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tv   Fareed Zakaria GPS  CNN  April 4, 2021 10:00am-11:00am PDT

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this is "gps," the global public square. welcome to all of you in the united states and around the world. i'm fareed zakaria, coming to you live from new york. today on the show, president biden's ambitious policy pushes have garnered comparisons to fdr and lbj. are those analogies apt? where will this round of progressivism go? >> in 50 years people will look back and say this is the moment that america won the future. >> i'll ask historians jon
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meacham and niall ferguson. also the world health organization controversial report on the origins of covid. the u.s. and 13 nations express concern about the paper complaining that the investigators lacked access to crucial information. >> i will talk to one of those investigators, the virus hunter, peter daszak. and what in the world happened to germany? in the first wave it controlled covid remarkably well. among the best in the west. now angela merkel admits they have lost control. i will explore the fate of miss merkel and her nation. but first here is my take. while donald trump claimed he wanted to make america great again, president biden is
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attempting to actually do it. trump's slogan got americans thinking about the 1950s and early 1960s, when the u.s. dominated the world and the economy produced rising wages for workers and executives alike. a defining feature of those years was federal investment in infrastructure, scientific research and education. by contrast, washington in recent years has mostly spent money to fund private consumption by giving people tax cuts or transfer payments. biden's infrastructure bill is the first major fiscal program in five decades to focus once again on investment. when you look at federal spending as a whole, it seems to have risen significantly over the last few decades. but the composition of that spending tells the real story. most of that increase is due to sharp rises in entitlement programs like medicare and medicaid. core investment spending has dropped substantially.
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the u.s. used to spend as much as 3% of gdp on transport and water infrastructure. that number is now closer to 2%. the u.s. used to be the world's unquestioned leader in basic science and technology. china is now almost on par with it in spending. biden's plan harkens back to the new deal. during the great depression, the works progress administration built or improved almost 1,000 airports, creating the backbone of the modern airline industry. biden's plan will help create a modern electric vehicle system by funding a network of half a million chargers across the nation. the 1936 rural electrification act, biden proposed the same with high speed internet which he argues is the equivalent in today's economy. the new deal was bigger relative to the size of the economy, but
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it is the only valid comparison with what the biden administration is proposing. with the spirit of the new deal is sorely needed today is in the cost efficiency and transparency of these kind of projects. america used to be able to build things with astonishing speed. the george washington bridge in manhattan, at the time the world's longest suspension bridge, was built in four years ahead of schedule and budget. by contrast, adding two miles of new subway lines and three new stations in manhattan, took, depending on when you start counting, between 10 and 100 years and ended up costing $4.5 billion by the time it opened in 2017. building infrastructure in america is now insanely expensive. another project in new york, a expansion of the long island railroad is the most expensive stretch of subway track on earth according to "the new york times," coming in at seven times the world average.
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new york is particularly bad, in a league of its own. but american infrastructure often cost several times more than it does in europe. paris and rome and madrid has managed to build subways for less yet those cities are hundreds of years older than any in the u.s. many of them have many unions and tons of regulations so none of the usual excuses will do. one recent study found that the cost of building u.s. interstate highways quadrupled from the 1960s to the 1990s though material and labor costs have barely budgeted after counting for inflation. there are multiple reasons for this. multiple authorities each with a veto, endless rules and reviews and most likely corruption. the nyu scholar levy did a detailed analysis of the country's crazy costs and fundamentally they were so high because americans were unwilling or unable to look around the world and try to learn from other countries.
