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Baby Bonds; Press Freedom Under Fire; Internal Russian Blame Game; Interview with Economist and The New School Economics and Urban Studies Professor Darrick Hamilton; Interview with Lincoln Project Co-Founder Rick Wilson. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired April 29, 2022 - 13:00:00   ET




Here's what's coming up.


JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: Ukrainians are fighting back hard and making it hard for them to make any progress.

GOLODRYGA (voice-over): As Vladimir Putin tries to choke off Ukraine's southeast, I speak to top Russian investigative journalist Andrei Soldatov

about the vicious blame game erupting among Putin's security forces.

And from China to Brazil, how governments used COVID as a pretense to expand censorship. Press freedom advocate Joel Simon joins me with a look

at his book "The Infodemic."


GOLODRYGA: Are babies key to closing America's racial wealth gap? Economist Darrick Hamilton on baby bonds and how his big idea is gaining

traction across America.

Plus, one-time-Republican-strategist-turned-Trump critic Rick Wilson talks to Michel Martin about how Florida became ground zero for culture wars.


GOLODRYGA: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour, who will be back next week.

Vladimir Putin is doubling down on Ukraine's Donbass region. And the Pentagon says Moscow's shift in strategy may be working for them. Spokesman

John Kirby tells CNN that the U.S. sees Russian forces are making incremental progress in the area, though the Ukrainians are still putting

up a good fight.

Now, these apparent advances on the battlefield come after Putin's initial assault on the north two months ago was blunted by the Ukrainians in a show

of force that surprised the world.

Andrei Soldatov is a Russian investigative journalist who has been taking a close look at the Russian failures and the blame game that has followed.

And he joins me now from London.

Andrei, great to see you.

Every time you write a piece, it has my attention, because you have so much insight into the inner workings there within the Kremlin. And what's

interesting about your latest piece is that you begin by acknowledging that, after the -- February 24, after Russia's invasion, your sources went

silent inside the Kremlin, and you were worried that you might not hear from them.

Recently, you have started to hear from them again. What are they telling you? And why are they reaching out now?

ANDREI SOLDATOV, RUSSIAN INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Yes, it was really surprising for me that now they decided to get back.

And it looks like now lots of people inside of the military and also inside of the security services, they feel quite unhappy with the new military

strategy adopted by Vladimir Putin in Ukraine.

And it's not like they feel that we need to stop the war. Quite on the contrary, they believe that actually what they have in Ukraine is a big war

with NATO, and the Russian army, still a peacetime army, which had some restraints, and that is why they think that the best option is to start an

all-out war.

GOLODRYGA: I'm just curious.

Given all of the numbers that U.S. intelligence, Western intelligence has been able to deduce in terms of Russian losses -- we're talking more than

20,000 at least, and the casualties much larger than that -- given their setbacks, why would those it within his inner circle, within the military

there say that, actually, the next step should be going in deeper?

SOLDATOV: Well, I think that one of the explanations is this feeling of humiliation.

They never expected to be defeated by the Ukrainian army. So, now the new explanation of this defeat and of all these setbacks is that actually they

are not facing a Ukrainian army, they are facing NATO in Ukraine.

And that is why, if they pick up fight with NATO, they need to make it really serious. And they need to have some -- to have some damage, at

least, on NATO and on Ukraine.

GOLODRYGA: That's why it's no surprise that, when you watch Russian state media, this is the narrative that you hear there, that any sort of

setbacks, the loss of the battleship Moskva, all of this, the only explanation for it is that not that Russia is fighting Ukraine, but it's

Russia is fighting NATO and all of NATO's forces.

And so it's interesting to see the connection between the two. It's no coincidence.

I think a lot of people that have been watching the Kremlin closely have been paying close attention to the siloviki, that inner circle of Vladimir

Putin, especially over the last few years since he's become more isolated and spending more time now clearly, we know, planning for this war and

isolating himself, with people like Alexander Bortnikov, who is the head of the FSB, and the SVR head -- that's Russia's foreign intelligence -- Sergey

Naryshkin, and, obviously the defense chief, Shoigu, Sergei Shoigu.


You note in your latest piece that there seems to be some blame going at the FSB, not the military, but the FSB. Why are people pointing the fingers

at FSB right now?

SOLDATOV: Well, the FSB is primarily a domestic counterterrorism, counterintelligence service.

But it also has a special department. And this department is in charge of spying in the former Soviet Union, which includes Ukraine. So, the FSB was

in charge of providing intelligence about the political and military situation in Ukraine.

So, that is why lots of people in the military who feel unhappy, they chose to blame the FSB for misinforming the Russian president.

GOLODRYGA: I was following somebody who watches this space, a defense expert, on Twitter, and writes for "The Economist."

And he tweeted today that his Western sources have been telling him that we are seeing an awful lot of Russian forces using quite antiquated mapping,

in some cases using mapping from the 1970s, which, of course, doesn't in any way represent the sort of target set that they're attempting to

prosecute in Ukraine.

That's just one example of why Russia hasn't been able to take over more territory and be more successful, even as they are making slowly

incremental inroads there in the east. Given that, why isn't there more blame placed on Sergei Shoigu? And that is the defense minister.

SOLDATOV: That is a very interesting question.

