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I'll Be Short: Essentials for a Decent Working Society Hardcover – May 2, 2002

11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Brandeis University professor and Clinton labor secretary Reich may be vertically challenged, but he's never been short on ideas. In this brief analysis of what's gone wrong in the U.S. for ordinary citizens, Reich offers a straightforward argument. Our astonishing economic growth after World War II, he maintains, grew out of a social contract: (a) anyone who wants a job should have one; (b) those who work should earn enough to lift themselves and their families out of poverty; and (c) all Americans should have access to an education. This social contract has collapsed over decades of social Darwinism; it needs to be restored. Reich examines the roles of business (it does have civic responsibilities), government (addressing the broadening income--and wealth--gap between rich and poor is high on its list of responsibilities), and education (it's the heart of the problem). A true "family values" agenda, he urges, needs to address the problems of millions of families living from paycheck to paycheck, not thousands of families worried about "the death tax." Denial, escapism, and resignation, Reich maintains, are the main obstacles to rebuilding a decent working society. A punchy, pragmatic, articulate statement of the basic goals of progressive reform. Mary Carroll
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


"A punchy, pragmatic, articulate statement of the basic goals of progressive reform." -- Booklist, May, 2002 unabashedly passionate call for America to quit making the poor poorer as the rich get richer -- New York Times Book Review, August 4, 2002

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 121 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press; First Edition edition (May 2, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807043400
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807043400
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.8 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,643,868 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Charlie Ahern on July 21, 2002
Format: Hardcover
If you've read Robert Reich's recent books and articles, particularly in The American Prospect, you will recognize recurring themes; the insecurity imposed by a globalized economy, the growing income gap, and the importance of investing in education.
One of Reich's ideas that caught my attention was his proposal to extend traditional public schooling from grades K through 12 to K through 14. The 'accountability in education' movement often focuses on preparing students for four-year college degrees, despite the fact that most Americans do not attend or graduate from four-year college programs. In a discussion of the push by many universities to lavish resources on "star" students, Reich suggests that state funding should be shifted to community colleges and vocational programs.
Reich ends his book by addressing the reader with a challenge to personally provide political leadership and involvement despite the political denial, escapism, and resignation that is much too common today in our society.
This is a timely and brief book. You can read it in a day or two. Rather than put it on your bookshelf, give it to a friend and ask your friend to pass it on. (Even better buy a couple of copies and pass them along.) I plan to give a copy to a progressive candidate for the California legislature. Maybe some of Reich's ideas will "bubble-up" to the California legislature in the not-too-distant future.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Uncle Elmer on July 8, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Robert Reich writes in a clear prose that is easily understood and allows the reader to be fully informed without being lectured or preached at.
His points about the evolution of our work force are food for thought and one hopes that the current leadership in Washington is listening to Reich but I doubt it. Mr. Reich is actually a thinker and not a rabid partisan politician which makes him a refreshing breath of fresh air at a time when tv is full of bombast with everyone talking and no one listening. Chris Matthews did you hear me?
Read any book by Robert Reich and you'll learn something. It's like visiting with a favorite teacher or professor that you admire and respect. The hours fly by and you're just in awe of the person and what they have to say. Robert Reich is a true gentleman and a wise man as well.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Littrell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 24, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is a liberal politician's book aimed at convincing everyone that the minimum wage, for example, ought to be raised, and that health care, day care, and other benefits for the "working poor" are not just good morality but good business. Reich's bottom line argument is that happy and healthy workers are more productive. And you can out-source THAT to India.
The problem is that happy and healthy, or unhappy and not so healthy, foreign workers are still cheaper, and that is where the jobs have gone and are going. No argument from morality is going to stop that. His argument, sliced a little finer, is that American companies need to make American workers happier and healthier at home so that don't have to out source; that is, make them happier than their cheaper cousins in Bangladesh and they will produce more goods and services (albeit at a living wage) and everybody in America will profit both economically and morally.
If only. I think Reich is right that making workers happier and healthier will make them more productive. But I don't think that will solve the problem of jobs going overseas. US companies will simply use the same happier, healthier techniques (at a cheaper cost) overseas and they'll still send the jobs away.
Reich's argument that spending more money on education and job training, on the other hand, is the right way to go. If America's work force is the best educated and most skilled it will out-compete foreign labor for the work and the work will stay right here. Indeed foreign companies will move their plants to the United States to get the best employees.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 5, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This book is a brief but lively distillation of many of the themes that Reich has expounded on at greater length in previous works. Written after September 11th and timed to coincide with his current campaign for Governor of Massachusetts, this volume is ample evidence of why the voters of that state should give Reich a chance to put his ideas into action. Though it is filled with profound insights regarding our current economic situation--a prosperity threatened by growing inequality and stratification--the book is not a dry tome for policy wonks. Rather, it is a call for action that every American, liberal or conservative, should read and heed.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By The Aeolian Kid on May 20, 2002
Format: Hardcover
... Hey, Robert Reich! ... I BOUGHT your book. I READ your book. I LOVE your book! ... You are the voice of decency and sanity. If you run for Governor of Massachusetts, you've got my vote! In fact, you may get even MORE than my vote; you may also get my attention, energy, money, and time. ... What you wrote on pages 101 and 102 hits the nail right on the head: "At the very moment working Americans are toiling longer hours for less money, they want to cut the Earned Income Tax Credit to pay for tax breaks for the wealthy. ... Their strategy is simple: Divide and conquer. Ignore the real problems, get anxious people scared and mad at each other. You could even call it class warfare. And we all know it's worked before." ...
... I also like what you wrote on page 115: "But to become a highly productive society, we have to change our thinking about the role of government. We've become so accustomed to thinking about education, health care, child care, and public transportation as government SPENDING that we don't see the obvious: In the new global economy where financial capital is footloose, these are critical public INVESTMENTS. They mark the only path to a sustained and shared prosperity. Failure to make them - and make them wisely - condemns a society to a steadily declining standard of living. The same is true for regulations protecting worker safety, guarding the environment, and preventing discrimination. These, too, are investments in our future."
... As the former owner of a natural food store, a member of a dozen environmental groups, and a sociology major who focused on conflict theory and social stratification, I KNOW that YOU know what you are talking about - and I agree with all of it. ... Good Luck in your run for Governor! - The Aeolian Kid
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