“STATE OF AMERICA: COMMUNITY AND THE CONSTITUTION” PART 1

Encore: November 07, 2020

CORONAVIRUS, THE WORKING CLASS AND OUR COUNTRY IN CRISIS

Before anyone had even heard of the coronavirus, our country was already experiencing a social great depression. That’s according to Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, the first married couple to win a Pulitzer Prize for journalism. Earlier this year we spoke with them about their most recent book “Tightrope,” which spotlighted the millions of working-class Americans struggling to survive and often dying far too young. Tonight in part one of our conversation, they revisit their exploration of working-class America through the lens of how the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the crisis.

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Chasing the Dream: Poverty and Opportunity in America is a multi-platform public media initiative that provides a deeper understanding of the impact of poverty on American society. Major funding for this initiative is provided by The JPB Foundation. Additional funding is provided by Ford Foundation.

TRANSCRIPT

> THIS IS 'METROFOCUS' WITH RA RAFAEL PI ROMAN, JACK FORD AND JENA FLANNAGAN.

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY JAMES AND MERRYL TISCH, SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, THE SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM.

BERNARD AND IRENE SCHWARTZ, ROSALIND P. WALTER, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, AND BY -- FUNDING FOR CHASING THE DREAM IS PROVIDED BY THE JPB FOUNDATION.

ADDITIONAL FUNDING FOR CHASING THE DREAM WAS PROVIDED BY --

> GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO THIS 'METROFOCUS' ESPECIALLY STATE OF AMERICA.

COMMUNITY AND THE CONSTITUTION.

I'M RAFAEL PI ROMAN.

YOU KNOW, BEFORE ANYONE HAD EVEN HEARD OF THE CORONAVIRUS, THIS COUNTRY WAS ALREADY EXPERIENCING A SOCIAL GREAT DEPRESSION.

THAT ACCORDING TO NICK KRISTOF AND SHERYL WuDUNN, THE FIRST MARRIED CUP TO WIN A PULITZER PRIZE FOR JOURNALISM.

EARLIER THIS YEAR WE SPOKE WITH THEM, SPOTLIGHTING THE MILLIONS OF WORKING CLASS AMERICANS STRUGGLING TO SURVIVE AND OFTEN DYING TOO LONG.

WE ARE VEE VISITING THEIR EXPLORATION OF WORKING CLASS AMERICA AND HOW THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC HAS DEALT WITH THE CRISIS.

JOINING US NOW AS PART OF OUR CHASING THE DREAM INITIATIVE NICK KRISTOF AND SHERYL WuDUNN.

GREAT TO BE HERE.

PLEASANT TO TALK TO YOU GUYS.

SO, NICK, STARTING WITH THE BASICS, YOUR BOOK IS A VERY PERSONAL ACCOUNT OF AMERICA'S SOCIAL GREAT DEPRESSION.

THAT'S WHAT YOU CALL IT.

A PHENOMENA WHICH HAS CAUSED SUFFERING AND DEATH FOR TENS OF MILLIONS OF AMERICANS.

IT MAY BE THE BIGGEST STORY UNTOLD IN MY LIFETIME.

WHY DID YOU GUYS DECIDE TO TELL IT?

WE WERE TRAVELING AROUND THE WORLD COVERING THE HUMANITARIAN CRISES AND WE REALIZED THERE WAS ONE UNFOLDING IN THIS COUNTRY.

THIS WAS EVEN BEFORE COVID, ALTHOUGH IN MANY WAYS IT IS -- IT CERTAINLY IS CONNECTED TO OUR VULNERABILITY IN COVID.

BUT IT HAD TO DO WITH DEPTHS OF DESPAIR AND LIFE EXPECTANCY IS FALLING IN THE UNITED STATES.

THAT WAS ESPECIALLY MEANINGFUL TO US BECAUSE MY HOMETOWN IS A LITTLE FARM TOWN IN RURAL OREGON, YAMHILL, OREGON, AND A QUARTER OF THE KIDS ON MY OLD SCHOOL BUS ARE NOW DEAD FROM DRUGS, ALCOHOL, AND SUICIDE.

THESE DEATHS OF DESPAIR.

SO, YOU KNOW, IT WAS PROFOUNDLY PAINFUL TO ME TO WITNESS THE DISINTEGRATION OF A COMMUNITY I CARE DEEPLY ABOUT AND RECOGNIZE THIS IS HAPPENING ACROSS THE COUNTRY AND NOT GETTING THE ATTENTION THEY DESERVE.

YOU TELL THE STORIES THROUGH THEIR LIFE AND THAT PUTS A FACE TO IT.

SHERYL, CAN YOU GIVE US A QUICK SUMMARY OF THE SOCIAL GREAT DEPRESSION?

I MEAN, THE DEVASTATION IT'S CAUSED AND HOW MANY AMERICANS HAVE BEEN AFFECTED BY IT?