I have been trying to ask these questions and asking my contacts, but it looks like nobody wants to criticize him, maybe because Shoigu is seen as a

-- not only as the public face of the war, but also as someone who invested a lot into the military. He raised salaries for the military. He's in

charge of all these financial incentives to -- actually to join the army.

So he's still very popular. That is why they think that's the best option is to blame someone from outside, someone likes the FSB.

GOLODRYGA: There have been reports that some within the inner circle, within the siloviki, have actually been jailed. Can you clarify the

validity of those reports?

SOLDATOV: Yes, we have at least one guy who was the chief of the Fifth Service of the FSB.

And Fifth is a department which is in charge of espionage operations in Ukraine. He was first placed under house arrest. But two weeks ago, he was

transferred to the Lefortovo prison. And this prison is very famous.

GOLODRYGA: Notorious, yes.


It was a place of mass shootings back in the 1940s, 1930s. They still have a cell with holes from these mass shootings.

GOLODRYGA: You know, it's interesting, because, as people are trying to get a sense of what's happening inside the Kremlin, what is Vladimir Putin

thinking, what does he know, how aware is he, according to your sources, of the day-to-day operations, of their losses thus far?

Because I have a hard time, believing especially given some of the press conferences he's given. He's laid out specific details, talking about

Bucha, for example, and denying that there was any genocide there or war crimes committed. I have a hard time believing that he is completely

unaware of what's happening. Am I wrong?

SOLDATOV: No, you're not.

Actually, the Russian military has a very long tradition of lying to the president. And it was at the beginning of the 2000s about the situation in

Chechnya. It was about Georgia. It was about everything about corruption in the Russian military.

And the problem is that Vladimir Putin thinks that he can solve this problem with bad intelligence and bad information coming from the military

by actually arresting people. And it's not the way, because people just think that now they need to think even more how to please Vladimir Putin

and how to give him what he actually expects them -- to expects him -- them to say.

GOLODRYGA: Thinking about what happens next and what the next steps are, there was a very alarming headline from a Russian general earlier this week

that said that their ambitions, that Russia's ambitions go beyond just the east and Donbass and even the south -- southern part of the country, but go

all the way, choking off all port access from Odessa all the way through Moldova, which is neighboring Ukraine to the west, and into Transnistria,

that disputed territory there where there are some 1,500 Russian soldiers that have been stationed there for decades.

How real is that possibility that Putin's plans extend beyond just Ukraine and into neighboring Moldova?


SOLDATOV: Yes, it's -- I was really surprised when I heard of his statement.

The problem is that this general, he's actually not in position to make such a big announcement. He's a general, but he made this announcement at

some low-level meeting. And, immediately, it was picked up by the Russian state media.

So it seems that his statement reflected some ambitions of the military. But the problem here that we know, and while it's a big and long history

here, that Vladimir Putin loves to escalate when he finds himself in a problem.

And his usual way to escalate is to expand the conflict.

GOLODRYGA: So, on that ominous note, at this point, given that he's crossed such a Rubicon, right, where, in the past, he liked being a global

leader on the international stage, now you have the United States saying by no way should he know -- no means should he be attending the G20.

I mean, his future as a world leader has changed, at least in the eyes of many Western countries. What's to stop him, then, from escalating to the

point of using chemical weapons, perhaps a tactical nuclear weapon?

SOLDATOV: Well, it looks like right now he thinks that he's still has control of the situation. He has a plan. He believes that he might achieve

something before the 9th of May, which is a big day in Russia. It's a day of the military parade on the red Square.

The problem is that nobody knows, and maybe even for Vladimir Putin, it's a problem, what come next, what might happen after this big celebration if,

say, he fails to achieve his big victory. And it's a big question and it's a very, very worrying situation.

GOLODRYGA: Andrei, let me ask you finally.

He can, in theory, stay in power now. There's an election, a -- quote, unquote -- "election" in 2024, right? But he can, in theory, stay in power

for the rest of his life, at least until 2036. Has this war and some of the setbacks and the atrocities that we have seen in the wake of the war, has

it threatened his role as the country's leader in any way?


I would say that, right now, people are trying to adjust in Moscow and in regions to the new situation. And, also, there is a climate of fear. We

have some new repressions attacking people. And, also, the Kremlin is quite smart.

When they have some troublemakers, they just push them out of the country. They also started imprisoning people. So you have this climate of fear. The

problem is that it's really difficult to assess the situation right now and how stable it is, because the sanctions imposed by the West, they didn't

hit yet the situation in Russia.

So maybe we need to wait for a month or two to understand what it might look like, like, in few months.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, economists predict up to a 10 percent decline in GDP growth for the year, though you can't compare that with the 45 percent GDP

decline now that's predicted for Ukraine, given everything that Vladimir Putin is unleashing upon that country.

Andrei Soldatov, always great to have you on. Thank you for your important reporting.

SOLDATOV: Thank you.

GOLODRYGA: We appreciate it.

So, while the Kremlin has a long history of flooding the zone with misinformation, the COVID pandemic has given a lot of governments an excuse

to spin the truth and churn out lies.

Joel Simon, known for his work as the former head of the Committee to Protect Journalists, took a deep dive into what he calls this new modern

brand of censorship. His new book is called "The Infodemic."

