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President Trump Orders Last American Troops to Withdraw from Syria; U.S. Doesn't Want to Get Involved in 200 Years Conflict Between Turks and Kurds; ISIS Reemerging; Shiraz Maher, Director, International Centre for the Study of Radicalization, and Kori Schake, Deputy Director, International Institute for Strategic Studies, are Interviewed About Turks and Kurds; Jane Fonda Arrested During Climate Protest; Jane Fonda, Actress and Activist, is Interviewed About Climate Change. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired October 14, 2019 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:00] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
President Trump orders all U.S. troops out of Syria and ISIS is on the loose again. Joining me, Shiraz Maher, the world's leading authority on
radical Jihadism, and Kori Schake, the former Pentagon policy maker.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JANE FONDA, ACTRESS AND ACTIVIST: This is a collective crisis that demands massive collective action now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Jane Fonda at it again, the longtime activist and Oscar-winning actress gets herself arrested for the climate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAJ CHETTY, WILLIAM A. ACKMAN PROFESSOR OF ECONOMICS, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Most of the economic growth that's occurred in America has gone to the
very, very top of the income distribution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Harvard economist, Raj Chetty, speaks to Hari Sreenivasan about the fading American dream.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Right now, in Northern Syria, Turkish troops continue their brutal push south, occupying a wide swath of territory along the border.
Meanwhile, in a stunning reversal, Syrian government troops are returning to a region they had seeded to the Kurds seven years ago. The Kurds' U.S.
allies, having lost faith in their American forces, are effectively giving up control of that territory to President Bashar al-Assad. This is all
happening as President Trump orders the last American troops to withdraw, leaving a massive security and political vacuum.
The United Nations reports that more than 150,000 people have had to flee Turkey's military offensive and it appears that dozens of civilians and
fighters are dead on both sides. U.S. defense secretary, Mark Esper, says that he warned his Turkish counterpart that an invasion would lead to
everything we see playing out now, a humanitarian catastrophe and a golden opportunity for ISIS to reemerge.
None the less, America chose not to stand its ground.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK ESPER, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: We did not want to put American forces into harm's way. We did not want to get involved in the conflict that
dates back nearly 200 years between the Turks and the Kurds and get involved in another, yet another war in the Middle East.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Now, with reports of jails full of thousands of captured ISIS fighters and their families emptying, a nightmare scenario is unfolding.
Joining me to discuss this is Shiraz Maher, a world-renowned expert on Islamic radicalization at King's College here in London and a former
radical himself, and the former Pentagon policy adviser, Kori Schake.
Welcome back to the program, Kori, and welcome Shiraz.
Can I ask you first about the ISIS threat? Because presumably, this is what this is all about, America's minimal invasion in -- American's minimal
intervention Syria over the past few years has been to defeat ISIS. What do we know about ISIS reemerging, getting out of detention centers since
this Turkish invasion?
SHIRAZ MAHER, DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL CENTRE FOR THE STUDY OF RADICALIZATION: Well, I think it's important to say that ISIS is a highly
resilient movement. It demonstrated its ability to react to circumstances and adapt to circumstances as well. So, it faded away after the 2003
invasion of Iraq later on, when it was still al-Qaeda in Iraq, but reformed and waited for the right opportunity when it arose after 2011 in Syria to
go in there and to do this.
And now, as we've seen, they've lost the territorial caliphate in both parts of Syria and Iraq but they pulled back and they have been biding
their time. When we talk about a (INAUDIBLE) ISIS, a returning ISIS, ISIS, an ISIS that will take advantage of what is happening, this isn't future
abstraction, this is right now. It's already happening. It was happening before President Trump made his announcement last week. There were already
campaigns taking place, both with Syria and Iraq, targeting local forces that were operating there. So, we are seeing an intensification of that.
And of course, in precisely the circumstances that the president's words have created, chaos, disorder, uncertainty, these are precisely the
environments which a group like ISIS thrives.
AMANPOUR: So, we're hearing reports that certain detention facilities are no longer being guarded by America's Kurdish allies because they have to
defend themselves. We hear that several hundred ISIS fighters have left some of these detention facilities. Are you saying this was happening
anyway or is it getting worse now?
MAHER: Well, I think we can say it's definitely getting worse. It's getting more acute. Clearly, there were attacks and pressures on the SDF
prior to this. But nonetheless, the region that they were controlling was still the most stable part of Syria and they had adequate resources to
address some of this.
They themselves were saying, we are off a stretched. We would like the West to take responsibility for the citizens who are in detention. We
would like them to be repudiated home to face [13:05:00] justice, and so on. The West did not quite do that. But now, given the fact of the
pressures they're facing in Turkey, there will be a reprioritization of resource and of manpower to address that issue.
AMANPOUR: And the SDF, Kori, is obviously the Syrian Defense Forces, these Kurds who are helping, right, the United States. Just put it in
perspective, what have they been doing for the last several years for the U.S. and the coalition against ISIS?
KORI SCHAKE, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR STRATEGIC STUDIES: They have been the ground force doing the fighting for the defeat
of ISIS. And you can see it in the casualty figures. The United States suffered five casualties in the anti-ISIS campaign, the SDF suffered over
11,000. They have been doing the hard, dangerous work and we have just abandoned them.
AMANPOUR: Five American, five versus 11,000-plus on the Kurdish side?