SO, THIS I HAVE TO SAY IS NOT SOMETHING THAT WAS JUST MADE IN THE LAST THREE YEARS UNDER THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION.

THIS HAS BEEN A CRISIS THAT HAS BEEN BUILDING UP OVER THE PAST, LIKE, THREE, FOUR, FIVE DECADES, BACK TO THE 1970s.

IT'S IMPORTANT TO RECOGNIZE THAT BECAUSE IT HAS BEEN BUILDING UP UNDER BOTH DEMOCRATIC AND REPUBLICAN ADMINISTRATIONS.

SO, BASICALLY, WHAT WE'RE FINDING IS, BASED ON SOME DATA THAT WAS UNEARTHED BY ANGUS DEATON AND AN CASICK, TWO ECONOMISTS, THEY WERE LOOKING AT CENSUS DATA AND THEY DISCOVERED THAT FOR MOST OF US, MOST PEOPLE IN, YOU KNOW, IN THE WESTERN WORLD, OUR MORTALITY RATES ARE FALLING, OUR LIFE EXPECTANCY IS RISING.

WE ARE LIVING LONGER BECAUSE THERE IS GREATER, YOU KNOW, ACCESS TO HEALTH CARE AND THERE ARE NEW INVENTIONS TO, YOU KNOW, ADDRESS CANCER.

SO WE ARE LIVING LONGER.

HOWEVER, THEY LOOKED AT ALL OF OUR RISING EXPECTANCY RATES AND SAW THAT THERE WAS ONE SEGMENT OF SOCIETY WHERE MORTALITY WAS RISING AND EXPECTANCY, LIFE EXPECTANCY WAS FALLING, FOR WORKING CLASS AMERICANS, MEN AND WOMEN.

HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE?

THAT HAS TO DO WITH EDUCATION LEVELS, LOWER EDUCATION, WORKING CLASS TEND NOT TO BE COLLEGE EDUCATED.

SOME DON'T EVEN V HIGH SCHOOL EDUCATION.

IN AMERICA, ONE IN SIX PEOPLE DO NOT HAVE A HIGH SCHOOL DEGREE.

AND SO A LOT OF THE PROBLEMS STEM FROM, YOU KNOW, LACK OF EDUCATION THAT DOESN'T GIVE THEM AS GREAT OF AN OPPORTUNITY WHEN THEY LOSE THEIR JOBS BECAUSE OF GLOBALIZATION, WHATEVER, LAYOFFS, AND THEN WHEN YOU, YOU KNOW, LOSE YOUR JOB, ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE A MALE, YOU, YOU KNOW, IT'S NOT JUST A LOSS OF INCOME.

IT'S A LOSS OF PURPOSE, OF MISSION.

SO YOU GET THESE TERRIBLE SITUATIONS WHICH IS WITH PREVALENCE AMONG THE WORKING CLASS EVEN THOUGH WE WERE AT A HEIGHTENED ECONOMIC GROWTH BEFORE COVID HIT.

IT RESULTS, AMONG OTHER THINGS, SUICIDE AND OPIOID ADDICTION.

CORRECT ME IF I'M WRONG.

ONE FIGURE I READ, IT KILLS 70,000 A YEAR?

AM I RIGHT?

ALMOST 70,000 FOR OVERDOSES ALONE.

THERE ARE OTHER DEATHS THAT AREN'T FROM OVERDOSES, BUT, YEAH.

AND ALCOHOL KILLS EVEN MORE, ABOUT 84,000 AMERICANS A YEAR.

SUICIDE MORE THAN 40,000.

SO EVERY TWO WEEKS IN AMERICA WE LOSE MORE AMERICANS FROM THESE DEATHS OF DESPAIR THAN DIED IN 20 YEARS OF WARFARE IN AFGHANISTAN AND IRAQ.

NOW, THIS PHEN OMENA AFFECTS HALF OF THE COUNTRY.

AND CORRECT ME IF I'M WRONG.

IT'S NOT JUST HAPPENING IN THE WEST OR IN RURAL AREAS LIKE YOUR HOMETOWN.

IT'S HAPPENING ACROSS AMERICA.

IT'S SO PREVALENT.

WHY IS IT SO INVISIBLE?

WHY DON'T WE READ ABOUT THIS?

WHY ISN'T IT FRONT PAGE NEWS EVERY DAY?

I THINK THAT NOW, I THINK ONE OF THE LEGACIES OF COVID IS THAT IT PROBABLY WILL BECOME MUCH MORE FRONT AND CENTER.

I MEAN, ONE OF THE ISSUES IS THAT THE WORKING CLASS IS REALLY INVISIBLE TO THE PEOPLE WHO ARE WRITING NEWS ARTICLES, WHO ARE, YOU KNOW, SHAPING POLICY, WHO ARE, YOU KNOW, DOING ALL OF THE HIGHLY INTELLECTUAL ACTIVITIES THAT MAKES AMERICA AS INNOVATIVE AS IT IS.

