By Fareed Zakaria
The United States has high levels of education and a large percentage of its workers in adult learning and training programs, and it spends lots of money on all these activities. And yet, it does worse than many countries with few advantages and resources. (And no, it isn’t just because of immigrants. About half of the OECD countries now have a larger percentage of foreign-born adults than does the United States)
What we learn from this study is really just an extension of what we have discovered in the PISA results. The biggest force behind falling American rankings is not that the United States is doing things much worse but that other countries have caught up and are doing better. The U.S. system of education and training is inadequate in the new global environment.
And things show no signs of improving. The bipartisan backlash against the Common Core — a set of national standards agreed to by governors — is a tragic example. Parents raised on a culture of low standards and high self-esteem are outraged that the tests show that many American schools are not teaching their children enough. (The tests must be at fault because they know that their kids are brilliant!) Some liberals and teacher groups are upset with the emphasis on testing (though Randi Weingarten, the head of the American Federation of Teachers, has endorsed the Common Core). And Republicans now oppose it — despite having championed it only a few years ago — largely because the Obama administration also backs the project.
By Richard Jackson, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Richard Jackson is a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and author of Lessons from Abroad for the U.S. Entitlement Debate. The views expressed are his own.
America’s long-term budget challenge may have dropped off Washington’s radar, but it has not dropped off the public’s.
According to the Fiscal Confidence Index released last month by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, 59 percent of the public said that the nation is on the “wrong track in addressing the national debt,” while 67 percent said that their level of concern has increased over the past few years. The public is right to be concerned.
But what many too often fail to appreciate is that confronting the challenge will require a far-reaching reform of entitlement programs, which make up well over half of federal spending today and account for all of the projected growth in noninterest outlays as a share of GDP over the next three decades. The most recent Congressional Budget Office projections may show that the near-term budget outlook has improved, but the long-term outlook, driven by rising entitlement costs, remains as daunting as ever.
Fareed speaks with Michael Porter, a professor at the Harvard Business School, about a groundbreaking new Social Progress Index – and how the United States is lagging on many indicators. Watch the video for the full interview or on GPS this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN.
You were shocked at what you learned about America.
Yes, I think this wasn’t the picture of America that I think many of us Americans have – that we are a leader, a social leader, that we've advanced the ball in terms of opportunity and the needs of our citizens. And it shows anything but that.
So if you look at the Social Progress Index, on the whole, what's striking is the top countries are New Zealand, Switzerland, Iceland, these small countries. But basically then a lot of European countries and Canada beat the United States.
The United States is 16, Ireland is ahead of it, Japan is ahead of it, Britain is ahead of it, Germany is ahead of it.
What does that tell us? What does that measure?
So this effort tries to really, for the first time ever, take let's call it the social or community or quality of life dimensions of a society, and capture those in a rigorous measurement framework – using the best data available in the world. That's the best and objective measures of these various multiple things. But of course, social progress is a broad concept.
Right. And that's where you break it down into these subcategories. Health and wellness, Japan is number one, Italy is number two, Switzerland is number three. You have to go all the way to 70 to get to the United States.
It's an area where the U.S. – if you actually look objectively, we're just not delivering. We actually spend the most money on this of any country in the world, probably in all of recorded history, in terms of our health care budget every year. But in terms of the actual outcomes – and by the way, the Social Progress Index measures the outcomes you achieve, not how much you spend, not how much you care, not whether you have a big heart…
By Tyler Cullis and Jamal Abdi, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Tyler Cullis is a policy associate at the National Iranian American Council. Jamal Abdi is policy director at NIAC. The views expressed are the authors’ own.
The United States could be on the verge of securing a historic agreement over Iran’s nuclear program, one that verifiably limits it and opens the door to further cooperation between the two countries. Yet with a diplomatic victory on the horizon, the rhetoric of those who have long opposed any diplomatic resolution is reaching dizzying heights of disingenuousness.
During a recent Senate hearing, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ) hit out at reports that negotiations with Iran may produce a deal that “only” extends Iran’s nuclear breakout timeline to 6 to 12 months.