And he joins me now.

Joel, thank you so much. Very timely to have you on right now.

What is the substance behind the book, the reason why you decided to delve into infodemic wars?

JOEL SIMON, AUTHOR, "THE INFODEMIC": Well, the reason was that, along with my co-author and colleague, Robert Mahoney, we were at the Committee to

Protect Journalists.

And we were looking when the pandemic began at what was happening around the world. And we have seen -- we saw a lot of bad stuff in our time

together at CPJ, but we never saw a wave of censorship that was so pervasive and so uniform in nearly every country around the world, because

nearly every country wanted to suppress or manage the news about the pandemic for a variety of reasons.

They wanted -- they wanted to avoid taking the necessary steps to protect public health. They wanted to cover up their own incompetence. They wanted

to control the narrative. So, the pandemic was born in censorship in Wuhan, and that censorship spread around the world, along with the disease.


And we got a warning early on into the pandemic from the head of the WHO, who said, we're not just fighting an epidemic. We're fighting an infodemic.

And there had been concerned that misinformation about the pandemic could risk lives or across the world.


But there are many authoritarian countries and leadership that use this as a premise for clamping down on censorship that was already unfolding in

their country.

You follow a citizen journalist in China, Chen Qiushi, on his efforts to initially tell his fellow country men and women about the pandemic. Talk

about his plight.

SIMON: He's an incredible individual.

He's a lawyer who grew up in a small isolated town in Northern China, but was just sort of consumed with a desire to inform people. He sort of caught

the journalism bug. First, he traveled to Hong Kong, what was -- to document what was happening there using social media channels, but then he

was booted off of all the social media channels in China.

Nevertheless, when the pandemic started in Wuhan, he caught the last trade to that city. He felt he had an obligation to do that. And he believed

that, by informing the Chinese public and the global public, he could help China and the world respond to this terrible disease.

And he wandered through the city, using sort of improvised protective devices, using his phone, sharing videos on YouTube and via Twitter. And

this was an incredible source of independent information for a couple of weeks, until the Chinese government got wind of what he was doing. And they

eventually arrested him.

We still don't know all the details. They held him for months. They made -- he wasn't the only blogger they went after. There were a few sources of

independent information at the beginning of the pandemic. But, eventually, the Chinese government not only imposed and strengthened and deepened its

censorship inside the country.

Its message that the only way to contain the pandemic was also to control information spread to authoritarian countries, which cracked down, from

Iran, to Russia, to Nicaragua. So many countries around the world cracked down on inflammation as the pandemic spread.

GOLODRYGA: And, for a while, it seemed to work for China, right? They were able to look at other Western countries, democracies, the United States,

and saw the high death rate, saw the amount of misinformation out there on social media, and China was able to say, here's an alternative.

SIMON: Right.

GOLODRYGA: Here's a different model, that, while we may control some of what you publish and some of what you read, we know what's best for you,

because we're keeping you alive.

I'm just wondering. Talk about the arc of that model two-and-a-half years later, where you're starting to see lockdowns again having significant

ramifications in the country's largest city, like Shanghai, now concerned about the same happening in Beijing because of their zero COVID policy, but

also because of these type of crackdowns too on misinformation or public information that they just don't want people to know.

SIMON: Yes, I mean, I want to reference your last guest, Andrei Soldatov, who I was speaking with recently.

He told me that COVID was a gift to Putin, because it allowed Putin to crackdown on dissent within Russia under the guise of protecting public

health. Well, the same model sort of happened in China. This is an authoritarian state which already has one of the most advanced and

sophisticated systems of surveillance within the world, including -- in the world, including mass facial recognition.

Well, they took those resources and applied it to controlling movements and activities of -- and communication of this massive population. And it

worked for a little while, but the dynamic there is similar to the one in Russia. Nobody wants to tell the Chinese Communist Party the truth, which

is that this strategy is no longer working.

It's reached its logical conclusion. Locking down 25 million people in Shanghai, I mean, Beijing may be next, and people are really starting to

push back against this system of control. Whether -- how that dynamic plays out in the long term, nobody knows.

But this is a pretty significant challenge for an authoritarian government, which is used to maintaining very, very strict control over the population.

GOLODRYGA: And we should note to viewers, while you focus on countries like China, authoritarian countries -- we mentioned Russia as well -- you

do talk about democracies in the world and those who have also had their struggle with infodemics here and a government, however corrupt, but still

a democracy, like Brazil which had a different impact on how Brazilian people dealt with COVID.

And you saw the consequences there, millions of deaths in that country. Talk about the case in Brazil in particular.



Well, I think what's interesting is, you have to think about, what is the intent of government censorship? It is to control the narrative, to impose

a certain version of reality.

Well, we live at a time when it's not information that's scarce. It's attention. So, if governments can monopolize the attention, they can impose

a kind of censorship through noise. And what we saw in Brazil was actually kind of interesting. I talked to the Brazilian health minister, Luiz

Henrique Mandetta, who was kind of sometimes called the Fauci of Brazil, and led this information insurgency against the Bolsonaro government, which

tried to deny the threat of COVID.

