TONIGHT ON METROFOCUS

A new report finds that our once lush and green spaces are turning into wastelands due to decades of aging and neglect. We’ll reveal how they can be saved. In our ongoing Peril and Promise series, we’ll take you from the urban jungle of New York City to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, one of the seven natural wonders of Costa Rica, which is now under the growing threat of climate change. Is America in decline? Award-winning journalist Steven Brill discusses his new best-selling book, “Tailspin,” in which he dissects the current state of the nation, focusing on how we came to be where we are now, and how we can turn it around.

Aired on July 25, 2018.

TRANSCRIPT

> TONIGHT ON 'METROFOCUS,' A NEW REPORT FINDS THAT NEW YORK CITY'S AGING PARKS ARE BADLY DETERIORATING DUE TO DECADES OF UNDERFUNDING AND NEGLECT.

IN A MOMENT, A DISCUSSION ON HOW TO SAVE THEM.

> INSIDE ONE OF THE SEVEN NATURAL WONDERS OF COSTA RICA.

WE'LL LOOK AT THE CLOUD FOREST RESERVE NOW FACING GROWING THREATS FROM OUR CHANGING CLIMATE.

> IS AMERICA IN DECLINE?

AWARD-WINNING JOURNALIST STEVEN BRILL JOINS US TO DISCUSS HIS NEW BEST SELLER IN WHICH HE DISSECTS THE CURRENT STATE OF THE NATION, HOW WE GOT TO WHERE WE ARE, AND HOW WE CAN TURN THINGS AROUND.

> THOSE THINGS AND MORE AS 'METROFOCUS' STARTS RIGHT NOW.

Announcer: THIS IS 'METROFOCUS,' WITH RAFAEL PI ROMAN, JACK FORD AND JENNA FLANAGAN.

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY JAMES AND MERRYL TISCH, SUE AND EDGAR WALKENHEIM III, BERNARD AND IRENE SCHWARTZ, ROSALIND P.

WALTER, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG.

AND BY -- CORPORATE FUNDING FOR 'METROFOCUS' WAS PROVIDED BY MUTUAL OF AMERICA, YOUR RETIREMENT COMPANY.

AND BY PSE&G, SERVING CUSTOMERS, STRENGTHENING THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY, AND INVESTING IN THE FUTURE.

> IF YOU HAVEN'T YET NOTICED, YOU PROBABLY WILL.

SOME OF OUR CITY PARKS AND GREEN SPACES ARE ACTUALLY FALLING APART.

AGING AND NEGLECT ARE THE MAIN CAUSES OF DECLINE, ACCORDING TO A NEW STUDY FOR THE CENTER FOR AN URBAN FUTURE.

THE REPORT FIND THAT ONE IN FIVE PUBLIC PARKS HAS NOT AHEAD A MARRIAGE UPGRADE FOR SOME 25 YEARS.

THE COST TO THE CITY WITH MONEY AND TIME WILL BE ENORMOUS.

WE HAVE JONATHAN BOLES, THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR FOR CENTER FOR URBAN FUTURE.

I WOULD SUSPECT IF YOU ASK PEOPLE IN NEW YORK CITY TO GIVE YOU THEIR SENSE OF WHAT'S FALLING APART, IF YOU WILL, USING THAT TERM LOOSELY, NOT SCIENTIFICALLY, PROBABLY THEY WOULDN'T HAVE THEIR PARKS HIGH ON THE LIST.

WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS?

YOU KNOW, I THINK MOST PEOPLE JUST DON'T THINK OF PARKS AS INFRASTRUCTURE.

ALSO, THEY TAKE PARKS FOR GRANTED.

YOU SEE GRASS, YOU SEE BALL FIELDS.

BUT YOU DON'T NOTICE THE RETAINING WALLS AND THE DRAINAGE SYSTEMS.

MOST PEOPLE DON'T UNDERSTAND THIS, BUT THE AVERAGE PARK IN NEW YORK CITY WAS BUILT IN THE 1940s.

MANY ARE OLDER THAN THAT.

WITH AGE AND RECORD USAGE, JUST LIKE THE SUBWAYS HAVE HAD RECORD USAGE, SO HAVE THE PARKS, THINGS START TO BREAK DOWN.

AND FOR DECADES, WE'VE BEEN UNDERINVESTING IN THAT BASIC MAINTENANCE.

SPECIFIC AREAS, YOU MENTIONED A COUPLE, BUT WHAT PARTICULAR AREAS DOES THE REPORT LOOK AT?

YEAH, WELL, WE WENT OUT WITH A REALLY OPEN MIND TO FIGURE OUT WHAT IS HAPPENING WITH THE PARKS AND WHAT ARE THE INFRASTRUCTURE ISSUES?

