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tv   Tavis Smiley  WHUT  December 8, 2011 8:30am-9:00am EST

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tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. first up tonight, a conversation with a noted historian and author neil ferguson. he is out with a new text about the struggles of the west and the rise of places like china and india. it is called "civilization." heress kirsten dunst ins with a movie called "melancholy." and hip-hop great memories, heavy d. coming up right now. >> every community has a martin luther king boulevard. it's the cornerstone we all know. it's not just a street or boulevard, but a place where walmart stands together with your community to make every day better. >> nationwide insurance supports
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tavis smiley. with every question and every answer, nationwide insurance is proud to join tavis in working to improve financial literacy and remove obstacles to economic empowerment one conversation at a time. nationwide is on your si >> brought to you by the aarp foundation. >> and by contributions by viewers like you. thank you. [captioning made possible by kcet public television] tavis: more evidence even today about how the turmoil in europe is affecting the worldwide economy as situations in italy and greece continued to spark a global fears. the news about china is a bit more positive as inflation fears start your receipt. this is the backdrop for a
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timely new text from neil ferguson. his latest is called civilization, the west and the rest. could have you back on this program. let me start with some news before we get to the text. anything that we should be celebrating out of this summit? >> that was a real washout. the europeans went into that hoping to get help from china and other emerging nations. they were slapped down good and hard. without some outside help, they seem incapable of solving their own problems. we're watching the classic collapse of market confidence in a sovereign borrower. the difference is that greece was small, italy is big. europeans are in the territory of not so much too big to fail as too big to bail. i struggle to see how that will solve the problem they have created for themselves.
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my book is about the crisis of western civilization. the cradles of western civilization. tavis: how does this issue get addressed in greece or italy? >> given is very unlikely that the germans are going to agree to write a check big enough to a bailout an economy as large as italy, the only solution now open to the europeans is for the european central bank to follow the example of the federal reserve and print money pretty aggressively. that means the ec be has to break all its promises in the past and start buying government bonds from the greeks, italians. it has done some of this already and i kind of subterranean away. i think the head of the e c b is going have to get serious and get out there with his printing press because i don't see any other way of avoiding a complete break out of the single currency.
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i argue the tenor more years ago that europe was making a big mistake in creating a single currency. i have the "i told you so" t- shirt on right now. tavis: you think this is directly tied to the origin of the eu? >> the eu is not the problem, the single currency is the problem. it has done just the opposite. it is called the split between the members and non-members of the single currency. my country is not in a single currency but it is in the european union. inside the single currency, you have a credible economic divergence from the german court in the mediterranean periphery. the problems are really profound and if they don't move swiftly, they are going to be staring at the breakup of the eurozone.
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it will be hard to restore some of the currencies we used to have without bankrupting a very large number of these countries that owe money to people outside of the national borders which would still be in euros. tavis: is the verdict on austerity has as the answer, is the verdict in? >> if you wait until the bond market calls you out, if you wait until you lose market confidence, you are going down. the lesson, i think, is that if you act sooner rather than later, it is a downside easier. there is no alternative for any major developed economy. the problem is, if you put off
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trying to set your house in order and try to lose market confidence, you are in a death spiral where you have rising borrowing costs forcing to cut expenditure and raise taxes that causes the economy to greater. of course, the nightmare scenario is that we might see something similar happened here. >> i have talked extensively for the last three years of battling president obama accountable, you have been tough on him as well. he said that what he promised has not matched up to what he has delivered specifically where economic concerns, where economic matters are concerned. give me your take on barack obama as the leader of this country given the turmoil. >> i have real sympathy for the president. he inherited one hell of a financial mess.
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he was also advised that it would be relatively easy to fix a without this wonderful recovery sparked by a stimulus bill that the democrats in congress have designed and i don't think this is good guys. it wasn't another, and more importantly, everybody was underestimating the amends drag on the economy of consumer debt. and they also underestimated the uncertainty that people would start to feel in the business sector as the federal that started to soar. a think you have to of knowledge that he inherited an incredibly challenging situation. i agree with my old boss when we could be a worse position. maybe expectations were unrealistically high four years ago when people staed to think that we found a messiah that was going to very quickly get the u.s. and back out of the financial hole.
