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Fareed Zakaria GPS
A Look at Kim Jong-un; Income Disparities Examined; What Does the Iran Deal Really Say?; Benjamin Netanyahu's President, Stunner or Stunt? Aired 10-11a ET
Aired May 06, 2018 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:00:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: When it comes to medical opinions, President Trump certainly had no problem playing doctor for his political opponent Hillary Clinton.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hillary Clinton does not have the stamina, the energy. Doesn't have it. Doesn't have the strength to be president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Thanks for joining us. "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" starts right now.
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: This is GPS, the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria.
ZAKARIA: Today on the show we will go nuclear. The world has come to a crossroads with both Iran and North Korea. If the Iran deal collapses, will we see a nuclear arms race in the Middle East?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They restart their nuclear program, they will have bigger problems than they have ever had before.
ZAKARIA: I will ask one of the key negotiators of that deal. And the former head of Israeli intelligence.
Next, what is Kim Jong-un thinking? A psychological analysis by the former top Korea analyst for the CIA.
Then a good news story from Iraq of all places. Four years ago the nation was teetering on the edge of collapse. Today it has defeated ISIS and tamped down its sectarian problems. Has President George W. Bush been vindicated?
Also, a co-founder of Facebook says America's winner-take-all economy is leaving people behind. His solution, a guaranteed income for America's working class. And he thinks he and his fellow 1 percent- ers should foot the bill.
ZAKARIA: But first, here is my take. Donald Trump has claimed that the group of migrants that recently made its way from Central America to the United States symbolizes out-of-control immigration, lawlessness, and violence that is besetting this country.
"Getting more dangerous, caravans coming," he tweeted last month. This week he added, "The migrant caravan that is openly defying our border shows how weak and ineffective U.S. immigration laws are."
The facts strongly suggest the opposite. In 2017, according to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection report, illegal cross border migration was at its lowest level on record. On record. Trump, of course, claims that this drop is the result of his policies. The president used tough language in his State of the Union boasting that his administration had put, quote, "more boots on the southern border than at any time in our history and cut illegal crossings to their lowest levels in 40 years," end quote.
You'll recall that this was the State of the Union delivered in February 2013, and the president making that speech was Barack Obama. The decline in illegal immigration has been a two-decade long trend. Over that time the number of border patrol apprehensions along the southwest border has dropped by around 80 percent from 1.6 million in 2000 to 300,000 in 2017.
As for that caravan, the more than 1,100 migrants from Central America fleeing poverty, gang violence and repression banded together for safety. They're a peaceful group of mostly women and children. Many will probably end up living in Mexico. A small number have applied for asylum in the United States and past admission rates suggest that only a quarter of that number will be accepted. That is the reality of this supposedly menacing caravan that Trump conjures up.
Why is he demonizing these destitute, defenseless people? The most likely answer is he is searching for a strategy for the upcoming midterm elections which are looking grim for Republicans. They have little to talk about. There is no trillion-dollar infrastructure program, the new tax law is unpopular, seen largely as a giveaway to corporations and the rich. It has not boosted economic growth as promised. Health care is now even more complicated given the partial repeal of Obamacare.
So what is the way out for Republicans? Clearly they have decided focus on the cultural anxieties of the American public and nothing embodies these anxieties as much as immigration.
Trump has often noted how crucial the border wall is to his base saying that the thing they want more than anything is the wall. Indeed, polls indicate 81 percent of Republicans want the wall to be built. In a midterm in which it is crucial to bring out your most ardent supporters, your base, nothing will work as well as immigration.
Last week a new study in the National Academy of Sciences found that Trump voters in the 2016 election were motivated less by economic anxiety and more by status anxiety, fears of waning power and status in a changing America.
[10:05:15] And an earlier PRRI analysis had come to a similar conclusion highlighting the fears about cultural displacement were the key to understanding the motivation of white working class Trump voters.
Donald Trump may not read these academic studies but he clearly understands in his gut what stirs his base and he is determined to inflame these fears regardless of the facts or the effect this will have on the country.
For more go to CNN.com/fareed and read my "Washington Post" column this week. And let's get started.
