that's great. that's fabulous. i like this. >> before we do, one more question. so clearly these programs are critically important. by the same token, we can't -- not only can we not totally eliminate poverty, we're not going to totally eliminate food insecurity just through the food assistance programs. you've mentioned employment. you've mentioned the minimum wage. i think you referred to child care. you're the head of the white house -- i think you're the
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chair of the white house rural council. you look at issues affecting particularly low income families and rural areas across the country. could you talk to us a little bit about hunger food insecurity, poverty from a larger rural perspective and how you think about that and the kinds of things you would like to see the nation and policymakers move towards from that perspective. >> look, 85% of the persistently poor counties, rates in excess of 20, 25, 30% are rural. when you add that to the fact one out of every rural kid lives in poverty, a case for government, federal, local to make those numbers improve. i advised the president on those numbers. he suggested the rural council would be the place to look at innovative, creative ways to do
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this. we have now a rural impact effort, which is focused on child poverty. we have identified 10 communities in the country looking at what is referred to as two generation approach to poverty. not just focusing training programs in one place and child care, early childhood preschool for poor kids in another place but actually taking all of the programs and focusing on the family, dealing simultaneously with mom and dad and child. we're doing this in 10 different communities in 10 different ways to see how we might learn better how to utilize programs. this program is also designed to make sure we do a better job of educating people about the availability of programs. we find in rural communities in particular, they might not be fully aware of programs, in fact, in place, nor do they have necessarily sophistication
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working through the federal maze to be able to take advantage of those programs. we are focusing on series of place based initiatives, department of agriculture started strike force where we're taking all our mig areas, we put a team together, go down to the persistently poor areas, link up with the building organization, we have 1500 partners now, and say how can we help. we've made 95,000 investments in those communities, over $26 billion and we're beginning to see how to play the game and access these programs. i think one thing this country needs to do, it has to have a separate strategy for rebuilding and revitalizing rural economy. production agriculture has been incredibly effective and innovative. when i was born in 1950, there were 25 million farmers. today there are less than 3 million. in fact, if you look at the folks who produce 85% of our food, it's probably 250 to 300,000 people.
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the reality is didn't compliment that economy, agriculture economy with other natural resource economies that would allow for people to do well in rural areas. we are doing this now. the local regional food system, conservation markets, manufacturing economy, we're trying to rebuild the economy in rural areas. if you rebuild it, create better paying jobs, more market opportunities for farm families, more opportunities for small and mid-sized operations, you'll see a decline in poverty in those rural areas, you'll see more opportunity. you'll see less pressure on cities because people won't feel compelled to move to cities. i think you'll see less need for the very programs we're talking about here. but you have to build the economy. you have to have a strategy and direct resources in support of that strategy. frankly until this administration, i'm not sure we had a defined, focused, comprehensive strategy, focus on very important part in a place called rural america.
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i'll just give you one statistic about rural america, want you to think about this. 16%, nearly 35 to 40% military. if you want young men and women serving the country you may pay attention to this part of the country because a disproportionate amount of men and women come from rural america. if there's no economic opportunity, no hope, no brighter tomorrow, these kids are going to move. they may or may not be willing to serve their country and to defend us. it's a value system i think that's important. frankly i will say people in my party have not spoken as effectively as i think they need to to folks in those rural areas. >> we're going to go now to a question -- a number of interesting questions from the audience. first, how have you worked to reduce the historic stigma associated with s.n.a.p.
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participation. >> couple of ways. one i mentioned earlier basically advising people and educating people through a variety of methods who actually is receiving s.n.a.p. and talking about economic benefits in a recessionary time, talking about jobs connected. the second thing we've done is try to integrate s.n.a.p. families into the general flow of the economy. ebt we talked about before allowed us to move away from food stamp, allows folks to be in the grocery line. you may or may not be aware you're in line with somebody who is a s.n.a.p. beneficiary. we want to create opportunities for folks to participate in other venues. expanded in farmers markets, over 64 farmers markets can take ebt. we're working with foundation to increase availability of healthy fruits and vegetables for s.n.a.p. families. part of it is better integration
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and better education about who is receiving s.n.a.p. >> i must say i think. ebt card is important, for decades and decades when you went through the checkout line, you had to pull out coupon book, food stamps, everybody could see you doing it. ebt card looks like any other debit card that anybody else has in mind. it's hard for me to imagine that if the level of stigma had stayed the same as it was, particularly back when we had food stamp coupons, if that were the case we wouldn't have 85% participation with 45 million people benefiting. i think that's prime, a fascia evidence, not that we're there. >> if we do a better job with senior citizens, i think we'll
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see better understanding precisely who is benefiting from the program and that will reduce it a bit. >> the next question is really interesting. do you think that s.n.a.p. results in low income wage suppression, that it leads to employers paying workers lower pag pages? >> i'm not willing to believe there are a significant number of people who sit in the back room of their operation and who sort of do a calculation. i think if there is any wage suppression, it is primarily unintentional, not an intentional decision-making proce process. i can't imagine -- i would hope that's not how people think.
