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Fareed Zakaria GPS
Interview with Bill Gates; Talking about North Korea; Another Mass Shooting. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired February 18, 2018 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, FAREED ZAKARIA GPS: This is GPS, the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria.
Today, on the show, the Russians did it. Thirteen Russian nationals and three Russian organizations interfered with America's election. That is what Robert Muller's latest indictment says.
What does it mean for the president and the larger investigation? We will explore.
Then, Bill Gates. His first career made him the world's richest man. His second act is giving his tens of billions away. I asked him how he feels about the Trump presidency, the America First agenda and why he spends most of his money on non-Americans. An eye-opening interview.
Also, it may be frigid at the Olympics, but relations between the two Koreas continue to warm. What is behind Kim Jong-Un's charm offensive? Is it real or a ploy? We will explore.
But, first, here's my take. There's a lot to be optimistic about today. In almost every part of the world, economies are growing and war, poverty and disease are receding.
But then, there's the Middle East. Syria remains a collapsed country. More than 5 million of its people have already fled. Yemen is now the site of the world's worst famine and the war there seems unlikely to end anytime soon. The danger of greater conflict in the region seems ever present.
We are now seeing fighting between Turkey and American proxies, Israel and Syria, the US and Russian mercenaries. The Trump administration strategy, if it can be called that, has simply been to double down on its anti-Iranian stance, subcontracting foreign policy to Israel and Saudi Arabia.
But recent events make plain it's not working. In the latest issue of "Foreign Affairs", the scholar Vali Nasr urges a fundamental rethinking of Washington's Iran policy.
The administration is working off the premise that instability in the Middle East is the result of a rising Iran that seeks to spread its ideology. Nasr points out that this assumption is simply wrong. Today's instability in the Middle East did not originate with Tehran's ambitions. It was the result of the 2003 American invasion of Iraq, which overturned the balance of power between Arab states and Iran by dislodging Saddam Hussein and allowing chaos to spread.
Iran did pursue its national interests intensely, seeking influence in its neighborhood, but it did not try to spread Islamic fundamentalism. In fact, it has been at the forefront of the fight against Sunni terrorist groups like ISIS.
Iran's strategy has been remarkably successful because it ventures into places where it has strong local allies like Iraq, Syria and Yemen, it's willing to put troops and militias on the ground and plays a long game.
Its adversaries, by and large, do not have these advantages. The United States and Israel are outsiders in the Arab world and mostly fight from the skies, but air dominance has its limitations in terms of shaping political realities on the ground.
Where are the Arab countries in this geopolitical game? Nasr told me the most striking reality about the power struggle in the Middle East these days is the absence of the Arabs.
Look at the recent fighting. It is all non-Arab powers - Iranians, Turks, Russians, Israelis and Americans - engaged in combat operations to determine who will shape the Arab world.
At this point, far from being a revolutionary power, Iran is trying to ratify the status quo largely because it has won. Its presence in Iraq and Syria is now entrenched. Its ally, Bashar al-Assad, has survived and is consolidating power over a rump Syria.
Saudi Arabia's efforts to fight Iranian influence in Yemen, Lebanon, and Qatar have so far failed. Qatar is now closer to Iran and Turkey and the rifts within the Arab world continue to deepen.
For its part, Russia, having aligned itself with Iran, but still maintaining close ties with Israel, has emerged as the kind of outside balancer that America once was.
Nasr writes, Russia has become the only power broker in the Middle East that everyone talks to. This is not because Russia is powerful, but because it has been shrewd.
Since 1973, when Henry Kissinger essentially expelled the Russians from the Middle East, the United States has been the preeminent outside power. It is losing that role through a combination of weariness, disengagement, and a stubborn refusal to accept the realities on the ground.
[10:05:03] A different American approach, engaging with Iran, working with Turkey and Russia, might return it to its unique place in the region and help to create a more stable balance of power in what remains the world's most volatile hotspot.