And he told me that he thought that Donald Trump and Bolsonaro sort of coalesced around a disinformation strategy at the Mar-a-Lago dinner that

Trump hosted on March 8, in which they hyped these miracle cures, hydroxychloroquine, blamed China and then pushed decision-making down to

the local and state level, while they denied the public health threats and advocated keeping the country open.

And this had an enormous impact on democracy in Brazil, on public health. And Brazilian democracy was already fragile. There's an election coming up

there. Bolsonaro, like Trump, has indicated that, if he loses, it's going to be by fraud. So he has set the stage for something very dramatic in that


And a lot of people are concerned about the future of Brazil's democracy.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, listen, Joel, it's a very important fascinating book. And it's not just reflective on what's happened in the past. You do offer some

solutions and ideas as to how to fix the infodemic wars and all of the fabricated stories out there and the censorship, in light of perhaps other

pandemics that we may have in crises going forward.

Thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

SIMON: Thank you so much for having me.

GOLODRYGA: Well, next we turn to the United States and this nagging question: Why hasn't the racial wealth gap significantly narrowed in

nearly 40 years?

The typical white family has eight times the wealth of their black counterparts, and, too often, people of color are unfairly blamed for lack

of progress.

Well, enter economist Darrick Hamilton and his idea for so-called baby bonds. It's a trust fund for every child set up by the federal government,

and its value could rise upwards of $50,000. But there would be some strings attached. The money has to be spent on an asset-enhancing endeavor,

like a down payment on a house or a college education.

Hamilton joined Christiane to discuss his passionate and personal fight for economic justice.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Darrick Hamilton, welcome to the program.

HAMILTON: Thank you. It's my pleasure to be here.

AMANPOUR: Well, and to talk about such an important thing, baby bonds.

What exactly does that mean?

HAMILTON: In a nutshell, it's a birthright to capital.

It is ensuring that everybody born will have set aside some resources that, when they become a young adult, they will have access to some capital to

build wealth and the economic security that comes along with that.

AMANPOUR: What do you say to people who say, hang on a second, that's not a right? What do you mean?

HAMILTON: It should be a right. I mean, the problem is our conception of right is narrow. We think about political rights. We think about civil


But, surely, economic rights is critical if we want people to have authentic agency in their lives.

AMANPOUR: I was really interested to sort of read, because many people talk about income inequality, right? All the politics is about income

inequality, and how that gap has widened and how they try to figure that.

But you're actually saying it's not income. It's wealth. What do you mean by it? What's the distinction?

HAMILTON: There are many components to economic security.

Obviously, you want people to have good health. Obviously, you want people to have a good education. Income is a flow concept. Income is often used to

pay your bills, to deal with subsistence, to deal with day-to-day things. But wealth is transformative. Wealth is a stock. Wealth gives you the

financial agency to do big things in your life.

For example, if you want to be an entrepreneur, you can have all the great ideas in the world, but if you don't have any capital to realize those

ideas, then, frankly, you have to go to someone else with capital, and you're at the whim of them.

AMANPOUR: So then you get into debt. And is that what you mean the whim, you get into debt, or you just don't get the money?


HAMILTON: And we have a society structured this way, where you can't even necessarily get into debt with reasonable terms if you don't have wealth.

Sadly, it is those that are better financially positioned to begin with, they have greater access to loans and debt that can be productive. If you

are going to a bank and you have very little, then the terms that you accept debt -- I will be a little bit hyperbolic -- frankly, could lead

into indentured servitude with that bank, where you are working to pay back that loan.


And I'm not being so farfetched. We know that poor people, when they try to meet their day-to-day needs, they often have to turn, in the U.S. context,

to things like payday lenders. And it's not because they are financially illiterate, per se. It's because they have very little options.

So that's the essence of it. Wealth gives you power. It gives you option. It gives you agency in your life. And why shouldn't we afford everybody in

society with at least some nest egg so that they can benefit from the ingenuity?

AMANPOUR: And is this -- I mean, clearly, in the United States of America, all the data shows -- and maybe you can give us a little bit -- that black

Americans, African-Americans are just historically much lower paid, they have very little inheritance ability intergenerationally, and they get into

a lot of debt. And this thing is a real plague.

Does your bond proposal have a racial component?

HAMILTON: Oh, absolutely.

I mean, if we were to summarize the cumulative effect of racism in America, there's probably no one single indicator to capture that than wealth

itself, because of the fact that wealth, as I -- we talked about earlier, it's a stock. It is intergenerational. It is built on the capacities of

your ancestors.

And we know, throughout American history, we have had structures that have, not in an equitable way, generated asset accumulation for one group of

people, but not others. But, even worse, when black people were able to amass wealth, they didn't receive the political protections from theft,

from malfeasance, literal terror.

I mean, this was -- the Tulsa race riots happened about 100 years ago, or 101 years ago. We're coming up on the 101 anniversary. And that was an

example of a community that was fairly thriving, that it had a middle-class infrastructure, but literally through terrorism that community was

decimated. And it's not isolated.

AMANPOUR: Who pays for this baby bond? Because that's another big political issue in the United States.

Certainly, the conservative theory is, you don't want to keep racking up debt. Why should the government be giving all these -- quote, unquote --



AMANPOUR: So what is the payment structure?

HAMILTON: And one could reframe that to talk about investments in Americans' future.

