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“The problem with the U.S. government is that its allocation of resources is highly inefficient. We spend vast amounts of money on subsidies for housing, agriculture and health, many of which distort the economy and do little for long-term growth. We spend too little on science, technology, innovation and infrastructure, which will produce growth and jobs in the future. For the past few decades, we have been able to be wasteful and get by. But we will not be able to do it much longer. The money is running out, and we will have to marshal funds and target spending far more strategically. This is not a question of too much or too little government, too much or too little spending. We need more government and more spending in some places and less in others. The tragedy is that Washington knows this. For all the partisan polarization there, most Republicans know that we have to invest in some key areas, and most Democrats know that we have to cut entitlement spending. But we have a political system that has become allergic to compromise and practical solutions. This may be our greatest blind spot.”—Fareed Zakaria: Are America’s Best Days Behind Us?
“I’m an immigrant. I’m not an American by accident of birth, as Glenn Beck is. I’m an American by choice. I came to this country.”—Fareed Zakaria
Fareed Zakaria On US Tax System & Need for Reform
Herman Cain’s campaign promise - the “9-9-9” tax-reform plan - has invited universal scorn from pundits in a way I have rarely seen. “Dial 9-9-9 for Nonsense,” sniffed the Economist. “Ill-considered, hand-waving improvisation,” said the conservative National Review. But Cain’s idea has caught the public’s attention, and for good reason.
I am going to defend not Cain’s specific policy proposals but their general thrust. His plan is sloppy and, in parts, bizarre. But the impetus behind it - tax simplification and reform - is not. The first 9 is a 9% income tax to replace the current tax code. Most Americans believe that the federal tax code is highly complex and fundamentally corrupt. They are right. The federal code (plus IRS rulings) is now 72,536 pages in total. The code itself is 16,000 pages. The statist French have a tax code of 1,909 pages, only 12% as long as ours. Countries like Russia, the Czech Republic and Estonia have innovated and moved to a flat tax, with considerable success.
Complexity equals corruption. When John McCain was still a raging reformer, he pointed to the tax code as the foundation for the corruption of American politics. Special interests pay politicians vast amounts of cash for their campaigns, and in return they get favorable exemptions or credits in the tax code. In other countries, this sort of bribery takes place underneath bridges and with cash in brown envelopes. In America it is institutionalized and legal, but it is the same - cash for politicians in return for favorable treatment from the government. The U.S. tax system is not simply corrupt; it is corrupt in a deceptive manner that has degraded the entire system of American government. Congress is able to funnel vast sums of money to its favored funders through the tax code - without anyone realizing it. The simplest way to get the corruption out of Washington is to remove the prize that members of Congress give away: preferential tax treatment. A flatter tax code with almost no exemptions does that.
“The tallest building in the world is now in Dubai, the biggest factory in the world is in China, the largest oil refinery is in India, the largest investment fund in the world is in Abu Dhabi, the largest Ferris wheel in the world is in Singapore. And ... more troublingly, [the United States is] also losing [its] key grip on indices such as patent creation, scientific creations and things like that — which are really harbingers of future economic growth.”—On today’s Fresh Air, Fareed Zakaria explains why America is lagging behind other countries on indices that indicate long-term economic growth.
“Apple employees [sic] 50,000 people. Foxconn employs 1,000,000 people. So you can have all the innovation you want and tens of thousands of engineers in California benefit, but hundreds of thousands of people benefit in China because the manufacturing has gone there.”—
Journalist and pundit Fareed Zakaria has an update to his book, The Post-American World, due out at the end of the month. For it (and a CNN special report airing tonight), he delved into the world and meaning of innovation—and examined how the United States has a job on its hand to keep up the pace of innovation and stave off the challenges from emerging markets. He described the above quote as the “scariest statistic” he unearthed in the course of his research.
Also, check out the Global Innovation Showcase, just launched by CNN and the New America Foundation to go along with its special report. Featuring the likes of Steven Johnson’s brief history of innovation and political and economic analyst Zachary Karabell on the innovation challenge posed by China, it looks like it might shape up to be an interesting resource.