The atomic clock is ticking, if an atomic clock does tick. President Trump has just a handful of days left to decide whether he's going to unilaterally pull out of the nuclear deal with Iran. What would it mean if he did?
Ernest Moniz was energy secretary under President Obama. Moniz and then Secretary of State John Kerry were the top U.S. officials in the talks between Iran and the world powers.
Welcome, Mr. Secretary.
ERNEST MONIZ, FORMER ENERGY SECRETARY: Thank you, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: So the first argument and probably the central argument that President Trump makes about the Iran deal, about why he wants to pull out, is the so-called sunset clauses that he claimed in that press conference with the Nigerian president that in seven years Iran can simply start rebuilding a nuclear weapons program. Is that true?
MONIZ: No, that's not really correct. The agreement I should first say has two principal pieces. One is for 15 years from 2016 Iran is highly constrained in what it can do in the nuclear arena. But even more important the deal does not sunset because what was put in place were extraordinary monitoring and verification measures. And so the idea that once some of these nuclear constraints go off that Iran is somehow free to run to a nuclear weapons program is just incorrect, number one.
Well, they have, of course, committed to not pursuing a nuclear weapon in the agreement but, more importantly before the agreement we had no monitoring and verification measures. Now we have extraordinary ones and that is the key because obviously if Iran were to restart a nuclear weapons program, I don't think they would be doing it in the open at facilities declared to the international inspectors.
It would be a covert program as it was before 2004 and it's the agreement that gives the inspectors the tools to look for those suspect sites.
ZAKARIA: Describe some of the verifications because, you know, I -- experts have told that they feel very comfortable with the level of -- or the, you know, the intrusive nature. For example, I think there are going to be cameras in the mines where you mine the uranium for 25 years or something like that?
MONIZ: That is correct. Iran is the only country in the world whose uranium supply chain will be under monitoring for 25 years. The IAEA has made very effective use of the ability supplied in the agreement to use all modern technology, special cameras, special seals and the like. They have tremendous boots on the ground, lots and lots of images, lots of big data if you like to analyze in this case. So it's extraordinary in many ways.
ZAKARIA: The secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis, said when asked about whether or not, you know, the agreement was intrusive enough, he said I've read the Iran deal and it is designed for a country that we have assumed in the past has cheated. In other words, it's designed to prevent the very kind of cheating that Iran did in the past that Prime Minister Netanyahu, for example, pointed out this week.
MONIZ: That's right. And, you know, much has been made of President Netanyahu's exposure of these Iranian nuclear weapons plans for the period up to 2004. We knew that. In fact the American intelligence committee published that in 2007. So we went into this agreement in some part because of the previous weapons program.
We certainly went into the agreement with the attitude that, shall we say, went beyond President Reagan's statement about trust but verify. We said don't trust and verify, verify, verify. So that's how that agreement was put together that led to Secretary Mattis' reaction and it's why to give up this agreement on our side would be a terrible mistake.
[10:10:02] In fact, if I may say, I think Prime Minister Netanyahu's presentation actually reinforces the need for the agreement because I feel that while the presentation did not break new ground in terms of our knowing of there being a weapons program given all the information I would guess upon analysis it will reveal some new people, maybe places, equipment, all of those things need to be run to the ground.
Frankly Iran has put itself by having this exposed in a pretty tough spot. It is the process generated in the agreement that will allow that those things to be run to the ground and frankly Iran is going to have a lot of explaining to do in terms of a bunch of specifics. That analysis will take some time because there is so much information. Once again, if we unilaterally break the agreement we're going to give Iran a free pass on that.
ZAKARIA: What would happen, Secretary Moniz, if the United States unilaterally pulled out of this agreement?
MONIZ: Well, I think there's two main things. One, again, it will actually relieve pressure on Iran in multiple dimensions including their need to respond to these recent Israeli discoveries. That's number one. But number two and very, very serious, this would be an enormous wedge between us and our European allies in particular who have been very, very forthcoming in saying they are willing to work with us on these other issues but it must be in the context of the Iran agreement as a foundation for doing the rest of that.
