By Jon Huntsman, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Jon Huntsman is a former Republican governor of Utah and former U.S. ambassador to China and Singapore. The views expressed are the writer’s own.
The February jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics offered a sliver of good news: an estimated 175,000 jobs were created last month, substantially exceeding the forecast of 149,000. And for the first time in nearly four years – in 46 months, to be exact – more unemployed Americans found jobs than got discouraged, stopped looking, and left the labor market, according to economists.
Encouraging as that news is, we still have a long way to go to reach the level of job growth that will return our economy and workforce to full health and we can’t afford to sit by, keep our fingers crossed that such progress continues, and wait. Instead, we need to come together as a nation, as we’ve done before during times of crisis, and rally around the critical goal of accelerating job growth. The problem is that while Americans broadly agree on what our priorities as a nation should be, Washington is as divided as ever.
Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
By Fareed Zakaria
Watching the machinations in Washington over the last two weeks, it is now impossible to talk about how both political parties are to blame for the country's gridlock.
Consider what just happened on immigration. Now a majority of Americans support granting citizenship to illegal immigrants – by 81 percent in the most recent CNN poll – as well as enhanced border controls. The leadership of the Republican Party in both houses of Congress talked about a comprehensive reform package that would create a lengthy waiting time for citizenship – 13 years – and couple this with tougher enforcement.
Immigration was supposed to be ripe for common-sense reform. The public is for a compromise solution, policy wonks have proposed ways to make it work, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce supports it, the country's leading technology firms have been clamoring for it, senior Democrats and Republicans are all in favor. And yet it couldn't get past the central problem in Washington today - the extreme and obstructionist faction within the Republican Party - that cannot take yes for an answer.
The next time someone blames "both sides" for Washington's paralysis or issues a bland call for "leadership" to get us out of it, remember the case of immigration.
Watch the video for the full Take or read the Washington Post column.
Fareed speaks with Robert Caro, Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer, historian and author of Dallas, November 22, 1963, about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
So you know there are people who look at where Johnson was, dead in the water. A Life magazine article was about to come out. You describe, you know, which was an investigative story, that would have further undermined him. People look at all that and say, boy, this assassination not only made Johnson president, but saved him from what might have been a complete collapse. I mean, is it possible that had the assassination not happened, Johnson would have been so humiliated, he would have had to resign?
Well, to answer that part of your question, Johnson himself felt that whether he had a second term or not, he was finished. That's the word he used, "I'm finished."
And you know how we know that he really felt that way? He told several of his key aides, who, if he had further ambitions, he would have wanted to keep with him. He said, "I'm done."
One of them was asking him, can I go to work for somebody else? He says go with him, I'm finished. So you say that Johnson really felt that his career might be over.
On the other hand, nothing that I ever found...I've been doing research on Lyndon Johnson for a lot of years. And I have to say that nothing that I found in writing or any interviews, led me to believe that whatever the story of the assassination really is, that Lyndon Johnson had anything to do with it. I never found anything that led me to believe that.
This week saw the start of budget negotiations between the House of Representatives and Senate. But as Republicans and Democrats sit down together less than a month after a government shutdown, will the two sides be able to find common ground? Global Public Square asked 12 commentators, analysts and policy makers for their take on what Congress should be discussing – and what an agreement should include. All views expressed are the writers’ own.
Create a national infrastructure bank – Fareed Zakaria, CNN
If Republicans and Democrats could stop posturing, they would find that they could support a simple, powerful program that would reduce unemployment, make America competitive, privatize an important realm of economic activity, and get rid of earmarks. It is a national infrastructure bank to rebuild America's decaying infrastructure.
America's infrastructure is in a shambles. Just a decade ago, we ranked sixth in infrastructure in the world according to the World Economic Forum. Today we rank 23rd and dropping.
Currently, the United States government funds and operates almost all American infrastructure. It’s a quasi-socialist approach.
Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
On GPS this Sunday: Can Washington bounce back from the recent shutdown and debt ceiling crisis? Fareed speaks with an old Republican Party hand who has held the following positions: White House Chief of Staff, Treasury Secretary, and Secretary of State – an exclusive with James Baker.
