This Week, we asked Time Magazine assistant managing editor Rana Foroohar to answer seven questions.
1) How do you see the Boston Marathon bombings impacting President Obama’s domestic and international agendas?
Foroohar: “The conventional wisdom over the week has been that Boston is a potentially agenda changing event for a president that was already having trouble with issues from gun control to immigration. And indeed, I hope it doesn’t derail immigration reform, which is very much needed. But the fact that the operation has been a success, the city was well prepared to execute the manhunt, and the authorities at all levels seemed to work well together leaves the Obama administration looking competent and resilient. Unless new facts come to light, I’m not sure you’ll see some major domestic agenda pivot off this.
In terms of foreign policy, the fact that the Boston bombers have been identified as Chechens may increase support for Russian anti-terrorism strategies and its approach to Islamic extremism. Although Russian-US relations have been strained of late, it’s possible that this could spur new counterterrorism work between the two countries. It will be interesting to see if it actually leads to any progress on other contentious issues that the countries have disagreed on, like Iran, Syria, etc.”
2) Time released its annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world. Is there one person who you thought was especially influential?
Foroohar: “Malala Yousafzai, the 15 year old Pakistani girl who was shot and nearly killed by the Taliban because she stood up for education and women’s rights. Simply by being back in school, she’s exerted more influence than anyone I can think of. She’s a tremendously powerful figure. I can’t wait to read her memoir.”
3) How does the United States best handle a country like North Korea? What is the end game?
Foroohar: “For starters, it’s very hard for the U.S. to know what it’s dealing with in North Korea. “Lil Kim” has been in charge for a very short time; we had years to figure out his father. That said, I think we should stop kidding ourselves that North Korea is going to give up nukes anytime soon. Why would they, especially now that the South Koreans have said they’re open to negotiations, when in the past, they always said that they wouldn’t even come to the table without a promise that the North Koreans would give up their nuclear weapons program? That said, talks could and should be an opportunity to get more information — what exactly do the North Koreans want? The U.S. needs to figure out what the carrots and sticks are that could shift the dynamic in the region, especially since it’s clear that the Chinese aren’t going to play any important role in finding a solution.”
4) Secretary of State John Kerry is trying to revive Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in hopes of eventually reaching a peace agreement. What are the prospects for peace at this point?
Foroohar: “Almost zero. Kerry’s efforts are a kind of Kabuki act demanded by domestic politics, as Americans want to feel some efforts are being made in the region. It has very little to do with the intractable situation on the ground.”
5) Job creation in the United States was weak in March. You described the post-recession recovery as “wimpy” last year. What’s your outlook for this year?
Foroohar: “More of the same. Sadly, we’re still in a 2 percent economy. This last jobs report aside, the private sector has been doing better over the last few months, thanks to the rebound in housing, which has boosted construction, and the strength of American manufacturing, which has enjoyed a rebound in the last couple of years. But there are big headwinds — the eurozone crisis continues, and the emerging markets are slowing, both of which are effecting US exporters. Meanwhile, we’ve got the same political gridlock in Washington that we’ve seen for years now. The US remains the prettiest house on the ugly block that is the global economy, but we’re also our own worst enemy — if Congress could show markets that it’s capable of more efficient governance, I think we’d see more U.S. investment. It would also be great to see politicians agree on productive public investment in growth boosting areas like education and infrastructure — but I’m not holding out too much hope of that.”
6) President Obama has released his 2014 budget proposal. In terms of trying to spur growth and reduce the debt, does this plan make sense?
Foroohar: “I think the president’s budget was a good attempt to get beyond growth busting partisan politics — he showed that he was willing to make real compromise on entitlement cuts and public sector spending. I was also glad to see him continue to push for revenue increases around things like investment income. The economic paradigms of our age so favor those already at the top of the pyramid, I think it’s only fair that they should pay a bit more to ensure we can continue to delivery the kind of productive government programs that ensure more inclusive growth for those lower down. Inequality itself is, in the opinion of many smart economists, a major hinderance to growth. In terms of reducing the debt, we’re certainly going to need both entitlement reform, and new revenue. The ball is now in the Republicans’ court.”
7) What is your take on Sheryl Sandberg’s message that women need to “lean in” more when it comes to their careers? Does it ring true to you?
Foroohar: “I respect what Sandberg has accomplished, and her efforts to try to help women. However, I fall a bit more into the Anne Marie Slaughter camp on this issue — I think institutions can and should do more too. Women, and men too, want more balanced lives. As I wrote in a blog post, I think America’s extreme work culture is really tough on people, and doesn’t always yield better results, to boot. As a working mother with two small children, I’ve always found that having control of my own schedule is the best way to have it all. I am also curious how much the “lean in” message will resonate in an era with diminishing economic returns, flat wages, and long term high unemployment — I think people are more motivated to give everything to their job if they have a sense that there are greater gains to be had.”
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