President Biden made a historic announcement with his American Jobs Plan, which focuses on investing in job-creating and building up infrastructures from the electric grid to highway repair. This level of funding is just what this week's guest, Jess Morales Rocketto, joins Xander to discuss. Rocketto is the Civic Engagement Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and the Executive Director of Care in Action. She breaks down not only the importance of investing in jobs but in caretaking, caretakers, and voters in what she calls "collective responsibility."
"When I came to work at the National Domestic Workers Alliance, my job was to build out Care in Action, our political arm, and build up our politics,'' says Rocketto.
Her work involved going to Capitol Hill to sell the idea of care infrastructures from the cradle to the grave. Providing parental work leave, child care, after-school assistance, and care for the elderly causes multi-generational problems from average citizens to Senators.
Americans have the assumption that families can and will provide care to their aging loved ones, but it comes with challenges. "Absolutely, it's a family's responsibility," Rocketto explains, "but our kind of collective community in the country actually needs to see this as the responsibility of everybody." she says, "I think people could probably use a little bit of help."
Rocketto describes all the variants that lead to difficulties in the family provided care from generations of mass incarceration, the breakdown of community to the double-edged sword that adults need to work more to afford elder care, raising the need for child care. She refers to people in this scenario as "the sandwich generation,"; a generation of adults having kids later in life caring for their elders, who are also living longer.
Unfortunately, the other compounding factors are found with exploitation from insurance companies when it comes to eldercare.
"People want to make money off of that, though." Rocketto explains, "The insurance companies have made it so that eldercare is capped at a level that does not reflect people living a long time, so it becomes very expensive."
This cap originated when lifespan was closer to one's 60s or 70s, according to Rocketto. "Insurance companies and nursing home facilities are really big business, and they're absolutely incentivized through subsidies." The catch 22 is that families choose to take on at-home caregiving.
Still, it's increasingly difficult to ask people to take on duties typically done by skilled professionals while working their demanding jobs. "To me, it's just really unacceptable to assume people, because they can't afford it, should just accept a lesser life existence, a lesser quality of life.", says Jess.
While she still finds political pushback, Rocketto believes that in a post-quarantined society, where people felt the adversity of losing their nannies and care workers due to social distancing, change can be made easier. "My hope is that the Government doesn't make decisions for people but that people have more options than, all of us should just take another job," she says.
In conjunction with empowering domestic workers and the 400 billion from the American Jobs Plan, Rocketto invests in getting the vote out from women of color. In addition, she hopes to modify the lifetime cap on elder support and abolish laws that prevent domestic workers from unionizing.
"Not only is this something that I felt passionate about for advocacy because I felt passionate about the workers themselves but also that, this is really something that does affect everyone and everyone should understand more about, Jess says, "It doesn't have to be like this, we can change it."
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