AND IT IS THESE KIND OF INVISIBLE AND UNSEXY THINGS WE HEARD ABOUT TIME AND AGAIN.

SO, FOR INSTANCE, DRAINAGE SYSTEMS.

A LOT OF THE PARKS, THE ORIGINAL CLAY PIPES FOR DRAINAGE THAT EXISTED WHEN THE PARK WAS BUILT, OFTEN IN THE 1940s OR EARLIER, ARE STILL THERE, THEY'RE DETERIORATING, THEY HAVE LEAKS.

AND WHAT HAPPENS IS THAT WHEN IT RAINS AT A LOT OF THE PARKS ACROSS NEW YORK CITY, YOU HAVE FLOODING FOR DAYS AFTER IT RAINS.

SO IF YOU WANT TO GO FOR A JOG, IF YOU WANT TO WALK YOUR DOG, YOU KNOW, THERE ARE AREAS WHERE -- THAT ARE OFF LIMITS BECAUSE THERE'S BASIC FLOODING.

THE RETAINING WALLS, THINGS THAT HOLD UP THE PARKS, OR PARTS OF PARKS, WALLS AND OTHER THINGS, ARE AT THE END OF THEIR USEFUL LIFE AND COULD BE A SAFETY HAZARD.

ONE OF THE THINGS THAT STRUCK ME ABOUT THE REPORT WERE LOOKING AT SOME OF THE NUMBERS.

FOR INSTANCE, THE NUMBER OF ACRES WE'RE TALKING ABOUT, AND THE NUMBERS OF STAFF, FOLKS THAT ARE DEDICATED TO TENDING TO THEM.

WERE YOU SURPRISED AT THE DISPARITIES THERE?

I WAS, I WAS.

AND ALSO, IT WAS JUST REALLY SURPRISING TO LEARN JUST THE CONNECTION BETWEEN THAT MAINTENANCE STAFF AND INFRASTRUCTURE PROBLEMS.

IF YOU DON'T HAVE PEOPLE THAT ARE THERE ON A REGULAR BASIS TO DO UPKEEP, TO MITIGATE PROBLEMS BEFORE THEY GET WORSE, YOU END UP HAVING MUCH LARGER INFRASTRUCTURE NEEDS.

THAT'S WHERE WE'VE GOTTEN TODAY.

WE HAVE 150 GARDENERS, CITYWIDE, FOR A PARK SYSTEM THAT HAS ABOUT 20,000 ACRES.

IN CONTRAST, SAN FRANCISCO HAS 200 FOR A PARK SYSTEM THAT IS ABOUT A QUARTER OF THE SIZE OF NEW YORK.

SO ALSO ELECTRICIANS.

CHICAGO'S PARK SYSTEM HAS MORE ELECTRICIANS THAN NEW YORK CITY'S PARK SYSTEM DOES, BUT IT'S ALSO PLUMBERS, MASONS.

A LOT OF THAT OTHER KEY MAINTENANCE STAFF IS REALLY LACKING IN NEW YORK CITY.

THE CITY HAS SAID THAT THEY ARE PUTTING MONEY INTO THE PARKS.

ARE YOU GETTING A SENSE THAT THE CITY REALIZES HOW SIGNIFICANT THESE PROBLEMS ARE, AND THAT THE MONEY IS COMMENSURATE WITH THE LEVEL OF THESE PROBLEMS?

WE DO GIVE A LOT OF CREDIT TO THE MAYOR AND MARKS COMMISSIONER SILVER IN OUR REPORT.

THEY HAVE BEEN PUTTING NEW MONEY INTO INFRASTRUCTURE.

ALL OF THOSE THINGS ARE REALLY ENCOURAGING.

BUT WE FOUND THAT THERE'S NOT A LOT OF GOOD DATA OUT THERE AS TO WHAT THE PROBLEMS ARE.

IN A LOT OF CASES THE PARKS DEPARTMENT DOESN'T EVEN KNOW FULLY WHAT ARE THOSE BIG PROBLEMS RIGHT THERE?

AND THEY'RE ALSO HANDCUFFED, TO A CERTAIN EXTENT, BY THE WAY THAT WE FUND PARKS INFRASTRUCTURE IN NEW YORK CITY.

MOST OF THE DOLLARS WE HAVE TO DO UPKEEP AND INFRASTRUCTURE MAINTENANCE AND IN THE PARK IS TO DO DISCRETIONARY FUNDING.

THE CITY COUNCIL, BURERO PRESIDENTS WILL ALLOCATE A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF FUNDS, BUT THE FUNDS WILL GO TO PLAYGROUNDS AND BALL FIELDS.

