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U.S. Republican Party In Peril; The Future Of Roe v. Wade; China And The Media; Child Care Around The World. Aired 4-5p ET
Aired December 08, 2021 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR. Here's what's coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR (voice-over): The United States, out of step with most democratic allies on abortion, as a Mississippi lawsuit gets the country closer to
overturning Roe v. Wade. Frank discussion with feminist author Katie Roiphe of New York University and Charles Fried, president Ronald Reagan's
And a new report declares China the world's biggest captor of journalists. I speak to a columnist turned activist from "Apple Daily," the Hong Kong
newspaper forced to close.
Then, after 16 years, Germany's first female chancellor, Angela Merkel, passes the torch. A look back at the woman who shaped an era.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLAIRE SUDDATH, SENIOR WRITER, "BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK": In most states, putting a baby in day care for one year, just one baby, costs more than in-
state college tuition.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): The soaring cost of child care in America and no paid parental leave from the government. Hari Sreenivasan exploring this
crisis with Bloomberg columnist Claire Suddath.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone, I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
The United States is preparing for a two-day democracy summit at the end of this week. President Biden will welcome leaders from public and private
life to tackle the greatest threats faced by democracies today.
While some around the globe are saying U.S. should start this effort at home. After all, U.S. states have brought in a slew of voting restrictions
since Biden's election, while the attack on U.S. Capitol remains fresh on many minds at home and abroad.
Right now, another issue shows the U.S. to be at odds with most allies on other fundamentals. The Supreme Court is debating a Mississippi law that
could weaken a woman's right to abortion across the country.
Joining me, feminist author and critic, Katie Roiphe, and President Reagan's former solicitor general, Charles Fried.
Welcome, both of you.
Charles Fried, I want to begin with you, because you've argued this issue before the Supreme Court and you've just written a column in "The New York
Times," where you said, "Once I urged the Supreme Court to overturn Roe. And now I've changed my mind."
Why is that?
CHARLES FRIED, REAGAN ADMINISTRATION SOLICITOR GENERAL: Well, I argued it in 1989. And the government -- that is to say, the Reagan administration --
had never had a chance to put its case before the Supreme Court. Well, that was its chance. And they asked me to do it.
I had no difficulty with that. Back in 1960, I was law clerk to a very great justice, John Marshall Harlan II. And when he had the subject, he had
it as a case in which Connecticut said that the use of contraceptives by a marital couple is a criminal offense.
Well, he wrote an opinion -- it was a dissenting opinion. He wrote an opinion which said, that is an outrage. It is an outrage to the notion that
the state can stick its nose into this most intimate aspect of the marital relationship. That was in 1961.
AMANPOUR: But I guess what I want to know from you, sir, is why, in the fullness of time, having argued for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe, why
you now say publicly you've changed your mind?
And in fact, if it was overturned, you say it would be an act of constitutional vandalism; not conservative but reactionary.
FRIED: Yes, exactly.
FRIED: Well, I'm giving you a little story about how the Constitution and constitutional rights evolve when they do. So from there, no contraception
by married couples. That, in the Griswold case in '64, was struck down.
Then, later, it was expanded by Justice Brennan to say, it's not just married couple; it's anybody. And the state has no right to interfere with
And from there, you got the notion that individual dignity, which is a concept well understood in many Western constitutions -- the German
Constitution speaks of it in terms -- is greatly offended by that kind of intrusion.
From there, the law went on to say many years later, in 2005, that same thing is true with gay sex, that the government has no right to tell people
what to do in that respect and, from there, you got to gay marriage. So that's how constitutional rights evolve.
Well, Roe v. Wade, abortion, is not a matter of privacy; it's a hospital procedure, which involves a doctor. It involves medicine, it involves
operating rooms and so on.
And, therefore, that was a case which was really off the main line of privacy and one where many people thought -- not a majority but many people
thought this is impinging on the rights of a third party, the unborn child.
Well, that was Roe v. Wade. In the Casey case in 1992, three justices -- two appointed by President Reagan, one by President Bush -- joined in an
opinion that said that it is a fundamental aspect of dignity of women to be able to control their own reproductive processes. That was Casey.
And that was a very strong opinion. And it was cited in the gay rights cases, it was cited many times. It was the law. And it had taken roots in
many other things, like for instance -- the gay rights cases, had grown from it --
AMANPOUR: Mr. Fried, can I just ask you to hold that thought --- hold that thought for a minute because I want to bring it to today with Katie Roiphe
and focus right now on what's happening right now.
