January 13th, 2013
07:31 AM ET

Memo to Obama: 7 tips for a 2nd term

Read and watch more from the GPS special 'Memo to the President' which aired on CNN Sunday.

President Obama officially begins his second term on January 20. So what should his priorities be, domestically and abroad?

For his latest GPS special, "Memo to the President," Fareed Zakaria spoke with former senior policymakers from both sides of the aisle to get their take on what Obama should and shouldn’t be doing in the next four years.

What do you think? What should Obama's priorities be? Share your comments below.

James Baker, Treasury Secretary under Ronald Reagan:

My advice is, Mr. President, whatever happens in the second term, you are going to bear the consequences of it.

Our country is in sick shape financially.  Economically, we are really in bad shape. If we didn't have the dollar as the de facto reserve currency of the world, we would be Greece.

And we have got to fix our economic problem, and it's not going to be fixed without leadership from you… It's his administration that's in charge.  And if we don't get our economy out of this ditch, he's the one that's going to pay the price, he and his administration.

Paul O’Neill, Treasury Secretary under George W. Bush:

I don't want people to pay taxes if they have $20,000 a year worth of income.  But at $30,000, I might like for people to pay $1, just $1, so they have a - a legitimate claim for saying, I'm part of the society and I don't pay a lot, but I do pay something.

Everybody participates and there's no game playing.  It's a very efficient way to ray - raise revenue.

Right now, it costs us $431 billion a year to administer the tax system we have.  And the tax gap, the money we're not collecting that's theoretically owed, is $400 billion a year.   We could do better than that.  We can think better than that. And the president needs to lay that out for us.

Elaine Chao, Labor Secretary under George W. Bush:

So what we're seeing, actually, is a lot of discouraged workers, people who can't find jobs.  And they've just given up and they're no longer working and they're not counted in the workforce anymore.   So we've got to do better on the job creation side.

It's the private sector who does the bulk of the hiring.  And they've got to have the confidence.   And that confidence comes from a more reasonable taxation level, more reasonable regulatory reform and then also the fiscal discipline that we need in our country to restore our country's overall financial ratings.

Steven Rattner, “Car Czar” for Barack Obama:

We need to have long-term tax policy, long-term budget policy, long-term regulatory policy, not doing this a few months at a time, not careening from a debt ceiling debacle to a fiscal cliff to some other issue with tax credits that expire every few months and all that kind of stuff.  And so I think somehow the government as a whole has to come together in order to give business the confidence it needs.

Ed Rendell, Former Governor of Pennsylvania:

There was, in stimulus, something called "Build America Bonds."  The federal government said to the states, if you want to do major development and  major construction projects, we will help you defray 35 percent of the interest payments, but it ran out when stimulus ran out and an effort to reauthorize that as a separate program was turned down.   Now the beauty of it was very little impact on the federal treasury and an incredible impact on the number of project we could get going. This isn't rocket science, it's not like finding a disease, the cure for Alzheimer's or Parkinson's or cancer, we know what the answers are, we know what cure to the problem is, and all it takes is political courage.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Advisor for Jimmy Carter:

I don't buy the absolutely ridiculous, irrational argument that the Iranians are so suicidal in the country of 75 million people or 80 million people, it's going to rush into committing suicide the moment it gets the first prototype of its bomb.

That even ignores the scientific fact that bombs have to be tested, that you have to have, from a military point of view, quite a number of them to be credible, et cetera, et cetera.  So we're not dealing with an imminent threat, a reaction to which would be decided by someone else drawing red lines for us.

Robert Rubin, Treasury Secretary under Bill Clinton:

China is our most important relationship, in my judgment, at least.  I think it is immensely in our economic self-interests, as well as in their economic self-interests to have an effective relationship…[A]lot of what we complain about with respect to them – their export-driven strategy, the absence of domestic demand – I think it's critically important for their own self-interests if they're going to have sustainable growth going forward, to deal with that issue.

So I think we have a common self-interest in dealing with many of the issues that we complain to each other about.

What do you think? What should Obama's priorities be? Share your comments below.

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soundoff (394 Responses)
  1. are122

    Lead by example Mr. Obama. Un-exempt yourself, fellow politicians and union pals from Obama care.