So it is reserving some assets for when this cohort of people born in a given year become an adult, so that it can be an investment in their

capacities. But who pays for it? If we're going to be frank, one elegant way, if you want to finance it -- and I like using the word elegant here --

is if you had a wealth tax, because it is replenishing -- as somebody goes into the twilight of their life or an estate tax, it is replenishing

society, perhaps in an even more productive way.

There's something elegant about those that have so much being able to seed and fuel those that don't have much. And then one other point really quick,

we actually already spending a great deal of money on asset promotion through the tax code in the United States.

We spend upwards to 600, maybe even more -- pre-pandemic, we were spending about $500 billion through things like the mortgage interest deduction tax

-- reduction, through things like the ways in which we tax capital gains vs. the ways in which we tax income.

So, simply, through tax reform, there's nothing wrong with asset promotion. But the problem is to whom it's distributed. So we could do tax reform and

finance baby bonds at a fraction of what we're already spending.

AMANPOUR: And what are the recipients allowed to spend it on?

HAMILTON: Well, we want to restrict the accounts to some asset-promoting activities, so we won't distribute it in cash. Cash is important.

But if we want to target wealth, it needs to be restricted to things like a down payment for home, some capital for business. It can roll over into a

retirement account, or it can be used to finance an expensive college education.

AMANPOUR: So I'm going to delve down a little bit more into that. But, clearly, this didn't come out of the ether for you. This is very personal

for you.


AMANPOUR: You have an amazing life story. Just tell us where you were born, where you went to school, how your parents dealt with this wealth


HAMILTON: So, I stick up my chest and I say I was born in Bedford- Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, and I went to a Quaker school downtown Brooklyn called Brooklyn Friends.

At the risk of being cliche, some might characterize growing up in Bed-Stuy in the 1970s and '80s and going to an elite private school downtown

Brooklyn as a tale of two cities.


HAMILTON: So, I had the experiences of seeing people with different economic circumstance when I grew up. And at their core, people aren't that


AMANPOUR: What did your parents have to do, though, to enable you to go to that elite school?

HAMILTON: Well, they struggled. They stressed a lot. They made dollars out of 15 cents. They were in over their heads. Their economic circumstance

would not predict that they would be able to send, not only me but my sister as well, to Brooklyn Friends School. So, I don't know how they did

it. I know -- I lost my parents. I lost my parents when I was a late teenager in two separate incidents and that's difficult for me to talk

about. So, you know, frankly, I don't want people to have to go through those experiences. It is my goal that we have a society where people do not

have to face tragic choices in order for their children to strive.

AMANPOUR: So, you've just described your unequal childhood, and yet, you know, here you are sitting, talking about this and you had no baby bonds,

and you're, you know, a professor at a major school here.

HAMILTON: Well, you know, I wouldn't characterize that as a triumph. The problem with that is, what did I lose? I lost my parents. I didn't make

that choice for them to work as hard as they did to put me in the environment so that I can be successful. But if I did, I probably would've

made a different choice. So, I see that as a tragedy. Not really triumph.

AMANPOUR: So, Darrick, let's get back to the nitty-gritty of how this becomes policy. Because it's not yet, right? Certainly not on a federal

level. Is it being taken up by State? Is it getting enough lift to become part of the, you know, the political reality?

HAMILTON: That's right. You know, the beauty is, there are social movements that ultimately make the federal government act. And right now,

this idea is gaining salient all over the country. Washington D.C. passed a bill that will have a version of baby bonds, Connecticut passed a bill that

will have a version of baby bonds and several other States. Not too long- ago Massachusetts has put together a commission to study the issue and I expect that they very well might be a bill coming out of that. But they're

not alone, there are many States across the country.

AMANPOUR: So, do you think it'll become part of economic policy?

HAMILTON: I think it's really good economic policy. I think it's really good --

AMANPOUR: But do you think the government, the federal government will take it up?

HAMILTON: I do. I think that that overturned moment of when they will take it up, I can't predict it. But we can't commit to justice. We build

movements. And I do think that at some point that window will open up and we will have baby bonds.

AMANPOUR: What I find fascinating is that some of this is sort of -- I don't know, by design or just by fact, is kind of designed to show perhaps

the opponents. A, babies can't be accused of what you were just saying, lazy, good for nothings, don't work, want handouts, right? So, baby bond is

a very value-neutral statement.


AMANPOUR: And then the idea, as you said, that actually this is an investment rather than a debt, does that give you more political buy-in

from, let's say, the conservatives who generally don't like this kind of thing?

HAMILTON: The best article I ever heard written about baby bond is titled, "An Idea Conservative to Love". Whether you are grounded in market ideology

or social democracy, the idea that if you engage in transaction, you should have some economic power to do so should take all. So, this is not anti-

market. This is providing a resource so that people can actually get into the market if they so choose.

AMANPOUR: What do you think the pushback is? I mean, I've heard, you know, it's perhaps bureaucratic and unwieldy. As we've discussed, as yet, the

federal government hasn't taken it up but some States have. But what about the actual amount of money that you envision a young person getting? Is it

$10,000 by the time they are 18? Is it $50,000? Is it actually an amount that makes sense?

HAMILTON: And it has to be that. It has to be something substantive enough to allow them to get into an asset that's going to possibly appreciate over

their life. You know, what is the difference between a renter and a homeowner? I mean, the down payment, for the most part. But the difference

between an entrepreneur and a worker is some capital to actually realize your ideas.