And frankly, it will be horribly messy because on the one hand the European governments are saying that they want to stay with the agreement. On the other hand if the president restores what are called secondary sanctions for doing business in Iran, a whole bunch of European countries will have no option, frankly, other than following those sanctions because they could not be cut off from the American market and from American banks.
And I might say that one of the more remarkable results in the negotiation in the first place was the coherence that was maintained between the United States, European allies, and even Russia and China, and I remind you the agreement came a year after Russia's Ukraine incursion. And even then we were able to work together on this issue of joint concern, Iranian nuclear weapons.
So Iran, look, you can imagine in any negotiation they are looking for wedges. They never succeeded in breaking apart this group of six countries. We would just be handing them a victory in a certain sense in that dimension.
ZAKARIA: Secretary Moniz, always a pleasure to have you on.
MONIZ: Thank you, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, I will ask the former head of the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad what he thought of Prime Minister Netanyahu's dramatic presentation this week and whether he thinks the United States should pull out of the deal when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Iran lied. Big time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: That was the key message in Prime Minister Netanyahu's presentation to his people and the world on Monday. Taking a cue perhaps from the TV career of his ally, Donald Trump, Netanyahu played up the drama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NETANYAHU: And here's what we got. 55,000 pages. Another 55,000 files on 183 CDs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: In the aftermath of the announcement most experts agreed there was little new to what the prime minister had supposedly revealed making these anti-Iran new case first in English and only then in Hebrew. Perhaps Bibi was talking to just one person, the man who will decide by May 12th whether the United States stays in the deal or pulls out. I wanted to get an Israeli perspective on the speech and got one from
General Danny Yatom. He is a former head of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, and now a member of an organization of top Israeli retired generals who are concerned about the future of that nation. It is called Commanders for Israel's Security.
General Yatom, a pleasure to have you on.
GEN. YATOM, FORMER MOSSAD DIRECTOR: Thank you very much, Mr. Zakaria.
ZAKARIA: So you are a former general, a former head of Mossad, former chief of staff to Barak, former military adviser to Rabin, and you studied physics, you know, in college. So I feel as though --
YATOM: In the university.
ZAKARIA: You are perfectly qualified to tell me what to think of Bibi Netanyahu's presentation about the Iranian nuclear program.
YATOM: I think that we have to be honest and say that we the Israelis, and not only us, but also the Americans, those who are inside the issues, we did not see or hear anything else. We knew that the Iranians are cheating, we knew that the Iranians are lying, we knew that they had military nuclear program. We knew that they hide it.
But it is good for those that did not believe the Mossad and the others that the Iranians had it because look, until today even after the presentation of Mr. Netanyahu, the Iranians say, no, we have never had a nuclear program for military purposes.
[10:20:02] ZAKARIA: Now since 2015 when the Iranians signed the nuclear deal, the IAEA which has inspectors and cameras says they have abided by it, U.S. intelligence confirms that. European intelligence -- is it your understanding that Israeli intelligence also believes that since 2015, since the signing of the deal, Iran has abided by the terms of the deal?
YATOM: I think that the answer is yes. But with some suspicions. Meaning, we did not find any evidence that Iran breached the deal but there were some information entered about the cooperation between North Korea and Iran. And when you ask yourself what kind of corporation it can be or it could be, the only corporation is either corporation in the field of nuclear capabilities and especially for military purposes.
ZAKARIA: What would your advice to President Trump be on -- for his decision on May 12th? Should he adhere to the deal or should he withdraw?
YATOM: I think that he should adhere to the deal. And I think that this is mainly -- even though I agree there are many, many holes in the deal. But this is the opportunity. And also after what was revealed by us, about all those documents, this is a very good opportunity to come to the Iranians and to say, hey, look what we have found. We now have to make amendments and corrections in the deal. ZAKARIA: If the United States walks away from the deal and Iran in
response says then we don't have to adhere to the deal, isn't that a worse situation for Israel because now Iran is free to pursue any kind of nuclear program it wants.
YATOM: You are 100 percent right. It is worse situation. If the agreement collapses due to the withdrawal of the United States and immediately withdrawal of Iran, it will be the collapse of the agreement. And instead of being in an ordinary place we'll be in a jungle because everybody will do whatever he understands. And the Iranians might come back immediately to where they were left before the agreement. And this is to continue and to enrich uranium in order to achieve in something like a year a nuclear bomb.
