Fareed Zakaria: Maybe We'd Still Be AAA If We Had a Prime Minister Not a President

Sometimes I wonder how liberal media members could possibly live in the same country as I do and hold such startlingly absurd ideas about it.

Take for example Fareed Zakaria who on the CNN program bearing his name this Sunday is going to tell viewers that America would likely still have a AAA credit rating if we had a parliamentary system of government with a prime minister rather than a president (video follows with transcript and commentary):

FAREED ZAKARIA: I wrote a blog post for the Global Public Square website that has gotten a great deal of reaction. So let me talk about it for a moment.

It all started because I read a website that pointed out that after the S&P downgrade of the United States, no country with a presidential system of government had a AAA rating from all three major ratings agencies.

Only countries with parliamentary systems have that honor, with the possible exception of France which could be characterized as having a parliament, a prime minister as well as a president.

Got that? S&P's downgrade had nothing to do with our debt. It was our system of government.

So why did it take this credit rating agency so long to realize that we weren't a parliamentary democracy?

The stupidity on display here was offensive, but what should one expect from a guy who two weeks ago flat out lied about the reason for the downgrade in the first place?

With total disregard for the facts, Zakaria was continuing to make the case that S&P's decision was political and not about our debt explosion getting totally out of control:

ZAKARIA: This brought to mind my years in political science grad school and an essay by a famous Yale scholar, Juan Linz, who said that parliamentary systems are superior to presidential systems because they allow for greater stability and purposeful action. In a parliamentary system, he contended, the legislature and the executive are fused so there is no contest for national legitimacy and power.

So a Spanish sociologist and political scientist thinks parliamentary systems are superior to presidential ones. Does that mean he's right?

A 1993 paper written by professors at the University of Notre Dame and the University of California at San Diego took a critical view of some of Linz's conclusions.

Experts on both sides of the aisle could have a marvelous debate about which system is better and more stable, but ours seems to be working quite well.

Of course, not according to Zakaria:

ZAKARIA: Think of David Cameron in England. He is the head of the coalition that won the election, head of the bloc that has a majority in parliament, and head of the executive branch as Prime Minister.

Remember the political battle surrounding the debt ceiling. It's actually impossible in a parliamentary system because the executive controls the legislature. There could not be a public spectacle of the two branches of government squabbling or holding the country hostage.

In the American presidential system, in contrast, you have a presidency and a legislature, both of which claim to speak for the people. As a result, you always have a contest over basic legitimacy. Who is actually speaking for and representing the people?

In America today, we take this struggle to an extreme. We have one party in one house of the legislature claiming to speak for the people because theirs was the most recent electoral victory. And of course you have the president who claims a broader mandate as the only person elected by all the people.

Obama was elected by all the people?

Last I checked, Obama got about 67 million votes, or roughly 53 percent of those cast out of a population of 300 million.

Of course, Zakaria's point was that the president and vice president are the only ones on a national ticket, but I felt the need to bust his holier than thou, high and mighty, sanctimonious chops:

ZAKARIA: Now these are irresolvable claims and they invite constant struggle.

There are, of course, advantages to the American system - the checks and balances have been very useful on occasion. Let me give you an example: in 1945 Britain enacted a quasi-socialist economic plan that set the country on a bad, bad path.

But look at the situation we're in today. Western countries have all created welfare states and governmental systems that are cumbersome, sluggish and expensive –especially as the population ages.

These need to be reformed and many of these reforms are fairly obvious - in social security, tax policy, energy policy. But the American government has lost the ability to actually implement any policy solutions because of political gridlock.

Speaking of Social Security, the need for its reform, and political gridlock, former President George W. Bush proposed such in 2005 while his Party controlled both chambers of Congress. Only the wishes of the minority Party prevented that from happening.

Had we been a parliamentary system back then, Social Security would have been reformed with legislative implementation on January 1, 2009.

What this means is our current total debt might presently be lower as would our unfunded liabilities making it quite likely S&P wouldn't have felt the need to downgrade us last month.

But folks like Zakaria weren't griping about minority obstructionism when Republicans controlled our government. No, it's only when Democrats are getting their agenda blocked liberal media pine for a better way:

ZAKARIA: Look at what the S&P actually said in its downgrade. "America's governance and policymaking [is] becoming less stable, less effective and less predictable than what we previously believed.. . Despite this year's wide-ranging debate, in our view, the differences between political parties have proven to be extraordinarily difficult to bridge."

Indeed, but S&P specifically referred to our nation's debt 28 times in its August 5 press release regarding the downgrade. No matter how much media members insist on making S&P's decision political, the agency rates the ability of companies and governments to pay off their debt.

Why is this such a hard concept for liberals to grasp?

ZAKARIA: This is not just about the presidential system alone. Recent developments have added to polarization and paralysis. The fillibuster for example, is not in the constitution but it is now routinely used in the Senate to allow a minority of one house to block all legislation.

In a fast-moving world, where other countries are acting quickly and with foresight, we are paralyzed.

It's all very well to keep saying that we have the greatest system in the histroy of the world but against this backdrop of dysfunction, it sounds a lot like thoughtless cheerleading.

We are paralyzed?

Certainly not. What gives that appearance is our leaders have a tendency to wait until the very last minute to address looming crises thereby limiting the options in front of them.

If Congressional Democrats would have even offered a budget in the past two years, or the President had included a debt ceiling resolution in last December's tax extension agreement, there wouldn't have been a crisis in August.

It was this very negligence on the part of the Left that made it appear the government was taken hostage and had become paralyzed.

The problem, therefore, isn't our presidential system at all. It's those that are currently running it.

I'm quite sure Zakaria would fervently agree if Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) were Republicans.

In fact, he'd probably begin his show this Sunday saying, "Maybe we'd still be AAA if we had a real president instead of the man currently residing in the White House."

Of course, if Zakaria said that, he probably wouldn't get invited back to advise the Commander-in-Chief on foreign policy.

Being a media shill does have its tradeoffs.

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.