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New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post associate editor Jonathan Capehart join Amna Nawaz to discuss the week in politics, including turmoil in the banking sector, a flare-up in U.S.-Russian tensions and where we stand three years after the COVID lockdown.
This week, government leaders work to safeguard the U.S. banking industry. U.S.-Russia tensions heat up, and three years after the COVID lockdowns, many Americans are asking, are we better prepared for the next viral threat?
For analysis, we have Brooks and Capehart. That is New York Times columnist David Brooks, and Jonathan Capehart, associate editor for The Washington Post.
Welcome to you both. Good to see you.
Amna, good to be here.
Let's start with the banking industry, David, because after the failure of two U.S. banks, we saw the administration step in very quickly, right, assure depositors they would be made whole.
We just saw 11 banks now step in with a $30 billion rescue plan to shore up another bank out in San Francisco. But, clearly, the anxiety around all of this isn't gone, though, yet.
If you look at the — Mr. Dow Jones is very unhappy.
The markets are volatile.
It seems to be there are immediate political things that are germane to politics and our wider national life. The first is, these — this bank informed its investment strategy in a low interest rate environment, which is what we have had for 40 years, and which we no longer have.
And so a bank that invests a disproportion amount of money in Treasuries is suddenly going to suffer, because they're not going to keep up with inflation. And when you get from low interest mentality to a high interest mentality, things begin to break. And the financial system is breaking.
But the other thing that could break is the budget, that we have borrowed and borrowed, borrowed, assumed interest rates were low. They're no longer going to be low. And inflation is here, at least for a good chunk of while, it seems. And so, suddenly, your payments on the debt become massive on the federal level. And that crowds out spending on all other things.
The second thing is, would we have been so quick to act if this were called Managua Hilla (ph) Valley Bank, and not Silicon Valley Bank? And my answer would be no, that the venture capitalists who invested in this bank and whose people who they invested in put money in this bank, they created a narrative that this medium-sized bank, if it went under, the whole economy would go under.
And once they created that narrative, which I think may not have been true, then, more or less, the feds had to act. And so, if I were a populist, I'd be jumping all over this thing, because Silicon Valley Bank gets bailed out? Really? It seems to be tailor-made for our friend Donald Trump.
Well, Jonathan, to that point, I mean, the biggest criticism the administration has faced is, would you do this for every other bank? Would this have happened other places?
Did they set a bad precedent here?
We will find out.
I mean, I think David raises a good point. If it were named any other bank, would the government have jumped in? The other problem with Silicon Valley Bank is that it was basically only a tech center bank. Its holdings were not diversified. So you can — you could blame them for not being prepared for what came.
But it does raise the question of whether the administration will be forced to do it again. And that's something we don't quite know yet. I think we will get a better idea when the Fed meets. There's a story that came out just before we came on, on CNBC about the Fed chairman could possibly raise rates a quarter-of-a-percentage point.
There are other experts out there who are saying, but, if you do that, you are — you're going to bring about a recession. So, the one thing — one thing I take away from what happened with — what's happening with these banks is, these are not isolated incidents.
As David pointed out, one thing impacts another. And so we don't know what's going to happen, really.
And we will have to keep following it. Thank you for your insights on both that, though.
I do want to ask about overseas as well, because it was a big week when it comes to Russia's war in Ukraine, a lot happening. No signs that the war is slowing, David. In fact, there's questions over possible escalation here, right? We saw that video with the Russian jets that forced down a U.S. surveillance drone.
Now we have Poland and Slovakia is stepping in to provide fighter jets to Ukraine. And, amidst all of this, you have GOP candidates and other Republicans openly saying: This is not our fight. We should not be involved here.
Ron DeSantis just this week, Florida governor, had this to say. He said: "While the U.S. has many vital national interests, becoming further entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia is not one of them."
David, as you know, that's one of the leading candidates for the Republican nomination for president. Is that where Republican foreign policy is headed?
Half of it.
And so it's become a marker of, are you populist Trumpy, or are used conservative, Reaganite conservative?
And it's become a very sharp divide. And I'd say to Ron DeSantis, we're spending a few tens of billion dollars. We have already destroyed half the Russian military. Like, what could be a better investment than that?
And so, to me, even on hardheaded grounds, let alone on moral grounds, it seems to me a crazy policy. But while Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis and some of the populists at places like the Claremont Institute, which is a more Trumpy think tank, they're on that side.
They don't have much power. If you look at the Republicans who have power, in the minority leader's office in the U.S. Senate, on the Foreign Relations Committee, on the Intelligence Committee, those Republicans, if anything, they're saying Biden isn't acting fast enough and hard enough.
