30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Robert Reich is Brief, and Important.
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...
Published on July 21, 2002 by Charlie Ahern
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Where have all the jobs gone?/Gone to India, everyone
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...
Published on March 24, 2004 by Dennis Littrell
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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Robert Reich is Brief, and Important.,
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.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book: Robert Reich Rocks!!,
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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.
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Where have all the jobs gone?/Gone to India, everyone,
This review is from: I'll Be Short: Essentials for a Decent Working Society (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.
Reich's indictment of the Bush administration for its "semireligious faith" in "trickle-down" economics is based on the observation that "corporations and rich individuals," blessed with even more riches, will simply invest the money overseas because "investment dollars" in today's economy "travel the world in search of the highest return." (p. 116) I believe Reich is right about this and that the Bush administration is living in the fantasy land of a long-dead Keynesian past. At any rate, we'll see in a few years.
All and all this is a good book of its kind except I wish that Reich had not brought his wife's failure to get tenure at an unnamed university into the mix. He points to that day as the day he became a feminist. I don't think arguments about gender politics help his economic agenda. The fact that he called up one of those who voted against his wife and called him an SOB may understandably make Reich feel better, but I wonder how I would feel if I had lost a tenure vote and my wife called up one of the voters and called her a name.
Reich's rationale for injecting gender into the discussion is in answer to the constant harping by social conservatives on what they call "family values." Reich makes the point that it's fine to talk about vague "family values" when you are financially secure and have someone at home to take care of the kids. It's a different story when the sole support (the mother) has to work and commute to work fifty or sixty hours a week and can't afford a nanny or day care. Family values must be centered on home economics is Reich's argument (p. 106), and it is a good one. Also good is Reich's answer to the "blame-mongers" who peddle "simplistic explanations" for the decline of "family values": "They demonize people on welfare while doing nothing to end corporate welfare." (p. 101)
A question worth asking (and one I wish Reich had devoted some serious ink to) is, If no solution is found to the growing chasm between the haves and the have nots in this country, what will be the social consequences? Will we see terrorism adopted by the poor people in our cities and on our rust belt factories and farms as a means of acting out their frustrations? Or will they be docile sheep? As the entire world becomes more and more polarized between the first and third worlds, will terrorism become an instrument of the deprived as it is now of religious fundamentalists?
Perhaps a powerful argument for sharing the wealth (Reich calls it "redistributing capital" rather than the old-fashioned redistribution of wealth--but it amounts to the same thing) can be found in these dire thoughts. I don't believe that poverty is the root cause of terrorism in the world today. Osama Bin Laden is not a poor man. But it may become a cause in the future if the present tend continues.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Short, but Sweet,
By A Customer
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Short and Sweet and Right-On Target!,
... 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
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Reich For President,
This review is from: I'll Be Short: Essentials for a Decent Working Society (Paperback)This short book, which reads like a commencement address to a Yale graduating class, contains the summation of Reich's wisdom, intelligence and wit gained through a lifetime of academia and public service. He presents a roadmap for putting the American economy back on track after two decades of Republican social engineering -- bought and paid for by powerful special interests.
Too bad this nation stands little chance of electing a short Jewish president, because in Reich we find the vision and idealism sadly lacking from politics of the last generation. Our universally tall soundbite presidents have removed IDEAS and IDEALS from the public forum, replacing them with deceptive smirks, homey aphorisms and big hairdos. When Thomas Paine envisioned a country self-governed by the common men, I'll bet he never imagined the Barnum & Bailey cynicism of appealing to Joe Sixpack with one hand while simultaneously selling him out to corporate greed with the other.
"I'll Be Short" loses a couple stars for being intentionally vague about how to pay for rebuilding America, although this does not diminish the power of the message.
17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The American Social Contract,
The real core of this book is the unstated "social contract" that developed in this country in the 40's, 50's, and 60's (before what he terms the "Second Gilded Age." The elements of this contract were :
1) If the company that you are employed by prospers, you too, shall share in prosperity (increased wages, benefits, and job security.)
2) If your company undergoes bad times and you are "laid off", then you will be hired back on as soon as fortunes improve.
3)If you work for a living (40 hrs. a week) you shall not have to live in poverty (i.e. a living wage.)
4) Any person shall be able to obtain all the education that he has the talent, ability, and desire to master- without being limited by financial restraint.