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>> this is something i've been quite interested in. to the best of my knowledge, correct me if i'm wrong, i'm not aware of a single peer-reviewed academic study that finds such an effect. there are some reasons for that. if you're an employee and you have a worker, you know the waenlg you're paying the worker. you don't necessarily know is there a spouse, come hab tant in the household that has a well paying job. you don't know which of your employees are receiving s.n.a.p. and which are not. that employer could run an operation where they pay to employees doing the exact same job a different wage level because one is getting s.n.a.p. and one isn't. it doesn't work that way. the only evidence i'm aware of is not in the s.n.a.p. program, there's one or two studies that
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find that because the earned income tax credit has a really positive effect we all want of inducing more people to enter the labor market, that by increasing the supply of workers looking for jobs, it may have some modest moderating effects. small on wages. the overall effect of eitc workers comes as a huge positive. but to me, this is also one of the reasons that the minimum wage and eitc compliment each other. the eitc brings more people into labor market and adequate minimum wage puts a floor below which the wages can't go. but i have never seen any evidence, diane is agreeing, that the s.n.a.p. program -- the s.n.a.p. program, unlike eitc, it doesn't have particular
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effects on the supply. okay. here is an interesting question. is s.n.a.p. being ignored in the presidential election? and if so, why? >> i don't think it's being ignored in the sense i think there has been a good deal of conversation about poverty, about income inequality. i know coming from iowa, i obviously watched the presidential campaign begin, and i know there was a great deal of conversation about economic opportunity, support for programs that would provide people a chance to make it. so i'm not sure it's being ignored by the candidates. it may very well be not something that the media is
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focused on because they are more interested in theatrics of the campaign. i guess that's a media word, maybe doesn't sell more advertising. i think we really should demand more from our presidential campaigns. not from candidates but campaigns and coverage of the campaigns because there are a lot of issues that aren't necessarily being discussed as they ought to be, in a serious manner, like the conversation we're having today. i think of rural poverty, i think there are a couple of candidates who have fairly detailed plans about rural poverty, but there hasn't been a conversation about it. it frankly is a fairly important
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topic that needs to be discussed. >> i also suspect, it wouldn't surprise me, if we see a little more focus on s.n.a.p. in the general election, but we're now in the primary stage, it's not as though there is a burning issue about s.n.a.p. that divides donald trump and ted cruz nor similarly hillary clinton and bernie sanders. when we get to the bigger election there are differences one or the other party elevates. >> there will be a reference as it was in 2012 when president obama was referred to as food stamp president. there will be ways to do it in a way that isn't demonstrative, it will demonize not only s.n.a.p. beneficiaries but candidate who believes there's a reason and appropriate place to the s.n.a.p. program. if that occurs, there should be serious pushback by not just
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candidate that has to deal with this but by those of us who understand what it is and isn't. we should not let anyone suggest -- rampant fraud and abuse. we should not allow everyone on s.n.a.p., we make sure they understand, senior citizen, people with disabilities children, and working poor. ask, which one of those groups do you not want to help. so put the candidate who has a problem with s.n.a.p. program on record as saying, i want -- i don't want seniors to be helped, kids to be helped. that's the kind of debate -- if we're going to have that conversation, that's the question we should absolutely compel an answer to. >> next question. i'm going to ask the question and give context. has usda considered eliminating
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the five-year residency requirement for recent immigrants to receive s.n.a.p., historical backdrop. bob will remember when the '96 welfare law came out of congress, it had really severe restrictions on legal. we're not talking about undocumented immigrants here. we're talking about legal immigrants, legal immigrants receiving s.n.a.p. and other benefits. i remember when president clinton signed the law, he singled out two areas that he said in his view went much too far. one was the immigrant restrictions and the other were actually s.n.a.p. with regard to immigrant restrictions in 1997 balanced budget act, as i recall the restrictions on legal immigrants receiving food stamps were
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removed for all the legal immigrants already here in the country but for people who newly entered the country after the bill's signature date august 22nd, 1976, there was a five-year restriction. i think it was eased for children subs quenl but still there for adults. this is not something you as the secretary have authority on. congress would have to change the law. >> right. our focus is on things we can control. we can encourage states to do better outreach to make sure eligible people sign up. we can encourage opportunities for s.n.a.p. beneficiaries to be able to take their kids to farmers market and enjoy that experience. we can control reducing error rates and fraud rates. we can control helping states do a better job of connecting people with work opportunities. so our focus is on things we can control. you know, i don't know that we necessarily have been in the
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vanguard at this point figuring out what policy changes ought to be. as we begin preparing for the next farm bill, that's when that conversation would be appropriate. so the next secretary will obviously be engaged in it. to the extent i had a conversation about snap in the 2014 farm bill. it was in connection with employment and training suggesting $200 million fund to create new innovative ways to find out how we could link people with employment. >> as we also know when you take on really hot button issues, to some degree you have to pick your spots. i remember back in 1996, i thought that the immigrant provisions were without close compare the most unsavory provisions of the law. i was very glad they were substantially altered, although
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not totally altered in '96. in terms of the obama administration, obviously the immigrant related issue the president elevated was the executive order to bring 4 or 5 million people out of the shadows. i would have to say as much as i would like to see the five-year restriction eased, i think the president got it exactly right. i think the top priority in the area, people here, working, playing by the rules, to bring them out of the shadows. we're still waiting to hear where the supreme court will come down on this. >> the next time any of you put a fork into a fruit or vegetable, understand likely it is that fruit or vegetable was touched at some point in time by immigrant hands. probably 70 to 75% of farm workers are not in this country legally but do back breaking work to provide us this incredible diversity.
