January 8th, 2014
09:26 PM ET

What I'm reading: Death of the Fifth Republic?

By Fareed Zakaria

“In the past, French leaders who found their popular support evaporating turned to the time-hallowed solution of foreign adventures,” writes Robert Zaretsky in Foreign Policy. “Napoléon I maintained a constant state of war to keep the French quiescent, while his nephew Napoléon III lurched into his disastrous war against Prussia in order to stave off growing popular discontent with his rule. In between, Charles X, the last of the Bourbon kings, launched the invasion of Algeria to shore up his disintegrating monarchy. Not only did all three of these efforts fail to keep their creators in power, but the Bourbon gift to France, Algeria, created the launch pad for de Gaulle's ascension in 1958.”

“Hollande, it seems, has resurrected this well-worn script.”

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“It gets harder and harder to work your way out of dire straits. A mom with two kids toiling full-time for minimum wage at a grocery store would make about $15,000 a year, well below the poverty line of $18,498 for a family of three,” argues Lynn Stuart Parramore in Salon. “But just looking at poverty figures doesn’t tell the whole story. A far larger group of Americans — around 100 million — is considered low-income, which would mean about $45,000 in income for a family of four. When you include the low-income category, census data show that the number of economically distressed Americans jumps to 50 percent. Half of us!”

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“Almost every year since the end of the financial crisis has started with rosy expectations among American forecasters, and this one is no different,” says The Economist. “Stockmarkets are buoyant, consumer confidence is improving, and economic seers are raising their growth forecasts for 2014. America’s S&P 500 share index is at a record high, after rising 30 percent in 2013 – the biggest annual gain in almost two decades. Powered by America, global growth of close to 4 percent, on a purchasing-power-parity basis, seems possible. That would be nearly a full percentage point faster than 2013, and the best showing for several years.”

“Yet amid the new-year cheer, it is worth remembering that almost every year since the financial crisis upbeat expectations have been disappointed. The biggest danger this time round is the optimism itself.”


soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Allan Kinsman

    Those who have money spend more of it influencing the outcome of elections. The influences on the federal government continue to manifest in the export of jobs, the decline of the middle class and financial mechanisms devoid of integrity. We find outselves mirred in foreign wars but owing debt to foreign governments to pay for them. If there is no coincidence here then perhaps I will start to wager we will find wisdom in the electorial process.

    January 9, 2014 at 2:13 am | Reply
    • ✠RZ✠

      We can rule out coincidence when all the MIC jobs and the manufacturing of military products are also off-shored to cheap labour markets. Can you imagine? Using cheaper drones made in China rather than the ones from General Atomics? What the heck? If the Chinese ones work ok and it saves money, then why not? Our phones, cameras, computers, and most everything else is made abroad by cheap labour. Why not all the military stuff too? But fat chance of that ever happening! Washington has no real need or interest in protecting the rest of America like it's own. Though they have no qualms about making the rest of America pay for it. Problem now is that the rest of America is just a bit too unemployed and broke. And resorting to just printing money to pay for it can't go on indefinitely.

      January 9, 2014 at 3:25 am | Reply
    • Joseph McCarthy

      You're a bit too optimistic, Allan. It's quite dubious that the general public will see the light and wise up. They'll most probably vote for the same tiresome right-wingers who'll in turn keep us in all these useless wars and the middle class will continue to decline! Things are very unlikely to change in the near future!

      January 9, 2014 at 8:50 am | Reply
  2. john smith

    America is the root of all terror. America has invaded sixty countries since world war 2.
    In 1953 America overthrow Iran's democratic government Mohammad Mosaddegh and installed a brutal dictator Shah. America helped Shah of Iran to establish secret police and killed thousands of Iranian people.
    During Iran-Iraq war evil America supported Suddam Hossain and killed millions of Iranian people. In 1989, America, is the only country ever, shot down Iran's civilian air plane, killing 290 people.
    In 2003,America invaded Iraq and killed 1,000,000+ innocent Iraqi people and 4,000,000+ Iraqi people were displaced.
    Now America is a failed state with huge debt. Its debt will be 22 trillion by 2015.

    January 9, 2014 at 2:26 am | Reply
  3. ✠RZ✠

    Yah ?!? Here's what I'm reading;

    Street murder in Aussieland not by guns anymore, but by big tough drunken goons kicking and punching the buhjeezus out of helpless smaller guys. Maybe they should start handing out free 9mils to helpless 18 year olds like clean syringes to junkies. See Aussie prime minister comment on "rise of the disturbed individual". Now there's one heck of a catch phrase for 2014, "The Rise of Disturbed Individualism."

    January 9, 2014 at 2:37 am | Reply
  4. Joseph McCarthy

    If Francois Hollande was wise, he'd launch a peace offensive in the Middle East beginning with Iraq. Here he should get the Maliki government and the Sunnis together and work out a timetable for both to set up separate states and accord a plebiscite to the Kurds to see if they want to set up their own home state. In short, the French would do far better at promoting peace rather than going to war!

    January 9, 2014 at 8:43 am | Reply
  5. Allan Kinsman

    I am not optimistic at all. For the public to change all they need is an example of a better way. They care about their family, friends and fairness in a real sense. They have a system which makes decisions based upon something unseen yet to come to light. In a world of control of information truth finds a way to surface. However there is so much information how does one discern real knowledge from information? The world is distracted in the ongoing deluge of trivia. A process must be individually applied in one's life to simplify. Then a perspective begins to form. An America which thinks itself right is indeed in a great deal of trouble and lost the way. Thank you all for your well thought through comments.

    January 9, 2014 at 12:44 pm | Reply
  6. Carl C Prescott

    In the last four years, since Barack Obama has been president, 95 percent of the wealth in the country that's been created has gone to the top 1 percent, who own 33 percent of the stock.
    How long can inequality like this exist until there are riots in the streets?

    January 9, 2014 at 8:04 pm | Reply
  7. chrissy

    You must be confused @ Carl. This started looonnnggg before Obama! In fact it began with GWB and Cheney and company!

    January 9, 2014 at 11:14 pm | Reply
  8. chrissy

    Do you not recall the housing market plunging during the Bush era @ Carl? And the bailouts of "free money" given to the banks by Bush without any stipulations as to proving how its spent or even that it had to be paid back!

    January 9, 2014 at 11:21 pm | Reply
  9. j. von hettlingen

    It is doubtful that France's Fifth Republic is having a foot in the grave.

    January 10, 2014 at 8:48 am | Reply

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