“I don’t think we did everything that we’ve done to only get a six to twelve month lead time,” Menendez lamented as he grilled Secretary of State John Kerry over the progress of the talks.
Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz piled on shortly after, calling such a timeline a “[U.S.] surrender to Iran” and “unacceptable.”
By Will Marshall, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Will Marshall is the president of the Progressive Policy Institute. The views expressed are his own.
No country has embraced renewable energy more avidly than Germany. But a host of untoward realities – soaring electricity bills, rising carbon emissions and growing dependence on Russian gas – are intruding rudely on Germany’s green dream.
In response to such worries, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet approved a plan last week to trim subsidies for solar and wind power. The proposed law would also exempt fewer companies from paying a stiff renewable energy surcharge, an exemption that has come under heavy fire in Europe for giving German industry an unfair competitive boost.
In truth, the proposed energy reform law would merely slow down Germany’s drive toward green energy. It doesn’t alter the visionary (some would say utopian) goals of the country’s policy of Energiewende, or energy switchover. Launched in 2000, when Social Democrats ran the government, the Energiewende calls for abolishing nuclear power and envisions renewables providing 80 percent of Germany’s power by mid-century.
For more Last Look, watch GPS, Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
Believe it or not, there is one country on earth that is home to both U.S. and Russian soldiers, the opposing nations stationed a mere 20 miles from each other. It's a landlocked, mountainous country, and its parliament has been known to sacrifice sheep.
We’re talking about Kyrgyzstan, where the Transit Center at Manas has been a main staging ground for American troops and supplies to move into Afghanistan since 2001. It's less than an hour's drive from Russia's Kant airbase – so close they could practically borrow cups of sugar. But you can see from the pictures in the video that this military neighborhood will soon come to an end.
The Kyrgyz parliament voted not to extend the American lease, and the U.S. has been given its eviction notice. It must vacate by July. U.S. forces are getting ready to go, packing up boxes and breaking down large tents.
Will this put some much needed space between the United States and Russian militaries? Actually, not so much. The U.S. will now use its newly outfitted Transit Center in Romania – 250 miles from Sevastopol, where there is, of course, a Russian base on the Crimean peninsula.
By Bruce Stokes, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Bruce Stokes is the director of global economic attitudes at the Pew Research Center. The views expressed are the writer’s own.
During the Cold War, the Indian government attempted to position itself between Moscow and Washington by claiming leadership of the Non-Aligned Movement. As Indians head to the polls over the next six weeks, their country again finds itself in a world with two preeminent powers: this time, China and the United States.
And the Indian public is fairly clear where its sympathies lie: with America. Of course, how such attitudes will influence the views of the next Indian government remains to be seen. But, for now at least, there appears to be no evidence of broad anti-Americanism on the sub-continent.
This might come as a surprise to some. After all, the favorable views of the United States came despite the fact that the Pew Research Center survey measuring sentiment was conducted in India in the immediate aftermath of the controversial December 2013 arrest and strip-search of India’s female deputy consul general in New York on charges of visa fraud. Yet by more than three-to-one (56 percent to 15 percent), Indians express a favorable rather than unfavorable view of the United States.
By Faysal Itani, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Faysal Itani is a resident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East. The views expressed are the writer’s own.
Three years into Syria’s civil war, the United States has demanded the regime shut down its U.S. embassy. But this month’s long overdue gesture is just the latest low-cost substitute for a meaningful U.S. policy in Syria, and is symptomatic of the U.S. approach to Syria’s tragedy, which prioritizes diplomatic posturing over engaging with realities on the ground. Indeed, as the United States focuses on international summits such as the recent Geneva II conference, it is ignoring the nature of the opposition in Syria itself.