So, it needs to be large enough so that one will actually be able to get in an asset. So, if you're born into the most wealth-poor family, the accounts

could rise upwards to $50,000 in present value terms when you become a young adult.

AMANPOUR: This baby bond is offered, what, regardless of their parents' incomes? Regardless of their parents' race?


HAMILTON: Right. So, there is a stakeholder society affect in that -- it's a birthright. So, the most wealthy child will receive at least some

endowment. But it has to be progressively seeded. Otherwise, it's inflationary. Otherwise, it won't achieve its goals.

AMANPOUR: And what about the more wealthy family? They'll be more financially literate, maybe, and invest even better and -- is there a

problem with that idea that it might just keep going with this inequality?

HAMILTON: You know, I'm all for financial coaching. All the other things that facilitate people to be their best selves. But let's not forget the

most critical ingredient, and that is capital itself. And even for those wealthy individuals, the truth of the matter is that they have access to

financial coaching. So, if we offered those services to low-income people, fine. But let's not forget the prize which is the capital itself.

AMANPOUR: The whole narrative about the inevitable penury of African- Americans is kind of false. So, is this payback? Is this trying to redress that balance?

HAMILTON: No. I mean, reparation is necessary for America to go back and won't take public responsibility for all the terror, all the violence, all

the policies, and all the literal -- simply just taking from black communities. And we could cite that history from when blacks came as a

capital asset for white landowning plantation class.

What baby bonds does is it provide a compliment. It will redress that inequality. It has some automatic redress features in it and that its

targeting wealth. And as we began, wealth is perhaps the most paramount implicit indicator of that history of racism in America because it is a

stock asset. So, what baby bonds does is it provides in perpetuity some access to capital. Not just for black people, but for everyone. But what's

more is that it is race-conscious, it is anti-racist, given the distribution of wealth between blacks and whites.

AMANPOUR: Darrick Hamilton, thank you so much indeed for joining us.

HAMILTON: Oh, it's such an honor. This is a pleasure.


GOLODRYGA: Well, next, more on how this information helps dismantle democracies. Rick Wilson is a Republican strategist and a vocal Trump

critic. He sat down with Michel Martin to talk about how his home, State of Florida, has become ground zero for the U.S. culture wars. And what that

means for the upcoming midterm elections.


MICHEL MARTIN, CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Bianna. Rick Wilson, thanks so much for talking with us.


MARTIN: How would you describe where Ron DeSantis, kind of, sits in the sort of, the ecosystem of our national politics right now?

WILSON: Well, I mean, look, Ron DeSantis is the undisputed king of the culture war in America right now. He is attacking a number of axis in

Florida, particularly. He is accusing Disney of being a company dedicated to pedophile grooming and seeking to destroy them. He is setting up a

system in Florida where people who believe that critical race theory, the imaginary demon of their -- is being taught in classrooms and will allow

people to while people to sue teachers and schools that, you know, "Make people feel uncomfortable for talking about slavery or racism in America."

As if you can just, like, lie to them and pretend they never happened.

And finally, his last act in this sort of culture war trifecta he's doing is he's passing one of the most restrictive abortion bills in the country.

Restricting abortion at 15 weeks with, you know, the usual -- the usual new play of no exemptions for rape, incest, life of the mother.

So, all these things that have been happening for Ron DeSantis are built around one central premise. He is not doing this because he believes these

things as a governor. He's doing it because he and his advisers have decided that this is the path to the 2024 nomination for president. They

believe the culture war -- correctly, by the way, that the only thing the Republican base cares about now is the culture war. All the other

ideological predicates of the past of what, you know, when folks like me were working inside the party and doing campaigns from president down to

dogcatcher, there was a sort of -- whether you agree with it or not, a sort of coherent ideological idea. Limited government, individual liberty, free

markets, the world law. Again, maybe they weren't all evenly applied. But the principle of the Republican party wasn't, let's burn down Walt Disney

because we think that they're secretly trying to groom children for a pedophile ring and, you know, under the magic kingdom.


This craziness that has infected the party is very much what Ron DeSantis is running on in '22 and '24. And very much what motivates the Republican

base in this day and age.

MARTIN: What do you think this came from with Ron DeSantis? I mean, he has a very, sort of, classic profile for a political figure but. I mean, he

went to Yale -- grew up in Florida, you know, went to Yale --

WILSON: Went to Harvard.

MARTIN: -- played baseball.

WILSON: Uh-huh.

MARTIN: Like another former president. Went to Harvard Law School, went into the navy, served in Congress. He was always a very conservative member

of Congress. But how do you think that this, sort of, fixation on this particular basket of issue started?

WILSON: Well, I can tell you why. He is surrounded by a small cadre of very ambitious advisers. And the chief among those advisers, who dominates

every bit of his thinking now, is a woman named Christina Pushaw who comes from this very outright background, who comes from this background where

the trolling and the social war stuff is the only thing that matters.

And she has become the most prominent adviser around him. She directs every strategic decision inside the administration now. And as she gained power,

he shifted from being that, sort of, traditional tea party-ish Republican, who was fairly generic in almost every way. You know, decent

accomplishments, decent educational background, you know, limited government constitutional conservative on paper. Once Pushaw came into his

orbit, he transformed into this outright trolling culture warrior of the first degree.