A LOT OF THE UNSEXY INFRASTRUCTURE WE IDENTIFIED, THERE'S NO REAL SOURCE FOR THAT KIND OF NEED.

TALKING ABOUT CLAY PIPES AND RETAINING WALLS AS OPPOSED TO BALL FIELDS AND PLAYGROUNDS, WHICH WITH WILL FLOAT TO THE TOP.

RIGHT.

YOU MENTIONED PROSPECT PARK.

THEY SEEM TO BE IN MUCH BETTER SHAPE.

WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS?

WELL, CLEARLY THE WAY WE FUND PARKS.

CENTRAL PARK, PROSPECT PARK BENEFIT FROM HAVING CONSERVANCIES.

A LOT OF OUTSIDE DONATIONS THAT COME IN.

AND BOLSTER WHAT THE CITY SPENDS ON THOSE PARKS.

IT'S OBVIOUSLY NEEDED.

WE SEE WITH THE CENTRAL PARK'S CONSERVANCY, WHICH I'M A BIG FAN OF, BUT OBVIOUSLY THEY'VE HAD THOSE RESOURCES THAT HAVE GONE INTO A LOT MORE GARDENERS AND ELECTRICIANS AND PLUMBERS AND THOSE THINGS THAT REALLY ARE MAINTAINING THE PARK.

WHEN YOU WALK AROUND CENTRAL PARK YOU SEE PEOPLE DOING UPKEEP ON A REGULAR BASIS.

THAT'S NOT THE CASE AT ALL PARKS AROUND THE CITY.

A LOT OF THE SMALLER, MIDSIZE PARKS COULD REALLY BENEFIT FROM THAT EXTRA MAINTENANCE STAFF.

SO WHAT DO YOU THINK SOME SOLUTIONS MIGHT BE?

I THINK IT STARTS WITH A DEDICATED REVENUE SOURCE FOR BASIC PARKS MAY INTENANCE.

RIGHT NOW IT'S WILLY NILLY.

WE'VE HAD A FEW IDEAS IN OUR RESEARCH TO HAVE THE DEDICATED REVENUE STREAM.

FOR INSTANCE, WE'VE SUGGESTED PERHAPS ADDING A SURCHARGE TO DOCKING FEES AT CITY-RUN MARINAS THAT MIGHT GO SPECIFICALLY INTO PARKS MAINTENANCE.

TAKE THE DISCRETIONARY PART OUT OF IT IN MANY WAYS?

YEAH, AND ALSO GREENS FEES AT CITY-RUN GOLF COURSES, MAYBE THAT COULD GO INTO A FUND FOR GARDENERS AND PLUMBERS, THAT KIND OF THING.

WE COULD BE TALKING ABOUT AN EXTREMELY SMALL PERCENTAGE, A SMALL SURCHARGE, BUT THAT WOULD REALLY GO A LONG WAY IN HELPING THE PARKS.

IT'S A REVEALING REPORT.

WONDERFUL WORK BY YOU AND YOUR ORGANIZATION.

OUR HOPE IS THAT IT WILL GENERATE ENOUGH INTEREST THAT WE CAN KEEP THE PARKS WHERE THEY BELONG HERE IN TERMS OF OUR LIFE IN NEW YORK CITY.

JONATHAN, THANKS FOR SPENDING TIME WITH US.

THANK YOU.

YOU BE WELL.

> AS PART OF OUR ONGOING PROMISE INITIATIVE THAT EXPLORES THE IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE, WE TAKE YOU TONIGHT FROM THE URBAN JUNGLE OF NEW YORK CITY TO ONE OF OUR PLANT'S MOST DIVERSE AND STUNNING RAIN FOREST, THE CLOUD FOREST IN COSTA RICA, DESCRIBED OF THE JEWEL IN THE CROWN OF CLOUD FOREST PRESERVES.

IT'S FACING THREATS FROM OUR CHANGING CLIMATE.

WITH A RISE IN TEMPERATURE AND ENDANGERING HUNDREDS OF SPECIES.

COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY MASTERS STUDENTS HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO TRAVEL TO MONTE VERDE.

THEY DOCUMENTED THEIR EXPERIENCE.

CAN PRIVATE RAIN FOREST RESERVES PLAY A ROLE IN SAVING THE WORLD'S BIODIVERSITY?

THIS PLACE IS JUST ABOUT 15 SQUARE MILES.

BUT WE HAVE ABO 2% TO 3% OF THE --

WHAT ARE THE KEYS TO MATCHING ECOUTURISM WITH LONG-TERM HABITAT PRESERVATION.

YOU HAVE TO BALANCE YOUR CONSERVATION GOALS WITHOUT RISKING THE INTEGRITY OF THE SYSTEM YOU ARE TRYING TO CONSERVE.