AMANPOUR: What does this mean for American policy going forward and for the geopolitical reality in the region given that the Kurds have always
come up against the Turks, the Iraqis, I mean, they have basically nowhere to go and all the major countries consider them rightly stateless and they
consider them terrorists?
SCHAKE: Well, I think that the first thing is to separate, again, the Kurdish people of Northern Iraq, of Syria, of Iran and of Southern Turkey
from terrorist forces that are fighting on behalf of their liberty because it's the civilian population that is going to bear an enormous amount of
the unpleasantness that the United States has just delivered them into with President Trump green lighting the Turkish invasion.
The second thing is that Bashar al-Assad has now effectively won the best civil war in Syria, that the Kurdish forces in Syria felt the need to make
a bargain with Bashar al-Assad because they thought they were going to be better off under Assad than they were going to be under Turkish control,
which tells you a ton.
And I guess the third I would say is that, the next time the United States needs to round up a posse and get other countries, not just the SDF and the
regional countries but with left Britain and France in the lurch. There are 81 countries fighting in the anti-ISIS coalition. We didn't inform any
of them of this decision. We didn't make plans how they were going to be safely taken out of the theater. This is a terrible day for American
AMANPOUR: I mean, it's terrible day the way you, you know, describe it but it is truly unbelievable to think both Shiraz and to you, Kori, what you've
stated, that after doing their utmost to keep Assad in ramp parts of Syria, around this map, they are now inviting him to come to territories that they
denied him for years because they're putting an untellable situation. When you guys look at this map, what should we be worried about? This is what
Turkish forces had and this is what they want.
SCHAKE: So, I think you should be worried about the government of Turkey doing what President Erdogan said at the United Nations General Assembly a
couple of weeks ago he would do, which is push more than a million Syrian refugees back into Syrian territory and leave them to the tender mercies of
Bashar al-Assad. As you --
AMANPOUR: These are the ones who fled him, let's just not forget.
SCHAKE: Exactly right. We are consigning them to Bashar al-Assad's control.
AMANPOUR: What are you seeing on, you know, the sort of the normal or some of the deeper websites and online sanctuaries that ISIS and the others
have? What are they saying about this?
MAHER: The primary platform of communication now for these movements is telegram, which is where ISIS supporters and members of the organization
themselves are speaking about what is happening here in Syria.
There's two things that they're doing. The first is that they're gloating about what they see as a sellout of the Kurds because they said, we always
told you that you were pawns. We always said the United States would chew you up and spit you out when it was done with you. And in a sense, that
has what has transpired. So, it is playing into this narrative that the United States is not a reliable ally for anybody in the region but the
United States will cut and run when it achieves a very narrow small particular goal and that it is subject to the whims of a president who
makes policy on the hoof. So, that is one aspect.
But the other aspect is also rejoicing at the opportunity that has now been presented. For a long time, ISIS has spoken about the women affiliated for
the movement, who are being held in SDF detention, holding them up in the emblematic way that Jihadist movements have always held up, women and women
prisoners [13:10:00] to say they should be freed, that they are a target who needs to be rescued. And so, of course, now, there are multiple calls
for these women to either resist the detention that they're in, to try and break free and that the members will go and try and help them escape from
AMANPOUR: Shiraz, can I ask you because I introduced you as a former radical yourself. You were, I think, post 9/11 traumatized to the extent
that you kind of went with the radical flow. And then when the radicals attacked the British transport system right here in London in July 2005,
you had second thoughts and now, you're completely reformed, so to speak, you're on the other side.
From your experience, walk us through, expand a little bit more on what you're saying, you know, how other people may be looking at the West right
MAHER: Well, I think the messaging that takes place in these regions to young people, vulnerable people, is that the United States is not your
friend, that it's not a reliable partner or ally and that you need to rely on exclusively confessional movements that are Islamist, that are Jihadist
that are seeking to other (INAUDIBLE), so it's Muslims, non-Muslims, often them, in that classical way that all sorts of totalitarian extremist
movements operate in creating, as I said, this ingroup love versus outgroup hostility.
So, that is precisely what we see in groups like Islamic states or al-Qaeda push or much more politically oriented Islamic organizations of which I was
a member (INAUDIBLE) it wasn't in any violent wing, but we were very much at the political end of creating the intellectual moral imperatives in
which these types of groups operator.
So, I think as Kori herself has said, this is a disastrous moment for U.S. foreign policies, that disastrous moment for the reputation standing of
America in large parts of the Arab and Muslim world.
AMANPOUR: Kori, can I just ask you to comment on what the secretary of defense, Mark Esper, has been saying? You saw the little clip that we
played whereby he is saying, well, we don't want our forces in the middle of this historic ancient battle. But I mean, the forces were there as a
buffer precisely not to have this historic ancient battle.
SCHAKE: That's exactly right, right. The suggestion that we don't want our forces in harm's way means they shouldn't in Syria, and they were there
for a very important reason, which was stabilizing a fragile -- piece is too strong a word, a fragile cessation of hostilities that would have
prevented Turkey and Syria from coming into direct conflict and that would have preserved the autonomy of not just Kurds in Northern Syria, but also
Arabs and Christians in Northern Syria, and that has been collapsed by our departure.
AMANPOUR: Can I just play another piece of sound from the defense secretary, he spoke to the network Sunday programs this weekend?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ESPER: And it looks like the SDF is cutting a deal with the Syrians and Russians.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, the SDF, that's the --
ESPER: Syrian forces.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Syrian Democracy Force?