“I'm convinced we will bounce back. That's not to say that this was not a harmful episode,” Baker says. “My party, the Republican Party, I think was a loser. But I also think that the president and the Democratic Party was a loser because the world saw us in disarray. It really saw a failure of governance.”
Later, in our What in the World segment: Why Africa's leaders stay in power for so long.
And also: A one-on-one interview with Chilean President Sebastián Piñera.
Watch Fareed’s interview with Wolf and Minton Beddoes on GPS this Sunday on CNN at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET
GPS Digital Producer Jason Miks sits down with Zanny Minton Beddoes, economics editor of The Economist, and the Financial Times chief economics commentator, Martin Wolf, to discuss the recent government shutdown, politics in Washington, and why the debt ceiling is “absurd.”
Congress managed to agree to a last minute deal over the debt ceiling and government shutdown. But how would a debt default have affected average Americans, or how could it if this comes up again in the future?
Minton Beddoes: October 17 was the day on which the Treasury Department said it was going to run out of capacity to juggle its finances such that it could continue borrowing. And that means that from October 17 it would have had no more borrowing authority, and it essentially would have had to go to a cash budget overnight. It could then only spend what tax revenue was coming in, which is the equivalent of about 65 percent of spending. That means the government would not have been able to pay all its bills. Something would have had to give: that could mean stop paying interest on the debt, or stop sending social security checks out, or stop paying other obligations, whether to soldiers or suppliers.
There was one practical question and a lot of legal ones. The practical one was whether the Treasury, which pays millions of people every day, would find it practical to prioritize certain payments – could they actually do that, legally and practically.
And secondly, if they could, what would they prioritize? The rest of the world was worried most that they would fail to pay the interest on their bonds, so that would be a technical default. If they were unable to send out social security checks, it would be equally breaking the law, because it would be breaking a promise that they had made. But that would have a very different impact – it might not have paralyzed global financial markets, but it would have had a very big political impact as millions and millions of senior citizens didn’t get their social security checks.
CNN speaks with Fareed about the shutdown in Washington and why the Republican Party is struggling to maintain unity.
You wrote in the Washington Post this week: “Over the past six decades, conservatism's language of decay, despair and decline have created a powerful group of Americans who believe fervently in this dark narrative and are determined to stop the country from plunging into imminent oblivion."
"At some point, will they come to recognize that you cannot love America in theory and hate it in fact." You also want conservatives to lighten up, Fareed. Explain what's going on here.
Well, I think there are two things going on. One is the kind of institutional collapse of authority in the Republican Party so that as you know, on immigration, the leadership of the party wanted to make a deal. Most senators, most of the leaders in the House, but they can't because there's no structure. This is not Newt Gingrich's Republican Party anymore.
The second piece is that there is this extreme wing within the party, the Tea Party, which really believes that America is going to hell in a hand basket – and tomorrow. You know, as Ted Cruz said at the Values Voter Summit, we've got two years to stop this country from plunging into oblivion. Well, if you use rhetoric like that, if you work people up like that, it's very tough to see how you could compromise.
"Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
By Fareed Zakaria
The current Republican fear derives from Obamacare, but that is only the most recent cause for alarm. Modern American conservatism was founded on a diet of despair. In 1955, William F. Buckley Jr. began the movement with a famous first editorial in National Review declaring that the magazine “stands athwart history, yelling Stop.” John Boehner tries to tie into this tradition of opposition when he says in exasperation, “The federal government has spent more than what it has brought in in 55 of the last 60 years!”
But what has been the result over these past 60 years? The United States has grown mightily, destroyed the Soviet Union, spread capitalism across the globe and lifted its citizens to astonishingly high standards of living and income. Over the past 60 years, America has built highways and universities, funded science and space research, and — along the way — ushered in the rise of the most productive and powerful private sector the world has ever known.