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the whole as much deeper than anybody knew when he entered the white house. in reality, even the best economists underestimated the scale of the challenge. tavis: i hear your point about larry summers that it could have been worse, but i don't think that is a winning political slogan. you can't tell them that it will garner votes. the second issue is, you say the stimulus wasn't big enough. other economists come to mind. . if the president were here, he would say that we got everything we could even though they controlled both houses of congress at the time. they argued that they could not get any more. we say it should of been larger home, they said they couldn't get any more. what do you say?
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>> i say that they did not come by and stimulus with some credible package of stability over a 10 or so your time. the worry was that this was a stimulus today followed by still is tomorrow at the day after that. we have had deficits three years running now. people understandably worry about where this leads. if you look at the congressional budget office numbers, the alternative fiscal scenario has absolutely terrifying implications. it means that if we don't change our path, all federal tax revenues will be absorbed by interest payments on the federal that. even if interest rates stay relatively low. the problem is in some way to fail to combine a strong stimulus in the short term with a credible plan for getting back the stability in the medium term. we got the worst of both worlds.
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the stimulus wasn't big enough and there wasn't credibility for the return of stability. tavis: let me jump to the book right now, you argue if i can highlight it this way, there are six things that have allowed the west monroe, to succeed the way that we have through the years. property rights, madison, consumer society at the work ethic. you argue that is changing? >> if these were the killer apps, i call them that to incite the interest of my teenage children. the position of world dominance by the twentieth century, we no longer lead in any of these fields because the rest of the world like china has been frantically downloading the killer applications. they have been copying the way that we do things.
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we have been the leading them, we are not as good as we used to be on all range of these things. if you look at the world economic forum, what they say about the competitiveness of the united states, it has gone down released deeply. one of the biggest declines in the world economic forum index where china is the biggest climber. we may still get nobel prizes, but they are won by old guys. if you look at how teenagers are doing, our 15-year-old are lagging behind the 15-year-old in shanghai when it comes to mathematical attainment. they are as far behind the shanghai kids as we are ahead of kids and albania and to asia. that is a really troubling sign of trouble for the future. in this globalized world with very competitive wage rates, if you don't succeed educationally,
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it is hard to see how you can be a center of innovation that the u.s. has been in recent years. >> i wondered if it was fair to say the west and the rest as opposed to the west and china? india may be, but are talking about the west and china? but don't think we are, china is the biggest story. it is 1/5 of humanity. if you look at the projections, even though the tide of overtakes the u.s. very soon, india does catch up, too. last time goldman ran these numbers, they had the india catching up by 2050 and you also have brazil, indonesia, another big and very rapidly growing economy. i make the argument that is not a question of the inevitable decline.
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what can we do, what must we do to revive our institutions and get the budget back not only in terms of economics, but in terms of science and the way our legal system works. we used to have the rule of law. now we have the role of lawyers. and amazingly expensive cumbersome system that makes it harder and harder to start a business in this country. i am running a little experiment out how easy it is to start a business in the united states. it is harder than it is in england and it is easier to do in hong kong. all the things that we used to be the best actor, all the institutional advantages that we take for granted, i have a sense we have let them slip away, but we can get them back. we need to focus on what is that is going wrong and we are not so good at that. the debate seems to be about the wrong thing. an arbitrary debt ceiling
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consumed six weeks of political energy. and we hardly ever discuss the problem of international educational standards, the fact that we are slipping down the rankings as mathematical attainment -- and we are keeping to bid -- we are debating the wrong thing. tavis: hard to do justice to your butt, i love the text -- your book, i love the text. he is also the coolest professor to talk about how to get our mojo back. up next, kirsten dunst. stay with us. tavis: please welcome the talented actress that has been receiving terrific reviews for her performance and the new film that earned her a best actress
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award. it opens in theaters this weekend. here is a scene. >> all i know is that life on earth is evil. >> how do you know? >> because i know things. >> we did not show that clip, but it is pretty bold when you start a movie and you can tell in the first five minutes how it is going to end. and you still want to see it. it is pretty powerful. >> of the beginning is show what is going to happen, but i think it also gives you an opportunity to really be with the people and also have the anxiety of when it is going happen.