ESPER: Defense Forces. That's right. They're cutting a deal. And now, what we're facing is U.S. forces in a -- trapped between a Syrian-Russian
army moving north to take on the Turkish army that is moving south. It puts us in a terrible position and the protection safety of our service-
members comes first to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: You see, I'm somewhat mystified by that because he's acting as if one came after the other. I mean, the terrible position is because the
U.S. pulled out.
SCHAKE: Or that the movement of both of those forces was inevitable and the presence of the United States wouldn't have made any difference to it.
I think it's a problematic statement in all sorts of ways.
AMANPOUR: Can I just ask you both, was inevitable that at some point the U.S. would be caught between these forces or was it -- was the ground
already laid and the tables set for this to gradually become more and more peaceful up here in the north?
SCHAKE: You know, I think the odds of it growing more peaceful were actually a lot stronger than it currently sounds like. If you think back
to the end of the Iraq war in 1991 and the way the United States mobilized a humanitarian operation to stabilize what we think of as the Kurdish areas
of Northern Iraq. And for 20 years, provided security, encouraged development, grew a generation of leaders that we now see as an enormously
positive force in Iraq, that was possible in Northern Syria too.
And by writing out -- by the president writing it off, that's another one of the sad consequences and costs of his decision.
AMANPOUR: We talked a little bit about the historic animosity [13:15:00] between the Kurds and the Turks. Turkey describes them as terrorists. I
mean, not the civilians but the YPG. These people who are U.S. allies and the PKK, which the U.S. also thinks are terrorists. Again, is it
inevitable that Turkey is going to do everything in its power whenever it sees the possibility to wipe them out?
SCHAKE: Well, I think as we're seeing, yes, Turkey is going to take those opportunities. And there's a certain amount of sympathy that we should
have for Turks who are the victims of terrorism by terrorist organizations. But they are not solving the problem the way they are acting now.
AMANPOUR: And just, again, to sort of put it in a sort of a wider context, we've got essentially two NATO powers, Turkey and the United States, either
at loggerheads or not, I mean, I can't really tell, are they telling the Turks to pull back or not or are they still giving the greenlight?
You've got Europe NATO members saying that we should -- they should put sanctions against Turkey. You've got Russia coming back into the fray. It
just seems geopolitically a huge can of worms has been open.
SCHAKE: That's exactly right. And it's not just two NATO allies who are at swords points. The British have troops there, the French have troops
there, the Danes have troops there. So, it's an awful lot of NATO allies at swords point with Turkey right now.
AMANPOUR: I mean, Shiraz, when you look at this and you analyze it and you're looking certainly at the radicalization and ISIS, what do you think
is going to happen next? You've said all along that these groups play the long game, even when the caliphate was destroyed. Were they defeated?
MAHER: No. I think that's ultimately what we need to look at here, the long-term ambitions of these groups when they were all detained in Iraq in
2006 and so on, they told their members, just wait, bide your time. They regrouped once they were released after Camp Bucca was closed towards the
end of the decade. And they waited 18 to 24 months. They saw the opportunity in Syria and they moved in to capitalize on it there.
And it's well known now that as ISIS was losing territory, as members were being detained and captured, those who evaded that capture were told, bide
your time, wait, relax, get ready for the return, we will come back.
And so, we have seen the (INAUDIBLE) campaigns already being launched and, of course, these things don't occur in a vacuum. ISIS was able to attract
so many people in 2014 and '15 because of the success and momentum it had on the ground. That wasn't a fantasy, that was a reality, that they were
achieving success and gaining territory and winning battles and therefore, more people wanted to be part of the winning team.
Now, if people see them coming back to the areas in which they were pushed out, if they see the return of those black flags, if they see the return of
those fighters, yet again, that will serve as a boon for another generation of people who want to go out there and support this. And unfortunately, a
lot of that trace right back to the comments made by the president of the United States.
AMANPOUR: So, for the American people, these wars have just been going on endlessly since 9/11. Syria now is the latest after Iraq and Afghanistan.
Presidents have wanted to end these wars, whether it's Trump, whether it's Obama. You have criticized President Obama and others have, as well, for
their policy in Syria. And even General Mattis recently has said that, you know, President Obama saw what happened with ISIS rising when he pulled
troops out of Iraq back in 2011-2012. This is now something that just happened under the Trump administration. It's kind of the next chapter in
an ongoing difficult relationship between the United States and that region.
SCHAKE: American presidents keep wanting to wean us off the Middle East. But unfortunately, we still care what happens there. We care about the
geopolitical balance. We care about the people of the region. And that keeps pulling us back to try and create a better future than the countries
in the region are creating for themselves.
AMANPOUR: Is that pie in the sky, Shiraz? Is it in -- I mean, does -- do the Americans -- does the West have any chance of persuading people in that
part of the world now, whether it's ISIS or ordinary civilians that they are a force for democratization and peace and eventual good?
MAHER: I don't think so. I think this is a very damaging moment. I mean, I think the United States has obviously suffered a series of setbacks ever
since 9/11 with the various campaigns of the war on terror in the region in particular. But this particular action by President Trump, I think, is an
acute crisis which, although, yes, we could criticize President Obama and the Obama administration and Bush before him, there's nothing quite this
brazen, whimsical and so [13:20:00] destructive in the pace of its scale that that's -- that we've seen.
AMANPOUR: And very briefly, Kori, last word, how does the United States recover from this?