So I want to ask you then, because obviously what Charles Fried is talking about is the changing and evolving Constitution versus the daily realities.
The U.S., now, we see the latest polls show, there's some 60 percent of Americans asked believe that Roe should be upheld, Roe versus Wade should
What do you think would happen, given all your talk, you know, to young people on campus and all the studying that you do on this, if, indeed, the
Mississippi case goes all the way to really impinging on that right?
KATIE ROIPHE, DIRECTOR, CULTURAL REPORTING AND CRITICISM PROGRAM, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: I think it's very likely now that Roe will be overturned and
it's really quite a shock because even my generation, we have grown up with decades of taking for granted this basic right.
So it's very shocking. And I see my daughter and her friends kind of Googling Roe v. Wade, what is this, because they're suddenly faced with the
reality that this right that they grew up with and took for granted is really seriously imperiled. And it is kind of alarming to see the Supreme
Court seem so out of touch with what a majority of Americans want and believe.
AMANPOUR: Can I just ask you, Mr. Fried, just briefly if you can.
AMANPOUR: Explain to me why you say that overturning Roe would be an act of constitutional vandalism, if you can sum up for me.
FRIED: I said it before a Senate committee 15 years ago. So it's not just now. Because this court is busy on political grounds, tearing up rights by
the roots that have been there for quite a long time -- the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was reenacted over and over and over again, most
recently in 2006, Chief Justice Roberts for the court said, well, that goes behind the board. We don't need it anymore.
Well, you've seen all the voter suppression and all the denials of the right to vote, which have just been piling on since then. So what we have
is a court that is, in case after case and issue after issue, destroying what was, what had been put in, in order to please a small minority --
maybe not a small minority but a minority of its supporters on one politically charged issue after another.
AMANPOUR: OK. Well, then let me, yes, OK, I get that loud and clear now, the way you've described it. So I want to put to both of you, this recent
sound bite by one of the Supreme Court justices, Sonia Sotomayor, who talked about this very issue, about the politicization of the highest court
of the land and what that might do to Americans', you know, credibility in the court. Let's just play this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUSTICE SONYA SOTOMAYOR, U.S. SUPREME COURT: Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception, that the
Constitution and its reading are just political acts?
I don't see how it is possible. It's what Casey talked about when it talked about watershed decisions.
If people actually believe that it's all political, how will we survive?
How will the court survive?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Well, it is the question you just raised, Charles Fried.
And I want to ask you, Katie Roiphe.
How do you think the nation will survive if it just does appear to be one political issue after the other, you know, taken up by the Supreme Court?
ROIPHE: I think it's terrible, especially because I think most of us hold a kind of affection for the Supreme Court, from kind of fifth grade history
class, 10th grade history class. We really believed this was an elegant system devised by our founders that placed the court kind of above the
And I think to believe that, you know, obviously, we see lots of other parts of our government totally paralyzed by partisan fighting and by this
political rage and to see the Supreme Court as part of that, I think, is very crippling.
And I just remember a quote from the conservative justice, Scalia, who said a system of government that makes the people subordinate to a committee of
nonelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy.
AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask you then, because I mentioned at the beginning that the president is hosting a democracy summit for the end of, you know,
this week. And it's been really quite widely advertised.
And yet, we hear and we read that the United States is out of step with much of the democratic world, many of its allies on this particular issue,
on the issue of quote-unquote, "packing the court" of, you know, with a political intent.
And also, as Mary Fitzgerald rights, if Roe falls, the United States will join a small cadre of increasingly authoritarian countries that have become
more restrictive on abortion in recent years.
Charles Fried, what do you make of that, of comparing the United States on this issue with very authoritarian countries -- and we can see it happening
in Poland right now-- on this issue?
FRIED: Well, I think that's a very scary thing and it is not an accident.
FRIED: Because the three justices which Trump put on the court are visibly undermining the authority on the court to rein in an authoritarian
president, if that's what we're going to get in 2024. If we get an authoritarian president in 2024, the court will not be there to protect us.
And that is really too bad.
AMANPOUR: That is really chilling, the way you put it and you speak from a very long perspective and have been, I would say, kind of on the cutting
edge of what many call the culture wars in the United States for decades.
So I want to ask you, Katie Roiphe, because you also, in your recent article for the "FT," kind of expressed an empathy or at least an
understanding for quote-unquote "the other side," the pro-life side as they call themselves.
You quoted the late writer, David Foster Wallace, who said, in my opinion, the only really coherent position is to hold both truisms, to be pro-life
and pro-choice at the same time.