SO WHAT WE'RE FINDING BECAUSE OF COVID IS THAT ESSENTIAL WORKERS ARE PRECISELY THAT.

THEY ARE THE WORKING CLASS ESSENTIAL WORKERS WHO MAKE THIS ECONOMY RUN.

AND I REALLY HOPE THAT PEOPLE WILL REMEMBER THAT BECAUSE, YOU KNOW, THEY WERE THE PEOPLE WHO WERE DELIVERING YOUR FOOD, STACKING THE SHELVES AT AMAZON WAREHOUSES, YOU KNOW, TAKING ORDERS, YOU KNOW, FOR FOOD DLLA DELIVERIES AND PUTTING STUFF IN THE SHOP.

THESE ARE THE PEOPLE WHO ARE SO ESSENTIAL THAT WE SHOULD PAY MORE ATTENTION TO THEM.

BUT THEY ARE, YOU KNOW, MINIMUM WAGE.

FEDERAL MINIMUM WAGE IS $7.25 AN HOUR.

I MEAN, NO ONE -- WHO CAN MAKE A LIVING ON THAT?

I MEAN, IT HASN'T BEEN TOUCHED IN MANY YEARS.

AND SO I'M HOPING THAT ONE OF THE LEGACIES WILL BE THAT WE DO NEED TO TAKE MORE CARE OF THESE PEOPLE.

I WOULD ALSO JUST ADD THAT I THINK ONE REASON WHY WE AS A SOCIETY HAVEN'T DONE A BETTER JOB AT ADDRESSING THESE ISSUES IS THAT IF YOU LOOK ACROSS THE SPECTRUM, WE HAVE THE GREATEST DIFFICULTY IN ADDRESSING ISSUES THAT ARE HARD TO TALK ABOUT BECAUSE THEY ARE EMBARRASSING.

THEY ARE TABOOS.

YOU KNOW, ADDICTION, ALCOHOLISM, SUICIDE, THESE ARE ALL THINGS THAT HARD TO TALK ABOUT.

AND ONE OF THE THINGS I HAVE SEEN IN MY CAREER IS THOSE ARE THE ISSUES THAT WE IN JOURNALISM TEND TO BUNGLE AND THAT PUBLIC POLICY BUNGLES AS WELL.

I WAS GOING TO SAY WHAT YOU SAID EARLIER ABOUT THESE PEOPLE BEING INVISIBLE TO US.

I AM WONDERING IF UNTIL COVID, WE DIDN'T READ ABOUT THIS BECAUSE WE DIDN'T CARE ABOUT IT BECAUSE WE THOUGHT IT DIDN'T AFFECT US, CORRECT?

ABSOLUTELY.

BUT NOW WE ARE SEEING THAT EVEN THOUGH A LOT OF THE PEOPLE WHO ARE AFFLICTED AND THE MAJORITY ARE, YOU KNOW, MORE PEOPLE ARE WORKING CLASS AND THEY ARE, YOU KNOW, PEOPLE OF COLOR, THAN NOT BECAUSE A LOT OF US, WE CAN ISOLATE.

WE CAN QUARANTINE IN A NICE HOME, WE CAN, YOU KNOW, JUST MINIMIZE THE TIME WE GO OUT.

OTHER PEOPLE WHO ARE IN THE WORKING CLASS AND ARE OF COLOR, THEY ACTUALLY HAVE TO GO OUT EVERY DAY TO EARN THEIR DAILY KEEP.

BUT WE HAVE TO RECOGNIZE THAT BECAUSE THEY ARE PART OF THE SAME SOCIETY AND IF THEY GO OUT AND GET INFECTED AND THEY DELIVER SOME FOOD TO US, WE, YOU KNOW, IT'S LESS LIKELY, BUT IT'S VERY POSSIBLE.

I KNOW PEOPLE WHO ARE DOCTORS.

ONE DOCTOR WAS EXPLAINING HOW SHE WAS LOOKING AT -- SHE WAS EVALUATING A PATIENT WHO HAD CLEARLY HAD COVID.

SHE SAID WHAT DO YOU DO?

HE GOES, OH WELL, YOU KNOW, I WORK AT SHAKE SHACK AND FLIP HAMBURGERS.

THINK OF ALL THE DAYS HE WAS FLIPPING THE BURGERS WHEN HE WAS COVID POSITIVE.

THEN HE SAID HE WAENT TO A CASINO.

THINK OF EVERYTHING AT THE CASINO HE TOUCHED.

