Zakaria was born in India, but came to the U.S. to attend Yale, where he earned his B.A. degree. He later went on to earn a PhD from Harvard. He was formerly the editor for Newsweek International and is currently the editor-at-large for Time as well as the host of the CNN show Fareed Zakaria GPS.
Foreign Policy magazine has begun doing an annual list--one in 2009 and another in 2010--on the Top 100 Global Thinkers. Zakaria was included on both lists.
I say all this as a lead-in to an interview Terry Gross did with Zakaria on Fresh Air this morning. The title of the show was "What Does a 'Post-American World' Look Like?"
Terry asked Zakaria, "... if the U.S. does not raise its debt ceiling, if we end up defaulting on debts, what impact do you think that would have on the U.S. and the global economy?"
"I tend to think it would be catastrophic. And I think that, more importantly, there is a high enough risk here that this is surely a game we don't want to play. What have we learned over the last three years--whether you look at Lehman Brothers and the effect that that collapse had on the world economy? It's that there are these kinds of things that economists call low-probability, high-impact events that you don't want to test. You don't want to see whether this is one of those things that is an unlikely situation, but once it happens could have a huge seismic global effect, because then the cost of dealing with that--the after-effects--is just cataclysmic.
"I think it would be huge. The United States has never defaulted on its debt. It is the leading country in the world. It has the reserve currency of the world, and I think it is madness for us to be doing this when Congress is, in effect, already mandated that we borrow more money. This is what I don't understand. By choosing to spend money at a certain level and setting tax revenues at another level, a lower level, what Congress has implied is we're going to have to borrow the difference, right? So raising the debt ceiling is the logical consequence of Congress's decision to spend a certain amount of money and to tax at a lower level.
"How can you have second thoughts about this when you, Congress, was the one that set these levels in the first place? And besides which, it's unconstitutional. The 14th Amendment very clearly says the validity of America's credit and its debts cannot be questioned. I don't have the exact phrase, but it's about as clear as you can get. And so for people who believe in the Constitution, it is to me, beyond bizarre that they're doing this. And I think that President Obama should if he is forced to assert that what Congress is doing is unconstitutional and simply use his a executive authority to do what he needs to, to make sure that the United States makes good on its debts."
To listen to the entire interview, go here.