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when you walk into the grocery store, make sure you understand the amazing diversity in the produce part, part brought by people 12, 14 hours a day. we have a broken immigration system and apparently don't have the courage at this point in time in congress to fix it. >> so we've been talking about big issues. you just got into immigration. an argument coast guard made. i would agree with this argument. but the biggest issue of all for the future of the planet is climate change. we have a question, how will food and security be affected by climate change if we don't address it. i have to say nothing i really know about. >> the first thing we can do if we're really interested in climate and food insecurity is
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eliminate food waste. 30% of all the food that is grown in this country and globally is wasted. in the united states, it is a large amount of the solid waste that goes into our landfills. in fact, it's the single biggest solid waste of landfills and producer of methane. if we were able to reduce and eliminate global food loss and waste, we would have enough food to feed 850 million people who are food insecure today. that's the first thing. the second thing is to work with agriculture to make sure that we are adapting and mitigating to the impacts of climate because there is no question it will impact and affect what's grown, where it's grown and how much we grow. if you happen to be in a coastal area, it's a serious consequence. when we went to -- when i went
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with president obama to cuba, for my second visit i had a chance to visit with ag minister in cuba. we believe there's an opportunity for collaboration on agriculture in caribbean. we have a series of climate hubs we established usda that is taking a look at every region of the country and caribbean to figure out exactly impacts of climate change and what we think vulnerabilities are, agriculture, production and forestry and we have produced a series of suggestion in terms of adaptation and investigation strategies and using extension to get our producers aware of steps they can take. linked that with cultural alliance, over 100 organizations and countries working collaboratively to figure out the best practices. so there is an aggressive effort here, we're sharing research, opening up data so it's easier for people to do research from the research we've done in the past. so there is a significant focus
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on this at usda, and we'll continue to focus on it. each one of us could start today by trying to avoid food waste. >> we're now at the end of our hour. for people here in the audience and people watching, you've just really seen the seriousness and the words that come to my mind are the quiet but very real passion of tom vilsack, secretary of agriculture. for people who are cynicle about our political system and our leaders,ening you've just seen over the past hour an illustration that our system came and does provide leaders who really dedicate themselves to making our country and our world a better place. we really thank you, mr. secretary, both for being here for the hour, making the time,
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but more broadly for everything you're doing on these issues. i want to thank the hamilton project for putting this together and all of you for coming here this morning. thank you. [ applause ]
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white house correspondence dinner with speeches from president obama and this year's host comedian larry wilmorwilmo
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here is a look at other entertainers from past years. >> this is amazing. the first black president. i know you're biracial, but the first black president. proud to be able to say that. the the first black president. well, that's unless you screw up. then it's going to be, what's up with the half white guy, huh? who owed him for the lotto, what the -- >> it's not a strong field. who knows if they could beat you in 2012. i'll tell you who could definitely beat you, mr. president, 2008 barack obama.
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you would have loved him. so charismatic, so charming. was he a little too idealistic? maybe. but you would have loved him. i still think we all remember this inauguration day, the lookk even more beautiful tonight. now, you on the other hand, mr. president, have aged a little. what happened to you? when you were sworn in, you looked like the guy from the old spice commercials. now you look like lewis gossett sr. i never said this to anyone before, but maybe you should start smoking again. is this the change you were talking about? mr. president, look at your hair. if your hair gets any whiter, the tea party is going to endorse it. >> they say diplomacy is a
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matter, and since mrs. obama got to the white house, so is dinner. you're very skinny. she doesn't let you eat. i felt weird about eating dessert. i left it untouched. the real reason people thought you were from kenya had nothing to do with your birth certificate. it's because you lost so much weight, we thought you were the guy who won the boston marathon. this is how you know this country is in bad shape. our president is starving. north korea is sending him food aid. >> the quote i hear the most about the president is he's always the coolest guy in the room. that's what everyone says. he's the coolest guy in the room, but here's my question. who else is in that room? it's not hard to be the cool one when the other guys in the room are biden and kerry. i would be cool if i were in a room where tom vilsack was showing steven shoou how to do
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the harlem shake. >> it's good to see thaw jay carney is here. big night for jay. i haven't seen him this nervous since the president told him, look, just go out there and tell them the website's broken. they'll understand. that actually probably was a moment. mr. president, you have to admit, and you already have, the launch of health care.gov was a disaster. it was so bad. it was bad. look, i don't even have an analogy because the website is now the thing people use to describe other bad things. they say stuff like, eh, i shouldn't have eaten that sushi. i was up all night health ca care.goving. that latest johnny depp movie really healthcare.goved at the office. and look at my new rug, the dogs