SO, YOU KNOW, INFECTIOUS DISEASE SHOWS HOW IMPORTANT IT IS FOR US TO BE AWARE AND TRY AND RECOGNIZE WE HAVE TO HELP EVERYBODY IN SOCIETY, ESPECIALLY WITH HEALTH CARE.

YOU TELL THE STORY LARGELY THROUGH THOSE PEOPLE THAT YOU KNEW AS A KID.

THEY WERE YOUR CLASSMATES.

THE STORY IS TOLD THROUGH THEM.

I I WONDER IF YOU COULD GIVE THE AUDIENCE A SENSE OF THESE PEOPLE.

HOW THESE PEOPLE WERE WHEN THEY WERE KIDS WITH YOU AND WHAT HAPPENED TO THEM?

WELL, WE START WITH A STORY OF THE FAMILY THAT GREW UP RIGHT NEXT TO ME.

FIVE KIDS, THE COLDEST WAS FARLEN KNAPP, WHO WAS MY GRADE.

VERY GOOD MECHANICALLY, WITH HIS HANDS AND THEN HIS BROTHER NATHAN, HIS GROVE ZEALAND, KEILAND AND SISTER REGINA.

THEIR DAD HAD A UNION JOB LAYING SEWER PIPE.

THAT WAS THE TIME WHEN YOU COULD HAVE A GOOD UNION JOB LAYING PIPE AND WORK YOUR WAY UP TO THE MIDDLE CLASS.

THE FAMILY BOUGHT THEIR FIRST HOME AND WHEN FARLEN TURNED 16 HIS FAMILY GOT HIM A FORD MUSTANG.

I WAS ALL INCREDIBLY JEALOUS OF THAT.

BUT THOSE JOBS RUN AWAY.

AND SO THE KIDS DIDN'T HAVE ACCESS TO THE KINDS OF JOBS THAT FARLEN'S DAD HAD HAD.

FARLEN WAS LAID OFF FROM HIS JOB AND DESCENDED INTO A SPIRAL OF ALCOHOL AND DRUG ABUSE.

HE DIED OF LIVER FAILURE AS A RESULT.

ZEALAND DIED IN A HOUSE FIRE WHEN HE WAS PASSED OUT DRUNK.

TORNADOEN BLEW HIMSELF UP COOKING DEATH.

REGINA DIED OF HEPATITIS FROM INJECTING DRUGS.

AND THE BABY BROTHER, KEILAND, HE WAS -- HE HAD SURVIVED BECAUSE HE SPENT 13 YEARS IN THE OREGON STATE PENITENTIARY, BUT AFTER HE CAME OUT, YOU KNOW, HE WAS LOOKING FORWARD TO DOING EVENTS WITH US AND TELLING THE STORY OF THE FAMILY THROUGH HIS VOICE.

AND THEN IN MARCH HE OVERDOSED FROM HEROIN AS WELL.

AND SO ALL FIVE OF THESE CHILDREN ARE NOW DEAD.

AND, YOU KNOW, I THINK IF THEY HAD BEEN BORN AND RAISED IN CANADA OR GERMANY OR A LOT OF OTHER PLACES, IT WOULD BE MORE LIKELY THEY WOULD HAVE SURVIVED.

IF TS THEIR MOTHER STILL ALI?

YES, SHE IS.

AND TALKING TO HER AFTER KEILAND OVERDOSED THIS SPRING AND TRYING TO TELL AN 80-YEAR-OLD WOMAN, TRYING TO OFFER COMFORT AFTER SHE HAS LOST FIVE CHILDREN ONE AFTER ANOTHER LIKE THAT, IT'S JUST HEARTBREAKING.

I MEAN, IT'S --

THE WHOLE BOOK IS INCREDIBLY HEARTBREAKING.

YOU HAVE SOME STORIES THAT LIFT YOUR SPIRIT, BUT IT'S REAL.

IT'S REAL.

AND THE WORST PART IS THAT DEE AND HER HUSBAND EXPECTED THE LIFE OF THEIR FIVE CHILDREN TO BE SO MUCH BETTER THAN THEIRS.

AND THEN IT DIDN'T HAPPEN.

NO.

OUR AREA HAD REALLY IMPROVED SO DRAMATICALLY FOR SO MANY YEARS.

OUR PROM THEME WAS STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN AND WE ALL FELT WE WERE ON THAT STAIRWAY GOING UPWARD.

AND THEN IT JUST -- FROM MY GENERATION, EVERYBODY JUST -- THOSE WHO -- YOU KNOW, THOSE WHO WENT TO COLLEGE DID JUST FINE.

THOSE WHO ONLY HAD A HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA OR LESS, THEY RAN INTO A BRICK WALL, AND THEIR CHILDREN AND THEIR CHILDREN'S CHILDREN ARE ALSO IN DEEP TROUBLE TODAY.

RIGHT.

WELL, LISTEN, YOU HEAR THESE STORIES.