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american exceptionalism in this case had led to an exceptional uniquely bad system for building infrastructure. by contrast, the new deal was surprisingly well run. the works progress administration employed 3 million people at its peak, more than any private company. in today's workforce that would be about 10 million people. the enterprise was skillfully managed by harry hopkins one of franklin roosevelt's closest aides. the vast tennessee valley authority spanning seven states and eventually comprising of 30 hydroelectric dams was led by david lillenthal. most of the funds were administered scrupulously by harold ickies. another confidant of fdr's. each of the men developed a reputation for honesty and efficiency and reliability which in attorney made people believe that government could do things
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and do them well. for the biden administration to truly be transformative, it needs to rival, not only the ambition of the new deal, but also its impressive execution. go to for a link to my "washington post" column this week, and let's get started. ♪ let's keep talking about biden's infrastructure and jobs proposal which comes on the heel of his $2 trillion relief package. is it fair to compare biden to fdr? let me bring in jon meacham and niall ferguson. john has one of the 11 books he's written, he's an occasional adviser to president biden. niall ferguson is a columnist
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for bloomberg opinion. his most recent book is the square and the tower and he's written about 11 books. jon, let me ask you, to start this, place the series of two actions even before the first 100 days have happened in some historical context. >> well, i think the fdr, the great society analogies spring to mind because it is a democratic president confronting a moment where he sees a need and wants to meet it. i have a slightly -- i don't want to say more nuanced look at it but i do think there is an important point here which is that biden, by my historical reading, is not trying to fundamentally go outside of the american experience. he's trying to act within a tradition that was largely bipartisan, sometimes inadvertently so.
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this is like fdr, but also like dwight eisenhower. and i think one of the things that led to our current divisions and some of the reflexive criticism of the administration is the sense that richard nixon, ronald reagan, george h.w. bush, george w. bush, these were republican presidents who were sent to washington by a conservative base that wanted -- at least in their minds, they wanted government to shrink. and it didn't particularly. there was still, as you were pointing out, there is still this largely the percentage of federal spending is part of gdp has been remarkably consistent or even risen under republican presidents. and so my view is that before people reflexively criticize what the president is trying to do, take a step back and let's see what has worked in periods
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of great american prosperity. what is worked is that the public sector and the private sector have largely been conjoined as opposed to competitive. >> niall, do you think that this marks some kind of turning point, the reagan in a sense did mark a turning point,ush earring in of more emphasis on the private sector and less on the public sector? is this a turning point? >> it might be a turning back point. it won't surprise you and your viewers by speaking in the kind of bipartisan spirit that joe biden's called for. in many ways, his administration got off to a very impressive start. not only in terms of the legislation that it passed or is going to pass in the case of the infrastructure bill, i think it is pretty likely to get most of what it says out, but also in the efficient way that it has gone about getting officials
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appointed and confirmed and in the way it managed its communications. team biden is in stark contrast i think to the previous administration's fire and fury. and that is welcome to most of us craving some return to normality in american politics. but i think it is worth pointing out before we get into comparisons with fdr and lbj, that the biden administration is much less politically strong at the outset than they were and let's remind ourselves roosevelt's party, 58 senate seats, 318 house seats at the outset in 1933, and as you know, the senate is of course tied with the vice president having to break the tie and the house
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democratic caucus is just 219 members. i mean, actually lyndon johnson who you said less about in your opening was in a stronger position, won by a landslide in 64. i think we must remind ourselves that the mandate is much less compelling, less powerful. and we should also remind ourselves that the crisis is completely different from the great depression that roosevelt inherited from herbert hoover. we're coming out of the pandemic, a much shorter duration crisis on the back of vaccinations already, and the vaccination program is one of the legacies that the trump administration, that the biden administration is very happy to take at least some credit for. that is the thing that is going to drive a very rapid recovery, actually regardless of whether there is additional stimulus and infrastructure spending. and finally, let me add one more ca caveat. it's yours, fareed. i completely agree with the point you made at the outset.
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this is not the federal governments of the 1930s or indeed the 1950s which i think jon meecham is right to allude to. this government has become less effective at delivering whatever it tries to deliver and this is a phenomenon that many people have commented on, we have a much more bureaucratic regulatory or administrative state that is very good at satisfying the interest of the bureaucracy itself but quite terrible at delivering the goods. let's face it. if they perform as well as the public health bureaucracy did in the opening phase of the covid pandemic last year, the people delivering infrastructure are going to do about as well as their california counterparts who have spent enormous sums of money and failed to deliver high-speed rail to california. so i worry that when we look at california, we see how this is going to turn out. it is not going to be the 1930s or 1950s infrastructure bonanza.