"The basically inarguable soundness of the principle, 'when in irresolvable doubt about whether something is a human being or not is better not to kill
it,' appears to me to require any reasonable American to be pro-life.
"At the same time, however, the principle, when an irresolvable doubt about something I have neither the legal nor the moral right to tell another
person what to do about it, is unavailable part of the democratic pact we Americans all make with one another. And this principle appears to me to
require any reasonable American to be pro-choice."
What do you think he is actually saying, Katie?
Is he saying that each side needs to listen to each other, to dial this down to have some empathy and you can actually hold both those seemingly
opposing views at the same time?
ROIPHE: I think, I found the quote very shocking when I came across it, because it's so not the way we think about things now. We tend to think
those who disagree with us are lunatics or they are evil or they're kind of the scum of the Earth.
The idea that you might take what I call in the piece the best argument of the other side and just think about it, at all, I'm adamantly pro-choice
myself. But I think it is kind of important not to engage in the mob tribalism that I think brought us to this situation, where we have the
Supreme Court we have, where we had Trump elected.
And I think that habit on the Right and on the Left is very toxic and very dangerous. And the David Foster Wallace quote kind of opened a door for me
when I read it, because I did think, what if we did stop for a second and listen to other people and listen to the arguments of the other side
instead of immediately demonizing anyone who thinks differently from us?
AMANPOUR: And of course, you know there will be pushback on that from both sides, as you know, because of the life or rather the era that we're living
through right now.
Charles Fried, we've also posited that if Roe versus Wade is overturned, it may or may not -- well, it will make a massive difference -- but already,
the states are doing their own thing on this and curtailing women's rights to the disadvantage of so many women on this issue.
How do you see this playing out, this Mississippi decision?
FRIED: Well, the thing that frightens me is that it is tied into what is happening politically. Believe it or not, it's related to gerrymandering.
Gerrymandering is something which the Supreme Court has said, that's OK; we can't do anything about that.
That is why you have state legislatures doing things which a majority of their voters don't want done. But a minority is gerrymandered into power.
And the Supreme Court should have put an end to it.
And it didn't. And it didn't because those legislators are all Republicans. They would be voted out. They would not be in control of state after state
after state, because they've got unfair voting systems. And the Supreme Court says, not our department.
Well, if it isn't their department to protect democracy, I don't know what is.
FRIED: And if democracy were protected, first of all, you wouldn't have the justices you have on the court now, because that was a sham, what Mitch
McConnell did to Merrick Garland. And you wouldn't have the legislatures that you have. And I think you wouldn't have the danger of a reappearance
of Donald Trump.
AMANPOUR: Wow. Well --
FRIED: And I have a long perspective. I do have a long perspective, because I was born in Prague in 1935, Czechoslovakia was a real democracy. And the
demons of hell came out and spoiled that for 50 years. Now I see those people are reemerging. I hear the same tunes and it scares me.
AMANPOUR: It's remarkably powerful what you have said. And we're really pleased to have had you on. I'm assuming you're Republican yourself, your
served a Republican president and it's really interesting to hear your perspective.
And yours as well, obviously, Katie Roiphe. Thank you so much. I wish we had more time for this powerful discussion.
And next, to China, which is clearly not a democracy, the advocacy group Reporters without Borders says it is the world's biggest captor of
journalists right now. A major new report says at least 127 are currently detained.
And one of the most high profile cases is Jimmy Lai, the founder of the fiercely independent Hong Kong paper the "Apple Daily," forced to shut down
in June shortly after Lai himself was arrested. It is Lai's 74th birthday today and a Geneva summit for human rights and democracy is bringing back
the paper just for this one day in solidarity.
Joining me now is Glacier Kwong, she's a former columnist for the "Apple Daily" and se is involved in today's activism, I guess you could call that.
Glacier, welcome to the program. You just heard Charles Fried with a full- throated defense of democracy, warning what could happen if we don't take it seriously. Tell me, you're a young woman, fighting on the front lines
today. Tell me what it means to you.
GLACIER KWONG, FORMER COLUMNIST, "APPLE DAILY": For me, fighting for democracy and freedoms in general is simply the right thing to do, for me
in my mind.
Even if you tell me, no matter what I do, I won't be able to return to Hong Kong in the future, I think I'll still make the same decision that I did
and I will continue to make those decisions to try to fight for a better society in Hong Kong, fighting for democracy and freedom because that's the
exactly right thing to do.
And we are supposed to have human rights in the society that we live in.