AND I KNOW WE SPOKE ABOUT THIS LAST TIME WE SPOKE.

PEOPLE WILL SAY, HEY LOOK, A LOT OF US HAVE BIG PROBLEMS.

A LOT OF US SUFFER.

BUT NOT ALL OF US BECOME DRUG ADDICTS.

NOT ALL OF US, YOU KNOW, LEAD A LIFE OF CHAOS AND DIE YOUNG.

PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY HAS A AND THERE IS A BIG ROLE, AND THESE PEOPLE MADE CHOICES THAT LED THEM TO THAT.

HOW DO YOU RESPOND?

FIRST OF ALL, WE TOOK -- TOTALLY ACCEPT THE FACT THAT YOU NEED TO HAVE SOME PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY, BUT THERE ARE TIMES WHETHER IT REALLY ISN'T JUST THE FAULT OF THE PERSON.

SO TAKE AN EXAMPLE IN SOUTH DAKOTA.

THERE IS A COUNTY IN SOUTH DAKOTA THAT HAS A LOWER LIFE EXPECTANCY, THAT MEANS FOR EACH BABY BORN IF THAT COUNTY, THAT BABY HAS A LOWER LIFE EXPECTANCY THAN ANYONE BORN IN CAMBODIA OR BANGLADESH.

IS THAT THE FAULT OF THE BABY?

ALREADY THAT BAYERN IS BABY IS D THE STARTING LINE AND THEY HAVE TO OVERCOME SO MUCH MORE THAN ANY OTHER BABY IN AMERICA.

SO THE QUESTION IS, SOCIETY DOES -- THERE IS A SOCIAL CONSTRUCT.

YOU WANT TO HELP THE REST OF SOCIETY PARTLY BECAUSE, AS WE SEE HERE IN COVID, ANYBODY CAN SPREAD COVID.

AND, YOU KNOW, IF YOU ARE GOING TO ACCEPT LIKE, YOU KNOW, FOR INSTANCE, IF YOU ARE GOING TO PICK UP, YOU KNOW, A PACKAGE OF POTATO CHIPS THAT WAS HANDLED BY SOMEONE WITH COVID, WHICH YOU DON'T KNOW, YOU KNOW, THAT PERSON WAS FARTPART OF YOUR SOC AND COMMUNITY AND YET YOU DIDN'T CARE ABOUT THEM BUT THEY ARE DELIVERING YOUR FOOD AND YOU MAY, YOU KNOW, GET SOME CONTAGION.

IF IT'S NOT COVID, IT MIGHT BE SOME OTHER PANDEMIC SOME OTHER VIRUS THAT IS TRANSMITTABLE THROUGH SURFACES.

WE NEED TO BE MUCH MORE CONSCIOUS OF, YOU KNOW, WE WANT A SOCIETY THAT IS MUCH BETTER THAN IT IS.

AND THE OTHER THING IS FOR COMPETITIVE REASONS.

SO HERE WE ARE COMPETING WITH CHINA, COMPETING WITH INDIA.

CHINA HAS 1.4 BILLION PEOPLE.

INDIA HAS NEARLY THAT MEANY PEOPLE.

WE HAVE 320 MILLION AMERICANS.

WE DON'T ALL WORK REALLY WELL, THERE IS TO WAY WE ARE GOING TO COMPETE AGAINST ONE POINT, YOU KNOW, FOUR BILLION PEOPLE IN CHINA AND WIN.

SAD THERE.

I AM GLAD YOU RAISE THE PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY NARRATIVE.

IT'S ONE OF THE REASONS WE WROTE 'TIGHTROPE.'

IF YOU THINK ABOUT THE CONTEXT OF DRIVING, YOU KNOW, DRIVING IS A CLASSIC EXAMPLE.

IT'S OBVIOUS THAT PEOPLE MAKE BAD CHOICES AND THAT LEADS TO CAR ACCIDENTS.

THEY TEXT WHILE THEY DRIVE.

THEY DRIVE TOO FAST.

THEY, YOU KNOW, THEY ARE DISTRACTED BY CHILDREN IN THE BACK SEAT.

AND YET WE UNDERSTAND THAT PEOPLE WILL DO DUMB THINGS, AND SO WE TRY TO MITIGATE THE CONSEQUENCES OF DUMB BEHAVIOR WITH SEATBELTS AND AIRBAGS AND DIVIDED HIGHWAYS AND, YOU KNOW, LIT ROADS AND SO ON.

YOU KNOW, IF WE WERE JUST TRYING TO AMPLIFY PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITIES WE WOULD PUT SPIKES IN DASHBOARDS AND TEACH PEOPLE A LESSON WHEN THEY TEXT AND DRIVE.

OF COURSE WE DON'T DO THAT BECAUSE WE HAVE EMPATHY FOR DRIVERS.