It isn’t too late to change this approach, and to transform the U.S. goal of political transition in Syria from wishful fantasy to realistic goal. But to do this, American thinking needs to move from Geneva to the villages, towns, and cities of Syria
Early last year, Syrian rebels captured the northern city of Raqqa. After bickering with local councils over how to run the province, the U.S.-backed opposition coalition in exile (the Etilaf) named Abdullah Khalil, a human rights lawyer, to head an interim authority. On May 19, 2013, masked men reportedly kidnapped Khalil, and he has not been heard from since. His disappearance shows how the opposition, backed by the United States and its allies, has failed to build on its early successes in liberated territory, allowing the regime to survive.
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.
By Rep. Alan Lowenthal and Michael Shank, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: U.S. Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif) serves on the House Foreign Affairs and Natural Resources Committees. Michael Shank is associate director for legislative affairs at the Friends Committee on National Legislation and a senior fellow at the JustJobs Network. The views expressed are their own.
The partisan picking apart of last month’s Congressional Budget Office report on the minimum wage – and the debate over its impact on employment – was just the latest missed opportunity to find bipartisan solutions for this country’s problems. Sadly, in this case, the failure strikes at the very heart of the American Dream – economic mobility.
Despite what many Americans assume, the United States actually has some of the lowest and longest-stagnating rates of economic mobility in the rich world – significantly lower than many European countries. This fact should be of concern to both Democrats and Republicans as it hinders this country’s economy.
How has this happened? For a start, the minimum wage has lost much of its purchasing power, and hasn't kept pace with inflation. Indeed, the minimum wage, adjusted for inflation, is lower now than it was in the late 1960s, while wages at the bottom end of the scale have fallen in recent decades, even as worker productivity has grown.
By Aakanksha Tangri
GPS intern Aakanksha Tangri speaks with Robert Oxnam, President Emeritus of the Asia Society, about the Dalai Lama’s recent visit to the United States, and what it could mean for relations with China.
What are the likely short-term and long-term impacts on U.S.-China relations after President Barack Obama’s meeting with the Dalai Lama?
It’s important to note that every U.S. president from Reagan onward has had meetings in the White House with the Dalai Lama. Clinton had four meetings with His Holiness during his presidency. Both Clinton and Bush have had post-presidency meetings as well. Indeed the Dalai Lama recently said “I love George Bush.” So, in 2009, when President Obama did not meet with the Dalai Lama, he was breaking a well-established precedent; and thus his 2014 meeting simply reverted to an older pattern. It’s worth noting that Obama has now had three meetings with the Dalai Lama.
Of course, the Chinese always protest loudly on these occasions because they have a strong interest in asserting Chinese sovereignty over what they call the Tibetan Autonomous Region. But since Obama explicitly said that neither the United States, nor even the Dalai Lama, wants full independence for Tibet, the sovereignty issue was sidestepped.
I think that Obama was quite correct in asserting his support for Tibetan human rights issues and also properly calling the Dalai Lama “an internationally respected religious and cultural leader.” By contrast, the Chinese leadership calls His Holiness a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” and head of the “Dalai Clique.”
For more on the latest developments in Ukraine, watch a special live edition of "Fareed Zakaria GPS," this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN.
By Fareed Zakaria
Inevitably, the crisis in Ukraine is being discussed in Washington largely through the lens of political polarization. It seems like any and every topic is fodder for partisan dispute these days, even the weather – actually, especially the weather.
Many Republicans are arguing that Russian President Vladimir Putin intervened in the Crimea region of Ukraine because of President Barack Obama's weakness. Putin saw that Obama didn't want to go to war in Syria, for example, and this emboldened Putin.
Well, who knows right? It's tough to know what would have happened in an alternative universe. Imagine that we still had Putin around in charge of Russia, but imagine he faced a different president, one who was tough, aggressive, who had no compunctions about invading countries.
Oh wait, we ran that very experiment in 2008! Putin faced George W. Bush, a president who had invaded Afghanistan and Iraq for good measure (and, in the latter case, defying massive international pressure and opposition). And yet, Putin invaded Georgia. And not, as he did this time, in a stealthy way with soldiers who were already there who simply switched their uniforms. He sent in Russian tanks roaring into Georgia and – without any referendums – simply annexed two pieces of that country.