By Kristin Lord and Paul J. Saunders, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Kristin Lord is executive vice president of the U.S. Institute of Peace. Paul J. Saunders is executive director of the Center for the National Interest and served as Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs in the George W. Bush Administration. The views expressed are their own.
So far, the twenty-first century has been a frustrating one for Americans. The United States has extraordinary military might and technological prowess, which it uses to protect itself, its allies and its partners. Yet, for many here and around the world, the ways in which America exercises this power – revealed in part by Edward Snowden's one-man crusade against the National Security Agency – have contributed to searching questions about the United States’ future and its international role. Such questions have begun to undermine America's moral authority – and U.S. leaders ignore them at their peril.
The United States is not just a great power, but an idea. Americans like it that way and we are justifiably proud of an exceptional if complex history. Particularly during the twentieth century, moral authority became one of our nation's most important strategic advantages, a source of strength that pulled allies closer and proved difficult for adversaries to challenge. The value of this strategic advantage endures today. Losing it could do more to harm American power than any realistic military or economic threat on the horizon-and regaining it could take decades.
U.S. moral authority has suffered real damage over the last two decades. There are many reasons for this, ranging from well-intended military interventions that have produced mixed results, to perceptions that the United States has applied human rights standards inconsistently, allegations of torture and other abuses like those at Abu Ghraib, a major financial crisis, and apparent political dysfunction within our own borders.
By Bruce Stokes, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Bruce Stokes is director of global economic attitudes at the Pew Research Center. The views expressed are his own.
Americans now appear ready for a new approach to immigration policy. A CBS News survey last month found that three-quarters of the public favors “a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants in the U.S. if they met certain requirements including a waiting period, paying fines and back taxes, passing criminal background checks, and learning English.”
But even as the debate intensified the past week as hundreds of conservative leaders converged on Washington to press for broad immigration reform, the issue looks like it might be about to take another twist as the sharp decline in the U.S. population of unauthorized immigrants that accompanied the 2007-2009 recession bottoms out. Indeed, the number may be rising again.
As of March 2012, 11.7 million unauthorized immigrants were living in the United States, according to a preliminary Pew Research Center estimate based on U.S. government data. The estimated number of unauthorized immigrants had peaked at 12.2 million in 2007 and then fell to 11.3 million in 2009, breaking a rising trend that had held for decades. Now this trend may be reversing itself.
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.
By Heather Gautney, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Heather Gautney is an associate professor of sociology at Fordham University. The views expressed are her own.
This past month, our nation’s caregivers got something of a pay increase. The U.S. Department of Labor passed a rule requiring that wage and overtime benefits under the Fair Labor Standards Act be extended to direct care workers. Some two million home care attendants, many of whom have been surviving on public assistance and poverty-level wages, will finally, as of 2015, be covered by basic minimum wage and overtime protections.
Yet this is a depressing contrast with the almost exponential pay curve of our country’s CEOs.
Over a little more than three decades, CEO compensation has increased some 875 percent – more than double the country's stock market growth over that same period – while the real wages of the average U.S. worker have actually declined, according to the Economic Policy Institute. In 1965, corporate executives made twenty times more than the average worker. By 2012, they made over 354 times. The same year, home care attendants made just over $20,000 per year, according to Think Progress. Not even a living wage.
By Khurram Husain, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Khurram Husain is the Pakistan scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The views expressed are his own.
As Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif prepares to sit down with President Barack Obama on Wednesday, he might want to look to history for guidance.
Almost a quarter century ago, newly elected Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto visited Washington DC, where she was received like a celebrity. There was an address to a joint sitting of Congress, a commencement address at Harvard University and a dinner at the White House in her honor. In her address to Congress, Bhutto repeatedly emphasized her democratic credentials, and tapped into the triumphalist mood sweeping Western capitals as the disintegration of the Soviet Union gathered pace. She also underlined the common purpose between her country and her hosts as the war in Afghanistan drew to a close, describing both countries as “friends and partners, who have fought, side by side, in the cause of liberty.”
“We are now moral as well as political partners,” she said. “Two elected governments bonded together in a common respect for constitutional government, accountability, and a commitment to freedom.”
These words might have made some of her hosts a little uncomfortable. After all, here was a woman in her 30s who had already endured imprisonment and exile at the hands of a dictator embraced as a friend by the United States, one lavished with U.S. economic and military assistance.
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.
By Beau Kilmer, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Beau Kilmer is co-director of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center and coauthor of Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know. The views expressed are his own.
Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee recently, U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole summarized the administration’s new approach to marijuana policy released in a recent U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) memorandum.
The announcement was monumental.
In addition to laying out the marijuana enforcement priorities for federal prosecutors, the memo suggests the DOJ will tolerate potentially large, for-profit marijuana companies in states with strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems. This means Colorado and Washington will be the first jurisdictions in the modern era to remove the prohibition on commercial marijuana production and distribution for nonmedical purposes and start regulating and taxing it.
Not even the Netherlands goes that far.
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.