SCHAKE: By adopting and enacting policies that are humane and reasonable instead of destructively reckless.
AMANPOUR: Kori Schake and Shiraz Maher, thank you both very much for joining me.
And next, of course, another major struggle is going on around the world, the want to save the environment. Spearheaded by the young, it is
galvanizing the older generation too, including some very famous names and activists. Jane Fonda was arrested in Washington on Friday in an act of
civil disobedience during a climate change protest outside the U.S. capitol.
The arrest harkens back to Fonda's extensive and somewhat controversial track record of support for many different causes, ranging from Native
American rights to women's rights to protesting the Vietnam war. Fonda who is now in her 80s announced that she would move to Washington, D.C., the
heart of power and governance, to launch a series of weekly climate crisis protests. Fire Drill Friday she calls it. Inspired in part by the teenage
climate activist, Greta Thunberg, who famously says, I want you to act as if our house is on fire because it is.
And Jane Fonda joins me now from Washington. Welcome back to the program, Jane Fonda.
JANE FONDA, ACTRESS AND ACTIVIST: It's good to -- good to be with you, Christiane. Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Well, I tell you what, watching those pictures of you with the handcuffs just brought back a huge amount of memories and a huge amount of
history. You've devoted so much of your adult life to this kind of activism. What specifically in it, what moment did you trigger into this
action whereby you get up from California in your home and you move to Washington to do this?
FONDA: I can tell you exactly, it was Labor Day weekend and I was reading Naomi Klein's new book called "On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New
Deal" and I was hearing the Greta Thunberg, the Swedish climate striker and it really hit me how urgent this issue is and that I wasn't doing enough.
You know, I drive an electric car, I recycle, I've gotten rid of plastics. But that's a good starting place, it's not a good finishing place.
This is a collective crisis. It requires collective action. And so, I decided to use my celebrity to try to raise the sense of urgency and I
moved to Washington and I'm going to get arrested every Friday.
AMANPOUR: Every Friday. Well, I'm going to ask you, of course, Greta Thunberg, we're very proud of her. We've interviewed her on this show.
Naomi Klein has been on this program as well. But let me ask you because you, I think, mentioned that the new type of arrest, i.e., these plastic
ties that you were arrested with are different from the metal handcuff that you endured in previous protests. And that, you know, you are 82 or so and
it's kind of difficult to navigate into the back of a police van without your arms.
FONDA: That's the least of it. You know, you've been talking about the Syrian crisis and the terrible situation that happened there. That war, I
am told, began because of the terrible drought that happened there. I mean, there is so much going on in the world. And over it all is this
ticking time bomb. The intergovernmental panel on climate crisis told us last year that we only have -- well, last year they said 12 years now, it's
11 years. We have 11 years left to try to turn this fossil fuel disaster around so that we don't completely past the tipping point and it becomes
Untenable to govern, untenable to have a stable economy or any kind of human rights or anything. It's -- there's just going to be one disaster on
top of the other. But we do have time. We have time and it's going to require that people in every country all around the world organize and
mobilize and, if necessary, bring governments to a halt, if we can't make them do the right thing.
I mean, it wouldn't have to be this radical and fundamental if the fossil fuel industry hasn't lied to us for 30 years. They knew 30 years ago that
they were hurting the environment and they knew what the implications were and they lied and hoodwinked us.
If we had started doing what needed to be done 30 years ago, it could be an incremental transition away from fossil fuels. And now, it's -- this is an
urgent crisis and we have to move very, very fast. All the while taking great care that the families and [13:25:00] communities and workers who
depend on the fossil fuel industry for their livelihood are going to be not just paid union wages with benefits and overtime and Social Security and
everything that they need to support families and to live properly. We have to be very, very sure that those workers are taken care of.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you quickly to talk about the radical nature of this. You said, you know, it wouldn't have to been so radical if -- and you said
what -- you know, the reasons. I wonder whether you can reflect on whether there's a difference today between how you would treat it in your
generation of activists, whether they were for Native American rights or for women's rights or for, you know, the peace protest during the Vietnam
War, for anti-apartheid or all of those major anti-nukes, for instance.
It seems that the climate activist, the younger ones, and I've had Extinction Rebellion activists on my program. They're getting arrested and
taken to court in a way that they weren't in previous years. The court process is different. They're getting trolled online. Greta Thunberg is
getting trolled in person and denigrated online. I mean, they're being really attacked in a visceral way. Why do you think that is happening?
What has changed, you know, since when you were doing it as a younger person.
FONDA: Yes. We're speaking to the very foundations of our economic structure. You know, our economy and much of the world's economy is based
on fossil fuel. And what we are saying is that has to change.
I mean, change is coming, whether we want it or not. Change is coming either by disaster or by plan. And what is kind of beautiful is that we
now have a plan, a vision for how to move forward and save ourselves. It's called a Green New Deal.
And one of the reasons that I'm doing what I'm doing in Washington is to call attention to the Green New Deal, what it means and what it's going to
take to get this turned into a reality. And what is so beautiful about it is that it's a win-win situation for everybody except the fossil fuel
industry. And they're going to fight it tooth and nail.
And that's why we're being arrested and taken to court and treated differently is because we are saying capitalism, the way it has been
working for decades isn't going to continue working if we keep it the way it is. We can make the changes within the framework of capitalism but it's
got to be a changed capitalism, a regulated capitalism, a humane capitalism.
