Memo to Fareed Zakaria
It's so much easier to write this after hearing President Obama's stirring and profound inauguration speech. Had I written it before that, I might have been gentler than I plan to be now. Call it a "We the People" versus the Village Pundits moment.
I refer to your one-hour parade of punditry entitled Memo to the President. Heather looked at your pundit parade and said everything I might have said, so let me simply address your "instructions" for President Obama.
ZAKARIA: That will depend on the future of American growth. The president inherited an economy in free fall. He helped prevent a second Great Depression. But he also inherited an economy that was fundamentally unbalanced.
For over 20 years, economic growth in America has been slow, recoveries have been jobless and median wages have declined. We need a new strategy for growth based on reform and investment. We need major reforms of regulations and tax policies to make America competitive and growth oriented but we also desperately need new investments for the future.
We need a world-class infrastructure, not one that is now ranked 25th in the world according to the World Economic Forum. We need highly trained workers. We need to rebuild our great state universities to be centers of access and excellence so that every American has a path to success.
In the 1950s and '60s, America spent 5 percent of its GDP on investments for the future. Today, that number is 3 percent. And it's likely to fall in the years ahead as entitlement spending crowds out everything else.
We now spend $4 for every American over 65 compared with $1 for every American under 18. We are demonstrating vividly our preference for consumption over investment, for the present over the future, and for our own interests over those of our children.
If President Obama can change this trend, he will probably not get much applause today, but he will restore the American economy, secure America's place in the world and his own place in history.
Other than your nonsense about the generational differences in spending, I would more or less agree with what you said, were it not framed in a context that suggests he hasn't already tried to do these things. You would have done better had you decided to craft a "Memo to the Congress" about what they have failed to do. Evidently either your research or your memory is flawed when it comes to what this president "must do."
Infrastructure - In 2009, just after he was inaugurated, President Obama launched a sweeping initiative to bring high-speed rail to this country. In four short years, Republican governors killed it in Ohio, Florida, and Wisconsin while puffing up and bragging about how they support job creators. Ha! We're moving ahead in California as well as the Northeast corridor but that is the exception instead of the rule. This is shameful. Yet you mentioned nothing about that.
Regulatory Reform - In 2011, President Obama announced his initiatives for regulatory reform. It was sweeping and broad, calling for review and elimination of outdated regulations. This is moving ahead on schedule. This may be a shock to hear, but you can find progress reports right on the White House website. Why didn't you mention that it was underway and progressing? Why didn't you inform viewers that this is an ongoing process?
State Universities - In spite of unprecedented obstruction by Republicans, President Obama reformed student loans, expanded Pell grants, and continues to make university education accessible to qualified students across this country. These are facts you might have mentioned. You might also have mentioned that Republicans in statehouses across this nation have systematically starved state universities of funds, forcing them to turn to corporate sponsorship and to raise tuition to a level that's nearly unaffordable for anyone but the wealthy.
With grants, we pay $12,000 per year for one kid to attend a state university and $7,000 per year for the other one. This is not the fault of President Obama, but it is the fault of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Howard Jarvis, Ronald Reagan, Pete Wilson, and every other damn Republican governor that occupied the governor's office in Sacramento.
You might have mentioned that to your viewers, but you didn't.
You call them entitlements. I call them shared responsibility - It is astonishing to me that you would, in one short statement, separate Americans by generation, suggest that different generations have no obligation to others, and complain that our nation agrees that a free and prosperous nation does not allow senior citizens to starve or go without health care. But truly, for you to say we "prefer consumption over investment, for the present over the future, and for our own interests over those of our children" is just wrong, cynical, and divisive.
You, who make the case for why the president must strive for unity, call for division. It's wrong, misleading, and worthy of Ron Paul but not anyone claiming to be a "no labels" kind of pundit. Whether you call it entitlement or shared responsibility, I would like to remind you, Mr. Zakaria, that it is the sacrifice of our parents and grandparents that pays for that younger generation's education, as I noted above. We do these things because we're able to.
Most of us are also paying for that generation's health care, via employer-provided plans and the Obamacare age raise to 26. This is a point of personal gratitude for me, since my adult son has a chronic illness that would have bankrupted our family.
You have no right, Mr. Zakaria, to shame people because they need health care, or because they dare to live longer than actuaries expect. Why aren't you as vociferous about the costs of two wars that spent resources and lives chasing oil? Why must all eyes be placed on our own citizens, who have worked, and paid their share of the agreement they made as citizens and workers in this country?
Holding a pundit's card doesn't give you some special license to dictate what our nation's priorities are. The voters do that. What you do have license to do, however, is remind viewers of the efforts made, the successes realized, and other efforts rebuffed, instead of commanding our president to do your bidding.