    January 17, 2013 at 4:29 pm | Reply
  2. Ko-Fung

    7 tips from South Korea: No1.: We have stronger industries than USA; No.2.: We produce and deliver more guns and military equipment than USA; No.3.: North Korea is not our enemy, but our back-stage partner; No.4.: No imports from South Korea will enable USA to survive; No.5.: Our imports into USA mean that we defeat US companies; No.6.: USA does not understand our "communism ideology" – and never will; No.7.: South Korea emerges as winner, not USA.

    January 18, 2013 at 6:58 am | Reply
  3. Really

    Biden for President...seriously? I thought he was just there to offer an even-worse alternative to Obama?

    January 18, 2013 at 12:36 pm | Reply
    • CaesarXIII

      Biden's mouth will keep him out of office, no need to worry. Then again most voters are suckers these days.

      January 18, 2013 at 11:40 pm | Reply
  4. dave t

    This may help the military there in Africa and elsewhere. Can placing walls with checkpoints by way of drone helicopters be a smart move? The military is already using new heavy lifting drone helicopters. Just google it. They use them to move supplies into Afghanistan. Can they mass produce these drone helicopters, much cheaper than regular piloted helicopters, to air lift blast walls from Baghdad and other bases? Then drop these walls to places where it will help our military in pinpoint areas of roads and towns. These walls could help block this free-roam of people and supplies... At other times, these drone helicopters could be used to move emergency supplies to parts of this nation before a major storm occurs.... These drones could be used to help put out wildfires, as well. There could be a multiple amount of these drones dropping fire resistant chemicals for every 1 regular piloted helicopter.... Please mass produce these new heavy lifting drone helicopters to be used for areas mentioned above..

    January 18, 2013 at 1:22 pm | Reply
  5. kmack

    Mr president first go back to the banks + force them to write down all mortgages to market.they are complicit in subprime meltdown + you bailed them out with no conditions cowardly action + they laugh in your face kick their ass now. Your job is to protect this country+ our kids. Start in DC declare marshall law in gang infested neighborhoods across this land. Take our kids out of the ghettos + relocate them to reeducation camps + schools funded by private + gov funding including banks. Executive action protect the children. Pull our troops from europe + send them to mexico + kill the cartels no mercy shoot on site.+ stop the influx of heroin into our country that is killing our kids. Expand the reserves + national guard to an unprecendated levels 2 year service with education benefits at historic levels. Give kids a path.+ out of the gang infested cities. We need a manhattan size national goal of a super hybrid class of vehicles that achieve 75 mph not some crap from GM but a gigantic apollo sized national effort that draws on the best global talent + resources regardless of the cost. If the product costs 75K a vehicle so be it. Let buyers straight line depreciate. Get a stalim like 4eries of 5 year plans to get this country fuel efficient.use american intellectual + scientific + managerial talent to draft the plans not those idiots in congress. LEAD + quit making speeches. You have a chance to be great grasp it.

    January 19, 2013 at 4:10 am | Reply
  6. Sally

    I would like to hear that America improved the law-system. Obama studied law! The death of Aaron Swatz is something that makes people all over the world pretty sad. He could have brought his ideas in, he could have helped to bring more transparency into political and scientific debates, building up data-bases, investing in the internet. I think that the American law system is somehow 'behind' and that the view of property and theft should change, if it deals with mental ideas, knowledge and something that needs a higher degree of understanding. So many people are sitting without any hope in prisons, they even didn't have a fair trail. But probably this is something that makes him unpopular like trying to set a law in place against too many guns in U.S.

    January 19, 2013 at 2:48 pm | Reply
  7. Larry

    A proposal: Before our soldiers are required to serve a 2nd or 3rd term in a theatre of war there should be an automatic draft put in place. This would force our military leaders to understand they would no longer be dealing with a strictly volunteer force to continue any battle/war. Also, it would force the American people to pay closer attention to what is being done in Washington since any military involvement would become personal rather than just another news story.

    January 19, 2013 at 9:07 pm | Reply
  8. akin

    i voted for Obama but i do not support all his idea / policy.i think everybody should pay tax, not everybody should be on food stamp. i am a student and also work but I do not need food stamp. even though at the end of the day i have nothing left. I earn $8/h.
    as for his second term, he need to focus on regular folk like me who needs the govt to get out of our lives. I mean i do not need a license to be a barber or to make cup cake for sale or trying to use my talent. regular folks have ideas but government regulation kills them. we do not need to be employed but we want to be self employed and fed our family. that how people in third world country survive. he should send his aids to africa and other parts of the world to study how poor people over there put food on their table.

    January 20, 2013 at 12:58 am | Reply
  9. Bill

    I can sum it up in one sentence.