And so, obviously, the people whose wealth is threatened by that and they're very, very, very powerful and they've bought off a whole lot of
government in our country and in other countries, are going to fight with every single thing they have, and they have the power. The only thing is
there's more of us. And so, we have to be very determined, very organized, very prepared, understand what we're up against and not give up.
You know, back in the '30 when FDR had the new deal in the United States to try save America from a terrible depression, people called him a communist
and a socialist and there were bankers that tried to overthrow him. And the reason that he did is because people were in the streets. And he knew
that if he didn't do it, he would be facing a full out revolution.
And so, he slowly rolled out a Green New Deal that turned out to be so popular with average working people that it worked. And we got Social
Security and millions of jobs and all kinds of great infrastructure improvements. And that's -- take the Green New Deal on steroids, it's
going to be bigger, it's going to be greener and it's going to be fairer because the new deal left out farmers and women and African-Americans and
the Green New Deal won't do that.
AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you then because you are in Washington and you are coming to us with a background of the United States Capitol behind you
and you have the celebrity, the prominence and the record to actually talk to the people in power. Are you going to be doing that and who? Because
you're not going to be preaching to the converted, you know that Democrats believe in this, they have gotten this proposal for a Green New Deal, many
of the new congresswomen, particularly the Democratic candidates for president. Who do you think you, Jane Fonda, can target or -- I mean, talk
to and are you planning to?
FONDA: Yes. So, we're going to be having conversations on the Hill. [13:30:00]
You know, what we're focusing on is the people who feel that individual lifestyle choices to reduce carbon footprint is enough. We want to take
those people and move them into a more active column. Those - that's our target for those actions that we're doing, but we are going to be talking
to congress people.
But the most important thing is, you see, this is going to be won not necessarily just through elections, but through mobilization and civilian
action, but this coming election next November is obviously critical. So we're urging people to vote for climate. We're telling people don't vote
for any candidate that doesn't support the Green New Deal, understand what it is, and wouldn't want to implement starting on day one.
AMANPOUR: OK, I want to ask you a question - and I'm not bringing this up just to bring up Vietnam again or to bring up that picture or anything like
that - but I want to ask you because a lot of people get their backs up about - they say, don't lecture to me about my lifestyle. This is my right
to eat, you know, hamburgers, or drive a big, fat car, or do whatever the heck I want to do, have the air conditioning on so high that, you know,
it's at crazy, unacceptable levels.
About Vietnam you said it hurts me and it will to my grave that I made a huge, huge mistake that made a lot of people think that I was against the
soldiers, about that famous picture of you with the anti-aircraft gun. So what do you - what do you face - what sort of reaction have you had to you
now taking this public stance and what can you say to people today whoa re getting their backs up saying don't you lecture me on how to live my life
and change my lifestyle?
FONDA: Well, I'm - I know - I know that they're out there, especially in America - land of individualism, which is one of the problems by the way -
don't like to hear things like we have to change a lot of what now exists in this country, but the whole middle of the country has been flooded.
California is on fire. There - I mean, this isn't something we're talking about might happen in the future. We're in the middle of it. We're
experiencing it right now.
And so, more and more people are understanding that it's an urgent crisis and that we have to ban together to do something about it.
AMANPOUR: Jane, you tweeted a picture over the weekend of you having dinner with some of the younger climate activists, and you said, "In DC at
dinner with the young student climate strikers who have so inspired me. Sunrise Movement, Friday's for the Furture. They're smart and they're
brave." I want you to reflect on the young people today. We've seen what they're doing. We see how they galvanize the political debate. We see how
they're not just in the streets but they are showing up at the ballot box as well and shifting the tide right now.
Also we're seeing people of your generation saying I need to be in solidarity with them because I need to look them in the face and be able to
say that I did my part. We're hearing that around villages and towns whether it's here in England or in America or wherever it is that older
people are being taught a thing or two by their grandchildren. And you took one of your grandchildren, and she was arrested with you over the
weekend. Just talk to me about that particular experience.
FONDA: I think that what the students are doing is so inspiring. I - you can't help but want to say yes. We grandmothers, we older people are going
to stand next to you, lock arms, and try to create a future for you that is livable. I mean, it's no wonder that these young people are being so brave
and standing up. They see that their future is being robbed, and the question is what are we going to do? What sacrifices are we going to make?
How willing will we be to stand up with them and fight for their future?
And, you know, I'm going to be 80 - I'm going to be arrested the day I turn 82 and I'm doing it because I want to stand with those young people. I
have a 3-month-old grandson. It was hard for me to move to D.C. I have a grandson that was just born and I'm missing four months of his life and,
you know, it's - but I think of Greta Thunberg and I think it's the least I can do.
AMANPOUR: Well Jane Fonda, it was great to see you out there, as I said, still at it. It's really important. Thank you so much for being with us.
FONDA: It's always good to talk to you, Christiane. Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Now, our next guest thinks that he might have the key to reviving the American dream. Rah Chetty is a Harvard University professor.
He's using big data to understand how to give kids from disadvantage backgrounds better chances of succeeding from his own personal experience
of moving to the United States at the age of 9. He's made it his mission to thin about how to give other children the same opportunities that he
had, and our Hari Sreenivasan sat down with him to understand just how that might work.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
HARI SREENIVASAN, AMANPOUR HOST: So your work for several years has chronicled what I would say how the Horatio Alger story about, you know,
pulling yourself up by the bootstraps, working hard, that that notion of the American dream is simply not true, at least by the data that you've
looked at. Why is the American dream, as we've all been led to believe it, why is that fading?