For more, go to CNN.com/Fareed and read my "Washington Post" column this week. And let's get started.
Conspiracy to defraud the United States of America. That is the first charge in the indictment of 13 Russian nationals by Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office.
The charges handed down Friday allege that the individuals along with three Russian organizations sought to "sow discord in the US political system".
President Trump, of course, took to Twitter almost immediately in response. He seems to believe Mueller's latest move vindicates him.
As for the Russian reaction, the spokeswoman for the foreign ministry called the indictment absurd.
What to make of all of this? Well, joining me now is Richard Haas, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations. His latest book, "A World in Disarray" is now out in paperback. And Julia Ioffe is with us as well. She is a contributing writer at "The Atlantic".
Julia, let me start with you. What is the kind of big picture that you got out of reading this 37-page indictment?
JULIA IOFFE, "THE ATLANTIC" CONTRIBUTING WRITER: Well, it was a fascinating indictment in terms of the details. We knew kind of the broad outlines from reporting both here and in Russia that the toll factory was involved.
But the lengths they went to, the fact that they created real rallies and events on the ground, that they hired somebody to put on a prison jumpsuit and sit in a cage and look like Hillary Clinton was a very colorful indictment, let's say.
But the big picture is, I think, this is - none of these Russians are going to see the inside of an American courtroom, but it's more of a message, I think, to the Trump administration and to Trump's base that - saying that this is not a hoax and this is not a witch-hunt, that Russian interference was very, very real and here are 37 pages of details.
ZAKARIA: Richard Haas, everybody is sort of parsing the legal details and really it's all speculation. But what is the big foreign policy message here because this does seem to be a hostile act by a hostile power?
RICHARD HAAS, THE COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS PRESIDENT: You're right, Fareed. It's the latest example that Russia is anything but a status quo power.
It's used military force to change borders in Europe and Ukraine. It's used force quite directly and quite brutally in the Middle East.
Now, with these active measures, what we're seeing is another form of power. It's not military. It's not economic or energy. What it is is cyber based. And, again, it basically shows Russia is an outsider. They, in no way, have signed up to our sense of what the rules of the game what ought to be.
So, here we are, a quarter of a century after the Cold War. And, in some ways, Russia and the United States are going at each other in ways that United States and the Soviet Union never went at each other.
ZAKARIA: And, Richard, would it be fair to say also - it's difficult recall a time when the Soviet Union during the Cold War picked on a particular individual, Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, depending on how you see it, and tried to affect the outcome within the United States.
I mean, I can think of many times when the Russians were involved on - the Soviets were involved in an issue. But here you have reporting that has suggested that Putin personally disliked Hillary Clinton because of her support for pro-democracy activists in Russia and determined that he was 2going to do everything he could to hurt her cause.
HAAS: Absolutely. There's a degree of detailed, of intrusiveness, of a familiarity with American politics. You have these Russians discovering what the phrase purple states means and focusing their efforts on those states which were potentially in play.
My hunch is they may have done even better than they ever imagined in terms of the - from their point of view, the outcome. But the fact that it preceded the campaign and went throughout the campaign and it continued after the campaign, to me, is a real wakeup call, Fareed, that the Russians have essentially said American democracy, American society is fair game.
And we have got to take steps in order to make ourselves less vulnerable. And that's everything from the voting machines and voter rolls, but we've also got to take a real look at the Facebooks and Twitters and the rest.
They're essentially exploiting the technology we created and they've turned it against us. As you know, Putin is a great believer in judo. He is practicing judo against the American society.
[10:10:04] ZAKARIA: Julia, what did you learn about Russia from this indictment, about the Russian political system? Is it pretty clear this was directed by the Kremlin?
IOFFE: Actually, Putin's name doesn't really come up in this indictment, and that's very telling and also very Russian. Prigozhin, known in Russia as Putin's chef, very close to Vladimir Putin, and this is pretty typical of how the Kremlin and how Putin delegates power and authority and decisions, right?
