Barack Obama took a lot of heat last week for saying America has "gotten a little soft."
Not from Fareed Zakaria who when not advising the president on foreign policy acts as one of his propaganda czars every Sunday on CNN (video follows with transcript and commentary):
FAREED ZAKARIA: Barack Obama has apparently committed blasphemy. In an interview in Florida last week, he dared to say that America had gotten "soft." The denunciations came in fast and furious.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TEXAS GOVERNOR RICK PERRY (R): The American people are plenty tought. What we've got is a soft President.”
MITT ROMNEY: It's not that we have become soft. It's that he's on our shoulders and is too heavy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: Now, if you watch the clip, here's what the president actually said:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The way I think about it is, you know, this is a great, great country that had gotten a little soft and, you know, we didn't have that same competitive edge that we needed over the last couple of decades. We need to get back on track.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: Isn't this self-evidently true? And isn’t this what conservatives have been saying for decades?
The evidence on the topic is pretty clear. The United States is slipping by most measures of global competitiveness. In category after category - actual venture capital funding, research and development - America has dropped well behind countries like Japan, South Korea and Sweden.
The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation measures 39 countries on their efforts to improve competitiveness over the last decade. America comes in next to last.
It's interesting that Zakaria chose only to highlight this study. In his Time column on this same subject, he was a little more balanced writing, "The U.S. is slipping, by most measures of global competitiveness. It has dipped slightly in the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) rankings to No. 5, behind Sweden, Singapore, Finland and Switzerland."
Economists are typically not surprised by the surge of countries like Sweden and Finland, for example, due to their size and homogenous populations.
With 300 million people of diverse backgrounds and disparate religious and cultural beliefs as well as differing work ethics and attitudes towards education, it is expected that America's competitiveness in certain measures will lag behind countries with more homogenous societies.
Not surprisingly, none of this surfaced in Zakaria's support for the president's soft view Sunday:
ZAKARIA: Perhaps the most crucial measure of our ability to compete in a global economy is our educational levels, especially in science, math and engineering. A generation ago, America had the highest percent of college graduates in the world. Today we're ninth and falling. In 2004, only 6% of U.S. degrees were awarded in engineering, which is half the average for rich countries. In Japan it's 20%, in Germany it's 16%.
The great scholar, Daniel Bell, once summed up the essence of the Protestant ethic that spawned industrial civilization - delayed gratification. The ability to save and invest today for a better tomorrow. That's been at the heart of every society's leap from poverty to plenty. And America was a country marked by this ethic.
Let me give you three examples. In the 1950s, household debt in America was just 34% of disposable income; today it is 115% of disposable income. We're all maxed out on credit cards. Over the same period, investment in infrastructure and R&D spending are both down by a full percent of GDP. Today, the federal government spends four dollars on every adult over 65 compared with one dollar for every child under eighteen. Every level of government now spends less of money investing for the future and more fueling consumption for the present.
Interesting how Zakaria only addressed househeld debt and not that of the federal government.
In the '50s, debt as a percentage of GDP was 60 percent. By 1981, it had dropped to 32.5 percent.
Now, it's a staggering 99 percent and growing every day.
Zakaria chose to totally ignore this as he bemoaned us not "investing for the future":
ZAKARIA: Conservatives used to believe in confronting hard truths, not succumbing to comforting fairy tales. Some still do. In a bracing essay in the right-wing National Review, Peter Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal and a politically active libertarian, describes quite well how America has, well, gone soft. He notes that the economy hasn't been performing well for decades, that median wages have been stagnating. He argues that the country's innovation culture has begun to decay, corroded by a widespread search for "easy progress" and quick fixes. "In our hearts and minds," Thiel writes," we know that desperate optimism will not save us."
That's what the feel-good mantras you hear so often these days sounds like - desperate optimism.
Maybe, but is it better to express pessimism for our condition if you're only solution is more deficit spending?
Zakaria accurately noted that American households have a serious problem: they're too in debt to be able to consume at levels they used to.
But he ignored the obvious: so is the federal government. That's why an optimistic movement in this nation has emerged to try to halt this profligate spending and prevent our seemingly inevitable bankruptcy.
Their task is hindered by media members like Zakaria who deal in half-truths refusing to tell the American people all sides of the story.
If this country has indeed gotten soft, it's because for eighty years the federal government has created tremendously expensive programs specifically designed to reduce personal responsibility and the fear of failure thereby damaging what used to be a much stronger work ethic.
Despite evidence of how this socialist experiment has failed miserably - not just here, but in the crumbling economies of Europe as well! - liberal media members like Zakaria have only one answer: more socialism.
That's like curing heroin addiction with more heroin.
As for Zakaria, it must be a nice feeling for the White House to know that no matter what missteps or miscues the president makes, CNN has a representative willing to shamelessly support the Commander-in-Chief each and every Sunday.