RAJ CHETTY, DIRECTOR, OPPORTUNITY INSIGHTS: Yes, so to start with the facts, back in the 1940s and 1950s, virtually all kids in America would
grow up to have a higher standard of living than their parents did. So for children born in 1940, for example, 90 percent of them went on to have a
higher standard of living than their parents. And if you look at kids who were born in the 1980s who are turning 30 today when we're measuring their
incomes, that number is down to 50 percent. It's a 50-50 shot as to whether you're going to achieve the American dream of moving up.
And so, that fading of the American dream, you know, I think is of tremendous concern from an economic perspective, socially, politically, and
there are a variety of factors that I think play into what's driving that trend, but at a macroeconomic level, a lot of it has to do with the fact
that wage rates and incomes for people in the middle of the income distribution basically haven't gone up over the past 30 years, so most of
the economic growth that's occurred in America has gone to the very, very top of the income distribution.
SREENIVASAN: And you've kind of pointed out three kind of big categories that where you're born, what your education level is, and what race you are
are huge determinants, and we don't like to kind of think about that because, again, we've been led to believe everyone has an equal shot and
everyone can get above their kind of status where they were born, but where they were born, I mean, down to the zip code level with the census track is
CHETTY: That's exactly right. So it's not just about broad, regional variation. It's not just about the Midwest versus the east coast versus
the southeast. It's actually about block-to-block variation within cities.
So in our most recent work, we've been developing a tool that we call The Opportunity Atlas which allows you to zoom in to specific blocks within
cities and look at what kids' chances or rising out of poverty are at that very granular level.
And the remarkable fact that you see is that in virtually every city in America there are incredibly sharp differences in children's chances of
rising out of poverty that range from the types of levels we see in the countries that have the highest level of social mobility in the world. So
these are often Scandinavian countries or countries like Canada where you see kids growing up in low-income families generally have pretty good odds
of rising up, but then you also have a couple miles down the road some neighborhood where if you look at the same kids from low-income families,
same backgrounds, their chances of rising up look lower than any country for which we currently have data.
So to me, that's fascinating because it's both, you know, a challenge given the scale of this problem, but it's also an opportunity, right, because it
means the answer in terms of restoring the American dream is not about going back to a previous era or looking at a completely different set of
countries. It's often about looking two miles down the road and figuring out what's going on there and how you can replicate that.
SREENIVASAN: Where are you getting this data? It's not like you're out there surveying people and asking them this or that. I mean, where is this
information coming from and how big is it? What's the scale?
CHETTY: So the modern era of social science I think is really fueled by the availability of big data, much as we all hear about big data being used
in the private sector. Our vision is that such data can be used to tackle important social and economic policy questions.
And so, in this particular case, a lot of the data we're working with comes form anonymized census, tax, and social security data that allows us to
follow very large samples of people over time. So many of the statistics that we're constructing on children's chance of rising out of poverty,
they're based on 20 million kids, all kids born in the early 1980s in the United States.
And it's that scope where we're able to follow 20 million children over a 30-year period. It would have been impossible prior to the adment (ph) of
the modern information age. That's what's allowing us to drill down.
SREENIVASAN: So when it comes to neighborhoods and long-term outcomes, you've been studying, for example, voucher programs that have existed for a
long time. Your previous research found that there wasn't a net difference if you just gave people money to move, and then you did kind of a different
experiment in Seattle. Explain what you tried.
CHETTY: So the whole idea of these affordable housing programs is that they're supposed to give families access to higher opportunity areas where
they and their kids might thrive. But puzzlingly, we see that most families, something like 80 percent of families that receive these housing
vouchers still live in relatively high-poverty, low-opportunity neighborhoods.
So, what we didn't see at all was a pilot study where we asked, so why is it that families aren't taking those vouchers and going and finding housing
in these affordable areas, where we think their kids would have much better chances of escaping poverty?
Is it because of preferences, so maybe you want to stay in the neighborhoods where you currently live, because it's close to your family,
close to your job, there might be many good reason you might want to stay in those areas?
Or is the degree of segregation that we're seeing in many of these cities, driven by some sort of set of barriers where families might not have
assistance in the search process, they might not have the information they need.
So, we did a pilot where we, for a randomly selected set of families, there were about 1,000 families involved in this study in Seattle, they had
applied through the regular process for a housing voucher, half of them, randomly selected, we gave these additional services to help them help ease
the search process.
Basically remove some of those barriers. Identify landlords who might be willing to rent to you in high-opportunity neighborhoods, give you
information about where those neighborhoods were, provide a little bit of assistance in saying, here's a unit you could go check out and so forth.
And what we found is that little bit of assistance up front, which actually only increases the total program up front cost by something like two
percent, that dramatically shifts where families choose to live.
So, in the control group, about 15 percent of families live in these high- opportunity neighborhoods within Seattle. In the treatment group, that jumps to 55 or 60 percent, so the majority of families are now choosing to
live in neighborhoods where we estimate that their kids will go onto to earn an additional a $200,000 over their lifetimes, as a result of that
simple move, about 5, 10 miles away from where they were living before.
SREENIVASAN: You're also making a distinction. You're calling these high- opportunity zones, not necessarily low-poverty zones.