AMANPOUR: So let's just talk about, then, the decision you took. Basically you left Hong Kong and you are in, I guess, self-imposed exile. You
wouldn't have done had you not felt the heavy hand of authority coming down on you.
I think you were there when Jimmy Lai was arrested or when the "Apple Daily" had to shut down.
KWONG: I was in Hong Kong in 2020 from May to July but the paper was shut down in 2021, which was this year. But I have been writing for them at that
time and it is very terrifying to actually see the paper being shut down in that manner.
Lai was arrested under the national security law, which is a law imposed by the Beijing regime bypassing the city legislature. And watching from afar
is not a very pleasant experience because the paper is actually something that accompanied me since I was very young and played a huge role in Hong
Kong's democratic progress and my activism as well.
I wasn't -- I was -- now -- I'm now living in Germany in self-imposed exile, because of the work that I've done overseas as an activist for Hong
Kong. I initiated a petition in the German parliament last year and I did a hearing regarding that petition in the German parliament.
That actually made me a criminal for offending the national security law because I was colluding with foreign forces, being there in a German
parliament, testifying, asking for amnesty style sanctions against officials that are violating human rights in Hong Kong and China.
And therefore, I had to leave Hong Kong earlier than planned because I was originally in Hong Kong for the primary and the legislative council
election that was supposed to take place in September 2020. So I have to return to Germany earlier in order to be, like, free from political
persecution in Hong Kong.
KWONG: And also to continue my studies here in Germany.
AMANPOUR: All right. Well, let me just read at the moment, the Chinese government responds to all of this and about their national security law.
The Chinese embassy here in London told us, "The national security law for Hong Kong focuses on cracking down on a handful of anti-China destabilizing
forces that have seriously endangered national security.
"Jimmy Lai and a small group of anti-China elements sought to create chaos and colluded with external forces in acts and activities that jeopardize
China's national security in Hong Kong. He is duly brought in to justice in accordance with law."
What's your response to this?
KWONG: First of all, we are not anti-China. We are anti-authoritarianism, which is the Beijing regime in general. And what we are doing are not
jeopardizing anything. We are trying to bring democracy and freedom to Hong Kong and, if possible, even to China, because that's fundamental human
rights that everybody should enjoy.
And we are trying to end the crackdown of the Beijing regime on Hong Kong civil society and on Hong Kong's people because we are promised by China
and Britain in the joint declaration that Hong Kong will have universal suffrage. And we will enjoy genuine democracy. But that didn't happen at
Instead, we have crowd crackdowns, we have had Beijing tighten its grip over Hong Kong. So my response would be we are simply asking China and
Britain to uphold their promises to Hong Kong; that is, ensuring genuine democracy and genuine universal suffrage in Hong Kong.
So I don't see that is jeopardizing anything because it's just a promise that China has made.
AMANPOUR: Well, as you know, better than I do, some of the pro-democracy activists who are in jail and who are speaking from behind bars or getting
messages out, are urging Hong Kong residents not to take part in what they call sham elections, due shortly. They're urging them not to take part.
And we also read that Jimmy Lai and the others, not just journalists but the prodemocracy activists, who are in jail, are being warmly treated by
the population. They're doing their best to write letters. There are campaigns to tell the prisoners that they're not alone.
How much support do you think they have amongst the Hong Kong people in general?
KWONG: They actually have all of our support that we can offer. Like this campaign organized by the Geneva summit for human rights and democracy,
writing letters to Jimmy Lai or, in general, there are other campaigns held by other groups locally in Hong Kong to ask people to continuously write to
political prisoners because we all know that, from my observation and from many other human rights fighters, the point of this is to make sure that
they don't feel that they're being forgotten because it's so easily for the regime to just silence them from, like, when they're behind bars so that
they don't receive any support or they cannot get their words out.
But knowing that the world still cares for them or having people continuously write to them makes them feel supported and no one is
forgetting them. And on the other hand, because the political movement has to be seen to be meaningful, having a campaign like this, having activists
all around the world publicly sharing messages to Lai and for Hong Kongers actually means a lot, because being visible is actually being like greatly
supported and putting these people, political prisoners, in the spotlight so that they would receive better treatments.
AMANPOUR: So let me ask you then about Carrie Lam, the chief executive, who was elected and then essentially enacted and did the crackdown that
Mainland China or the party demanded.
She seems to be emboldened by what's going on. I want to get your take on an interview she did with the "South China Morning Post" about a month ago.
Here is what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARRIE LAM, HONG KONG CHIEF EXECUTIVE: I saw one or two articles, now described. What that experience has turned Carrie Lam into, they used this
word, which I love it. They said Carrie Lam has been steeled by the 2019 experience.
