MetroFocus

FULL EPISODE

MetroFocus: July 13, 2020

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.

AIRED: July 13, 2020 | 0:28:44
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
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.