He sends a signal of what he wants done and then it's delegated to other parties, often kind of private entities, the way that you're seeing, for example, this troll factory. This is a private company that thrives off of fat state contracts.
We also have, for example, a lot of private security people fighting in Syria on behalf of the Russians, the way that they did it in Eastern Ukraine.
So, a lot of this is designed not to tax the state too much and also to hand out political favors and money and also to build in some plausible deniability, so that when Putin gets up there and lies that the Russian government didn't meddle in the American presidential election, it's not technically a lie because he didn't meddle, but Prigozhin and the troll factory did in their private enterprise.
ZAKARIA: Stay with us. When we come back, where will this investigation go? What will its ultimate political consequences be? When we come back.
[10:16:02] ZAKARIA: And we are back with Richard Haas and Julia Ioffe.
Richard, what does one do about this? What should the United States or any other country do? But particularly, the United States because this is really a fairly directed assault. I know there have been Russian efforts in Europe and such, but this seems to be the largest Russian cyberattack outside certainly of Ukraine.
How should the United States respond not legally with these indictments which, of course, will not put any Russian in jail, but how should it respond from a foreign policy point of view?
HAAS: Well, besides, again, making ourselves less vulnerable, obviously, we also want to impose those sanctions that Congress wanted to do and the administration refused to.
But also, Fareed, I think we've got to take this to them and I think we've got to not just do the other things that we should probably do anyhow, like strengthen NATO, but why don't we engage in a little bit of public diplomacy ourselves?
What does Putin care about most? As you know, as Julia knows, he cares about most perpetuating his own rule, his own position. So, why don't we begin to put out there things that would shape the debate in Russia? Put out the details of his corruption. Put out the details of the personal wealth of him, his so-called chef and others.
It won't bring about revolution in a day, but it will let Putin know that two can play this game. If he wants to interfere in our political process in ways that ought not to be acceptable, we should put out information that will make it more difficult for him to justify what he is doing and to stay in power in the ruthless way, and we also ought to criticize him any time he and the thugs who work for him go out and arrest people who are trying to act in the name of democracy.
We should stop giving him a free pass.
ZAKARIA: Richard, I wonder whether one of the things that causes some hesitation, the reason why we're not doing this, particularly Putin's financial stuff, is there is speculation that President Trump is not willing to do that because he may have his own financial dealings with the Russians.
HAAS: Again, I can't speak to that because, again, it's part of the larger mystery, Fareed. Here we are, a year into this administration, and again, the president continues to give Russia, in general, this free pass.
Just this past week, you had all of his intelligence chiefs come out and say Russia not only has been involved, but continues to be, it's going to threaten the midterm elections. You had his national security adviser just this weekend talk about incontrovertible evidence.
Yet, the president alone, it seems, unwilling to say what Russia has been up to. That's a mystery. And whatever the motives, I have no idea, but it means that the United States is simply not acting to protect itself.
If this were any other form of attack - military, economic, what have you - we would surely respond. Why is a cyberattack somehow different?
ZAKARIA: Julia, finally and briefly, why is it that France and even Germany were able to handle this better? What is it that the United States could do internally to be able to be more aware when this is, in fact, a kind of foreign cyberattack?
IOFFE: Well, France and Germany were far more unified and they don't have the kind of polarized, bifurcated media space that we do where - and it was seen as a national security issue as opposed to an issue focused on the candidate, the way it is here.
It's all focused on Trump or anti-Trump as opposed to a national security issue, as opposed to focusing on the fact that a foreign power interfered with the most sacred thing we do as a nation.
And to Richard's point, before we get to disclosures about Putin's finances, why don't we just start with empowering our cyber armies and our counterintelligence to go after these people where they live, online?
And so far, the Trump administration, despite his intelligence chief saying time and time again, for the last year, that they agree with the DNI report that came out in January of 2017. They agree that Russia has been interfering and continues to meddle. Why don't we empower them to act?
[10:20:13] And Trump has not done it. Our cyber armies are just sitting on their hands.