I'm stronger. I can now take whatever challenges that come my way, whatever personal hiccups that come my way because, over that period, I cannot tell
you how painful and how difficult and how worried I was, sitting here as the chief executive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So what do you make of that?
She obviously says that the new national security law has brought more stability to Hong Kong.
What do you make of that and the fact that she makes such a personal view of how it's affected her and how she's come out stronger?
KWONG: I think, first of all, I'd have to emphasize the point that Carrie Lam was never democratically elected. She was basically hand-picked by
KWONG: And then voted for by a group of people also hand-picked by Beijing so she doesn't have any mandate to represent Hong Kongers at all. And I
feel upset hearing her saying that the whole experience of 2019 made her stronger.
Because she claimed like to be the mother of all Hong Kong youngsters. But the way she treated us, basically have police, like beating up, people who
were being arrested, she, under her rule, police firing tear gas, using real ammunitions against youngsters in Hong Kong.
I really don't see how motherly is that. And she's branding herself to be the loving mother and trying to restore peace and stability in Hong Kong
when (INAUDIBLE) crackdown.
The reason why she can claim Hong Kong is now in stability again is that she basically lock up everyone who has an opinion against the Beijing
regime. And this is not how a democratic society should work and this is not how Hong Kong should ever be.
Hong Kong should enjoy high autonomy and we should have universal suffrage and freedom of expression should be allowed. Locking up everyone who dares
say anything against it is not restoring stability. That's called authoritarianism crackdown.
AMANPOUR: It's important to get your perspective, particularly as we're focusing, trying to prop up democracy, as President Biden is trying to do
at this particular time. Glacier Kwong, thank you very much for joining us.
With Hong Kong and United States at critical junctures, Europe is saying goodbye to its strongest democracy defender. Today, Angela Merkel
officially stepped down as Germany's chancellor after 16 years in power.
Before lawmakers voted to confirm her successor, they cheered her with a standing ovation that lasted nearly a minute.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR (voice-over): It underscores the gratitude many Germans feel toward Merkel, who made democracy and human rights the hallmarks of her
leadership. When we spoke back in 2019, I asked her about those values. At the time, the dark forces of nationalism and anti-Semitism were once again
rising in Germany.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANGELA MERKEL, FORMER CHANCELLOR OF GERMANY (through translator): We have to face up indeed to the specters of the past, we have to tell our young
people what history has brought over us and others and these horrors, why we are for democracy, why we try to bring about solutions, why we always
have to put ourselves in the other person's shoes.
Why we stand up against intolerance, why we show no tolerance toward violations of human rights, why Article 1 of our basic law, human dignity,
is inviolable, is so fundamental to us. It has to be taught to every new generation. And, you're quite right, the task has become harder but it
needs to be done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Getting the task done became Merkel's calling card. She was the continent's crisis manager, known for her steady hand, level head and
compassion, as correspondent Fred Pleitgen reports on her legacy now.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A farewell with the highest military honors. After more than 16 years in
office, Angela Merkel received the so-called Grand Tattoo ceremony of Germany's armed forces, a changing of the guard in German politics.
ANGELA MERKEL, FORMER CHANCELLOR OF GERMANY (through translator): It is now up to the next government to find answers to the challenges that lie ahead
of us and to shape our future.
For that, dear Olaf Scholz, I wish you and the German government, led by you, all the very best, good fortune and best of success. I'm convinced
that we can continue to shape the future well if we don't succumb to discontent, envy and pessimism. Like I said elsewhere four years ago, get
to work with joy in our heart.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): It's the end of a political career that was never easy for Angela Merkel, often belittled in the male-dominated world of
German conservative politics.
"Mein Madchen," "my girl," is what legendary German chancellor Helmut Kohl called Angela Merkel as she rose through the party ranks.
Ralph Bollmann, who wrote the authoritative Merkel biography, says many rivals mistakenly failed to take her seriously enough.
RALPH BOLLMANN, AUTHOR: When they realized that a woman from the East is able to play this game of power, it was, too late, of course for them.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): When Angela Merkel became Germany's first female chancellor in 2005, her style was completely different than previous
chancellors: calm, quiet and reserved.
But what Merkel lacked in fiery rhetoric she made up for as a crisis manager, both during the Lehman collapse in 2008 and the Greek debt crisis
PLEITGEN (voice-over): She took bold action to prop up the German economy and ailing E.U. member states, possibly saving the single currency, the
MERKEL (through translator): Europe will pay if the euro fails and Europe will win if the euro wins.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): Arguably, Angela Merkel's biggest hour came in 2015, as hundreds of thousands of refugees, mostly displaced by the Syrian civil
war, were literally on the E.U.'s doorstep, seeking shelter. Angela Merkel led the E.U. as it opened its gates, taking in well over a million people.