TWO SURPRISING CASES FROM COSTA RICA PROVIDE INSIGHT INTO THE POTENTIAL AND CHALLENGES FACING THE WORLD'S PRIVATE RAIN FOREST SANCTUARY.

BOTH JOHN AND JULIE ARE STUDYING GLOBAL WARMING AS PART OF THEIR MASTERS OF DEVELOPMENT PRACTICE PROGRAM AT COLUMBIA.

PLEASED TO WELCOME THEM BOTH TO US.

THANKS FOR JOINING US.

THANK YOU.

THANKS FOR HAVING US.

IT'S A FASCINATING FILM YOU PUT TOGETHER AND THE STORY IS FASCINATING.

LET'S START OFF WITH THE BIG PICTURE.

WE OFTEN HEAR ABOUT RAIN FORESTS.

THIS ONE IS NOWHERE NEAR MANHATTAN.

WHY DO WE AS SOCIETY NEED TO BE CONCERNED ABOUT RAIN FORESTS?

I DON JOHN, ASK YOU FIRST.

WHEN KWLOE LOOK AT RAIN FORESTS OF THE ECOSYSTEM, THEY'RE THE LUNGS OF THE WORLD.

THEY'RE SUCKING IN THE CARBON DIOXIDE.

A THREAT TO THE RAIN FOREST IS IN SOME REAL SENSE A THREAT TO OUR OWN LIVES.

WHAT GOT YOU INTO THIS?

THE TWO OF YOU, AS YOU INDICATED, ARE INVOLVED IN THESE MASTERS PROGRAMS, WHAT WAS IT THAT GOT YOU THERE TO COSTA RICA?

IT WAS DEFINITELY THE MELDING OF CONSERVATION AS WELL AS THE FILM PROJECT THAT BROUGHT MY PASSION INTO THIS PROJECT.

CONS VISION, ESPECIALLY IN MONTE VERDE, IT'S 3.5% OF THE BIODIVERSITY IN THE WORLD, IN THE 50,000 ACRES, IF THAT ISN'T WORTH PROTECTING, WHAT IS?

LET'S TALK ABOUT SOME OF YOUR FINDINGS.

JOHN, SO WHEN YOU LOOK AT IT, AND I SAID IN THE INTRODUCTION, THREATS TO THIS MARVELOUS RAIN FOREST, WHAT ARE THE THREATS THAT YOU'VE FOUND?

THE MAIN THREAT, IN REALITY, IS NEGLECT BECAUSE IF THEY CAN'T FIND ENOUGH FUNDING TO PRESERVE THE ORGANIZATIONS THAT ACTUALLY MAINTAIN THE BORDERS, HIRE THE GUARDS TO PROTECT FROM POACHERS AND LOGGERS.

IT'S SO HARD TO GET FUNDING THESE DAYS FOR MAINTENANCE.

IT'S A LOT EASIER TO GET FUNDING FOR RAIN FORESTS AND CONSERVATION IN GENERAL IF YOU'RE GIVING -- IF YOU'RE DOING REFORESTATION, LAND THAT'S USING FOR AGRICULTURE NOW AND MAKING THAT INTO FORESTS.

BUT FOR JUST GETTING DONATIONS FOR MAINTAINING THE RAIN FOREST, IT'S HARD.

I FOUND THAT INTERESTING AND INTRIGUING.

I SUSPECT, WHEN PEOPLE YOU TALK TO, WE HAVE TO PRESERVE THEM, WE DON'T CUT THEM DOWN.

BUT WHEN WE TALK ABOUT FUNDING FOR MAINTENANCE, THAT MIGHT BE SURPRISING TO PEOPLE WHEN THEY SAY IT'S A RAIN FOREST.

WHAT KIND OF MAINTENANCE ARE WE TALKING ABOUT?

HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN THAT TO PEOPLE?

FORESTS ARE AN ISLAND, A SMALL AREA OF LAND SURROUNDED BY SOCIETY, CITIES, TOWNS AND THESE CITIES AND TOWNS ARE ALWAYS LOOKING FOR MORE RESOURCES.

IF YOU WERE TO LEAVE THESE FORESTS TO THEIR OWN DEVICES, UNKEPT, IT'S INEVITABLE THE COMMUNITIES WOULD COME IN AND JUST AS A NATURE OF ECONOMICS USE THE FOREST FOR THEIR OWN BENEFIT.

AS WE'VE SEEN THROUGHOUT HISTORY.

THROUGHOUT HISTORY, YEAH.