ZAKARIA: Let me ask you about another issue that is very close to your heart. You are part of this group of almost 300 Israeli generals, former generals from Mossad, from Shin Bet, from the armed forces. Why have you gotten together? What is the driving passion here?
YATOM: We have many concerns about the future of the state of Israel. We want the state of Israel to exist forever as the only Jewish and democratic state. Now between the sea and the Jordan River, there are approximately half Jews and half Palestinians. If there will not be a two-state solution that we are promoting and the prime minister does not promote and his government does not promote, we might find ourselves in a much worse situation where the world will come to rivals and say, you know what, we are fed of this struggle.
You cannot find a way to live together side by side, let's have one state. Once there is a one state to the two peoples, it means the end of the state of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state because you can't preserve Israel as Jewish and democratic only if under your sovereignty the majority of the population is Jewish. And between the Jordan and the sea, this is not the situation even not today. So it is the destruction of the state of Israel.
ZAKARIA: General, pleasure to have you on.
YATOM: Thank you very much, Mr. Zakaria.
ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, Kim Jong-un in conversation.
The world had the opportunity to hear from him like that for the first time at last week's historic summit. What did it reveal about North Korea's leader, and what else do we really know about him?
I will talk to the CIA's former senior career analyst Sue Mi Terry.
Don't forget if you miss a show, go to CNN.com/fareed for a link to my iTunes podcast.
[10:28:50] ZAKARIA: At last week's summit in the DMZ The world saw and heard Kim Jong-un like they had never seen him before. My next guest, Sue Mi Terry, was a senior analyst on Korea issues at
the CIA. Last Sunday she told me that all this new information about Kim would be a boone for Western intelligence agencies. We heard from many viewers who wanted to know more. What did we learn about Kim Jong-un and what should Donald Trump know about the man he might sit across the table from? So she's back to answer those questions and more.
A pleasure to have you on.
SUE MI TERRY, FORMER CIA SENIOR ANALYST ON KOREA ISSUES: Thank you.
ZAKARIA: First, explain to people what a black box this is. I mean, this is a guy whose father, for example, we had barely ever heard his voice. We still don't know how old Kim Jong-un exactly is. Describe the sort of weird world we live in.
TERRY: No, it's true. When Kim Jong-un came into power I think we knew very little about him. We didn't even have photos of him. There's one 11-year-old photo, black and white, that's been circulating around and that was about it. That he was educated in Switzerland. But very, very little. There's some anecdotal information that we got from Kim Jong-un's former assistant chef. Things like that. So we knew very, very little. And of course for the last six years until recent summitry, Kim Jong-un has not met with anybody except (INAUDIBLE). So there was very little information until very recent months.
ZAKARIA: And now you look at things like that.
TERRY: So when you're very, very little -- and of course, for the last six years, until recent summitry, Kim Jong-un has not met with anybody except Dennis Rodman, so there was very little information until very recent months.
ZAKARIA: And now you look at that summit and you saw him conversationally chatting. What was most striking to you about the man you saw?
TERRY: Well, he seemed like his grandfather. He was very charming. His body language is very warm and affectionate. He's laughing a lot. He's touching people. He's drinking. He's partying. He's having very conversational skills and he's not stiff and wooden.
So I think -- and, you know, we've been hearing that he's, kind of, a decisive, bold person. So I think this is something we need to expect. I think he could be quite charming in person. And if he sits down with President Trump, maybe they will actually even hit it off in terms of chemistry and rapport.
ZAKARIA: But he was clearly good at the symbolism.
ZAKARIA: He held the president of South Korea's hand. He walked across... TERRY: Yes.
ZAKARIA: He understood the theater of it all.
TERRY: Oh, yes. And I think the moment was very, very interesting because he came to the south side and then he brought Moon Jae-in back -- President Moon back to the north side. And everybody just spontaneously clapped. It was very -- I don't know if it was planned or it was a spontaneous action. But he shows you, like, he has a sense of humor. He can read people and read the environment. So I think it's going to be quite interesting when he actually sits down with President Trump.