ZAKARIA: On that note, we're going to have to leave it there. And it's worth pointing out, the Russian trolls continue to be active. They are currently, apparently, by some reports on the pro-gun side of the gun debate that has recently resurfaced in the United States.
Next up, the main event. Billionaire Bill Gates. What does this man, who mostly gives his money away abroad, have to say about Donald Trump's America First agenda?
ZAKARIA: Eighteen years ago, at the tender age of 44, Bill Gates stepped down as the CEO of Microsoft. The software company had been a great success, making Gates the richest man on the planet.
[10:25:03] But this past October, he stepped down from that title too when Jeff Bezos overtook him as the world's wealthiest. Part of the reason for this is that Gates as is as good at giving away money as he was at making it.
His foundation has given away more than $41 billion to date. He and his wife Melinda released their annual letter about how they decide where to give their money, how they feel about the first year of Trump, and how they keep their optimism up in today's world.
I was curious to dig deeper on those issues and more. Bill Gates, pleasure to have you on.
BILL GATES, CO-CHAIR, BILL & MELINDA GATES FOUNDATION: Good to see you.
ZAKARIA: So, you are a great optimist. Your letter is optimistic. Your blog is optimistic. But I'm wondering what do you think about so much of the pessimism that is out there about the decay of democracy in the United States, the rise of populism, the threat to global openness, to trade.
I mean, it feels like - yes, I get that in the very - over the long timespan, the standards of living are up and life expectancy is up, but lots of people are very concerned that we're going through a very dark phase right now, certainly, politically. What do you think?
GATES: Well, the good news is that our expectations to have less violence in the world, to treat people fairly, to treat gay people equally, our standards keep going up, and so our disappointment that we fall short of those standards is helpful. It drives us to take the remaining work and be serious about it.
But, no, I don't think despite the current trends that we're going to have world wars or a complete breakdown of the trade system.
ZAKARIA: I would imagine that Donald Trump's America First agenda is not exactly the way you look at the world. I mean, I look at the work your foundation does, huge amounts of it outside America.
What do you think of America First?
GATES: America First, if you view it very narrowly would say, we should leave NATO, we should drop foreign aid to zero, we should get out of the United Nations, but then all these global problems, whether it's instability or pandemics or economic alignment that allows our exports to work well, the US would be worse off.
But that's a debate we're having now that, when we say, it's good to help Africa, you have to prove that that eventually benefits Americans.
ZAKARIA: Again, your optimism. I want to come back to that and ask you about another kind of - another reason why I wonder whether there is some cause for pessimism, which is climate change.
A lot of the other issues that people worry about - I think your answer would be, yes, these are problems, but there are human solutions to it. There are ways in which human beings are already solving these problems.
With something like climate change, isn't it so deeply structural? And the response seems pretty limited at this point when you consider India and China growing and all the new carbon being thrown into the atmosphere? Doesn't that make you a little pessimistic?
GATES: Well, climate change, remember, my optimism is not that we can just sit back and things will take care of themselves.
My optimism is based on the fact that particularly those who are successful will put their time and resources into taking problems that, in the case of climate change, that big negative is far out, that today they will fund the research and the policies, so we get serious about this.
It was a setback to have the US withdraw from the Paris Climate Accords. A lot of the R&D recommendations for the Department of Energy wouldn't fund some of the advances that I think are important.
But I still believe that the world at large will come up with innovations that will let us decarbonize the energy and transport sectors.
Now, we need a lot of innovation in these next 20 years because it takes a long time between when you invent something and it gets fully deployed in those systems.
ZAKARIA: You don't seem to be despairing at the fact that you don't have a stronger partner in the federal government as maybe you have. And I'm not trying to get you to say that.
I know you're being careful, but it would seem to me that Trump, America First, the priorities of Scott Pruitt on energy, this is all stuff you don't like.