ADDITIONALLY, YOU NEED ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION, THE PROGRAMS THAT ARE GOING ON AT THE CHILDREN'S ETERNAL RAIN FOREST, AT THE MONTE VERDE FOREST, THOSE ARE EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS TEACHING THE COMMUNITIES THE IMPORTANCE OF THE RAIN FOREST.

AND IN GENERAL, THE COMMUNITY IS NOT SEEING THE IMPORTANCE.

THE COMMUNITY NEEDS TO UNDERSTAND THEY SEE THAT SAS RESOURCE.

THROUGHOUT HISTORY, THAT'S WHAT WE'VE DONE.

IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU HAVE TO RETEACH THEM.

IF YOU LOOK AT COSTA RICA AS A CASE STUDY, FROM THE '50s INTO THE EARLY '80s, IT WAS IN A RAPID STAGE OF DEFORESTATION.

IT WAS IN THE '90s ONWARD WE'VE SEEN A REVERSAL OF THAT TREND.

IS COSTA RICA LEADING THE CHARGE IN TERMS OF PRESERVING THE ECOSYSTEM?

THEY'RE DEFINITELY A LEADER IN LIKE THE GLOBAL CONSERVATION MOVEMENT.

ADDITIONALLY, THEY HAVE LIKE A VERY HOT DEBATE FOR TOURISM VERSUS SUSTAINABILITY AND CONSERVATION.

THE COMMUNITIES ARE GOING BACK AND FORTH WITH THIS RIGHT NOW.

IT'S WONDERFUL WORK DONE BY YOU, AS I SAID, PROVOCATIVE, HELPING TO TELL THE STORY.

GREAT STORY TELLING HERE AND GETTING PEOPLE TO UNDERSTAND HOW IMPORTANT THAT ALL IS.

JOHN AND JULIE, THANK YOU FOR SPENDING SOME TIME WITH US.

JOHN, HAPPY BIRTHDAY.

THANK YOU.

THOUGHT I WOULD THROW THAT IN.

BUT AGAIN, GREAT WORK FROM BOTH OF YOU.

THANK YOU.

> IS AMERICA IN DECLINE?

IF SO, IS THERE A WAY BACK?

A NEW BOOK BY AWARD-WINNING JOURNALIST AND BEST SELLING AUTHOR STEVEN BRILL, ARGUES THAT NOT ONLY IS AMERICA IN DECLINE, BUT IT HAS BEEN FOR THE LAST HALF CENTURY.

TAIL SPINS OF PEOPLE AND FORCES BEHIND AMERICA'S 50-YEAR FALL AND THOSE FIGHTING TO REVERSE IT MAKES THE BOLD ARGUMENT THAT THE FORCES DRIVING AMERICA DOWN ARE SOME OF THE VERY THINGS THAT MADE THE COUNTRY GREAT.

THE FIRST AMENDMENT, DUE PROCESS, TECHNOLOGICAL INNOVATION, AND EVEN DEMOCRACY ITSELF.

THE BOOK WHICH BECAME AN INSTANT 'NEW YORK TIMES' BEST SELLER DESCRIBES THE PROCESS IN WHICH AMERICA HAS COME TO BE RULED BY A SMALL BUT POWERFUL ELITE AT THE EXPENSE OF AN INCREASINGLY POWERLESS MAJORITY, AND THE MEANS BY WHICH THAT PROCESS CAN BE REVERSED.

STEVEN BRILL JOINS US NOW.

WELCOME TO THE PROGRAM, STEVE.

THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

THANKS FOR THAT INTRODUCTION, THOUGH I SHOULD ADD THAT IT'S NOT THAT I SAY THAT THE FIRST AMENDMENT AND MARITOCRACY AND INNOVATION AND DUE PROCESS AND ALL THAT GOOD STUFF ARE BAD AND WE SHOULD GET RID OF THEM, IT'S JUST THEY NEED GUARDRAILS.

I'LL GIVE YOU TIME TO ELABORATE ON THAT.

IT'S GREAT STUFF.

BUT, YOU KNOW, THE BASIC ARGUMENT, OR THE FIRST ARGUMENT, IT'S IN THE TITLE, THAT THE COUNTRY HAS BEEN IN A TAIL SPIN FOR 50 YEARS, HAS BEEN IN A FALL FOR 50 YEARS.

BUT, STEVE, THOSE 50 YEARS ARE THE YEARS OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS, OF VICTORIES, OF THE WOMEN'S RIGHTS VICTORIES, GAY RIGHTS VICTORIES, OF TECHNOLOGICAL INNOVATION THAT ALLOWS US TO CARRY COMPUTERS IN OUR POCKETS AND THE END OF THE COLD WAR.

TAIL SPIN?

IT'S A PARADOX AS I SPEND, AS YOU KNOW, A FAIR AMOUNT OF TIME ACKNOWLEDGING AND EXPLAINING.