“We have this debate in America that is almost a theoretical debate about the role of government in the economy and whether government should be involved, and I worry that while we're having this theoretical debate, on the other side of the world, the Chinese government is vigorously promoting industry after industry, the German government is vigorously promoting its manufacturing center, the South Korean government is vigorously promoting its manufacturing sector — and by the time we've resolved our debate, there won't be any industries left to compete in. It is absolutely clear that government plays a key role, as a catalyst, in promoting long-run growth.”—Fareed Zakaria, on the relationship between government and innovation. [complete interview here]
“Media reporters have pointed out that paragraphs in my TIME column this week bear close similarities to paragraphs in Jill Lepore's essay in the April 22nd issue of The New Yorker. They are right. I made a terrible mistake. It is a serious lapse and one that is entirely my fault. I apologize unreservedly to her, to my editors at TIME, and to my readers.”—
“The disappointment over the debt deal is just the latest episode of liberal bewilderment about Obama. “I have no idea what Barack Obama ... believes on virtually any issue,” Drew Westen writes in the New York Times, confused over Obama’s tendency to take “balanced” positions. Westen hints that his professional experience—he is a psychologist—suggests deep, traumatic causes for Obama’s disease. Let me offer a simpler explanation. Obama is a centrist and a pragmatist who understands that in a country divided over core issues, you cannot make the best the enemy of the good. Obama passed a large stimulus package within weeks of taking office. Perhaps it should have been bigger, but despite a Democratic House and Senate, it passed by just one vote. He signed into law an unprecedented expansion of regulations in the financial-services industry, though one that did not break up the large banks. He enacted universal health care, through a complex program modeled after Mitt Romney’s plan in Massachusetts. And he has advocated a balanced approach to deficit reduction that combines tax increases with spending cuts. Maybe he believes in all these things. Maybe he understands that with a budget deficit of 10% of GDP, the second highest in the industrialized world, and a debt that will rise to almost 100% of GDP in a few years, we cannot cavalierly spend another few trillion dollars hoping that will jump-start the economy. Perhaps he believes that while banks need better regulations, America also needs a vibrant banking system, and that in a globalized economy, constraining American banks will only ensure that the world’s largest global financial institutions will be British, German, Swiss and Chinese. He might understand that Larry Summers and Tim Geithner are smart people who, in long careers in public service, got some things wrong but also got many things right. Perhaps he understands that getting entitlement costs under control is in fact a crucial part of stabilizing our fiscal situation, and that you do need both tax increases and spending cuts—cuts that are smaller than they appear because they all start with the 2010 budget, which was boosted by the stimulus. Is all this dangerous weakness, incoherence and appeasement, or is it common sense? My bet is that the American people will see it as the latter. ”—FAREED ZAKARIA, writing in Time magazine.
Are Speakers and Writers Supposed To Never Reuse Their Own Material?
A piece in the NY Times about Fareed Zakaria’s reinstatement to Time and CNN after some apparently unintended plagiarism, included this mention:
Christine Haughney, Time and CNN Reinstate Journalist After Review - NYTimes.com
Earlier this year, Mr. Zakaria was criticized for giving a commencement speech at Harvard that was very similar to one he had given earlier at Duke.
I am baffled by this criticism. Imagine going to hear The Rolling Stones, and then complaining that you’d heard that ‘Satisfaction’ song before. Or that Chris Rock repeated a joke he had tried out last week.
Is there a presumption that a speaker dreams up a brand new talk every single time they speak? It’s not a performance of a piece?
I know I don’t do that. I explore themes over time, using quite similar tropes and allusions. My thinking evolves, and I build on and rework what I want to say. But I don’t start from scratch generally (although I did recently: see What Will Matter In The Future).
And I am a bit unclear on the morals of self-plagiarism. Plagiarism — like when Zakaria lifted material written by Jill Lepore of Harvard, slightly modified it, and passed it off as his own — that I understand as wrong. But reusing your own words — as Jonah Lehrer apparently did, by copying materials from one article to put into a second — seems to be something like making a drawing and then basing a painting on that drawing.
But company A bought the first article and company B paid Lehrer for the second (I forget the details). So it really is a commercial issue, not a moral one. If I am asserting that both articles are ‘original’ meaning I wrote them and the companies mean it to be ‘unlike any other piece you have ever written’, the breakdown is on the meaning of originality.
At any rate, I find it amusing that the premises surrounding this controversy are grounded in the industrial or mercantile nature of public writing or speech, and how unlike the arts it seems. Would someone claim Picasso was plagiarizing himself because he had drawn women with three eyes before? Or Dali and his melty watches?
The emotionality around Lehrer’s self-plagiarism reminds me of the ‘crime’ or ‘immorality’ of adultery. Great outrage although nothing is actually taken away: it’s not like stealing a car, after all. There is no damage or loss, no dents in the paint job. Well, except on the emotional level, grounded in the cultural premises of monogamy and the value of sexual exclusivity.
I think the same outrage comes when Yale pays Zakaria $75K for a talk and discovers he whispered the same sweet words into the ears of the folks at Columbia. It’s financial heartbreak, I guess.
Orientalism-is-Alive would like to send out its sincere condolences regarding Fareed Zakaria's TIME column
After it was revealed that he blatantly plagiarized* a paragraph from one of his recent columns, TIME has temporarily suspended his column pending further review.
We’re gonna miss Fareed Zakaria’s bullshit. To honor his legacy, here is a link to some of his bullshit we’ve tracked and archived for the laughs and the cries.
*Correction: He blatantly plagiarized multiple paragraphs LOL