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health care.gov on it. you can't get that out of shag. but thanks to obamacare, or as the president refers to it, me care, millions of newly insured young americans can visit a doctor's office and see what a print magazine actually looks like. that's awesome. >> mr. president, thank you so much for taking time away from being on jimmy kimmel to be here. it's amazing to be seating with the president, having this fancy dinner, and i know this must have cost a ton of food stamps, so thank you. i can say that. you know, because a lot of you probably don't know this, but president obama and i actually grew up together in chicago. i remember when we used to go down to the cabrini green basketball court. i would lace up a pair of jordans. he would slip on a pair of my mom's jeans, and we would just
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miss three pointers until sun down. when of course, we would have to stop and pray to mecca. but those were simpler times. now you have problems with congress, with putin, with israel. you said it yourself. we can't solve these problems by holding hands and singing kumbaya. kumbaya, of course, is the village in africa where the president was born. am i saying that right? kumbaya? after six years in office, your approval rating is at 48%. not only that, your gray hair is at 85%. your hair is so white now, it can talk back to the police. we'll high five about that later. >> our coverage of the white house correspondents' dinner begins tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. eastern with red carpet arrivals. followed later in the evening by
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remarks from the president and comedian larry wilmore. you can see the entire event live on c-span. independent media is the oxygen of a democracy. it's essential. holding those in power accountable. you know, we're not there to serve some kind of corporate agenda. when we cover war and peace, we're not brought to you by the weapons manufacturers. >> sunday night on "q&a," amy goodman, host and executive producer of the daily news program, democracy now, talks about the book she's co-authors, democracy now, 20 years covering the movements, changing america. which looks back at some of the stories and people the shows covered. >> the idea of democracy now starting 20 years ago, it really hasn't changed. bringing out the voices of people at the grassroots and the united states and around the world, and they very much
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represent, i think, the majority of people. i mean, i think people who are concerned deeply about war and peace, about the growing inequality in this country, about climate change, the state of the planet, are not a fringe minority. not even a silent majority. but the silenced majority. silenced by the corporate media, which is why we have to take it back. >> sunday night at 8:00 eastern, on c-span's "q&a." >> the former head of u.s. central command retired general james mattis, says iran is the most enduring threat to stability in the middle east. he made the comment while speaking at the center for strategic and international studies where he outlined several potential military threats that the country poses. he also talked about the situation in syria. this is an hour.
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>> let me just say this is the second in a series that we've been hosting on trying to understand the new power geometry in the gulf. the nuclear agreement has changed the landscape and we're trying to understand what that means. we had the ambassador here for the first session. i'm delighted that jim mattis is here in the second session. on our third session we will have lisa anderson who is the former president of american university in cairo and is currently the dean of columbia university school of international and public affairs. i'll get the announcement out to you when that happens and i hope you'll all join us for that as well. you know, you're all here because you know jim mattis, so for me to take time to introduce jim mattis would be wasting your time and keeping you from hearing him. probably one of the most remarkable officers i have ever had the privilege of working with. he was the executive secretary at the time when i was the
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comptroller and people don't know, but the executive secretary, that's the lymphatic system. you know, it parallels the circulatory system in the pentagon. it's hugely underappreciated and really is that glue that holds us together so us civilians don't look as dumb as we are when we have to get together. and jim was the architect and the master of keeping the executive secretary working both for secretary perry and for secretary cohen, and we got to meet at that stage and then we've had many opportunities since then. just delighted and honored that he's here. he's on his way to the gulf, and so he gave us the privilege of stopping off just for a little bit of time to talk with us to try to understand what is going on. i must say, it feels very jittery to me to have kind of a certain -- we've got this new kind of parallelism between iran
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and syria -- iran and saudi arabia. long-standing allies that are all of a sudden being put side by side with countries that have been opponents for quite a while. this is a very curious time and i think we're going to need to listen carefully to a man as wise as jim mattis to understand how should we be speak being this. so could i ask you with your warm applause say thank you to jim mattis for him coming to be with us today. [ applause ] >> thanks very much. thank you, dr. hamre, and to be here today with you ladies and gentlemen with two deputies, former deputy secretaries of defense in the room obviously could be a little bit intimidating except marines were taught to be intimidated by nothing, so tally-ho, we'll go through this. thank you. rebecca is in charge as you all just noticed.