WHAT I MEAN IS THAT THE CORE OF AMERICA, THE CORE OF THE AMERICAN DREAM, THE NOTION THAT YOU COULD RISE UP, THAT THERE WAS ALWAYS ECONOMIC MOBILITY, THAT THE MIDDLE CLASS WOULD HAVE A GOOD, SECURE LIFE.

THEIR CHILDREN WOULD BE EDUCATED.

THEY'D HAVE MORE OPPORTUNITY THAN THEIR PARENTS HAD.

THAT HAS BEEN LOST, AND IT'S BEEN LOST AT THE SAME TIME THAT THE GOVERNMENT HAS CEASED TO FUNCTION, HAS CEASED TO PROVIDE THE KINDS OF COMMON GOODS THAT OFFER THAT OPPORTUNITY TO PEOPLE, AND THAT PROTECT PEOPLE IN THE WORKPLACE, THAT PROTECT PEOPLE IN TERMS OF THEIR ACCESS TO THE COURTHOUSE.

THOSE PROTECTIONS HAVE BEEN GRADUALLY, OVER 50 YEARS, TAKEN AWAY.

SO LET'S TALK ABOUT YOUR COUNTERINTUITIVE ARGUMENT THAT SOME OF THE THINGS MADE US GREAT.

PLAY A ROLE, THEY'RE NOT BAD IN ITSELF, LIKE MERITOCRACY OR THE FIRST AMENDMENT.

LET'S TAKE THE FIRST AMENDMENT, IT'S GREAT, AND ONE THING I LOVE THE MOST ABOUT THIS COUNTRY, AS A JOURNALIST OBVIOUSLY I SHOULD.

BEGINNING WITH AN INNOCENT -- IN EFFECT NOT INNOCENT, A GOOD LAWSUIT BROUGHT BY, OF ALL PEOPLE, RALPH NADDER IN 1976, THE COURTS BEGAN TO RECOGNIZE THAT CORPORATIONS HAD THE SAME FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS AS PEOPLE.

NOW, IN THE SUIT THAT RALPH BROUGHT, HE WAS DOING A GOOD THING.

HE ARGUED THAT A GROUP OF DISCOUNT DRUGSTORES WHO WANTED TO ADVERTISE THAT THEY WERE DISCOUNTING THEIR PRICES HAD A RIGHT TO DO SO, AND THAT A LAW PASSED IN VIRGINIA TO PROTECT THE LARGE DRUGSTORES THAT WEREN'T DISCOUNTING THAT SAID THAT NO ONE COULD ADVERTISE THE PRICE OF PRESCRIPTION DRUGS, THAT THAT LAW WAS UNCONSTITUTIONAL.

HIS REASONING WAS THAT THE FIRST AMENDMENT IS MEANT FOR LISTENERS AS WELL AS THE PEOPLE WHO ARE SPEAKING.

YOUR AUDIENCE HAS A FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHT TO HEAR US TALK JUST AS WE HAVE A FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHT TO TALK.

THAT MAKES SENSE.

IN THIS CASE, THE LISTENERS WERE PEOPLE WHO WANTED TO BUY DRUGS AT LOWER PRICES.

THAT'S ALL GOOD.

HOW DID IT TURN BAD?

ONCE YOU HANG THAT REASONING ON THE NOTION THAT YOU SHOULDN'T DISCRIMINATE ON THE BASIS OF WHO THE SPEAKER IS, IS IT A CORPORATION OR IS IT A PERSON, YOU GET, BY 2010, CITIZENS UNITED WHICH TOOK THE SAME REASONING, WHICH IS JUST BECAUSE THE CORPORATION WANTS TO, YOU KNOW, INJECT ITSELF INTO THE POLITICAL PROCESS BY SPENDING A LOT OF MONEY, YOU SHOULDN'T DISCRIMINATE AGAINST THEM BECAUSE THEY HAVE A FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHT TO DO SO.

SO SO THAT --

SO THAT HAS BASICALLY MONETIZED OUR POLITICAL SYSTEM IN A WAY WHERE THERE'S A SCENE IN MY BOOK WHERE I SPEND AN AFTERNOON WITH A CONGRESSMAN WHO LITERALLY SPENDS FIVE HOURS A DAY EVERY WEEKDAY IN A WINDOWLESS NEAR THE CAPITAL DIALING FOR DOLLARS AND BEGGING PEOPLE FOR MONEY.

HE IS TYPICAL, NOT AN EXCEPTION.

YEAH, I KNOW.

THE BIG ONE THAT PLAYS A BIG ROL ROLE, MERITOCRACY, REALLY COUNTERINTUITIVE, YOU THINK IT LEVELS THE PLAYING FIELD.