MERKEL (through translator): We have achieved so much, we'll manage this and, wherever something gets in the way, we will overcome it.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): But integration of the refugees proved more difficult, giving rise to nationalist forces in Germany.
While Angela Merkel did manage to win a fourth term in 2017, her popularity was waning and she announced she would not seek a fifth one. Still, the
challenges kept coming, with the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president in 2016 and Trump's alienation of many of the U.S.' allies.
Merkel, a quantum chemist, often appeared stunned by some of the U.S. president's remarks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have German in my blood. I'll be there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PLEITGEN (voice-over): Angela Merkel led Germany through the coronavirus pandemic but her party's support collapsed in the final months of her
Her Christian Democratic Party lost the 2021 elections, paving the way for a Social Democratic-led government, which will take power after Angela
Merkel's final political goodbye.
AMANPOUR: Fred Pleitgen reporting there.
Perhaps her legacy also is, in that election, immigration was not a major factor. Earlier we discussed the watershed moment for abortion rights in
the U.S. A related issue is child care in America, which many parents recognize as dysfunctional.
Only 40 percent of 3-year-olds are in preschool in the United States, compared to over 90 percent in countries like France, Germany, South Korea,
and the U.K. "Bloomberg Businessweek's" senior writer, Claire Suddath, has examined why
this is the case in her recent piece.
It's called, "How Child Care Became the Most Broken Business in America."
Here, she's speaking to Hari Sreenivasan about her findings and how U.S. leadership should address the crisis.
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN HOST: Christiane, thanks.
Claire Suddath, thanks for joining us.
Did the pandemic make things worse in the context of child care or did it reveal how dysfunctional our existing infrastructure is?
SUDDATH: I think both. Things were kind of a hot mess to begin with. And then it made it immeasurably worse. But in doing that, it happened so
suddenly. The pandemic lasting for so long. But if you think back to 2020, our lives were upended in a matter of days or weeks.
And in doing that, the sudden shift is what made people realize, oh, we actually need child care for our economy to function.
SREENIVASAN: There were attempts by the federal government to ease the burden on parents. From your perspective, from the money going out to
parents, how much of the costs did it cover?
How significant are child care costs today?
SUDDATH: It's so expensive, so very expensive, the number or the fact that jumped out at me researching this, in most states, putting a baby in day
care for one year, costs more than in-state college tuition.
So if you think about people early on in their careers, you know, you're having children in their 20s and 30s.
And you're essentially going to pay college tuition in order to keep working?
That's sort of where we were before the pandemic. Infant care in some parts of the country is over $20,000 a year, about 13 percent of the average two-
parent household income, with both working parents.
Single parents are paying like 36 percent of their income, which is such a large number that you start to wonder, well, how are you affording rent,
health care, you know, groceries.
And the answer is that they're not. So the money that went to sort of shore up the industry in these various COVID-19 relief bills is mostly, actually,
for providers, because providers are struggling as well.
But I think when you tally it up, it was about $53 billion. But all total, it wasn't that much compared to other industries. The CARES Act gave more
money to Delta Air Lines, that one company, than the entire child care industry as a whole.
SUDDATH: And one in 55 working women in the U.S. works in early education child care. So one in 55 working woman in the U.S. getting not as much at
Delta Air Lines. It was not enough.
SREENIVASAN: How do other countries deal with this and what kinds of advantage or disadvantage does that put us in?
SUDDATH: Most other countries have some sort of subsidy program in place or a government run system. I think the gold standard, when I talk to anyone
in early education or child care, always points to France. They're like, France is the best. We wish we had what France has.
And France has an incredibly comprehensive both child care program and early education program. It starts when a baby is about three months old,
because women in France get maternity leave fully paid.
So at three months, there is what's called a crush (ph) system, a government run program, essentially child care or day care. And it goes
until a child is about three years old then they enter preschool and continue on through school.
It's not perfect obviously. If you talk to someone who lives in France, they have plenty of complaints. If you live in a place like Paris, there
aren't enough spots for children. If you get a spot and the government runs crush (ph), that's paid for.
But if you don't get one and you have to go the private route, you pay out of pocket and you get a huge percentage of that back from the government.