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>> jon, let me pick up on one thing that niall said. very rich answer. bipartisanship. when we think back to the old bipartisan era, we think that it meant that the democrats have huge majority, the republican party went to along and bob michael was called mr. nice because he was the republican minority leader in the '80s because he went along with the democrats. what is the prospect for real bipartisanship in your view? >> well, in washington, i think it is vanishingly small. i think the political class is trapped by its base driven incentives and i think that the administration has been quite wise to begin to argue that the unity they seek is not in the political entertainment media
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complex as people have called it, but with the country. an enormous number of items are really popular if you go beyond washington and certainly cable news stations. and so i think that is -- for a structurally polarized era, which is what we're in, that is probably the wisest way forward. and i don't think we should be too nostalgic about bipartisanship. if franklin roosevelt -- there were people who could not say his name. they referred to him as that man. 40% of the country never voted for franklin roosevelt. you gave a very generous spirited evaluation of the new deal. but in many ways, the right wing in the country is still living in reaction to this redefinition of the relationship between the state and the individual that unfolded amid the crisis of the 1930s.
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the other thing about president johnson of course is, yes, niall is right that 61% of the country voted for johnson in 1964, but a thousand days later, in 1966, the republicans had a remarkably successful midterm and ronald reagan becomes governor of california. so these moments of consensus are vanishingly rare and therefore, any president, any congress, has to take full advantage of them when he or she can. and i think that is what the president is doing. >> stay with us. we are going to have to continue this fascinating conversation. i'm going to ask niall ferguson in particular whether this new infrastructure bill could trigger runaway inflation when we come back. and now get netflix on us. it's all included with 2 lines for only $70 bucks! only at t-mobile.
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we are back with historians jon meecham and niall ferguson. let me ask you about the covid relief bill and $2 trillion and the infrastructure bill, another $2 trillion. i think it is fair to say that i were one of many very distinguished economists and scholars who argued that the last big stimulus bill, '09, '10 after the global financial crisis was likely to trigger the collapse of the dollar and those things didn't happen. why do you think -- if those
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scholars were wrong then, why do you think that people are right now to warn of the same runaway inflation caused by spending. >> i don't remember predicting runaway inflation. there was the question of monetary policy and quantitative easing and i was wrong about that and in pretty good company. this is a different debate that we're having right now and the question is straightforward, is the amount of fiscal stimulus given to the economy appropriate given the size of the problem. let me just quote from what many conservatives but from larry summers whereas the obama stimulus was half as large, the proposed biden stimulus is three times as large and there is a challenge that normal recession levels will set off inflation
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pressured of a kind we haven't seen in a generation with consequences for the value of the dollar and financial stability. the key phrase there is there is a chance and the possible ability is a question. i think it is questionable that larry summers who was on the other side from those warning of inflation back in 2010, has now come out warning about this inflation risk. and he's supported by people who are definitely kindred spirits, keynesians in many ways. think of the support he's got from martin wolf of the financial times or for that matter or olivia -- so i think the question is uncertainty. we don't know what is striking is that the administration and the fed are so confident that any inflation impulse will be transient and that inflation expectations won't be unanchored, ugly word.
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i don't think we could be assured about that. given the magnitudes we're talking about, there is clearly a risk of the economy overheating and inflation expectations doing what they did under lyndon johnson. now it is time to remind everybody that not everything went swimmingly for lbj. he ended up with inflation below 2% to 3% to close to 6% by the end of his presidency. and that obviously is the risk that the biden administration is running by doing such massive stimulus to an economy already recovering thanks to vaccination. i mean, the vaccines are the tim stimulus. everything you do on top of that risked overheating. >> jon, i don't have a lot of time but i do want to ask you very quickly to tell us, culturally what, does it mean that a 78-year-old, very old-fashioned man like joe biden has succeeded the kind of circus of donald trump in the midst of the social media explosion. is this the real harkening back of nostalgia that people have?