IT HAD WHAT EFFECT?

IT DOES LEVEL THE PLAYING FIELD UNTIL IT DOESN'T LEVEL THE PLAYING FIELD.

WHAT I MEAN BY THAT IS IN THE 1960s, I WAS THE BENEFICIARY, ALONG WITH MILLIONS OF OTHER PEOPLE, WITH A MERITOCRACY MOVEMENT -- HIGHER EDUCATION.

I GOT A SCHOLARSHIP TO YALE WHEN YALE WASN'T TAKING A LOT OF PEOPLE LIKE ME.

MY WIFE GOT A SCHOLARSHIP TO YALE WHEN YALE WASN'T EVEN TAKING WOMEN BEFORE THAT.

THAT'S ALL GOOD.

BUT WHAT THAT DID WAS IT CREATED A GROUP OF PEOPLE IN THE EMERGING KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY WHO WERE SMARTER, FRANKLY, THAN THE PEOPLE THAT YALE USED TO TAKE.

BECAUSE THEY USED TO TAKE PEOPLE BASED ON THEIR OLD BOY NETWORK.

SO NOW YOU HAD PEOPLE WHO DID THE BEST IN HIGH SCHOOL --

WHO WERE REALLY SMART, AND REALLY GOOD, AND NOW THEY WERE AT THE TOP.

AND THEY WERE STRIVING.

AND THEY DID THE NATURAL THING.

I DID THE NATURAL THING.

I MADE SURE MY KIDS HAD THE BEST EDUCATION BECAUSE I WAS FORTUNATE, WE WERE ABLE TO AFFORD TO SEND THEM TO PRIVATE SCHOOLS.

IF THEY NEEDED, YOU KNOW, TUTORING FOR COLLEGE BOARDS, THEY COULD GET THAT.

SO WHAT HAS HAPPENED, WHAT THIS HAS MORPHED INTO IS THE PLACES LIKE YALE ARE LESS ECONOMICALLY DIVERSE NOW THAN THEY WERE IN THE 1970s.

AND THE ARISTOCRACY ARE ENTRENCHED.

THE LAW FIRMS, THE PEOPLE WITH THE LEAD EDUCATIONS GET THE OPPORTUNITY TO WORK, THEY ALSO BECAME, YOU KNOW, DETERMINED MERITOCRACIES.

THE LAW FIRMS WANTED TO HIRE THE BEST AND SMARTEST AND TOUGHEST PEOPLE.

THEREFORE, THE BIG LAW FIRMS, OR THE BIG BANKS, BECAME MUCH BETTER ABLE TO DEFEND AND ENHANCE THE INTERESTS OF THE RICHEST CORPORATIONS.

AND YOU MAKE THE ARGUMENT VERY STRONGLY THAT IT'S A VERY POWERFUL ELITE NOW.

SO HOW DO YOU GET THAT ELITE -- HOW DO YOU TURN THINGS AROUND?

WELL, NOT ONLY IS IT A VERY POWERFUL ELITE.

IT ALSO HAS A MUCH MORE DEFENSIBLE NARRATIVE, IF YOU WILL.

RIGHT.

I GOT HERE BECAUSE I AM SMART AND I WORK HARD, WHAT'S WRONG WITH THAT?

WHAT'S THE --

BECAUSE YOU HAVE TO REDEFINE WHAT MERITOCRACY IS.

THERE ARE SOME SCHOOLS LIKE AM HURST AND PRINCETON, FOR EXAMPLE, THAT ARE STILL ENGINES OF ECONOMIC MOBILITY.

WHAT AMHURST DOES IS THEY MARKET HEAVILY THE FACT THAT THEY GIVE REALLY GENEROUS LOANS AND SCHOLARSHIPS TO PEOPLE.

AND THEY ARE ABLE TO ATTRACT THE SAME KIND OF ECONOMIC DIVERSITY THAT THE OTHER PLACES STARTED TO ATTRACT IN THE '60s AND '70s.

SO THERE ARE WAYS TO SOLVE THESE PROBLEMS.

THERE ARE WAYS TO SOLVE ONE OF THE PROBLEMS THAT I DEAL WITH EXTENSIVELY, WHICH IS THE PROBLEM OF HOW DO YOU TRAIN WORKERS?

HOW DO YOU RETRAIN WORKERS WHO ARE CAST ASIDE EITHER BY AUTOMATION OR BY THE INCREASE IN GLOBALIZATION?

EVERY OTHER COUNTRY DOES THAT.

NO OTHER COUNTRY MAKES THOSE WORKERS THE VICTIMS OF OUR PROGRESS.