ZAKARIA: And yet this is the man who had his uncle executed in a football stadium with anti-aircraft guns, who had his half-brother assassinated using a deadly poison.
TERRY: Absolutely. How soon do we forget this, just a year and a half ago that he killed his half-brother, or assassinated him, using banned WMD. And he killed over 300 senior folks. He purged 300 folks even for a little reason like somebody fell asleep while he was speaking. So apparently he also has a short fuse and a little bit of a temper -- well, not a little bit of a temper -- I would say a lot of temper.
So it's really going to be interesting, but he has both sides. He's obviously a very ruthless person. We all know that. But he's also decisive and bold and he can be charming one-on-one. So it will be interesting to see.
ZAKARIA: It seems to me it's all very strategic. He was very tough, executing people, when he was trying to send a signal, it seemed to me, to the Chinese, "Don't try to replace me; don't even think of a coup." That's why he gets rid of the brother, who could replace him, the uncle who was close to the Chinese.
ZAKARIA: Now he's decided, that he's built up the program, he's charming. You know, it seems people always wondered, is he rational or irrational? This sounds pretty smart.
TERRY: To me, he's very rational. I always thought he was rational. But he's rational; he's shrewd; he's astute. I think he's quite smart. The key question here is, how strategic is he?
Did he think this through all the way? Did he always intend, after he completed his program, nuclear program, 90 percent, 95 percent done, that he was going to actually turn to summitry and diplomacy and sit down with President Trump? Or was it just all maximum pressure and sanctions, and he just decided this a few months ago?
So it will be quite interesting to see if this is tactical or truly a strategic decision what kind of leader he will turn out to be.
ZAKARIA: The North Koreans have been developing a nuclear program for 25 years. This is, you know, a kind of deep national ambition they've had. Do you imagine he has the power and he has the intention to actually give that all up and literally go down to the ground, go down to a kind of Iran-like state where they're in a completely non-weapon program?
TERRY: I think he has the power that -- in North Korea, whatever he says is the word, as Chairman Kim. So I think he has the power. Whether he has that intention to completely, verifiably, irreversibly dismantle his nuclear program, I have serious doubt that. But I think he's going to pretend or at least act like he will. So I think that's different. Whether he will truly give it up, I -- I have my skepticism. I'm very doubtful.
ZAKARIA: A pleasure, as always, Sue Mi Terry.
TERRY: Thank you for having me on.
ZAKARIA: Stay right with us because next on "GPS," we're going to give you some good news about the Middle East. It is about Iraq -- yes, Iraq -- really striking what has happened there in the past two years.
ZAKARIA: Now for our "What in the World" segment. The Middle East appears to be getting ever more tense, if that were even possible, as the Iran deal teeters, Israel ramps up the pressure and the civil war continues in Syria and Yemen.
But there is actually one underreported piece of good news coming out of the region. Iraq will undertake its fifth general election since the fall of Saddam Hussein on Saturday and it does so with an unprecedented undertone of stability and even optimism.
Four years ago things looked bleak. The country faced a series of existential crises. ISIS held a third of Iraq's territory; sectarian tensions raged; the Kurds appeared ready to secede; and the price of oil, basically the government's only revenue, was beginning to plummet.
Around that time, former U.S. officials were pretty candid with me about the country's weaknesses.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(UNKNOWN): Well, Iraq -- it doesn't exist except lines on a map.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(UNKNOWN): At the end of the day, Fareed, we can't put that country together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: Perhaps we can't, but there is evidence that they can. A fascinating new report out from New America points at the bright spots, none more dramatic than the defeat of ISIS, which Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced in a televised addressed in December.
The Iraqi government was able to beat back ISIS in the Sunni heartland with fewer government-sanctioned sectarian atrocities than have happened in the past. All this had a restorative effect on the national psyche.
Iraq's defining weakness, of course, is the divide between Shiite Arabs, Sunni Arabs and Kurds. But there is now a striking sense of optimism among Sunnis who had been alienated ever since the 2003 invasion and the subsequent rise of a Shiite majority.