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but we're talking about the middle east at an inflection point, and i would just point out right now that among the many challenges the middle east faces i think iran is actually foremost, and yet at the same time it appears here in washington that we've forgotten how to keep certain issues foremost. you remember a few months ago you couldn't pick up the newspaper without iran in big letters above the fold, and today it's like it just disappeared off the headlines. and you have to wonder how that happens. and i think that it's important, i come from hoover on the west coast. here we have csis, two think tanks that are quite capable of keeping focused on issues and coming up with good policy recommendations. we only pray the rest of us outside this town that someone good is listening here to the good recommendation that is come out of here. i am routinely copying down things that csis puts out and
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finding a lot of value in my own thinking, shifting my own thinking. csis doesn't just make assertions. it also includes discussions where you actually come out with something that is perhaps a little better each time you go through a cycle. i want to speak to the challenge of iran, and i'm going to put right up front what i hope to convince you of here today if you need to be convinced of it. the iranian regime in my mind is the single most enduring threat to stability and peace in the middle east. for all of isis and aqi's -- al qaeda's mention everywhere right now, they're an immediate threat, they're serious, certainly assad's syria and what it's spewing out is a very serious threat. the palestine/israel issue continues to bubble, but nothing i believe is as serious in the long term enduring ramifications in terms of stability and
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prosperity and some hope for a better future for the young people out there than iran. just a quick recall, let's go back to 1979 and the khomeini revolution comes in and installs an islamist regime and the slogan death to america is basically their call sign as we would put it in the military. the takeover of our embassy. they hold the diplomats hostage for over a years and somewhere it's argued by different folks with varying levels of i would say knowledge that somewhere between '79 and '83 iran declares war on the united states for all intents and purposes. it becomes very obvious in 1983 when they blow up the embassy in beirut. they attack the french paratrooper barracks and the marine peacekeeper barracks killing hundreds and it continues on. in 1984 during president reagan's administration, secretary of state george
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schultz declares iran a state sponsor of terrorism, and it's interesting without going through all the data that supports that since that in 2012 the current administration state department notes that lebanese hezbollah and iran have achieved a level -- a tempo of operations not seen since the 1990s. that's the current administration's state department assessment of iran's support of terrorism first established in our government in 1984 as a matter of fact. you fast forward now, last july, 2015, in vienna china, france, germany, the russian federation, the united kingdom, and the united states rolled out the jcpoa or the joint comprehensive plan of action otherwise known as the iran agreement. and what i want to just talk about for a few minutes here is the purpose of that agreement. i want to characterize iranian behavior since it went into
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effect and talk just a little bit about why we entered into it and about the way ahead. the purpose of the agreement i think is pretty well understood, although at times i felt i could have made a better argument for it than the current administration was making. it goes back to 2002 when the u.s. administration determined that iran's nuclear weapons program, not nuclear program, for all their denial and deceit, it's a nuclear weapons program, they decided back in the bush administration that that program took precedence when they recognized that chances were increasing that iran could actually develop a nuclear weapon. the strategic goal then is quite simple, it's how to make the world safer by preventing, delaying that program. and starting in 2010 to jump forward again, secretary of state clinton orchestrated broad international economic pressure on iran and the goal was, to put it very bluntly, to force iran to come to the negotiating table
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and to come under an internationally supervised nonmilitary nuclear program. in 2013 president rouhani was elected, supposedly a moderate i read in some circles. i'm hard pressed to use that word because i think it lacks definition when you talk about people approved to run for office by the supreme leader in iran. basically his government though, rouhani's government, negotiated the interim nuclear agreement and the jcpoa is the result. formal implementation began in january of this year. they removed the enriched uranium, sent it out of country. we know that, but at the same time the united nations rescinded seven prior united nations security council resolutions that imposed economic sanctions. supposedly their removal was subject to immediate reimposition in the event of, and i quote, significant
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nonperformance by iran, unquote. so the relief was given on those unscrs based on a pause in one program, but the money they were given could go into a number of other programs. and now we find why in the region from tel aviv to abu dhabi we have a disagreement on the aybar and israeli view of this agreement and the american view. because iran has five military threats. one is the latent threats of the nuclear weapons program. another is the counter maritime program. we're going to put mines in the water. we have coastal defense cruise missiles. we'll board ships and impound them, that sort of thing. the next is the ballistic missile threat which they have been very obvious about what they're doing at this time in improving their ballistic missile capability. there's the cyber threat. if we talked three, four, five
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years ago, i would have said is not a big threat. today i would tell you i would liken it to children juggling lightbulbs with nitroglycerine. one of these times they're going to do something really serious and force a lot of foreign leaders to have to take it into account. there's qmsp and only the military could come up with it. qods force, jerusalem force. in other words mois, the surrogates and proxies, you know them as lebanese hezbollah and others. further, our country's view of iran was summed up in state department's 2012 report that i just mentioned to you earlier that they've actually increased the tempo of operations. when we relieved them of the u.n. security council resolutions economic sanctions in a number of areas, that money was not going to stop going to the nuclear weapons program. they made very clear they would continue their foreign policy.