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>> i am curious what drew you to this particular role. i see this movie and a couple of different ways. it makes a statement about depression, it makes a statement about the end of the world. what drew you to it? what did you see the movie about? >> when i first read it, i knew that it was -- and i talked with them the next day because he doesn't fly anywhere. all skype. i read it and i didn't even really register which a character i was going for at first. it was like reading someone's in sides. it felt like an emotional journey and it was over. it wasn't too late in with anything extra that scripps are answering all the questions for you. it is left open for a lot of
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different interpretations which i always appreciate. >> reading this, you hope that this was going to be emotional, unemotional character. that didn't intimidate you? >> i am an actress. that is what i like doing. he likened it up and you do a comedy act or you figure out the balance. intuitively, i was ready to do something like this. roles like this don't happen for women very often. i am not playing a historical figure, it was something i could create. and he is considered one of the great auteurs of our time. >> that is a turn on that the character is not likable? my friends saw the
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screening, they said that i should play a villain in the film. you don't see women portrayed in this way and you don't see depression portrayed in film because it is not usually something that is very cinematic. it is something that he could do. >> inside the actors studio kind of question. when something that isn't portrayed and it is not sexy or likable, how do you approach playing the character? >> as honest as possible. i have always had a process that i do before i get to the set or go to the location. i work privately and it almost feels like therapy. i have this in her life and gives me confidence what i am playing the role that i know every question, i know the scene better than everyone else.
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he is not someone to reverse much either and he doesn't like talking abouthings. that even fell through so we had to talk to each other on the fun. >> if i am to believe what i read, he was drawn to this project worked out that so hard because his own battle with depression in the past. it can be difficult to be attracted to a particular subject matter and to not proselytize or preach about the issue. >> is not easy for me to do, either. i can't think, i want this person to be likable. it is really the dynamic between sisters that makes my charactere character is so lovely at such a cataker that makes you care about just seen as well even
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though she is having a bath in the middle of her wedding and going off into our own world. tavis: i jumped into the conversation of how this movie opens, we did not said what the movie is all about. 10 minutes into the conversation. >> it is not the kind of film you can sum up. it is emotionally left open to other people's interpretation, but it is about depression and at the same time, this planet is coming closer to earth and it is a movie about the end of the world. >> you made a comment earlier and i could expect it better if it came from an actress and that have the kind of exposure you have. when you say these counts of roles don't come around often, you experience as well?
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>> women, even if they do have -- is usually someone's girlfriend, and the big writer and directors of our time, it is usually a male lead. pedro almodovar cetners -- centers it around women as well. lars is almost the only one. the female writers and do it for themselves. tavis: how're you make your choices for films these days? when you have that kind of blockbuster success, do the choices get more easy or more difficult to make? >> for me, it is based on intuition of do i want to tell the story and be part of this.
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and then it has always been about the director. a letter rather have a mediocre script and work with a great director. it is the director of's vision and if you like their previous movies or if you like what they are telling you, you know that you will be part of something whether it ends up being good or not, you will have an experience making it. i can't watch my movies and get into them because as soon as i see myself, i get taken out of the film. tavis: do you have directors that you want to work with? [laughter] >> i love to work with tarantino. i would love to paul thomas anderson. i would like to do a movie and another language. i speak a little bit of germans so it would be cool to work with
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that and do something in another language. tavis: is it just wanting to be part of their vision or are the things that you think you want to or need to work can learn working with certain directors? >> they are making some of the best movies in cinema today. to be part of something that is greater, i always want to put my effort into something i believe in, so those of the kind of people that make movies exciting for me. tavis: taking a risk. >> i am not afraid and i think that carelessness comes from women, respecting and gender roles throughout my life and watching their careers, watching their films. they're all doing things that are unexpected or provocative and interesting. i have always wanted to have a
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long career and i think it helps with longevity. tavis: the prevailing wisdom is to not take too many risks, make money, how do stuff that people will like you in. >> i did do spider-man. [laughter] i was in bring it on. i have had some fun. tavis: i digress on that point. >> i like, isla fisher -- comedies with isla fisher, night long dirty comedies. i better have fun, be cathartic, have something for me to want to express or i would not be very good. tavis: could have you on the
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program. finally tonight, a few words on the heavy d that divide the new era of hip-hop in the 80's in the '90s. i love those guys be . heavy d joined us years ago for a terrific conversation. you can revisit the entire conversation on our web site at pbs.org. until then,th k kp eee >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. >> every community has a martin luther king boulevard. it's the cornerstone we all know.
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it's not just a street or boulevard, but a place where walmart stands together w your community to make every day better. >> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley. with every question and every answer, nationwide insurance is proud to join tavis in working to improve financial literacy and remove obstacles to economic empowerment one conversation at a time. tinationwide is on your side. >> brought to you by the aarp foundation. w. k. kellogg foundation, engaging communities to improve >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.
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