And so I have been talking to a lot of conservatives in Congress. And, by and large, those people who really run the foreign policy world, the Republican Party, they're quite aggressive: We need to stick up for Zelenskyy. Ukraine needs to win this war.
Their resolve, if anything, is increasing. So it's just a divide within the party.
How do you see it?
And that is great news to hear, because their — this ratcheting of the rhetoric among Republicans, particularly Governor DeSantis, is very concerning, because there cannot be any daylight between America's resolve and America's commitment to Ukraine and defending Ukraine.
I have said it at this table many times. The president says it all the time. This is a battle between democracy and autocracy. Democracy must win. And so the fact that the more traditional conservatives are in — full-bore behind Ukraine in Congress is the best news I have heard.
I mean, is that true also in the House? You do see some of the deals that Kevin McCarthy has to cut.
Again, it's a split, but it — yes, I'm sorry to interrupt your question.
Go ahead. You know where I'm going with it. Go ahead.
Yes, I mean, it's the same deal.
You have got the people who are really involved in foreign policy, by and large, saying, yes, we need to do more. And you look at the presidential campaign…
… Mike Pence, we need to be more aggressive, Nikki Haley, we need to be more aggressive.
And so that wing is out there. But there a lot of people who just were uninfluenced by the Reagan era. They were too young or whatever. And then the second thing that's happening here — and this is across the party — but the populists are saying, we can't worry about Russia. We have to worry about China.
And I think the Republican Party as a whole has leapt into a Chinese cold war, we're in a cold war with China, maybe too fast. And so you could say we were a little too innocent about where China was headed 10 years ago. We may be a little too warrior-like now in dealing with China now. Our relationship with China is so complicated.
It seems to be the ultra cold war posture that we're dealing with, with China may be a little too simplistic.
I also want to note, this week, three years ago was when the COVID lockdowns began. I know. That's the appropriate sigh and eye roll for this moment. It's hard to believe.
That was when all the hand-sanitizing and Clorox-wiping everything down. We thought we might be home a few weeks, right, at that time. Just crazy to think back.
But, Jonathan, we are — we're a different country today than we were three years ago. How have we changed?
Oh, I think we have changed a lot.
I mean, the one thing about isolation, when we all had to not just wipe down everything, but stay home and stay away from our loved ones, was that it was a moment of self-reflection. And I think a lot of people decided or have decided there were things about the before times that they didn't like, the things about their jobs they didn't like, things about their lives they didn't like, and that they wanted to change, that, if we got out of this, if we got back to normal, that we would change.
And just look at where we are. Folks are talking — folks are talking about four-day workweeks, three-day workweeks. People are leaving professions that they were in because they realized: I didn't like the way I was treated or how hard I had to work just to get by. I'm going to go someplace else where I'm treated well, I'm respected, my wages are higher, and I get to spend time with my family or with my loved ones.
And I think that's a healthy — a healthy place for us to be. And I think we're just at the beginning of the conversation, because I think, in terms of work life and professions, we're all still trying to figure out how does this new normal work?
What do you think, David?
Yes, well, personally, I made those resolutions to not go back to my before life, and now I have gone back completely to my before life.
So, I'm guilty.
I'm — I think things have changed. I mean, the — I can walk our viewers down through downtown D.C. It does not look the same as it did. It has not recovered. And downtown New York, a lot of the downtowns have just not recovered. So, people really have moved.
I think the mental health effects on young people, in particular, are longstanding. And that's reflected when you talk to teachers, that the ability to concentrate, the ability to behave.
And then the final thing I'd say is, I don't think we have memorialized the million Americans who died enough, that President Biden, the day before inauguration, remember, he had that ceremony?
And it seemed like we should do that. We need — still need to do that more.
And so there are a million households who have lost somebody. And I think we still haven't quite faced the emotional leftovers of that.
Three years later, and we're dealing with it still.
We have got about a minute or so left. And we have arrived at my most favorite time of the year, which is March Madness, the NCAA basketball tournaments.
I just have to ask both of you, are you — are you cheering for anyone? Do you have a team? Do you have a Cinderella team you're rooting for?
Yes, I cheer. On the men's side, I'm cheering for Indiana and Marquette. Indiana's my favorite team. So I have always cheered for them. And they gave me an honorary degree, so…
And then the Cinderellas like Duke. Those people suffer.
They never win anything.
Who speaks for Duke, right?
Yes, I know.
On the women's side, I'm going for Villanova, which is another school I have…
I hate UConn. Sorry, UConn.
There will be mail.
They win too much.
Jonathan, what about you? Do you have a Cinderella story?
Oh, please. The only Cinderella I'm rooting for is the one in the ruby slippers.
On that note, we will be following all those teams.
Jonathan Capehart, David Brooks, always good to see. Thank you.
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Amna Nawaz serves as co-anchor of PBS NewsHour.
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