People who I talk to who actually live in France have said, you know, being a parent is stressful in every country. There's not a great solution to the
parenting work/life balance. But the one thing they don't worry about is actually affording child care. That's off the table for them.
I talk to a woman; she and her husband pay a few hundred dollars a month for child care; whereas, I'm in New York and paying, you know, $2,000-
$3,000 a month.
SREENIVASAN: Right now, there are efforts underway in the Build Back Better act to try to address some of this. Is it -- first of all, we don't know
whether it will make it through and in what form.
But of what is proposed today, what kind of impact would that have?
SUDDATH: That is a huge question and I think the answer to that depends on what exactly is passed and how it is adopted and what state you live in,
essentially, because I think the most important thing to understand about the child care provisions within the Build Back Better act is it's not
creating a whole new federal system from scratch.
All it's doing is making money available to states, should they decide to opt into the program and, you know, try to fix child care on their own,
which is a really big ask, because it's an incredibly complex problem.
But also, you know, we have 12 states in this country that still have not expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. And I think you might
expect something like that to happen with child care, where some states lock into it, some states will fix it, others might not quite get it right
and others might not do it at all.
So you'll end up with a really patchwork system and the success rate really will depend on, you know, if states can get their act together.
SREENIVASAN: Best case scenario, let's say everything that the administration is asking for in terms of money toward child care gets
Then are we still likely to have the equivalent of a patchwork of states, doing different things?
SUDDATH: I think, you know, the Build Back Better Act has a bunch of points in it, saying if you are a state and you want this money, these are the
things you have to do. The ones getting the most media attention and biggest gamechangers are, you know, bringing down costs for parents, making
child care completely free for low-income families, capping it at about 7 percent of the parents' income, given parameters.
And then also really raising those wages of caregivers and offering them a living wage. The issue with doing this is it doesn't quite explain how a
state should make this happen. So you know, there's wording in there, that a state should provide sufficient resources to providers to be able to
raise their employees' wages.
But the thing is, every state has a low-income subsidy program for child care that exists today. And, yes, it's chronically underfunded and only 14
percent of people who even qualify for it get any money at all. But there are guidelines.
SUDDATH: And you have to do certain things as a state. And only two states actually meet those federal guidelines.
You're supposed to reimburse families at 75 percent of child care costs. But most of them are reimbursing at 50 percent, sometimes as low as 25
percent because there's not a mechanism in place to hold states accountable.
And it's not clear to me, if you make more requirements of states, how do we know they're going to get this right?
SREENIVASAN: So what's been the resistance to try and increase funding for child care?
Is there a concern that we're lavishly subsidizing an industry?
What's the profit margin on this industry?
SUDDATH: I think the most important thing to understand about child care, it's so expensive because, in order to offer good, quality child care, it
has to be that expensive. So, you know, every state has requirements to be a licensed caregiving facility.
And they vary from state to state. But the most I would say, the most expensive is for infants, children 2 and under. Every state requires one
caregiver for every three to four infants. And the reason for that is pretty obvious, if you've ever had a baby.
Like babies need constant attention. At about 3 or 4 babies that's much as you can watch with your actual eyes at any time but that's an incredibly
labor-intensive job. If you watch babies, if you're a child care business, you have to hire an awful lot of people.
So even if families paying $20,000 a year and you have the average caregiver in the U.S. makes about $20,000 a year. I talked to one woman in
Portland who runs child care facilities and she says, when she interviews people for jobs, she's wanting people who are really passionate about this
because she tells them, if you can go make more money being a barista at Starbucks, you should do that because you need to do this because you love
Even with the low wages, the U.S. Treasury a few months ago released a report looking at the industry and why it's in the state that it's in and
found that the average child care business is only making a 1 percent profit margin. And that's before the pandemic.
So like, they entered into all of this, being shuttered for months, people pulling their children out of their facilities and therefore not paying
them. It's like 1 percent wiggle room. That's why, when you see these stories about a third of child care providers closed during the pandemic,
it's because they just couldn't make the numbers work.
SREENIVASAN: One of the stats that jumped out at me from your story was that, today, 70 percent, almost 70 percent of children under 6 in the U.S.
live in a home where all available adults work. I mean the scale of this is so enormous when it comes to how people figure out, lucky, perhaps, if they
have a relative, a grandparent who might be able to pinch hit. But this is something that most American families are facing.
SUDDATH: Yes. You know, I think a lot of times in the past, the discussion and, even now, it's oftentimes about women working. And that is a perfectly
reasonable and a discussion we should be having.