Needless to say, all of these elements are as dead as the dodo in 21st century America. As Reich so honestly points out, only the top 20% of the population has seen any benefit at all from the "golden years" of the 80's and 90's.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Needed to counteract the dry treatment of economic texts,
This review is from: I'll Be Short: Essentials for a Decent Working Society (Paperback)I teach economics, and even I find it techie, dry and obtuse. My biggest concern is how do I keep the students awake. Economics needs a more human face than the abstact and disinteresting material we push at students using traditional text books. So I require a book report. This book should be a favorite because it is SHORT and to the point. It talks about economics in the context of a healthy society.
I feel that economic activity must be shaped by the culture of society rather than becoming the culture. That's whats happened here in the US. People need equal opportunity to realize their dreams. I like Reich's points of view, albeit liberal, as I do conservative commentators who are not simply pro-business profits because they talk about how to make our society more livable and fair or everyone. Fair? Yes. I did say fair. I'm tired of people dancing around this term. Its fair to demand that economics teach people that equal opportunity is the only fair alternative to socialism.
2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Slim, overpriced book with tired, predictable ideas,
This review is from: I'll Be Short: Essentials for a Decent Working Society (Paperback)I enjoy watching Robert Reich spar with Steve Moore on CNBC's Kudlow & Company. Although I typically agree with Kudlow, Reich's perspective offers balance to the sometimes overly exuberant Kudlow/Moore supply-side axis. Robert Reich is a fairly sensible leftist - he was an architect of NAFTA after all - and some of his ideas are interesting (abolishing corporate income tax, establishing wage insurance for those displaced by globalization), but you will not find them in this book. I'LL BE SHORT is a glorified pamphlet for Reich's failed bid for the Massachusetts governorship, and it is stocked with standard, boring, and predictable left-liberal policies. Reich is credited for being the first major candidate for any office to advocate gay marriage equality, and for that he should be credited. But in retrospect, nothing in this book is visionary; it is a boring read, thin, and ultimately not worth your $10.
5 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant analysis fit for the 1930s,
This review is from: I'll Be Short: Essentials for a Decent Working Society (Paperback)Although the premise of this book is brilliant, perceptive and absolutely vital to the next few years; Reich sadly presents an incisive example of the economic thinking and progress that made Democrats relevant in the 1930s.
It's years ahead of the Bush ideologues, who act and think as if the 20th Century never happened. Reich is progressive enough to adopt the policies of the 1930s, and he does exceptionally well. He knows how to blow an eloquent "toot" on the whistle of a charming old steam locomotive; like many other politicians of nostalgia, he thinks it gives him the right to fly the Space Shuttle.
The world is changing. As an example, Wal-Mart can forecast with 5 percent accuracy how many copies of a new video disc it will sell, and it has that figure within four hours of the disc going on sale. That's where the brains of Wal-Mart is located, and it's why the company needs only $10-an-hour clerks for the check-out counter and to stuff the shelves.
When check-out counters were complicated, it made sense to hire $20-an-hour clerks. Now the job involves holding a bar code in front of a laser scanner, it has become another job where many companies could use "los barratos illegales".
No one has a "right" to a specific job; work must be earned by those who acquire the necessary skills. Fifty years ago, it made sense that American auto workers were the best paid in the world, their assembly work required skill. Today, truly skilled jobs are done by robots; assembly workers do low skill work that is too menial to be automated.
Success today depends on the desire to learn technical and personal skills needed for a specific job. Sadly, too many people have VW "Bug" skills and Escalade attitudes. Sorry, life isn't like that any more.
Let's do some numbers: there are about 190 million Americans in the labour force, plus 10 million unemployed; at least 10 million illegal aliens have jobs here. If Reich is right, then how can millions of illegal migrants with about a Grade 3 formal education get jobs that Americans with high school diplomas can't hold? Instead, every illegal migrant with a job is another proof that Reich is outdated.
Reich completely ignores this issue; instead, he offers Depression-era solutions for the future knowledge economy. There's a good business reason why there are millions of illegal migrants in America, and why no administration will take action against them. Reich, as a former Secretary of Labour, should address that issue.
The future is ahead. Americans deserve a better than going back to the 1930s with Reich's liberal allies, or back to the 1890s with Bush's conservatives of greed, cronyism, graft and war. This book shows Reich would have been a great Labour secretary for Franklin Roosevelt, but he was merely a seat warmer in the 1990s.
Please, we're all going to live in the future. So, let's think about the future, instead of resurrecting colorful but antiquated policies of the past. Reich should do much better, or else we'll all be Bushwhacked by the sultans of greedy-nomics.
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I'll Be Short: Essentials for a Decent Working Society by Robert B. Reich (Paperback - May 15, 2003)