BUT SOMEHOW IN THE CONTEXT OF NARCOTICS, FOR EXAMPLE, WE DON'T HAVE ANY SAFETY NETS.

THEY FALL OFF THAT TIGHTROPE, THEY DIE, AS THE KNAPPS DID.

SHERYL, THIS ISN'T A PHENOMENON THAT OCCURRED DURING THE LAST THREE YEARS IN THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION.

THIS HAS BEEN GOING ON A LITTLE LESS THAN 50 YEARS.

SO WHAT WERE THE DECISIONS THAT OUR POLITICAL LEADERS, OUR ECONOMIC ELITE MADE THAT LED US TO THIS?

SO IF YOU LOOK AT WHAT HAPPENED AFTER WORLD WAR II, BASICALLY, YOU HAD, YOU KNOW, A FEW DECADES OF REALLY, REALLY NICE GROWTH UP UNTIL THE 1970s.

BUT IT WAS INCLUSIVE GROWTH.

YOU KNOW, EVERYBODY WAS GETTING A BIG SHARE OF THE PIE.

PEOPLE WERE EARNING HIGHER WAGES AND COMPANIES WERE GROWING.

THEN WHAT HAPPENED WAS IN 1970s THE ECONOMY HIT A ROADBLOCK.

WE HAD THE OIL CRISIS.

WE HAD STAGNANT ECONOMY.

AND SO PEOPLE THOUGHT, MY GOODNESS, OUR ECONOMY CAPITALISM IS MESSED UP.

SO THEY YANKED A LOT OF THE CONTROL FROM THE UNIONS AND GAVE THEM TO CORPORATIONS.

THEY DEREGULATED, YOU KNOW, AT&T AND THERE WAS A MOVE TOWARDS DEREGULATION BECAUSE WE HAVE TO GIVE ABOUT -- PUT MORE POWER INTO THE HANDS OF COMPANIES AND MOVE THE GOVERNMENT OUT.

AND SO THE RESULT IS THAT, YES, THERE WAS A LITTLE BIT MORE DYNAMISM, BUT THEN YOU HAVE GROWTH THAT IS MUCH LESS INCLUSIVE.

THAT'S WHEN IT STARTED.

YOU SAW SHAREHOLDER CAPITALISM.

YOU KNOW, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO, YOU KNOW CAPITALISTIC POINT OF VIEW.

WE HAVE TO FOCUS ON SHAREHOLDERS AND SHAREHOLDERS HAVE TO BE THE ONES DRIVING, YOU KNOW, PROFIT MAXIMIZATION.

AND SO THAT'S WHEN THE GAPS REALLY BEGAN TO WIDEN.

ON TOP OF THAT IN THE LATE 1970s/EARLY 1980s YOU HAD THE DRUG WARS AND YOU HAD MASS INCARCERATION.

PEOPLE SAYING WE HAVE TO THROW ALL THESE PEOPLE IN JAIL.

EVEN THE DRUG MULES, YOU KNOW, WHO WERE MOVING TINY LITTLE BITS, YOU KNOW, MAYBE, YOU KNOW, FEW, YOU KNOW, A POUND OR TWO OF COCAINE OR HEROIN AS COMPARED TO THE GIANT DRUG KING, DRUG LORDS WHO WERE MOVING, YOU KNOW, TONS OF DRUGS, THEY WERE, YOU KNOW, STILL HARD TO CATCH.

YOU CAUGHT THE MULES AND PUT THEM IN JAIL FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIFE.

SO THAT LED TO GREATER, YOU KNOW, DISENFRANCHISEMENT AND INEQUALITY BECAUSE THEY WERE PREDOMINANTLY AFRICAN AMERICAN, LOWER CLASS, WORKING CLASS PEOPLE.

THAT'S WHAT HAPPENED.

AND WE HAVEN'T CHANGED THAT MODEL FOR ALL THESE YEARS.

IN FACT, IT'S GOTTEN WORSE.

THE REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRATS.

OF COURSE, THERE WAS THE, YOU KNOW, POLICIES OF -- THAT TOOK SOME OF THE JOBS OUT OF THE COUNTRY, SOME OF THE JOBS THAT --

GLOBALIZATION, RIGHT.

YEAH.

SO, NICK, YOU KNOW, IT LOOKS LIKE THESE DECISIONS WERE MADE WITHOUT THE WORKING CLASS BEING EVEN IN THEIR MINDS.

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY?

THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO BE THE PARTY THAT REPRESENTED THE WORKING MAN OR WOMAN IN THIS COUNTRY.

WHEN DID THESE PEOPLE COME TO THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY, THE DEPLORABLES INSTEAD OF THEIR CONSTITUENTS?

SO I THINK THIS GOES BACK IN SOME WAYS TO THE NIXON SOUTHERN STRATEGY OF 1968 WHEN THE G.O.P.

