Zakaria: Will we get big fiscal deal, or small?
December 11th, 2012
03:39 PM ET

Zakaria: Will we get big fiscal deal, or small?

By Fareed Zakaria

Talking about the fiscal cliff involves guesswork at this point, but here is my guess.  There will be a deal before the end of the year, when spending cuts and tax rises are scheduled to kick in. But will we get a small deal that simply gets us through the immediate crisis, or will there be a grand bargain?

The outlines of an eventual deal are pretty obvious – there will be some increase in tax rates as well as some closing of deductions and loopholes because, the rate increases being discussed don’t get you enough revenue. And in return for this, there will be some spending cuts or, more likely, restraints placed on future spending. For a grand bargain, you would need major tax reform and major entitlement reform. Neither is likely. So we’re likely to get some patchwork solution that will be enough to stave off a crisis.


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Topics: Economy
December 6th, 2012
09:04 PM ET

End the war on terror and save billions

By Fareed Zakaria

If you want to know why we’re in such a deep budgetary hole, one large piece of it is that we have spent around $2 trillion on foreign wars in the past decade. Not coincidentally, we have had the largest expansion of the federal government since World War II. The Washington Post’s Dana Priest and William Arkin have described how the U.S. government has built 33 new complexes for the intelligence bureaucracies alone. The Department of Homeland Security employs 230,000 people.

A new Global Terrorism Index this week showed that terrorism went up from 2002 to 2007 – largely because of the conflicts in Afghanistan/Pakistan and Iraq — but has declined ever since. And the part of the world with the fewest incidents is North America. It could be our vigilance that is keeping terror attacks at bay. But it is also worth noting, as we observe the vast apparatus of searches and screening, that the Transportation Security Administration’s assistant administrator for global strategies has admitted that those expensive and cumbersome whole-body scanners have not resulted in the arrest of a single suspected terrorist. Not one.

Click here for the full article in the Washington Post

November 29th, 2012
09:10 AM ET

Past is not prologue in Middle East

By Fareed Zakaria

Amid the disorder, there is a broader contest for regional power. Israel has by far the most powerful economy and military, but it lacks any political power for obvious reasons. Turkey has economic and military power as well, and it also has growing regional clout. The Turkish model–an elected government that combines democracy with a pious outlook–is extremely attractive in the Middle East. But Turkish diplomacy in the past year, most notably over Iraq and Syria, has been arrogant, emotional and unsuccessful.

Egypt, meanwhile, is the natural leader of the Arab world, but at the moment is not in a position to dominate: Its economy is a shambles, its military second rate and under pressure from its people, and its democracy still very fragile. President Mohamed Morsi's recent power grab is worrying, but the public response and opposition to it has been reassuring.
Read the full column at TIME

November 1st, 2012
08:20 AM ET

Breaking the deadlock

By Fareed Zakaria

Unless Congress acts, the spending cuts and tax increases that would be triggered automatically next January would take 5.1% out of the country's GDP in one year, according to the Congressional Budget Office. That would be one of the most severe experiments with austerity in history–larger than anything Greece, Spain, Italy or the U.K. has tried. In fact, it is almost three times the size of Britain's program. And the results of those European austerity policies have thus far been a dramatic slowdown in economic growth and a sharp spike in unemployment. Virtually every economist who has studied this believes that similar measures, even if enacted for a few months, could push the U.S. into a double-dip recession.

Even a prominent CEO-sponsored public campaign geared explicitly toward deficit reduction has warned that this much reduction this fast would be catastrophic for the country. In fact, just the fear that it might happen has already stopped companies from expanding. And once again, the rest of the world watches to see if the U.S.–the center of the global economy–will actually commit economic hara-kiri.

Read the full column at TIME here

October 25th, 2012
11:49 AM ET

The U.S. economy is recovering well

By Fareed Zakaria

The International Monetary Fund’s latest World Economic Outlook makes for gloomy reading. Growth projections have been revised downward almost everywhere, especially in Europe and the big emerging markets such as China. And yet, when looking out over the next four years — the next presidential term — the IMF projects that the United States will be the strongest of the world’s rich economies. U.S. growth is forecast to average 3 percent, much stronger than that of Germany or France (1.2 percent) or even Canada (2.3 percent). Increasingly, the evidence suggests that the United States has come out of the financial crisis of 2008 in better shape than its peers — because of the actions of its government.

Perhaps the most important cause of America’s relative health is the Federal Reserve. Ben Bernanke understood the depths of the problem early and responded energetically and creatively. The clearest vindication of his actions has been that the European Central Bank, after charting the opposite course for three years with disastrous results, has adopted policies similar to the Fed’s — and averted a potential Lehman-like collapse in Europe. (Mitt Romney’s two most prominent academic advisers, Glenn Hubbard and Gregory Mankiw, seem to recognize this, but Romney apparently doesn’t. As recently as August the Republican presidential nominee repeated his criticisms of the Fed and promised to replace Bernanke at its helm.)
Read the full column here.

October 21st, 2012
09:43 PM ET

Who 'gets' the economy?

By Fareed Zakaria

As I’ve often pointed out, America IS worse off than it was 30 years ago in infrastructure, education and research. The country spends much less than it did on infrastructure. By 2009, federal funding for research and development was half the share of GDP that it was in 1960.

The result is we're falling behind and fast. A decade ago, the World Economic Forum ranked U.S. infrastructure fifth in the world. In its latest report we were 25th. The United States spends only 2.4 percent of GDP on infrastructure, the Congressional Budget Office noted in 2010. Whereas Europe spends 5 percent; China, 9 percent. In the 1970s, America led the world in the number of college graduates; as of 2009, we were 14th among the countries tracked by the OECD. Reversing that decline will cost money.