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>> i don't think it is the nostalgia. i think it is quite real. i think that stylistically, the president's more like forten bross in act five of hamlet, but that order is not retrospective or retrograde. i think the legislative proposals are quite forward-leaning and have the chance, as he said this week, to create certain enduring engines of opportunity for people in the way that we've done in our past. so i do think it is important, this is been a wonderful conversation because it is actually been a conversation about ideas, money, the american tension, the western tension between public and private, and it is not about creeping fascism. it is not about a crisis of democratic accountability.
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which is what we came from 20 minutes ago. and so in that sense, i think the best part of the country has reasserted itself. nothing is inevitable, it is always a struggle, but i think most americans on this easter feel a lot better about their country than they did last easter. >> such a fascinating chance to talk to both of you. jon meecham, niall ferguson, thank you so much. next on "gps," this week the world health organization issued a controversial report on the origins of covid. i'll talk to peter daszak, one of the report's investigators. ♪ hey hey hey. ♪ goodbye. ♪ na na na na... ♪ hey hey hey. ♪ goodbye. ♪ na na na na ♪ na na na na...
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it is one of the biggest unanswered questions about the pandemic. where did it begin? almost all fingers point to wuhan, china, the epicenter the initial outbreak. some say it came from a wet market in the city. others say it originated at a lab there that studies viruses. on tuesday, the w.h.o. released the long-anticipated report on the question. the study was controversial from the start especially since as the front page of the report said it was jointly conducted with the government of china. and as the u.s. and 13 other nations complained that the team lacked access to samples among other issues. peter daszak was one of the w.h.o. investigators on that report. peter, let me -- welcome and begin by asking you, you know, what is the central question that people are asking and have charged, which is why is the
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report confident that the virus, coronavirus did not originate in that lab in wuhan, the institute of virology? >> well, this is a scientific report. so what we did here is look at scientific evidence, data, and information about all of the possible pathways this virus could have taken from the wildlife host, which we think is a bat, into wuhan and cause a pandemic. and what we found when we visited the laboratories in wuhan and looked to the literature published from them, asking them tough questions about these origins, we found no evidence that suggests that those labs or that lab in particular is the source. so we deemed it extremely unlikely that it came from that lab. >> and there are people who say that there were samples withheld from the lab, that you didn't get the kind of access you needed. is any of that true? >> well, i think people should
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read the report. you know, this is an issue in china that has been extremely sensitive for them, the origins of covid. what we have here is an international team of experts gathered together by w.h.o., sent into china to sit down with the scientists, the people who found the first cases of covid and working on the coronavirus in the lab and ask them questions and look at evidence, reams of new data never publish the given here in this report to the world, i think that is pretty substantial. it opens the door, it is phase one. we now need to move to the next phase and dig deeper and we have some real leads and clues in this information. >> and you believe -- the report believes that the most likely scenario is that this goes through a bat to a chicken with a wet market places where live and dead animals are sold for slaughter and cooking. why is that the most likely
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transmission route? >> well, one of the critical pieces of evidence that we looked at was interviews with the vendors in the market, where the first cases were associated, the first big cluster of cases. what we found was those vendors were bringing in animals across children and from the places where the nearest viruses are found in bats, and they were also selling animals that were known coronavirus reservoirs. so that is a real clue, a potential pathway opened up. we need to do more work to nail this down. but we think that is the most likely pathway that this virus could have taken. >> what does this suggest in terms of the future? i mean these wet markets are not going to go away in countries. in rural china as you know, refrigeration doesn't exist so there are live markets that
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exist and in africa, are we in danger? >> well, it needs to be really looked at closely. this is a high-risk activity. people have been saying that for many, many years. don't forget the original sars virus emerged this way and there is technology to produce refrigeration at that scale that could be used and it is a cultural issue. is there a willingness to change cultural habits. and we've seen that china on the 24th of february on the middle of the outbreak declaring that all the wildlife farms where these species are bred and farmed into the market should be closed down. so it is possible to act. it is possible to shift. it requires a deep understanding of why people do this, but we need to come to grips with that. >> let me ask you about some of the questions that people have pointed to you personally, which is that you have worked with the institute of virology in wuhan, that you have done research
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projects with them, the trump administration proposed other americans to the w.h.o. and they rejected them and chose you. and the implication obviously is that you are biased, that you have in a sense a kind of conflict of interest. >> right. my relationship working with wuhan institute of virology is public and we've been publishing papers for 15 years on this issue. our funding comes from the federal government to do this work. it is sanctioned by the u.s. government. so if you want to bring together a group of experts to have a deep understanding of how a coronavirus would emerge in china, it makes sense to bring in the people who have been working in china for 15 years on coronaviruses with the same scientists that we need to talk to. that was my role in the team,
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and i think i brought value to that. >> peter daszak, i hope we can have you on again when we learn more about the virus. >> thank you, fareed. >> next i'll take you to a western nation battling covid very well. it's now on its third spike. what in the world is going on in germany? re-entering data that employees could enter themselves? that's why i get up in the morning! i have a secret method for remembering all my hr passwords.