MADE A PLAY FOR WORKING CLASS WHITES IN THE SOUTH.

BASED ON RACIAL TENSIONS.

AND AS A RESULT, OVER TIME, SO THE WHITE WORKING CLASS TENDED TO BE SOCIALLY CONSERVATIVE, BUT TENDED TO BE ECONOMICALLY LIBERAL.

AND SO FOR DECADES, AS A RESULT, THEY TENDED TO VOTE FOR THE SOCIAL CULTURAL ISSUES RATHER THAN ECONOMIC ISSUES.

SO WE HAD REAGAN DEMOCRATS AND THEY TENDED TO GO MORE IN THE REPUBLICAN -- I THINK THAT ACTUALLY THIS FALL JOE BIDEN HAS A GOOD CHANCE OF RECOVERING MANY OF THOSE VOTERS.

SHERYL, YOU TALKED ABOUT COVID AND THE SOCIAL GREAT DEPRESSION TO SOME DEGREE.

F FUNDAMENTALLY AND QUICKLY, WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST IMPORTANT EFFECT OF COVID ON THE SOCIAL GREAT DEPRESSION, DO YOU THINK?

FIRST OF ALL, I THINK IT'S GOING TO MAKE IT A LOT WORSE BECAUSE, YOU KNOW, AFRICAN AMERICANS AND LATINOS ARE CONTRACTING IT FAR MORE IN PERCN WHITES.

EVEN WORKING CLASS WHITES.

AND THEY ALSO ARE DYING AT HIGHER RATES.

AND SO IT'S AFFLICTING THEM EVEN MORE SO, AND, YOU KNOW, THANKFULLY IT'S NOT LEADING PEOPLE TO SAY I DON'T CARE, NOW, BECAUSE THEY STILL ARE A POINT OF TRANSMISSION.

MUCH LIKE, YOU KNOW, WITH ACCIDENTS, CAR ACCIDENTS, YOU DON'T WANT WANT TO BE ON THE OPPOSITE SIDE OF THAT PERSON DRIVING DRUNK OR WHATEVER, SO THAT'S WHY WE PUT IN ALL THESE SAFETY PRECAUTIONS.

SAME THING, YOU DON'T WANT TO BE ON THE RECEIVING SIDE OF POTENTIAL COVID TRANSMISSION BY SOMEONE WHO HAPPENS TO BE IN THE WORKING CLASS AND WORKING AMONG LOTS OF DIFFERENT PEOPLE AND CAN'T ALWAYS WEAR A MASK OR MAY HAVE TAKEN OFF THE MASK FOR ONE SECOND AND GOT COVID AND TRANSMITS IT TO YOU.

SO WE SHOULD BE MUCH MORE MINDFUL OF HOW WE TAKE CARE OF THOSE PEOPLE SO THAT THEY DON'T SPREAD IT.

AND HEALTH CARE.

THAT MEANS REALLY TRYING TO -- NOT JUST HEALTH CARE FOR -- WITH FREE COVID TESTING.

IT IS HEALTH CARE PERIOD BECAUSE PEOPLE WITH UNDERLYING CONDITIONS, YOU KNOW, OBESITY, DIABETES, THEY ARE MUCH MORE PRONE TO GETTING COVID AND THEN SPREADING IT.

SO WE NEED TO REALLY TAKE CARE OF THE WHOLE PERSON IN HEALTH CARE.

I THINK THAT'S REAL IMPORTANT.

NICK, WHAT HAS BEEN THE EFFECT, YOU THINK, OF A SEISMIC CULTURAL REVOLUTION RESULTING FROM THE DEATH OF GEORGE FLOYD AT THE HANDS OF THE MINNEAPOLIS POLICE ON THE SOCIAL GREAT DEPRESSION?

HAS IT HAD AN AFFECT?

SO WE'RE SUFFERING RIGHT NOW FROM A SERIES OF RELATED PANDEMICS AND CRISES.

WE OBVIOUSLY HAVE COVID.

WE HAVE AN UNDERSTANDING OF RACIAL INEQUALITY IN THIS COUNTRY AND WE HAVE THIS GREAT ECONOMIC DEPRESSION.

THEY ARE ALL LINKED BECAUSE OF VULNERABILITIES AND POLICY CHOICES WE MADE AS A COUNTRY.

IT'S NOT AN ACCIDENT THAT THE UNITED STATES IS 4% OF THE WORLD'S POPULATION HAS A QUARTER OF THE WORLD'S DEATHS.

AND WHAT HAS BEEN STRIKING ABOUT THE AFTERMATH OF GEORGE FLOYD IS THE FACT THAT THERE HAS BEEN THIS OUTPOURING OF RECOGNITION THAT WHEN A POLICE OFFICER PUTS HIS KNEE ON A PERSON'S NECK BECAUSE OF THE PIGMENTATION OF THAT PERSON'S SKIN, THAT THAT IS AN OUTRAGE THAT DIMINISHES THE NATION AND DIMINISHES US ALL.