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so the american administration's argument was an iranian nuke was such a dangerous game-changer we had to subordinate everything else to delay on the nuclear program. they have not changed the way they go about business on their side. the israeli tourists who were murdered in bulgaria here some years ago, the attempt to kill the ambassador less than two miles from where we're sitting right now on a saturday night in georgetown, and by the way, they would have pulled it off but for one fundamental mistake. they made one mistake and so they messed it up. so basically how do we delay it? it came down to two options. there was the military option, probably could have delayed it for a year or two before we would have to take more military action. or there was the diplomatic option where they were aiming to delay it much longer. we're talking about a decade or more. without the pause and despite iran's denial and deception, it was clear that iran could get a weapon. this is what our intelligence agencies believed, and that
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would jeopardize our security interests. it would risk the global economic blackmail if they were to interrupt the oil lines of communication there in the gulf, and it would endanger the survival of allies, both israeli and arab partners. so our objective was that we had to stop this. the previous uncrs rescinded also were stated in there that they couldn't test ballistic missiles in the past, okay? under the new wording in a late concession in the negotiation for the iran agreement, what we said was they could not test ballistic missiles developed expressly -- designed expressly to carry nuclear weapons. quite simple they could say they're not designed to carry nuclear weapons so we can now test them, so we were caught on that one. those ballistic missile tests that occurred some time ago were characteristic of iran's
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response to the agreement. iran has shut down its plutonium reactor. i think they poured cement in the core. they sent out its enriched uranium, 25,000 pounds, but it remains the single most belligerent actor in the middle east, and as the commander in centcom with countries like syria, lebanon, iraq, pakistan, afghanistan, yemen, every morning i woke up and the first three questions i had were had to do with iran and iran and iran. their consistent behavior since 1979 through today shows no sign of changing, and, in fact, i think the state department has characterized it well when they said they have actually picked up their tempo of operations. the ballistic missile test being one. they have also conducted cyber attacks on the united states resulting in seven u.s. indictments. they have doubled down on support to assad's murderous regime, and they are very much
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aware, they are keenly aware that if assad falls, that's the biggest strategic setback in 30 years for the mullahs in tehran. they have increased the flow of arms, ladies and gentlemen, into saudi arabia, explosives into bahrain, and arms into yemen. in fact, in the last three months, february, march, and april, the french navy, the australian navy, the u.s. navy have all seized arm shipments. each month, and if anyone has ever flown over that area in the world and you see the hundreds of given vessels alt sea carrying commerce, smuggles, smuggling is legitimate in that part of the world as we know, the idea that we're catching all the arms shipments is a flight of fantasy. we're not catching them all and there's nobody in the navies that would say so. the republican guard commander is openly boasted of tehran's control over four capitals, beirut, damascus, baghdad, and
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sanaa, and i think it was an oops on sanaa because then saudi arabia and the united arab emirates led the gcc forces in there and clearly that has not gone according to plan. hopefully the u.n. brokered negotiations in kuwait will put an end to that but also will ensure iran is kept out of there and the chokepoint coming into the red sea. bahrain and jordan have been specifically targeted, publicly targeted by the qods force command, soleimani, calling for the an exation of bahrain, and bahrain to many in iran is not just the island. it's also the eastern province of saudi arabia. the republican guard general proposes erasing israel off the map. sounds familiar. it is because it's what they've been saying for a good many decades. and the supreme leader summed it up very well when he said those who say the future lies in
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negotiation not in missiles are either ignorant or traitors. that is the supreme leader. i think we should take him at his word, that's what he believes. and when president obama trying to keep this effort alive, when president obama characterized iran regime's responses to the jcpoa as respecting the letter but violating the spirit of the agreement, the chief of staff of the iranian armed forces contemptuously said we studied the details of the nuclear agreement, quote, and we don't have any information about its spirit. that's about as an abrupt a slap in the face to any effort on our side to try to be fair brokers on this as you could come up with and i would say -- i can go on, by the way. i don't want to bore you here, but that ends i think for now any moderate iranian response. so where is the u.s. right now? the u.s. is in a strategy-free mode. washington is confused, i believe, and not invested in
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strategy. we are shifting our focus from one region or subregion to another. remember the pivot to the pacific that left our friends in the middle east and europe very concerned. that kind of word is seldom used in strategy. it might make good operational thinking, but i don't think it's a good idea on a strategic level for a country with worldwide responsibilities. you remember we were very concerned about crimea. we're not concerned about it anymore. now it's the eastern basin in eastern ukraine. we have been attacking isis in iraq a little bit, then we shifted to syria, then we're gradual escalation right now. the spratly islands. i'm not trying to get off track here, but my point is we have got to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time, and it appears that we're going with a hit and miss approach that has us constantly shooting behind the duck.
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so the jcpoa, coming back to the arms agreement, that's all it was. it was designed to increase stability and decrease proliferation to improve our global standing in the process. but the outcome is an increase in a regional arms race. saudi arabia just recently passed russia as the third largest spender on military weapons in the world. our secretary of defense was sent out, some called it the secretary of reassurance, right after the agreement was signed to the israeli and arab capitals in order to make certain they knew we were willing to sell them more weapons because we recognize the increase danger as the money that had been released by the unscrs and the lack of economic sanctions, that money was now going to go in maybe not to one program, at least not for a year or two. the nuclear one. but there was nothing to indicate that the money was not going to continue to flow to the other threats. the impression in the region was that the u.s. was withdrawing.