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down, is dealing with a third spike. this past week there were about 17,000 new cases a day. what in the world is happening in this country that seemed to have it altogether. joining me now is melissa eddy a "new york times" columnist in berlin. melissa, first just give us a sense of what has it been like with the lockdowns and is it -- germans have always prided themselves on having good rational government. does it feel like that living in germany? >> thanks, fareed. it doesn't any more. initially it did. a year ago, angela merkel was clear and able to explain the science and in a way that everybody understood, the rules were clear, everybody was locking down and then they started ramping up tests and things were looking good. but we've seen a breakdown of the clarity. nobody is quite sure what lockdown status we're in because it changes depending on the rate of infection, and it is supposed
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to be different counties have different states of the lockdown. nobody could remember anymore. just two days ago we were told in berlin we're not allowed to go outside at night unless we're with somebody that we know. and it is just -- people are getting really confused and what we're seeing is a loss of that order that germans pride themselves on. >> some of this is -- i think most people outside of germany doesn't realize that germany, like america, has a crazy patch work of local and state federal authority, right? >> yes. this is one of the idea of the allies after world war ii, they thought it is not a good idea for power in the hands of one individual after we what we saw with adolf hitler. so there is a decentralized process and what we're seeing with handling a pandemic, the chancellor unlike the french president can't declare a nationwide lockdown.
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she has to get all 16 governors on board with her. and where a year ago everybody was willing to get on board, we are now months out from a major election, and we've got some party politicking going on and jockeying for position and a lot of governors have different interests from coming from their constituencies and not willing to go along exactly with what the chancellor is saying. so it is having an effect on the chancellor's ability to just really keep things under control. >> and chancellor merkel has attacked directly some of the governors including one who is her likely successor. she's also asked for more powers for the chancellor. how is this going to play out? who is going to win? >> well that is the big question. so, the more powers for the chancellor, we have to be careful. that is only for dealing with the pandemic. so that she would not be able to just have more powers in general. it would just be that it would make it easier for her to impose certain restrictions in order to
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get the pandemic under control. at the same time, her criticism of her potential successor is an indication of just the level of tension that is going on here. and although she would need to get parliament onboard in order to get that concentration of pow into her hands, there are no way to go around the states entirely because at the end of the day the governors have to enforce the rules so she has to be incredibly careful. >> and tell us about what does this look like in terms of the future of party politics in germany? has the sort of center which merkel so dominated been weakened because so much of that center's appeal was steady, steadfast leadership? have populists have been able to take advantage of this weakening of the center? >> it is really interesting, so far the numbers have not shown
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that the populists have been able to take advantage of this. but it doesn't mean that we won't see that in the coming months. even yesterday we saw that about 10,000 people who were demonstrating against all of these coronavirus safety measures in the southwestern city in the state where we just saw a bashing of the chancellor's party. and overall across the board, her party is losing in popularity. so for her it is not a direct problem because she is not going to be running again. but for her party, it certainly is. after 16 years in power, it is a pretty sad tale for them to see them bleeding support to one of their main rivals who are the green party, which has been a younger upstart environmental party and growing in popularity. however, we saw this in the last election four years ago, that the populists were kind of sleeping and then when it came time for people to vote, they did really well. and so that is always a spector that is kind of looming in the background here.