SREENIVASAN: What constitutes a high-opportunity zone?
CHETTY: Yes, exact -- and that's very important. So, what we're defining as a high-opportunity zone is a place where we see in the data, kids who
grow up there end up having high rates of upward mobility.
So, it's an outcome based approach. It's just asking in a very direct way if -- let's say you're a parent deciding where to live, a simple way to
think about it is, where have I seen kids in the past who grew up in these neighborhoods? Where have kids gone on to do well, in terms of maybe
having a high rate of attending college, high level of earnings and so forth and so on.
So, it's just kind of a, where do we see good outcomes. Now, that could be related to factors like having lower poverty rates, factors like having
better schools and so forth, but what's so powerful about these data is, we don't need to rely on proxies for what might or might not predict rates of
upward mobility. WE can just kind of directly measure the thing that I think matters to many of us, where are you going to achieve the American
SREENIVASAN: One of the cities that you looked at, Chicago, for example, let's say there's a white kid and a black kid growing up friends and
neighbors in a more distressed neighborhood, but their economic outcomes are going to be very different because of race. I mean, a lot of times in
science studies we see correlation. You're just saying, straight up, causation, this is the factor.
SREENIVASAN: Holding for all other things.
CHETTY: You can't overstate the importance of race and economic mobility. So, some people like to think that class is a dominant factor and maybe
conditional on your income class, race is of secondary importance. That is absolutely not true in the United States.
So, we have seen, with data covering essentially the entire U.S. population, take a black kid and a white kid, not just in Chicago, anywhere
in the U.S., growing up in the same neighborhood, families at the same income level, same wealth level, both growing up in two-parent households,
think as many things as you can to make those two families look identical, except for the race dimension, and you see vastly different chances of
upward mobility, specifically for boys. So, there are big differences in rates of mobility for black boys relative to white boys, much lower chances
of climbing out of poverty.
But for black women, you're odds of rising up, controlling for you parent's income are about the same as for white women growing up in low-income
families. So, there's a gender by race innersectionality (ph) here, where it's really about men -- black men, who are facing challenges in rising up.
SREENIVASAN: So, what's the biggest possible influence to give a young black boy a shot?
CHETTY: Yes, so you might naturally think of things like the criminal justice system, right?
So we see incredibly high rates of incarceration for black men growing up in very low income families. I think that's one of the tragic features of
the current state of affairs in the United States.
And, just so you know, that could be one aspect, thinking about how you reduce interactions with a criminal justice system. That could involve
things directly, you know, in the space of mass incarceration, sentencing laws, and so forth.
But it could also involve things earlier on in the childhood development process; changing access to schools. Another very strong predictor we find
is the number of black fathers in a neighborhood is very strongly predictive of black men's outcomes.
If you grow up in a neighborhood where there are more black fathers who are present, we see that black boys have significant better outcomes.
Interestingly there's no correlation with the outcomes of black women or white women and white boys.
So it's something very specific. A plausible explanation is that this is about mentors. For example, if you see people following .
SREENIVASAN: Somebody to model.
CHETTY: Exactly, a role model. Somebody who's career pathway you can follow of your gender or someone who, you know, looks like you; you can
kind of follow in their footsteps. That makes a big difference.
SREENIVASAN: Well, and that sort of pivots back to the other part about race. Right. If you're in a neighborhood and there is a criminal justice
system that has incarcerated a large population of older black men that you might be able to look up to, there you are having a lower outcome and then
the cycle sort of .
CHETTY: That's exactly right. That's exactly right. I think these things -- there are lots of feedback groups here where, you know, you intervene in
one part of the system, it might in the next generation have -- can create sort of a virtuous cycle or a vicious cycle.
SREENIVASAN: So, you know, education has always been one of those ways that people say OK, this is going to be the opportunity. If I can get
myself to college I'm -- I'm going to make it out of this particular station in life.
And I'm going to have this. And -- and you have looked at access to schools, outcomes from schools, the mobility rates within schools, what do
the numbers show? Is college the way out of where you are?
CHETTY: Yes, so I think there's truth in that as an aspiration. Unfortunately, as a reality colleges are as segregated in America as
neighborhoods are. So in other words if I'm a kid from a high income family, my odds of meeting a kid from a lower income family in my childhood
neighborhood are just about the same as my odds of meeting a kid from a lower income family in the college to which I attend -- the college that I
So the colleges that kids from high income families attend are very different from the colleges that kids from poorer families attend. And
importantly the colleges that kids from higher income families attend, as you might expect intuitively, they tend to be the more selective ones.
You know the elite private colleges, often the flagship state public institutions like the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor or U.C. Berkeley.
And those are institutions where we see terrific outcomes for children.
Kids who graduate from there go on, perhaps not surprisingly, to have high levels of earnings and so forth. But there are very, very low income kids
at places like Harvard, Yale, Princeton.
SREENIVASAN: There's a recent story headline that I just remember reading the other day. It said 43 percent of students that Harvard admits are
legacies, jocks, or the kids of donors and faculty.
CHETTY: And look, I mean I'm a Harvard professor. Right. So I mean I recognize that there are trade-offs that institutions like Harvard make in
order to support research, in order to support many different missions. But I think at some point we are, as an institution at Harvard and more
broadly in the United States in higher education, going to have to confront in a -- in a very direct way what our ultimate mission is.
And if it's to contribute to social mobility, which I think many of us view as central goal, I think one needs to at least think seriously about the
trade-offs and the types of policies that you just described.