    Stop spending and get out of the country's way so it can heal itself.

    January 20, 2013 at 2:07 am | Reply
  10. djc60

    resign immediately before it's too late. That's the best piece of advice he could follow.

    January 20, 2013 at 7:14 am | Reply
  11. davecu


    January 20, 2013 at 5:51 pm | Reply
  12. Jarand

    Everyone wants the President to belittle himself in order for the Republicans to COMPROMISE when they no full well it won't work. The Republicans in the House have no intention of working with this President. They would prefer to have the Taliban in charge.

    January 21, 2013 at 1:20 am | Reply
  13. Rick McDaniel

    the folly of humans, never ceases to amaze me.

    This term will be exactly like the last one. A man who would be dictator in America, trying to have his way with everything and everyone...........and the stupidity of people who accept that!

    January 21, 2013 at 9:39 am | Reply
  14. Yes1fan

    If Obama TRULY wants to make his mark on HISTORY, rather than just "current events", he will begin a MASSIVE SCALE-UP of pollution-free Oil-from-Algae production, making us not just 100% energy-independent, but making energy so plentiful and cheap that lifestyles will thrive worldwide.
    Stopping "Dug-for" production of energy also stops increases in global warming and pollution, wars over oil, energy monopolies, ground-water contamination, deterioration of public health, and all the "hidden costs" of "dug-for" energy.

    January 21, 2013 at 11:16 am | Reply
  15. fomega64

    The biggest problem in the United States is in the inner cities. Look at Chicago. 500 murders per year. 500 kids shot per year. 10 shootings per day. 50% HS graduation rate for Blacks. 20% read at grade level rate in public schools. Chicago is raising MORONS! They will be on welfare or in jail forever! There is no other country in the world that has to jail such a large segment of its population. And Chicago is Obama's city. Action is needed to eliminate the gangs! Until the gangs are gone nothing else can be accomplished. Once the gangs are gone, the culture can be moved to an education focus instead of survival. This is happening in all big cities. Blacks principally, although you will find white and Hispanic pockets of ignorance, are losing ground because Black leaders – Obama, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton – don't attack the gang problem. Face it. No Black gang member has ever voted for the law and order Republican. They always vote for the Dem who hates the Cops.

    January 21, 2013 at 1:42 pm | Reply
  16. Karen Moke (the one who speaks the truth)

    Look at your country. How is one country different from others? Once you know what one country is different in terms of geographical, products that one can produce and what one already have, work on those areas to make yourself stand up from the rest. You do have a group of brave people there who are good speakers, innovative and daring to stand up for themselves. Could organise public speaking seminars and held these courses throughout the world. Basically paid and learn from us here on how to efficiently mown your grass at the front or backyard.

    January 21, 2013 at 8:46 pm | Reply
  17. Karen Moke (the one who speaks the truth)

    Do promote your sourdough. They are very different from the rest of the dough elsewhere. Check it at Kokomo.

    January 21, 2013 at 8:46 pm | Reply
  18. Ed

    Here's a tip obama, RESIGN.

    January 22, 2013 at 7:59 am | Reply
  19. SarahTonin

    Obama is an eloquent and effective speaker. The news reporters this morning seem to be asking if he should not have done more to voice a willingness to cooperate with republicans. I think his lack of such a mention says it all! My guess is that he is waiting for the 2014 elections and when Congress is once again a Democratic majority, which I think is inevitable, the Republican Party of "no" will disappear!!! Hopefully forever! The Republican Party of "no", you know the ones who can't wait to overturn Roe V Wade when 70% of the American people want abortion to be fully legal!

    January 22, 2013 at 11:20 am | Reply
  20. Hahahahahhaha

    Tip #8 – Tell the GOP to s_u_c_k your big black 8===>

    January 22, 2013 at 11:47 am | Reply
  21. B2

    Fixing the Economy should be the number one problem. JOBS, JOBS JOBS!!! The more people who are working the more people who are paying taxes that is simple economics. So how do we get Americans back to work?
    1. Lower Corporate Taxes to 15% just a little higher than Canada. Attact U.S. bases companies who are making all their products overseas back to America. It's very hard to find any clothing items that say's, "Made in USA!"
    2. Increase import taxes on any U.S. based retail store etc... that is making their products overseas and make it where it is more profitable to put Americans back to work.
    3. Fix our tax codes. I still favor and I think most Americans would believe a 10% flat tax (no more loopholes, not more deductions etc... ) is fair for anyone making over $25,000 a year and any marital combined income of $50K a year. A 5% flat tax on anyone making between $20 Kand 25K a year. If you are not making a least 20K then you are probably not making enough to surive giving risiing Health Care Costs etc...
    4. Fix Social Security. Anyone 40 and under who has paid at least 10 years into their SS give them a liump sum payment back and no longer deduct Social Security Tax. Anyone 40 and under will be responsible for their own retirement. Everyone else can continue you paying because you probably cannot invest enough quickly enough to retire.