In 2014 then Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki held a 5 percent approval rating among Sunni Arabs, according to Munkhit al-Dakhar (ph), who runs a Baghdad-based polling firm. But by last year things had changed drastically. Abadi, then nearly three years into his term, held a 71 percent approval rating among Sunni Arabs, an astounding number for an Iraqi Shiite politician.
And it's not just the prime minister. The Iraqi army has the approval of 81 percent of Iraqis, up from just 59 percent in 2014, the New America report notes.
You see, Abadi has done something Maliki never did, offer both the rhetoric and substance of peace and inclusion to the Sunnis and the Kurds. But he's also capable of carrying a big stick. Last fall the Kurds overwhelmingly voted for independence in a long-awaited referendum. Baghdad's punishment rained down swiftly. It retook oil installations and blocked international flights to Kurdish airports.
But then Abadi's government commenced months of fevered negotiations with the Kurds, finally agreeing to pay half of Kurdish officials' salaries, effectively ending the standoff, the New York Times reported. Now even some Kurdish politicians sound positively conciliatory.
I don't mean to overstate where Iraq is. It still suffers from widespread corruption, and it is in desperate need of economic reforms. And if the forces committed to dividing a fractiously stitched-together country win out after the election, this relative calm could be lost easily. But where Iraq is remains quite extraordinary when you think about how far it has come.
What has really changed in recent years is that leaders of all stripes have started to buy into the political system rather than trying to destroy it. And it's not a coincidence that ISIS fell in this context. Democracy, a functioning democracy, is the most effective rebuttal to the siren song of the jihadists.
George W. Bush always justified the invasion of Iraq by saying this would be its ultimate payoff.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORMER PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Everywhere that freedom takes hold, terror will retreat.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: Now, we do not need to relitigate the Iraq War and its terrible, tragic price to still conclude that, on this point, the benefits of democracy, George W. Bush might well be right.
Up next, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes grew up in Appalachia, then made half a billion dollars for three years of work at what was then a startup. Now he wants a policy to help people who are not as lucky as he was. A fascinating and controversial idea when we come back.
ZAKARIA: For the past two years the World Economic Forum has put wealth inequality at the top of its list of global risks and the statistics surrounding that inequality are striking. Credit Suisse says that the global 1 percent holds half of the world's wealth. And here in America the three richest men have the same amount of wealth as the entire bottom 50 percent of the population, according to the Institute for Policy Studies.
All this inequality is leading not just to serious economic problems but political ones as well. What to do? My next guest is a 1 percenter, or a 0.1 percenter, who grew up very differently, and he is putting his money and his mouth behind a novel solution.
Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes has a new book called "Fair Shot: Rethinking Inequality and How We Earn."
Chris, thanks for coming on.
HUGHES: Thanks for having me.
ZAKARIA: So you start the book by talking about how you grew up, which is very different circumstances than you're in now. What was it like?
HUGHES: So I grew up in a little town called Hickory, North Carolina. It's in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains. And my mom was a public schoolteacher. My dad was a traveling paper salesman. And we grew up pretty much as middle class as they come. We went to church almost every Sunday and weekends were spent doing housework. My parents worked hard to make ends meet.
I got a scholarship to go to a fancy boarding school and then later on to Harvard and, while there, roomed with Mark Zuckerberg. And the Facebook story took off. The rocket-ship rise has been well- documented. And my life dramatically changed. I went from being part of the middle class to very much being part of the 1 percent. Specifically, in the book, I talk about how I made nearly half a billion dollars for three years' worth of work. And the fact that there's nothing else to call that but what it is, a lucky break.
And in the years after that, I started to think, well, my story is extreme. It's -- you know, not everybody is the roommate of Mark Zuckerberg, et cetera. And I realized, over time, though, that, while my case might be extreme, it's not that uncommon. A small group of people in our economy is getting incredibly wealthy at the same time as everybody else is working just as hard as they have historically and can't make ends meet.
And I think a guaranteed income of $500 a month for working Americans making less than 50 grand is actually the most powerful thing that we can do to not just combat inequality but also restore the American dream.