And it is -- you know, in Tallahassee and among his many advisers, there's been a little grumbling about it but no one can take her out of that role

because he views her position as being so vital because it's raised him $100 million from small door donors. It's given him, you know, something

like 75 hits on Fox News in the last year. It's given him this enormous central prominence as the -- as a person that Trump fears the most who will

run against him in '24.

MARTIN: Could you argue though that it's working --


MARTIN: -- he's in a much stronger position politically than he was, you know when he first ran.

WILSON: There's no question about it.

MARTIN: And so, he's now a national contender in a way that he was not, as you mentioned. And he was one of, kind of, many.

WILSON: Uh-huh.

MARTIN: And --

WILSON: Listen --

MARTIN: -- you know, so it's working, right?

WILSON: There were a lot of ambitious people. A lot of ambitious men and women who -- when Trump was defeated in 2020, who said, I will be the next

one. And they ranged from Ted Cruz to Marco Rubio to Nikki Haley to Kristi Noem to Josh Hawley, they all believed they were putting together a -- the

perfect post-Trump Republican candidacy. They all believed that they could shape and shifts themselves into Trump without all the warts. Trump without

all the obvious cognitive and moral deficits. And they all believed that they could go out to the major donor community and to the small donor

community and say, I'm the one who can defeat the Democrats. I will bring you everything Trump gives you except the crazy stuff.

But it turns out the Republican base wants the crazy stuff. And Ron DeSantis offers it to them because of Pushaw in the most distilled and

perfect form. And, you know, the conspiracy theory, queueing on an aspect of the Republican party today requires that their amygdala be constantly

poked and stimulated with terrifying imaginary demons. Whether it's critical race theory or pedophile groomers or big tech or any of these

other things they imagine are going to destroy their lives. He has become incredibly adept at framing those things as something that only he will

fight -- face up against. That's the same thing we heard in 2015 and '16 from Trump, only I can fix it. Only I will do this. Only I will be the

avatar of your rage and your anger.

MARTIN: So, look, as an increasingly Red State. How is that possible? I mean, is it an increasingly Red State because this is what people agree

with, or is it an increasingly Red State because the election apparatus has been manipulated in the way it has been in so many other parts of the

country? I mean, I do have to point out that about a year ago, as you and I are speaking now, you know Florida was one of the first States to hastily

pass restrictions making it harder for people to vote. So, is that part of the equation, or is this resonating because that's who Florida voters are


WILSON: The voting restrictions that were passed about a year ago were the icing on the cake. And I have some very tough love for my Democratic

friends because I worked in Florida politics and I've been in Florida politics since 1987 when I was a very, very young lad, just fresh out of



The Democratic political apparatus in the State of Florida ranges from incompetence to malfeasance. They are not good at the work. They select bad

candidates. They run campaigns that are disconnected and discordant with Florida voters. And that doesn't just mean the stuff on the Far-Right. They

miss big notes in the -- in Florida politics that they should not miss.

I will tell you a quick story. The reason that brand new Puerto Rican voters who came to Florida never got -- never performed, as the Democrats

expected, was they never talked to them. They never went out and talked to them. They didn't do voter contact with them. The reason is that, although

Cuban voters, the younger generation of Cuban voters are not as conservative as the prior generation. And new Venezuelan voters in Florida,

who are much more liberal on a whole bunch of spectra do not vote for Democrats, is because when they fled socialism, the brand of socialism for

them is not healthcare and education. The brand of socialism for them is that their grandparents and their parents were kicked out of their homes.

They're -- the brand of socialism with them was Maduro, who was an oppressive dictator.

And so, Democrats go down there and they defend socialism or they refuse to attack it when Republicans are saying they want to, you know, Joe Biden's

Fidel Castro, get out of here. But they don't do the work because they're afraid of their own left flank.

Like, I said, my tough love for the Democrats here is based on about, you know, almost 40 years of experience in this political hellscape of Florida.

And there's a class disconnect as well where you look at the folks who have moved to Florida in the last 20 years and they come from places like Ohio,

Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, New York and they are not all liberal. In fact, many people came here because the cost of living and the burdens of the tax

pays in those States were so high that they had to flee. And Florida's taxes are famously low.

So, Democrats who think they're going to run a campaign in Florida, that's a campaign based on the blue state mentality are mistaken.

MARTIN: He signed very quickly this legislation stripping Disney of the sort of special tax status because of this very vague law that critics are

calling the "Don't Say Gay Law", that the bill itself does not say that. But it is sufficiently vague. That people can read into it, you know, what

they wanted. Why do you think that the Disney issue could have some repercussions in a way that these sorts of political maneuvers have not?

WILSON: Well, I think there are three significant factors that this very hurried bill did not calculate in. The first factor is that Disney's -- if

you collapse Reddy Creek, the Disney -- which was the Disney bill does, what you end up with is a massive new debt obligation for the State of

Florida and for the counties. Now, that debt is being carried by Disney right now. But if you eliminate it, you end up with this crap where the

taxpayers in two counties where Disney is located are on the hook for $2 billion. And that means that the average family is going to pay $2,200 more

a year in taxes in Orlando and -- in Orlando metro area and it is a huge problem.