For some tacticians and consultants, extreme rhetoric is just a way to keep the troops fired up. But rhetoric gives meaning and shape to a political movement. Over the past six decades, conservatism’s language of decay, despair and decline have created a powerful group of Americans who believe fervently in this dark narrative and are determined to stop the country from plunging into imminent oblivion. They aren’t going to give up just yet.
The era of crises could end, but only when this group of conservatives makes its peace with today’s America. They are misty-eyed in their devotion to a distant republic of myth and memory yet passionate in their dislike of the messy, multiracial, quasi-capitalist democracy that has been around for half a century — a fifth of our country’s history. At some point, will they come to recognize that you cannot love America in theory and hate it in fact?
By Jim Manley, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Jim Manley is senior director at QGA Public Affairs in Washington, DC. He was previously a senior staff member in the offices of Senators Harry Reid and Ted Kennedy. The views expressed are his own.
It was shortly after midnight last night, as I was checking the Blackberry one last time before going off to sleep, that I saw a remarkable story pop up courtesy of my friends at Roll Call. It said that – with just a couple of days to go before we reach the October 17 deadline to extend the debt limit – Senator Ted Cruz was spotted at a place on the Hill called Tortilla Coast. According to Roll Call, he was with, among others, Congressmen Louie Gohmert and Steve King. In other words, three quarters of what I call the Four Horseman of the House Apocalypse.
A couple of things struck me.
First of all, no self-respecting Texan (even one born in Canada, as the junior senator was) should be caught eating the Tex-Mex at this place. But, more importantly, the very idea that these guys (and perhaps 15 or so house members) would be “stratgerizering” at this late stage in the game should give everyone reason to pause.
CNN speaks with Fareed about the ongoing stalemate in Washington, the impact on America’s standing abroad and why investors are worried about the United States.
Is there something wrong with our system that this is happening again, three years of this budget stalemating?
It's a good question, because, let's be honest – the American system is designed to allow for easy gridlock. The Founding Fathers created a system fearing English tyranny, fearing an English king, so there are lots of different ways to veto stuff. There are lots of checks and balances. So, I think that's part of the issue. But really, what's at work here is something much more dangerous, which is here we're getting into an anti-democratic process, which is not the way the system was meant to work.
Look, if you want to repeal Obamacare and you're the Republican Party, you're the Tea Party, great. Go for it. If you want to get rid of entitlements, you want to cut government spending, that's great. There is a procedure. You pass a bill in the House, it passes in the Senate and the president signs it.
What's happening here is because the Tea Party does not have that ability, does not have a majority in the House or the Senate, and certainly the president wouldn't sign it. So what it's trying to do is really extortion, which is to say, we will block everything if you don't give us this, which we know we couldn't get passed through the democratic process, normally. That seems to me something quite new.
Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
On GPS this Sunday: Why is Washington so polarized? And what can be done about it? Fareed speaks with three experts: American Enterprise Institute scholar Norman Ornstein, CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, and Vanessa Williamson, co-author of The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism.
Also, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein discusses the economy, globalization, and inequality in America.
And in our What in the World segment: Advantage China, as U.S. President Obama misses two big summits in Asia as the stalemate in Washington continued. Could China teach the U.S. a thing or two about dealing with problems responsibly?
By Daniel Gaynor, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Daniel Gaynor is a writer based in Washington, D.C., and a partner at Sweat to Solutions, a non-profit consultancy. The views expressed are his own.
As the government shutdown has entered its second week, there are few signs that the gridlock will be resolved anytime soon. But while finger pointing continues and federal employees stay furloughed, the larger crisis remains unresolved: gerrymandering.
However you vote on election day, you would probably like to know that your vote at least counts. But for more Americans than ever, that’s less and less likely to be the case. Since the last shutdown, in 1995, states from North Carolina to Arizona have been carved up into biased voting districts, in a process called “gerrymandering.”
So what is it? Let’s jump back to 1812. The governor of Massachusetts, Elbridge Gerry, signed into law a “redistricting” plan, one that carved his political opponents into voting districts where they would have less ability to win. And on a map, the new districts looked like a salamander. A local newspaper combined the words Gerry and salamander, and today we have “gerrymander.”