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the best case -- i was just in the region a couple weeks ago. i head back tomorrow. the best case in the mind of many of the people in the region is that the u.s. is simply indifferent to the challenge of dealing with iran if you live next door to it. the worst case is in some people's minds that we have made actually common cause with iran, russia, and assad, and that you have to keep beating down, but in a region that's rife with conspiracy, it is something that has to be addressed and it's best addressed right up front. that's not our intent. isis right now, by the way, i consider isis nothing more than an excuse for iran to continue its mischief. iran is not an enemy of isis. they have a lot to gain from the turmoil in the region that isis creates and i would just point out one question for you to look into, what is the one country in the middle east that has not been attacked by isis?
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one. and it's iran. now, there's -- that is more than just happenstance i'm sure. i think, too, that with the u.s. congress, there was a sense in the u.s. in what the u.s. was doing where the congress was pretty much absent for all of their saying they didn't like the agreement and taking steps to demonstrate that, they have done nothing to strengthen any stand-by economic sanctions that should iran cheat that we could put in place. they have not touched that. maybe because they don't believe europe would be with us that that should not prevent the congress from passing a spirit of the congress saying here's where we stand. they have not increased the intelligence budget to collect on iran, something which i think is necessary for us to do. and we have not seen any authorization for the use of military force against isis which would, again, demonstrate american stability and focus on the region.
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if they don't like the one that the president sent them, there's nothing wrong with that, they can pass an aumf that they believe in their heart is the right sort of thing to do and show the unity of the congress. in fact, they appear to be more willing to sit outside and criticize the president than to put themselves on the line and say, here's where we stand. the bottom line on the american situation, though, i think is quite clear that the next president is going to inherit a mess. that's probably the most diplomatic word you can use for it. so you got to ask why would the u.s. take such a gamble with this agreement? number one, the president could be proven right. the mullahs may want it both ways, and they may find it doesn't work that way. what do i mean by both ways? if you look at the control north korea has over their people, they would like to be north korea. looking at the economic vitality the south has, that could help keep the mullahs in power. they want it that way. there's a built-in contradiction
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of opening your country to the world and at the same time trying to keep close control and so they may lose that and over the midterm to longer term then you could see iran moving more into the actions of a responsible nation and not just a revolutionary cause as is written into their constitution. but as revealed in the recent interview of jeff goldberg by his own admission, president obama is a very different sort of president. he sees his actions in a very different light, and certainly some people in the administration have a remarkable ability to absolve themselves of responsibility for anything. i would just say that for a sitting u.s. president to see our allies as free loaders is nuts. and you know what? what's happening, i was telling dr. hamre upstairs, i was working out one morning, i was on my machine and i saw this goldberg article come across. i hit my print button, got back and was working out and i was going through my e-mails and i
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pulled the stuff off the printer and started reading, the scan you do before you do something with a highlighter and all. at first i thought there is my administrative incompetence that was demonstrate so clearly to secretary perry and secretary cohen long ago. i somehow got something that trump said stuck inside something that president obama said. i said how did i do that. it wasn't trump. it was the president saying our allies were free riders and that sort of thing. and i would just tell you that i'm going to be surprised if prime minister cameron would ever speak to our president again, but i would also say i'm going to be surprised if president obama is proven right in his trying to make this effort work with a regime that's holding hostage the iranian people, and i think that somehow people -- we all live on hope. we're all men and women, we all hope for something better tomorrow, better for our children, but i think that thinking or hoping that iran is
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on the cusp of becoming a modern, responsible nation is simply a bridge too far and if nothing else we need to have an insurance policy here. but why would we sign up? another reason would be maybe it's the best we could get? i was in a meeting late one night in -- with one of our partners in the gulf, and when it was done he asked for the staff to leave and he and i sitting alone, and he said to me, ladies and gentlemen, he said it must be a very long table. i'm looking at him wondering what he's talking about here. he said, well, general, i keep hearing that the military option is on the table. this is a couple years before the agreement. and he said it must be a very long table because i am squinting and i couldn't see it on the table so i got my binoculars out, so it must be a very long table because i cannot see the military option. he was joshing me, and i knew him well enough from many, many years in the region that we could be that open with one another. but the bottom line is i think
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from washington to brussels, from london to tehran, from abu dhabi to tel aviv, the idea that the u.s. would go into one more fight in the middle east at this point in time was maybe not in the cards. maybe if we just were in that kind of a situation, maybe this agreement was the best we could come up with. a third possible reason is maybe the folks in the american administration think that the moderates can win. i think you have to be careful on that. it goes back to whether or not the economic self interest can grow strong enough, but remember at the same time the security forces are going to be getting stronger as well with the infusion of money. and they have proven themselves quite capable, the coercive forces, of keeping the people in line using beatings, imprisonment, rape, and other things that we have witnessed them using here in the recent