But also look at it from the other perspective of the children and say 70 percent of kids need someone to look after them. And if we don't have
affordable options for their parents and caregivers and families, whoever is taking care of them, then those kids are going to be put in situations
that are not ideal.
I talked to parents for this article about what you do when you literally cannot afford child care. And that doesn't mean you don't get child care;
it means that you get cheap child care.
So I talked to one woman, who, you know, she was a single mom and going to law school when her son was two. And she looked at day cares and it was
$1,200 a month or something like that.
So she looked and found a Craigslist ad for a woman who watched children in the home for $100 a week and said, OK, yes, I can do that. So she sent her
kids to this woman's home and everything was fine, seemingly, for a while.
Then one day her son came home and said the woman had hit him. So obviously she pulled him out. And her story continues from there but, you know,
that's what we're talking about, is people need child care.
SUDDATH: And the lack of affordable child care doesn't just keep parents from working but it keeps kids from having access to that early education.
And even with just, you know, kind care that children with parents do have money, you know, have.
SREENIVASAN: When you talk about these small businesses, often small businesses that are day care centers and child care centers, you point out
that 95 percent of these are owned or employed by women: 40 percent are women of color.
Do you think this plays a role in how we think of child care policies?
SUDDATH: Oh, certainly. I mean one thing I didn't know before I started researching this was every child care provider I talked to was a woman. And
also, she was a woman who went into child care and opened her own business because she herself was pressed out of child care with her own children.
You know, there were women who were teachers or something like that and just didn't make enough money. Their paychecks weren't big enough to cover
their own costs of child care but they thought, I work with kids, I'll open my own business.
I even talked to a woman who was 20 years into a career in the music industry but she had two kids and was looking at over $45,000 a year. She
also was working with kids and though, you know what, I'll just do this myself.
Not to say it's easy but this is an industry of woman price out of other industries, trying to make it so they can care for other women's children
so that those women can work and, like you said, 40 percent are women of color, many of them are new to this country, maybe English is not their
These are not people that have the ear of a senator who can get them, to listen to them in the way that an airline industry, coal industry can do.
Obviously, there are national organizations but these are not people with a ton of political clout.
SREENIVASAN: Finally, I also wonder about how much of this, like everything else these days, has been politicized.
SUDDATH: Yes, this has been politicized now but it has been for, you know, as long as we've had politicians essentially. You know, I think when this
really started becoming part of the national conversation, first of all, was during World War II, when women entered the workforce in unprecedented
And because there wasn't this bias against working women at the time, because this was your patriotic duty and you're the Rosie the Riveter and
you're going to save America, Congress got its act together and passed the land mack (ph), which, starting in 1942, create I think a little bit over
3,000 federally subsidized day care centers in the U.S. for women who were working in factories and other wartime jobs.
And they were federally subsidized but locally administered so they could be tailored to people's needs. But those places only existed for 2.5 years
because as soon as the war ended, the funds were withdrawn and all the centers closed.
But women didn't leave the workforce and stop working again. They continued over the decades to just enter the workforce in ever-growing numbers. And
even as early as 1960, the commissioner for the Bureau of Labor Statistics, he gave a speech at a conference and sort of laid out the facts.
He was like, you know, women are not only a growing part of our workforce but they are a permanent part of our workforce and if we don't do anything
about what he called the day care problem at the time, we will find ourselves in deeper trouble by 1970, is what he was looking at.
Obviously, we didn't do anything, so by 1970, it was bad. Then we didn't do anything again and it has gotten worse. And here we are in 2021 and we're
still talking about it.
SREENIVASAN: Claire Suddath, thank you so much for joining us.
SUDDATH: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Just to note, yesterday on the program, we aired a segment on the opioid crisis in the U.S.. Afterward, we read out the Sackler family
position. However, erroneously, we said their lawyers hadn't got back to us.
For the record, they did get back to us, pointing us to a previous statement, which we did in fact reference as follows.
The Sackler family has apologized for OxyContin's role in the opioid epidemic and the suffering caused.
And finally, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. The prehistoric are getting into the festive spirit at London's Natural History Museum with
this animatronic T-Rex, wearing a Christmas sweater made from recycled cotton and plastic bottles. The handknitted affair took over 100 hours to
make and will be keeping the dinosaur warm until Christmas Eve.
AMANPOUR: While over in Germany, one couple just set a world record for the most Christmas trees in one place, 444 trees deck the halls of their home.
And with 10,000 Christmas balls and 300 strings of lights, no two are quite the same.
And on that twinkly note, that's it for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast and across social media. Thanks for watching and
goodbye from London.