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>> we have 30 seconds, so i just want to ask you about merkel personally. dominated german politics for 16 years, had very high popularity ratings for much of it. what do people think of her now. >> people are disappointed in her now because she seems to be doing one thing that she never did before and that is waffling. she's always been really clear and in recent months we've seen her have to issue an apology, where that got praise that she was apologizing, it was shocking that she was doing so. >> melissa eddy, thank you so much. >> thank you. and we'll be back. (vo) nobody dreams in conventional thinking. it didn't get us to the moon. it doesn't ring the bell on wall street. or disrupt the status quo. t-mobile for business uses unconventional thinking to help you realize new possibilities. like our new work from anywhere solutions, so your teams can collaborate almost anywhere. plus customer experience that finds solutions in the moment. ...and first-class benefits, like 5g with every plan.
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t . now for the last look, one of the very best parts of joe biden's covid relief bill is what it does for america's children, especially its poorest
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children. it's estimated that the legislation will amazingly cut child poverty in america by half. it also contains money to get kids back to school. this is absolutely crucial because i believe primary and secondary education may be where the pandemic's disruptions end up hurting america the most in the long run. due to the pandemic, students started this school year on average three months behind on math, and one and a half months behind in reading. poor and minority kids had an especially hard time. they were more often ill equipped for online learning, to take one example, participation in online math course work fell by as much as 60% for low income students, but only 25% for kids from high income households. these poorer students were also more likely to have no live contact with teachers over the course of seven days. as a result mackenzie estimates
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that by the end of this school year students of color may lose up to 12 full months of learning. white students could lose up to eight months, as schools are reopening in many cities students of color are less likely to return to classrooms because of a lack of trust in the school system's ability to protect them. the repercussions of all this appear dire. mackenzie estimates that when the current cohort of -- average earnings are estimated to drop by about $2,200 per year due to learning loss for their white counterparts. these losses would be around $1,400. what's more, an estimated 3 million of america's most marginalized students seem to have disappeared from the education system all together. they haven't been seen in schools virtual or in person since march of 2020. the pandemic exacerbated america's age old achievement gap, with non-white groups performing worse on standard
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metrics of progress in education. we must prevent that divide from becoming more entrenched. one way to do that is to get kids back in school, and quickly. the biden administration is off to a good start on that moving forward with a plan to reopen schools. the science is clear, it is unlikely that schools will become vectors for spread if basic health precautions are taken, especially when there are low infection rates in the surrounding community. to make these educational institutions safer still the white house announced a $10 billion investment in testing for schools. but even if every schoolhouse flings open its doors tomorrow and welcomes masked students with open arms the nation will still have to contend with those devastating deficits in learning i told you about. those have already happened. michael bloomberg has a plan for that. the billionaire former mayor of new york city makes a compelling case in the "washington post" to keep schools across the country open over this summer. to fill in some of those gaps.
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why not? i've said before, america's often three-month long summer breaks are an absolute aberration on the world stage. because of the prefty of the school year as well as the shortness of the school day in the u.s., children in south korean china by my calculations, end up spending almost two years more in school than their american counterparts by the end of high school. is it any wonder that they test better? let's fix these issues but let's not stop there. i've also talked before about how the pandemic gives us a once in a lifetime opportunity to fix those elements of society that are ailing. america's education system should be near the top of the list. thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. i will see you next week. it was the easiest application process. sofi made it so there's no tradeoff between my dreams
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hello, everyone, thank you so much for joining me, happy easter, i'm fredricka whitfield. we begin with a race to vaccinate amiddle troubling new signs that the u.s. may be entering a new covid surge at a time when more americans exhibit an anxiousness for return to normalcy. family and friends gathering to celebrate the holiday, churches like at st. patrick's cathedral in new york seeing long lines of people waiting to get in to attend mass at 50% capacity. there is reason for optimism. more than 4