Watch the video for the full take.

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Topics: GPS Show
October 18th, 2012
09:18 AM ET

The new oil and gas boom

Over the past decade, America has experienced a technological revolution–not, as expected, in renewable energy but rather in the extraction of oil and gas. As a result, domestic supplies of new sources of energy–shale gas, oil from shale, tight sands and the deepwater, natural-gas liquids–are booming. The impact is larger than anyone expected.

In 2011, for the first time since 1949, the U.S. became a net exporter of refined petroleum products. Several studies this year have projected that by the end of this decade, the U.S. will surpass both Russia and Saudi Arabia and become the world's largest producer of oil and liquid natural gas.

Read the full column at TIME

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Topics: Energy
October 15th, 2012
10:31 AM ET

Having faith in political Islam

By Fareed Zakaria

Al-Qaeda understands that if the Arab world democratizes, it loses the core of its ideological appeal – which is why Al Qaeda's head, Ayman al-Zawahiri wrote a book condemning the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood's decision to support and participate in Egypt's democratic process.

So while we might despair over a particular statement or policy from the new Arab regimes, they have produced elected leaders with real legitimacy – and these leaders denounce Al Qaeda and violence and they do try in their own way to reconcile Islam and democracy.

Should we oppose them?

Watch the video for Fareed's full take on the debate over whether to support political Islam or secular dictators. Fareed Zakaria GPS airs on Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET.

October 13th, 2012
07:45 PM ET

A conservative split over the Middle East

By Fareed Zakaria

Mitt Romney’s speech on foreign affairs this week was surprisingly moderate. Rhetorically it was full of sound and furybut, on closer examination, it signified no major change of policy. Romney affirmed the timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan; he did not propose sending troops back into Iraq and did not advocate military strikes on Iran. He pledged to work toward a two-state solution in the Middle East. He even left out the belligerence toward China that had been a staple of his speeches in recent months.

Romney proposed one policy shift, toward Syria. But even there — in a carefully worded, passive construction — he did not announce that as president, he would arm the Syrian opposition, merely that he would “ensure they obtain the arms they need.” The “they” is “those members of the opposition who share our values.” So, Romney’s sole divergence from current policy is that we should try harder to find non-Islamists among the Syrian rebels and encourage Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to give them more arms.

Romney’s moderation is partly a continuation of his pivot to the center. But it also reflects the lack of consensus among conservatives on what to do about the turmoil in the Middle East.

Read the full column at the Washington Post

What Biden must do
October 11th, 2012
10:07 AM ET

What Biden must do

By Fareed Zakaria

The conventional wisdom following last week’s presidential debate was that President Obama performed badly. I think that’s a fair reflection of what happened. It is still inexplicable to me why the president was so passive, why he did not bring up issues such as Romney’s 47 percent comment or the auto bailout or explain the popular provisions in the Obama health care bill. But for whatever reason, perform badly he did.

But the lessons for Joe Biden – as he thinks about his upcoming debate with Paul Ryan – derive less from watching Obama than from watching Romney. Romney had one of the best performances I can remember watching in a presidential debate ever – it was punchy, intelligent, empathetic. There is no question there were substantive problems, most notably the fact that Romney’s tax plan simply doesn’t add up – he cannot do a 20 percent tax rate cut while also retaining all the big deductions for most people without massively adding to the deficit. He certainly can’t do it while also promising to maintain Medicare and Social Security as is for current retirees. But Romney was good enough that he was able to convincingly argue that 2 plus 2 equals 5.


October 4th, 2012
08:23 AM ET

After Benghazi, is al-Qaeda back?

By Fareed Zakaria

When trying to understand a strange action by the U.S. government, I have found it's usually best explained by incompetence rather than conspiracy. Republicans have claimed that the Obama Administration deliberately deceived the American public about the terrorist attack in Benghazi by describing it as a spontaneous mob uprising rather than a planned operation. But if the Administration knew from the start that it was a terrorist attack, did it really think that it could conceal this from the world? That the Libyan government would make no investigation? That there would be no eyewitnesses in a public place where hundreds had gathered? A far more plausible explanation is that in the chaotic aftermath of the attack, the Administration–too hastily and without proper analysis–put out the reports it was receiving. That's clumsy, but it's not treason.

The larger issue that the attack raises, however, which is fair game for a campaign conversation, is what the events in Benghazi tell us about terrorist organizations, in particular al-Qaeda. After years of being in retreat, is al-Qaeda back?

Why Syria turmoil threatens Middle East
October 2nd, 2012
10:31 AM ET

Why Syria turmoil threatens Middle East

By Fareed Zakaria

As Syria continues its descent into civil war, the terrible humanitarian tragedy occurring is unfolding in plain view: 20,000 dead, 250,000 refugees outside the country by some accounts, over a million people internally displaced.

There seems no easy solution to end the crisis. But now, Syria’s neighbors are getting worried. Syria’s problems will not stay confined to Syria. Syria is a multi-sectarian society with shared identities with groups in other countries. As a result, the sectarian tensions that are being unleashed there are also spilling over from Syria’s borders.

There was an excellent New York Times article last week that noted how the Kurds in Syria are now starting to try to leave the country and are massing on the Turkish border. They are also trying to carve out a Kurdish zone in Syria that would allow them some autonomy. This is precisely what the Kurds in Iraq did, it is what some Kurds in Turkey aspire to do, and it is what the Kurds in Syria may try to do.


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Topics: Middle East • Syria
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