ZAKARIA: So the argument against the kind of proposal you're putting forward is it is a disincentive for people to work. If you're telling people you're going to get a guaranteed income, won't people just -- won't it reduce the incentive to go out and get work, and that there's something meaningful about a job that's not just about money; it's about a sense of purpose and dignity.
HUGHES: So I make the case in the book that jobs have changed so meaningfully in the United States that what we need to do is create an income floor, to stabilize them. Whether the rise of the robots happens; if self-driving cars come or don't come, working people need basic financial stability. The people who are out there who I talk to, the vast majority of Americans, want to work. People find purpose in it; people find meaning in it; and it's something that I've heard on the road, the kind of people I grew up with. I think it's something that is shared in common.
There's this myth of, you know, young guys who just want to put up their feet and play video games or the mythological welfare queen. And I think those are really myths that we create in order to propagate certain stories, draw lines and divide and not actually think about what's happening in the country.
So, in my view, I do think that, if you're working and you make less than $50K, a guaranteed income of $500 a month -- so if you are married, each person would get $500 a month -- would stabilize your financial life.
ZAKARIA: And you have to work?
HUGHES: And the evidence shows...
ZAKARIA: But you have to work.
HUGHES: The evidence shows that people work just as much after getting the money as before.
ZAKARIA: So the other argument is this will explode the budget deficit, that what you're describing is a very expensive program.
HUGHES: I think there's no two ways about it. I think a guaranteed income is expensive. There are some who say we should go even bigger. There are some who say we should go smaller. What I think is reasonable is $500 a month for people making less than $50,000. That would be an additional $300 billion to the federal budget, which is very meaningful, but it is doable. The way I recommend that we pay for it is bringing rates on income of
$250,000 into line with their historical averages, about 50 percent, enclosing the most egregious other tax loopholes in the code.
So just to give a contextual scale, the tax bill that got passed a few months ago is estimated to cost between $1.5 trillion and $2 trillion. What I'm talking about, after you factor in economic growth, would cost more or less the same, a little bit more, more or less the same.
So anybody who says to me, "Oh, this is too big of an idea," well, if it's not too big of an idea to cut rates on corporations and the 1 percent, then it shouldn't be too big of an idea to provide real economic opportunity to the people who need it most.
ZAKARIA: When you go back to Appalachia, do they look at you, because of the boarding school and Harvard -- and the money, but also the education -- do they think you have become a different person?
HUGHES: I mean, my story is different from theirs. So I still feel a sense of connection to North Carolina, to my parents, to the family that I still have there. I mean, they're the kind of people I grew up with, you know, going to baseball games, hanging out after church with, potluck dinners -- I mean, all the stuff that is part of growing up. So there's a connection there that, like I imagine for most people, is enduring. But there's also a sense that my life has taken a very different course, and that does make me different. And I also think that, with that privilege, comes a sense of responsibility, because that is deeply tied in to the same value set that I share with many of the people that I did grew up with.
ZAKARIA: Chris Hughes, a pleasure to have you on.
HUGHES: Thanks for having me.
ZAKARIA: Separation of church and state can be a contentious issue in multicultural democracies, and it brings me to my question. Which regional government recently ordered all its public buildings to display Christian crosses at their entrances: Spain's Galicia, Poland's Lower Silesia, Italy's Umbria, or Germany's Bavaria? Stay tuned and we'll tell you the correct answer.
This week's book is Chris Hughes' "Fair Shot: Rethinking Inequality and How We Earn." Earlier on the show Hughes told us the story of how he became a half-billionaire and described the winner-takes-all economy in which we live. "Fair Shot" is his take on how to stop runaway inequality. But it does not read like most wonky books. It's personal, intelligent, very well-written and moves along briskly. Do get this short, fascinating brief.
The answer to my "GPS" challenge question this week is D. All public buildings under the authority of the German state of Bavaria, believe it or not, will be required to display a Christian cross at their entrances beginning on June 1st, as Deutsche Welle pointed out. The newly elected head of the state government tweeted that the crosses represent Bavarian identity and Christian values. Opposition politicians were quick to criticize the move as pandering to right- wing voters ahead of upcoming elections.
Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.