GATES: No. The climate change stuff, absolutely. The Congress controls the eventual spending and they have maintained the commitment to foreign aid. They chose not to cut foreign aid. And, you know, I'm hopeful that that will happen again, that they will see that our saving lives of people with HIV and treating malaria, that our values, the relationships, the health systems you build up that would stop pandemics from coming to the United States, that that $30 billion, which is a very small portion, well under 1 percent of our budget, that that will be preserved.
ZAKARIA: When you look at the United States, do you think rising inequality is one of the core issues that we have to deal with? GATES: I think all advanced democracies have to think about that.
Now, poverty, by the best measure, consumption poverty is down, but you still have about a sixth of the population in -- living in conditions that should be very disappointing to us. And government policies need to really think through why aren't we doing a better job for those people?
ZAKARIA: Do you think, in that context, the last tax bill made sense, where the benefits of the bill disproportionately went to people like you?
GATES: Your basic point is correct. It was not a progressive tax bill. It was a regressive tax bill. People who are wealthier tended to get dramatically more benefits than the middle class or those who are poor. And so it runs counter to the general trend you'd like to see, where the safety net is getting stronger and those at the top are paying higher taxes.
ZAKARIA: You'd be OK paying higher taxes?
GATES: No, I need to pay higher taxes. I have paid, in absolute, more taxes, over $10 billion, than anyone else. But, you know, the government should require the people in my position to pay significantly higher taxes.
ZAKARIA: Back in a moment with much more with Bill Gates, including how he feels about just how much influence he has in the world.
ZAKARIA: Bill, you once said that artificial intelligence was the industry that, if you could really crack that, you would be -- you could create a company that was worth 10 Microsofts.
Everybody has tended to think that that company would probably end up being an American company. The United States dominates big technology. But the Chinese government has laid out a very systematic, concerted and massively funded effort to dominate artificial intelligence. Are they going to win the race to dominate artificial intelligence?
GATES: Well, no. The American companies, including Microsoft, but also Google, Facebook and others, are in the lead, and U.S. academia is in the lead. And so the Chinese are participating in this revolution. In fact, a lot of the technologies, very open technology -- most of the academic work is published soon after it's done. So everyone thinks, like, speech, understanding vision -- you know, everyone understands that. If somebody is better, it's modestly better, and usually they'll publish how they achieve that.
This is a very key technology. It's going to make industries more efficient. It will be used by the military. And, you know, the U.S. historically has had its military more connected to new technical breakthroughs than any other country. Here, the Chinese are probably going to do it as fast -- hopefully not faster -- than the U.S. does.
So it raises a lot of questions. It will reshape the job market. But the U.S. has a strong lead in this. China's -- China's number two.
ZAKARIA: We've talked about inequality. Do you -- do you think it's fair that you as an individual have as much influence as you have?
GATES: No. It's, kind of, strange that, you know, people who are super-successful often have more influence. Now, you know, if you have that, hopefully you try and use it not just to increase your net worth or your glory, but for broader causes. But, yeah, it is an unusual system that very successful people have -- have more influence.
ZAKARIA: How much money have you given away so far?
GATES: Well, well over $40 billion.
ZAKARIA: What's the simplest answer to the question people might ask, which is the vast majority of your giving benefits non-Americans. Why do you do that?
GATES: Well, we give $500 million a year to U.S. education, so that's our second biggest area. Our biggest, by quite a bit, is the global health work, and there, because there was such a vacuum, that very few people were working in that space, including bringing scientists in to create new vaccines that the impact per dollar -- you know, we're saving lives for less than $1,000 of money being put out there, that we just saw a unique role for us in infectious disease. And that became our biggest program.
We're very committed to the U.S. piece. You know, we're looking at how the education work can connect to other people working in anti-poverty areas.
ZAKARIA: But it does seem to be that, underlying it, is a basic philosophical idea that all human life is equal?
GATES: That's right. That's written on the walls of the foundation.
