The United States must address long-festering fiscal and social issues if it's to maintain its preeminent political and economic standing in the world, according to Condoleezza Rice.
The former secretary of state to President George W. Bush issued this warning during a wide-ranging talk on world affairs at a general session of the Association for Advanced Life Underwriting, which concluded its four-day annual meeting in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Among other domestic challenges, Rice pointed to the U.S.' fiscal crisis, entitlement reform, education and impediments to growth of the private sector as issues that urgently require the nation's attention.
Rice voiced mixed views on economic prospects of the so-called "BRIC" nations: Brazil, Russia, India and China. Brazil and India (to which she added South Africa) are currently enjoying significant growth rates, tied in part to booming export sectors like IT sourcing. She cautioned that these countries continue to suffer huge income disparities and state interference in the economy – challenges that could inhibit further growth – but also lauded their political systems.
"Brazil, India and South Africa have something going for them that is not to be undervalued: They are functioning, multi-ethnic democracies," she said. "And as messy as democracy is, it has a safety valve: When people are fed up with their government, they can throw the bums out, and can do so peacefully."