The further tax liability -- the further liability issue here for DeSantis is that the Fitch rating industry has said, if you start breaking up this

kind of special bonding facilities in Florida, you -- we're going to have to cut Florida's credit rating. You're going to have a harder time

borrowing money. You're going to have a harder time, you know, getting access to credit. And DeSantis did not recognize that this was a


And the final part of it is there's an economic impact where about 25,000 jobs, and these are highest paying skilled worker jobs, that ramify out

from Disney's presence in that area are going to be in danger. So, Ron DeSantis has decided, I'm going to go to war with the most popular brand in

the country, practically. I am going to go to war with an economic engine that drives Florida's prosperity. We don't have high taxes here because

instead of oil wells in Florida, we pump tourists. And they come from -- in Germany, in Brazil by the millions every year and they go to Disney. He's

trying to hurt the Disney brand and harm the Disney operations financially. What he is going to do is kill the golden tax goose.

The reason we don't pay income taxes in Florida is because foreign tourists come to this State and pay billions of dollars a year in hotel taxes, and

rental car taxes, and sales taxes in the Orlando area.


He is going to do -- to harm the State's economy in a way that, of course, they didn't recognize. And why? Because of the culture warriors around him,

DeSantis and Pushaw, and the rest of those folks around him. They cared about Fox News. They cared about getting on Fox. They cared about raising

money from the crazy people. They cared about the social media entertainment ecosystem. They didn't care about the people of Florida.

This is all about his presidential race nationally. It's all about maintaining this position on the top of the culture war pyramid. And so,

the fact that they didn't think it through is unsurprising. But the consequences of them not thinking it through, you can't just wish them


MARTIN: OK. But for a guy who won an election with like a fraction of a majority, like 0.4 percent, he's now -- from my read, at 54 percent

approval which is not amazing but it's certainly not terrible. And it's certainly better than a lot of other people, like, for example, Joe Biden.

Why is that?

WILSON: The state has -- there is a very working-class nature to Florida. And like many places in the country, you have a -- some blue coastal

communities that are the wealthiest and the most unimaginably luxurious lifestyle you can think of and an awful lot of working-class people. And a

lot of this culture war stuff appeals to the working-class voter.

And remember, as I said, many Floridians today were Ohioans a few years ago, or even months ago. Given the State's growth rate, it has changed so

radically. Look, I'm a fifth-generation Floridian, which now is like being a unicorn. There are -- this State is a new State and it's full of new

working-class voters. And many of these culture war appeals, despite their wrongness in what they're doing in a modern society, are powerful appeals.

You know, I don't underestimate Ron DeSantis. I think of him as Donald Trump does, as his number one competitor for the Republican nomination in

2024. And that is what he is after. He is after the kind of power that can only be satisfied in the White House.

MARTIN: So, you had a tough-love message for Democrats. You are disappointed, I think, that has taken over the Republican party to the

degree that it has. Where does somebody like you go?

WILSON: Well, look, I'm an independent now. I cannot be a member of a party that wants to use the power of the State to harm individuals which is

what the Republican party does now. And that was always the warning we, you know, we were conservatives because we believe that the power of the

State's, you know, potential for abuse was so high that we had to check it. Well, that's disappeared.

This country desperately needs, in my mind, the political dynamic of a party that is progressive and humane. And it also needs the dynamic of a

party that is constitutional and constrained. I think there is a place for a center-right party in this country. But right now, there is nothing in

the center for most voters. And for many, many Republicans who are not, by the way, there's still a meaningful fraction of the GOP, who are not

queueing on crazy people, who do not believe that the world is run by secret pedophiles in pizza restaurants. They're homeless but they're not

going to go and become, you know, become far-left progressives overnight.

The demographic that is most liable to move off of the Republican message right now tends to be Republican women who are more educated, slightly more

affluent. Republican men who are more independent leaning. Those are -- those people move. We helped move them in the -- with the Lincoln Project

in 2020. They are moved -- they are moved -- you know, you can divide them out by the cruelty, and the capriciousness, and the craziness, and the

conspiracy side of the Republicans today that they find repulsive.

But those people aren't moving from the Republican party to AOC green new deal progressivism. They're not moving from Trump to Bernie. They're moving

from Trump to Biden or to the right of Biden. And if you give them those opportunities, they'll vote that way. If you don't, they'll still default

back to their Republican base, you know, political instincts, and vote for DeSantis.

MARTIN: Rick Wilson, thanks so much for talking with us once again.

WILSON: Thanks for having me. Appreciate it. Great conversation.


GOLODRYGA: And finally, a very belated birthday wish. In 1945, fighting between American and German troops had reached this woman, Meri Merion's

(ph) Italian village -- Meri Mion's Italian village. On her 13th birthday, her mother baked her cake and left it on their windowsill only for it to be

eaten by American troops. But now, 77 years later, U.S. Army soldiers have returned a cake to Meri who turns 90 today.


Here they were, wishing her a happy birthday.


CROWD: (Speaking in foreign language).


GOLODRYGA: What a special moment. Happy belated birthday, Meri. Enjoy your cake.

Well, that is it for now. Thank you so much for watching and goodbye from New York.