SREENIVASAN: You know speaking of policies right now and at least on the democratic campaign trail, we hear a lot about different variations of
wiping out student debt or trying to figure out how to solve for it like Andrew Yang has a universal basic income plan.
Will those sorts of policies -- let's say best case scenario somebody, whoever is president, gets their hands on the economic levers and is able
to pull some of these switches, would they have an impact?
CHETTY: So let's take each of those in turn. So something -- I find some of these policy instruments are a bit blunt. So when people talk about
free college, for example. So that sounds good and I think potentially moves in the right direction, but as in many other settings we find that
there's tremendous variation across colleges in terms of their impacts on kid outcomes.
And so I think a solution like we just need to make all colleges free is a bit too gruff. We need to provide access to the institutions that are
really propelling kids upward and we need to figure out how you improve outcomes in the institutions that aren't doing as well.
And I think that message goes not just for institutions of higher education, but all of the various pillars of our society that try to create
upper mobility from the K-12 Elementary School to various other programs that we have from housing vouchers like we talked about to welfare
programs. Designing them in ways such that we're actually supporting the specific programs that create upper mobility rather than a broad brush
SREENIVASAN: I know you haven't taken, you haven't worked for a campaign, you haven't work for an administration. So obviously an active choice.
I'm sure people come to you and say hey listen can you be my economic policy advisor, can you do x or y.
What are you hoping, in the next five years, ten years -- this is just -- the data said that you've had access to, and these are the things that
you've started to tease out a bit.
SREENIVASAN: Are there -- what other lines of inquiry are you intrigued by now?
CHETTY: Well, what I want to use these data for is to define in a scientific way answers to the question of how we can increase the quality
of opportunity in America. So what I like about studying that issue is that I think it's, even in this very politically partisan time, one that
people from both sides of the aisle can embrace. I think everyone in America believes in equality of opportunity no matter your background, no
matter where you came from. This (ph) as an abstract ideal to aim for, right.
So, part of the reason I myself don't get directly involved in partisan politics is I want to take an apolitical scientific stance to answering
these questions. And I think we can identify things like better ways to design our affordable housing programs. Better ways to design our school
systems. Ways to finance higher education that will lead to higher levels of upper mobility. I think we can systematically go down the list and
understand the recipe for higher rates of upper mobility in certain parts of the country, certain neighborhoods and replicate that throughout the
SREENIVASAN: In a way you're talking about desegregating the ways that we have broken up by geography, by education, by race. It's (LAUGHTER) it's a
big - big thing to tackle.
CHETTY: It's absolutely a big thing to tackle. But I think a lot of these things, this comes back to the feedback loops that we talked about, where
they can build on each other. So in one generation if you figure out how to help some kinds rise up that might reduce the amount of segregation in
the next generation. Which itself then leads to better opportunities for kids from lower income families. The one place where I would hesitate on
that conclusion is coming back to race.
So one aspect that we have not talked about yet but I think it is very important, the context of race. Is that even if you look at kids from the
most affluent families, my expectation when we were doing this research was that at some point race would become unimportant.
If you were from the richest families in the America, maybe race would start to play a secondary role. If you went to the best schools, grew up
in the best neighborhoods and so forth. And a really disappointing finding in the data for me was that that's totally false. Even if you grow up in a
family at the top 1 percent of the income distribution you go to the best schools in the city of New York. You go to the - you're living in the best
neighborhoods, you're growing up in a two parent family with quite a bit of wealth.
You still see that black boys who grow up in those families have much higher chances of falling down the income ladder than white boys do? So
white boys who grow up in affluent families tend to remain at the top of the income distribution in the next generation? But black men,
unfortunately, end up due to various structural forces falling back down to the middle class or even the bottom of the distribution.
That, I think is quite distressing because often we focus on how can we help kids from disadvantaged neighborhoods rise up. But if we've got this
constant treadmill downward pressure, we're never going to actually narrow black white disparities in the United States. Unless we address the
problems of the black middle class and upper middle class. And figure out how we can help them stay there.
This is one where I think we need to think hard about how we fix that treadmill.
SREENIVASAN: Raj Chetty, thanks so much for joining us.
CHETTY: Thank you, Hari.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
AMANPOUR: And an uphill struggle to be sure. Now before we go we want to tell you about a special interview coming up this week. My conversation
with on of Britain's best loved contemporary artist, Grayson Perry. Who's back with a new expedition here in London.
Perry's art though is also political and he delves into some of the big issues of our time including the importance of empathy. These polarized
days. And he's been shooting a television series about this in the United States. We spoke about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRAYSON PERRY, CONTEMPORARY ARTIST: In this age of polarization and divisions in society. I think we've all got to come to terms and have a bit
of empathy for the other side. You might some of their opinions but nobody is really as black and white as Twitter would make you think. And I've
just been shooting a TV series in the states about these issues. And the minute you talk to anybody all that, you know that Christiane. The minute
you talk to the person, you've got a flesh and blood person in front of you and their nuance and complex and it's difficult.
Because you might like them and yet they hold abhorrent [ph] views and it's tricky. And that's what people need to learn. They need to have a bit of
empathy and make a leap into why, now why do those people vote for Trump?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: That and much more later this week. That's it for now though. Remember you can always listen to our podcast, see us online at
amanpour.com and follow me on Instagram and Twitter. Thanks for watching and good bye from London.