    January 22, 2013 at 3:27 pm | Reply
  22. no1netfan

    This here United States has to many mean as hell people living in it.If you all think for one minute that our president can keep his nose out of other countries business's your dead wrong.We had no business going to Iraq in the first place.Our government knew where ben was all the time and now Iraq is right back where it was before we went there.Our tourist aren't even nice when visiting other countries much less when they are at home.Our US is to violent and it shows everywhere we go.The FDA hides things from the people,like letting drug company's put drugs on the market that kill a few hundred people before they are taken off the market.Check this out if you don't believe me.Go to a search engine and type in Banned Ingredients that are Still legal in the US,and then ask yourself if the FDA has got your back.There is a treatment for cancer that is the best one the US has ever come acrossed but won't use it because people who casually smoke it don't fit in with the rest of the US(violent)The resins from this plant kills cancer cells until there are no more cancer cells to kill.The cancer wings in all the hospitals could have been shut down in 1974.This how long the feds have known about this stuff and the AMA has been trying to make this a synthetic drug for years so they can patend it and make big bucks off of it.I fought in Viet Nam and i saw how volent our men could be and it wasn't a pretty site believe me.Don't worry about congress getting along when the people of the whole country can't even get along.Stop the income tax and tax everything else to the hilt.China is going to slam these company's that moved over there from here because of all the waste they are putting in the air and maybe they will move again.Tuff

    January 22, 2013 at 8:58 pm | Reply
  23. krehator

    How come all these self proclaimed experts do not run for office themselves? Maybe because they are frauds?

    January 25, 2013 at 10:57 pm | Reply
  24. the liberal behind the liberal conspiracy

    In reality the place we find oueselves in started 30 years ago with the election of the most dangerous type of politician the borrow and spend Republican named Ronald Wilson Reagan. In 1980 Reagan convinced a bunch or Ayn Rand inspired narcissists that they were special and that the government was an obstruction to thier dreams of world domination. So the traitor Reagan lowered taxes on the rich by almost 50% which allowed these narcissists to take thier money from America over seas to make investments, literally bets, against America. Instead of investing in America like the corporations used to do they invested in China, India, Bangledesh, places where life is cheap and the environment is for sale and pocketed the difference.

    Now these same parasites in America the Ayn Rand inspired special snowflakes, will question to patriotism of anyone that calls them that does not buy thier special brand of philisophical gibberish, a typical FOX News broadcast. These people have bankrupted America with thier investments in foreign countries that directly having fed on the middle class like a lamprey on a lake trout. In the end a proven fact is that supply side economics does not work unless you are the 1%, class warfare is was and will always be waged it is just that the rich are better funded. To prove that Republican inspired supply side economics is an abject failure i merely have to points, 16 trillion dollars of debt from low taxes on the rich, and that in 30 years of Republican incompetence and mismanagement America has done nothing great.

    That is why it is called the Russian space station, or the International space station. We have not built anything of lasting value. We have aquired massive debt, high unemployment, a shrinking middle class, our children are fat and stupid, and our infrastructure is crumbling just to name a few. Small government empowers the individual (Ayn Rand brand kool aid) big government empowers us all. With out the necessary revenue to educate our children, maintain our infrastructure, and the government to focus American money and effort, we become a nation of individuals, all looking out for ourselves, united we stand divided we fall. Obama is trying to turn back the clock to a period when America and Americans all looked out for each other, when people trusted governement (government is we the people after all) to restore confidence and compromise in government so that it can do great things again, that is the grand bargain.

    January 27, 2013 at 1:21 am | Reply
  25. renataproject

    The Republicans want to reduce the deficit and debt and develop a responsible government. Obama wants to keep spending and expanding spending. We truly need fiscal responsibility.

    January 27, 2013 at 11:37 am | Reply
  26. The Mayor of Medinah

    Resign from office?

    January 28, 2013 at 4:54 pm | Reply
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