THERE ARE JOB RETRAINING PROGRAMS IN GERMANY, SOMETHING LIKE 60% OF THE YOUNG WORKERS ARE IN APPRENTICESHIP PROGRAMS.

WE DON'T DO THAT.

WE HAVE LEFT THESE PEOPLE.

WE HAVE CAST THEM ASIDE.

AND THEREFORE IT SHOULDN'T BE A REAL SHOCK THAT THEY WERE SO FRUSTRATED THAT, YOU KNOW, ALMOST A MAJORITY OF THEM, 46% OF THEM, TURNED TO THE ULTIMATE ANTITHESIS OF THE MERITOCRACY, DONALD TRUMP.

STEVE, YOU TALK ABOUT BEING IN ADVANCE.

AS FAR AS THAT'S CONCERNED.

WE'VE SEEN THE SAME PHENOMENON WITH BREXIT IN ITALY NOW, WITH FIVE-STAR MOVEMENT, A POPULUS MOVEMENT IN HUNGARY TAKING ON THEIR OWN ELITES.

THAT'S MORE ON THE NATIONALIST, YOU KNOW, KIND OF A POPULISM.

I THINK IT IS HERE.

IT'S BEING EXPRESSED HERE AS NATIONALISM BECAUSE THAT'S THE DEMAGOGUERY OF THE INCUMBENT PRESIDENT.

BUT HERE, WHAT I'M FOCUSING ON IS HERE, BECAUSE WE ARE AN EXCEPTIONAL COUNTRY.

WE ALWAYS PRIDED OURSELVES ON BEING AN EXCEPTIONAL COUNTRY THAT OFFERED OPPORTUNITY TO EVERYBODY.

AND MOST PEOPLE, A MAJORITY OF PEOPLE IN POLLS ACTUALLY DON'T THINK THEIR KIDS ARE GOING TO BE BETTER OFF THAN THEY ARE.

WHICH IS A TOTAL REVERSAL OF EVERYTHING THIS COUNTRY IS.

YEAH.

LET ME CLOSE IN THE FRUSTRATION YOU SAW IN THE 2016 ELECTION.

LET ME CLOSE BECAUSE WE'RE ALMOST RUNNING OUT OF TIME.

YOU GAVE A LOT OF EXAMPLES, GIVE A COUPLE HERE, BUT YOU GIVE MORE IN THE BOOK OF INSTITUTIONS, INDIVIDUALS MAKING A CHANGE.

THAT COULD REVERSE THE TAIL SPIN.

EXACTLY.

WHAT MAKES YOU SO OPTIMISTIC?

AS YOU SO WELL DESCRIBED THIS MERITOCRATIC AS BEING SO POWERFUL --

BECAUSE A WHOLE BUNCH OF THAT ELITE HAVE NOW TURNED THE OTHER WAY AND BECOME SO FRUSTRATED THAT THEY ARE DEVOTING THEMSELVES, OFTEN, YOU KNOW, UNSUNG, TO FIGURING OUT SOLUTIONS TO THE PROBLEMS WE HAVE.

HOW CAN WE GET BACK TO BIPARTISAN POLICIMAKING?

HOW CAN WE REALLY DO THE JOB OF RETRAINING WORKERS?

WHAT CAN WE REALLY DO ABOUT THE CRUMBLING INFRASTRUCTURE?

AS I WENT AROUND BASICALLY TO GATHER ALL THE STATS ABOUT ALL THE BAD NEWS I WENT TO THE PEOPLE WHO WERE WORKING ON THE PROBLEM, AND SUDDENLY IT DAWNED ON ME THAT THEY'RE THE STORY BECAUSE THEY'RE OUT THERE, THEY'RE WORKING, THEY INSIST THAD COUNTRY CAN BE TURNED AROUND.

AND I THINK, WHEN PEOPLE, YOU KNOW, FINALLY SNAP, AND WHEN THINGS GET SO FRUSTRATING, THEY WILL TURN TO THESE PEOPLE FOR THEIR SOLUTIONS, WHICH IS WHAT I SPEND THE LAST PART OF THE BOOK ON.

THE BOOK IS TAIL SPIN.

THE PEOPLE AND FORCES BEHIND AMERICA'S 50-YEAR FALL AND THOSE FIGHTING TO REVERSE IT.

STEVE IS A 'NEW YORK TIMES' BEST SELLER, FASCINATING READ.

THANK YOU FOR JOINING US.

THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

Announcer: 'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY JAMES AND MERRYL TISCH, SUE AND EDGAR WALKENHEIM III, BERNARD AND IRENE SCHWARTZ, ROSALIND P.

WALTER, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG.

AND BY --

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

WNET

© WNET All Rights Reserved.

825 Eighth Avenue

New York, NY 10019