ZAKARIA: And does that come -- that idea that all human life is equally worthwhile -- and if you can, you know, get the biggest bang from your buck by spending on those country -- those people out there, does that -- is that something that came to you from your Christianity, from your -- you know, these are all God's children? Where does it come from?
GATES: Well, it's pretty clear, you know, when you go to Africa and you meet the parents, their values about their children surviving are -- are no different than in the rest of the world. When resources are very, very short, of course, you know, you think of yourself and your family, then maybe your clan, then maybe your -- your area. The world is rich enough today that the idea that millions of kids are dying of diseases that they don't need to, there's enough resources in the world to achieve that goal. And it just wasn't, like, working on a malaria vaccine, it wasn't clear who should, you know, drive that, and so I was pretty stunned to find that something that impactful wasn't being funded.
You know, I think it's phenomenal that we can help out people in other countries. And over time, those countries, as they get their health and education in good shape, they become self-sufficient, and then the world gets to focus on the remaining countries. So, you know, today some people are graduating India out of support. You know, we probably will over the next 10 years, and then that's just that much more money to take to the toughest places in Africa and help them out.
ZAKARIA: Bill Gates, pleasure to have you on.
GATES: Thank you.
ZAKARIA: Next on "GPS," Kim Jong-un has been playing nice ever since the Olympics started. But is it an act or a genuine attempt at rapprochement? We'll find out.
ZAKARIA: Kim Jong-un's sister, Kim Yo-jong, was welcomed back to Pyongyang with an honor guard and a military band, according to the New York Times. This was after her trip to the opening of the Winter Olympics, a trip that marked the first time a member of the Kim dynasty ever visited the south. Kim Jong-un's own take on the trip, according to state media, was one of satisfaction, with a note that the two Koreas need to continue "the warm climate of reconciliation and dialogue."
So what's really going on in Kim Jong-un's head, and could this be the beginning of the end of a divided Korea?
Joining me now is Jung Pak. After a career in the top ranks of U.S. intelligence, she is now a senior fellow and career studies chair at the Brookings Institution.
Great to have you on.
PAK: Thank you very much.
ZAKARIA: What do you think Kim Jong-un thinks of the United States? I mean, we have very few ways to read this guy. You have done, you know, psychological profiling of him when you were in the U.S. intelligence community. What do we know about him as a person?
PAK: You know, he watches us as much as we watch him. So he has lots of people reading through newspaper articles in the U.S. and in the international community, trying to tease out what the relationship is between the U.S. and South Korea and how regional dynamics are playing out.
So I think what he sees in the U.S. is an administration that is really strong on maximum pressure and maintaining that pressure internationally.
ZAKARIA: And the sister is -- she's fairly telegenic. His wife is fairly telegenic. They are paraded out. This is a little bit different from before, you know, with his father and grandfather, where you barely knew who were members of the family. Do we know a little bit more about the family, the Kim family?
PAK: What's so interesting about Kim Jong-un's administration, or regime, for the past six-plus years, he has spoken in public, which his father had not done, and he has carefully curated appearances of his wife, who is glamorous, who is young, who is telegenic, and I think the reasoning behind having these softer images, for example of his sister and of his wife, is to present to the international community and to the people of a softer, kinder, gentler North Korea. But of course, as the U.N. and others have pointed out, the North Korean regime is a serial violator of human rights.
ZAKARIA: And just to elaborate on that, we're talking about a country which has, what, over 100,000 people in, kind of, various kinds of prisons?
PAK: That's right. They have as many as 120,000 prisoners in various prison camps where torture and rape and beatings are common. So I think we have to remember that the attention is on Kim and his family and his handful of closest advisers, but there are millions of people in North Korea who are suffering under this regime.
ZAKARIA: So how significant was this trip? Kim Jong-un himself has actually not left the country since he became the leader of North Korea, correct?
PAK: That's right, and this is a big move for the Kim regime to send his sister down.
ZAKARIA: How important is she? She traveled with the nominal head of state of the country, but clearly -- is it fair to say that she is the second most important person in North Korea?