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past, and i think too that the time it would take for the economic policies to take root and to turn over kind of a new mood in tehran amongst the leaders may take quite some time. so, again, why do we need an insurance policy to get through this period? i think that the imperfect yet intrusive u.n. iaea inspection regime, it's not perfect, but it is intrusive, and i have read the agreement twice. 156 pages long, 159, something like that. 30-some pages are just names of people who are pulled off the sanction list, not all that intimidating actually, but if you read through that, it is very clearly drawn up the expectation that iran will cheat. i mean, when you read this, that's the sense you get from the other nations that forced those issues. so if nothing else, we'll have better targeting data should it
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come to a fight at some point in the future. but i think that in terms of strengthening america's global standing among european and middle eastern nations alike, the sense is that america has become somewhat irrelevant in the middle east and we certainly have the least influence in 40 years. so on a way ahead, we're just going to have to recognize that we have an imperfect armed control agreement. second, that what we achieved was a nuclear pause, not a nuclear halt. we're going to have to plan for the worst. the old military adage, hope for the best but plan for the worst comes to bear. and in light of the other four threats i mentioned and a 12-year delay of the nuclear program, each is going to have to be addressed in action and in planning. in other words, if we're going to have to do something about missile defense, we're going to have to do something about cyber monitoring that cost
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aramco tens of millions of dollars. maybe hundreds of millions of dollars. we're going to have to do something about their maritime efforts and the u.s. 5th fleet is critical to that. and we're certainly going to have to counter the terrorist activities. we do have some time i think to get our act together. i think iran has a lot to gain for the next 18 months to 2 years of playing it by the rules and not taking too many chances if any significant chances as they try to get the economic benefits. at one point i thought secretary of treasury lew was pretty firm that there would be no access to the american financial institutions, and now i hear that's not as firm perhaps, and so i don't know where that stands. obviously that would have a big impact on slowing iran's benefiting economically if we were to hold the line on that. there is nothing, by the way, i have re-read it, there's nothing in the agreement that forces us to do that. that again is the spirit of the agreement. well, if they're unwilling to live up to the spirit of the agreement and go by the letter,
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i think we should take some counsel from that and be slow to give something for nothing based on an alleged spirit that we cannot see operant from tehran. i think too, we're going to have to be very careful about red lines in the middle east. if we give one in the future, we're going to have to make good on it. so let's be careful what we're going to do and ensure that we keep israel and its overmatched situation, that in the region we work with our partners in the gcc whether it be on ballistic missile defense integration which secretary clinton tried very hard to get initiated some years ago. certainly to work on the other efforts and the navy should be maintained at a very robust strength in that region because navies can be very stabilizing in what they're doing and they carry fewer of the penalties of having ground forces stationed out there which is challenging
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in itself. we're going to have to work better with our allies too. we can't have the leaders of our partners out there picking up newspapers and reading about what it is we've been doing diplomatically in private talks with their adversaries and actually our adversaries as well. we would never do that if it was in europe. i don't think we would do that with japan or south korea when dealing with north korea and yet our partners in the middle east too often have had to pick up the newspaper to find out we've just done something else that put them in their mind in a more difficult situation. i think one point i want to make though is there's no going back. absent a real violation, i mean, a clear and present violation that was enough to stimulate the europeans to action as well, i don't think that we can take advantage of some new president's, republican or
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democrat, and say we're not going to live up to our word on this agreement. i believe we would be alone if we did, and unilateral economic sanctions from us would not have anywhere near the impact of an allied approach to this. i think too we're going to have to hold at risk the nuclear program in the future. in other words, make plans now of what we do if, in fact, they restart it, and, again, go back to congress and say we need an oversight committee. it should have people from the intelligence committee, the foreign affairs committee, and the armed service committee together and it should be something that maintains oversight of this agreement and keeps the issue high and under the oversight of the legislative branch to make certain that the executive branch is, in fact, maintaining the priority it deservings, and i think too we have to broaden and deepen our links to the anti-iran spy agencies in the region with all of our friends and make sure
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we're all working together to keep an eye on what its up to. cyber monitoring center i think could catch iran red-handed because, again, they're not that good at it, and we can catch them when they try to mess around in the cyber arena. we've caught them before. i think too radio farsi has to be dusted off and we need to go back at it. the iranian people need to know up front every day we have no argument with you. our concern is with the mullahs, this revolutionary cause that does not have your best interests in place. if you go back to radio free europe and the cold war, it was very, very effective, and it's as if we don't know how to take our own side in a fight on radio, tv, twitter, facebook, and others right now. i think in our future talks with iran they should be like our talks with the ussr before gorbachev. in other words, keep our allies fully informed, recognize iran
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as not a nation state, rather a revolution cause devoted to mayhem, and also make certain that we don't end up with real high expectations from any talks with iran. just keep it a little modest there. it's going to be -- the middle east, the future is going to be ghastly. it is not going to be pleasant for any of us, and we're going to have to return to a strategic view such as we had years ago because we know that vacuums left in the middle east seem to be filled by either terrorists or by iran or their surrogates or by russia. recognize that the violent terrorists, two different brands. the sunni is the al qaeda, okay. that's one that's clear and present. we've hit them from the fatah and afghanistan, pakistan to where the french are treating them roughly in mali. a lot of effort focused on them but so far to date the iranian branch have basically been left

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