AND I THINK SO OFTEN IN MODERN AMERICAN HISTORY WHITES HAD SAID THAT INEQUITIES WERE ABOUT THE BEHAVIOR OF THE VICTIM.

I THINK THAT IS A LOT HARDER TO SAY NOW WHEN YOU SEE SOMEBODY BEING KILLED BECAUSE HE IS BLACK.

AND I THINK THAT THERE IS AT LEAST -- I MEAN, PEOPLE SAY THIS HAS BEEN LARGE -- THE MOVEMENT IN AMERICAN HISTORY THAT HAS THE GREATEST NUMBER OF PARTICIPANTS, AND I THINK THAT THAT AND THE POLLING NUMBERS WHERE NOW A MAJORITY OF WHITES APPROVE OF BLACK LIVES MATTER CREATES AN OPENING FOR BETTER POLICIES IN WHICH WE DON'T JUST TELL PEOPLE PULL YOURSELVES UP BY THE BOOT STRAPS.

BUT RATHER, LOOK AT WAYS TO ADDRESS INEQUITY IN EDUCATION, IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE, IN SOCIAL WELFARE POLICIES, AND I THINK COVID TENDS TO DO THE SAME.

I THINK IT TENDS TO BE AN ARGUMENT FOR BUILDING A BETTER HEALTH CARE, FOR PROVIDING PAID SICK LEAVE.

THE ECONOMIC CRISIS MAYBE THE SAME.

SO I THINK THAT AFTER 50 YEARS OF MISCALCULATIONS BY THIS COUNTRY, I THINK WE HAVE A FIGHTING CHANCE OF PATCHING SOME OF THESE HOLES IN THE SAFETY NETS.

THAT MAY BE TRUE AND SOMEBODY SAID THAT THE GEORGE FLOYD DEATH WASN'T, YOU KNOW, WHITES AGAINST BLACK.

IT'S EVERYBODY AGAINST RACISM.

AND THAT WAS TRUE.

THAT'S WHAT I SAW SOMETIMES.

ON THE OTHER HAND, YOU TALKED ABOUT NIXON USED THE RIOTS OF THE '60s TO DO, YOU KNOW, AND THE BACKLASH TO CREATE A BACKLASH AND USE IT TO GET TO THE PRESIDENCY.

MANY OTHER PEOPLE THAT YOU WRITE ABOUT ARE TRUMP SUPPORTERS.

I AM WONDERING IF THERE IS THAT POSSIBILITY THAT THE SAME THING COULD HAPPEN.

I THINK IT'S POSSIBLE.

I THINK PRESIDENT TRUMP IS TRYING TO VERY MUCH RUN A CAMPAIGN THAT FOCUSES ON LAW AND ORDER AND SECURITY THAT IS REMINISCENT OF NIXON'S 1968 CAMPAIGN.

I THINK SO FAR IT IS NOT WORKING, PARTLY BECAUSE THE VISUALS THAT WE HAVE INVOLVE MORE POLICE CRACKING HEADS OF WHITE OR BLACK PROTESTERS ALIKE THAN OF THE KIND OF INSECURITY THAT THREATENS ORDINARY AMERICANS.

BUT I THINK THAT'S GOING TO BE -- YOU KNOW, THAT'S TO BE SEEN.

BUT THOSE VOTERS WE WRITE ABOUT IN 'TIGHTROPE,' THEY SEND TO BE SOCIALLY CONSERVATIVE.

THEY WANT, YOU KNOW, THE CONSERVATIVE JUSTICES.

THEY WANT GUN RIGHTS.

BUT THEY ALSO WANT A HIGHER MINIMUM WAGE, THEY WANT BETTER HEALTH CARE.

THE QUESTION NOW IS WHETHER THEY VOTE THIS FALL WITH THEIR POCKETBOOKS OR WITH THEIR MORE CONSERVATIVE VALUES.

I THINK THAT --

SORRY, WE ARE OUT OF TIME FOR THIS PART OF THE CONVERSATION.

LUCKILY, WE WILL BE COMING BACK TOMORROW AND TALK ABOUT THE SOLUTIONS TO THESE PROBLEMS AS WELL AS THE FIRST AMENDMENT THAT YOU GUYS HAVE BEEN TALKING ABOUT.

THANK YOU FOR JOINING US AND WE'LL SEE YOU TOMORROW.

THANK YOU.

THANK YOU.

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY JAMES AND MERRYL TISCH, SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, THE SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM.

BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, AND BY -- BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, JUDY AND JOSH WESTON, DR. ROBERT C. AND TONE INTO STONE FOUNDATION.

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