PAK: I would say that she is Kim Jong-un's closest adviser. She is a full sister, and the fact that he trusted her to go to South Korea and to carry that message of inviting President Moon for a summit to Pyongyang, I think, speaks volumes about how much Kim trusts his sister to carry on this important mission.
ZAKARIA: So why is he doing this?
PAK: I see this as a very tactical move and not a strategic move. It would be a strategic move if we saw North Korea saying that it's going to get rid of its nuclear weapons, but this is a tactical move, I think, to loosen sanctions implementation and to try to divide South Korea and the U.S.
ZAKARIA: So as you say, he is trying to, in some way, you know, get the sanctions -- either the implementation relaxed or get some of them reversed. It seems highly unlikely that he can achieve that because, first of all, that's not South Korea's to give. That would require much greater involvement of Washington and other major powers. So it's likely that the North Koreans will be disappointed and the South Koreans will not deliver what they are hoping for. What happens then?
PAK: Right. So the Trump administration's policy has been full-on maximum pressure, which means sanctions and including talks about military strike options. And so sanctions are not going to go away, but the implementation is key. And I would be -- I would not be surprised if we saw the international community, including China, relaxing its implementation of sanctions because they perceive a warming of intra-Korean ties or U.S.-North Korea ties.
ZAKARIA: Jung Pak, pleasure to have you on, fascinating conversation.
PAK: Thank you very much.
ZAKARIA: This winter's flu season is a bad one in the U.S. The vaccine is less effective against this year's most prevalent virus strain than other strains, but there is another problem, and it brings me to my question. What percentage of civilian workers in America lack access to paid sick leave: 7 percent, 14 percent, 28 percent or 35 percent? Stay tuned and we'll tell you the correct answer.
My book of the week is David Frum's "Trumpocracy." Yes, this is an anti-Trump book, but it is written by a diehard conservative whose objections to Trump at core are not about his politics and policies, some of which the author agrees with, nor about his bad manners and vulgarity; it is about the way Donald Trump is eroding democratic norms in the world's oldest constitutional republic. The chapter on economic corruption, "Plunder," is worth the price of the book.
And now for the last look.
Another school shooting this week, another community ripped apart, another murderer we are not going to name here on this show. After the terrible attack at a country music concert in Las Vegas last fall, I gave you my take on America's gun problem. My take has not changed, but the body count has. The gun death rate in the United States is 10 times that of other advanced industrial countries. Places like Japan and South Korea have close to zero gun-related deaths in a year. The United States has around 30,000.
The president tweeted this week that the killer was mentally disturbed, and perhaps he was, but consider this. The rate of mental illness in the United States is not 40 times the rate in Britain, but the rate of gun death is 40 times higher here than in Britain. Now, America does have about 15 times as many guns as Britain per capita, and far fewer restrictions on their ownership and use.
And this is not simply a case of America being different from the rest of the world. Data that looked carefully at gun violence across American states finds a similarly tight correlation. Those states that have some of the highest percentages of gun ownership have among the most gun-related deaths, and those with some of the lowest rates of gun ownership generally have the fewest deaths. Given the second amendment, given America's gun culture, given the
influence of the gun lobby, I've said before that there isn't any simple answer, but there are many small fixes that might make a big difference: an actual, airtight system of universal background checks, tougher restrictions on military-style weaponry, a comprehensive ban on gun ownership by people with any history of domestic violence or substance abuse.
But first we have to stop the dodges and the diversions. When you consider America's stubborn inaction in the face of this continuing and utterly preventable epidemic of gun violence, I sometimes wonder if it is all of us Americans who are disturbed.
The correct answer to the "GPS" challenge question is C. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 28 percent of civilian workers in America have no access to paid sick leave. That's over 40 million people. Multiple studies have shown that workers without access to paid sick days are more likely to try to come to work ill, as The Washington Post has pointed out. They then expose their colleagues and fellow commuters to the virus.
Thanks to all of you for being part of the program this week. I will see you next week.