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. 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
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    January 27, 2013 at 1:21 am | Reply
  3. 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
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