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on August 16, 2008
Please don't get thrown off with an impression of a three star rating. This book has its strong points - it has clear and crisp prose, the section on home ownership is great (not surprising given the author's reputation), he avoids getting bogged down in statistics, and he goes to painful lengths explaining a few areas where he disagrees with what Obama presents in his speeches. Unfortunately, as a complete volume, I walked away with the impression that this is a summary of Obama's policy views, with a little bit of the author's opinion sprinkled in. Starting every chapter with an excerpt of an Obama speech is good propaganda, but lacks policy analysis depth. With a title of Obamanomics, I was hoping for a better explanation of why bottom-up economics is better than trickle-down, but instead I bought 200 pages of policy summary, a lot I could have gotten free off a website. Perhaps in this election year, this book will convince some swing voters who want a brief summary of how Obama will possibly be different, but explanations of why he will be different are lacking.
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on July 19, 2009
I cannot believe that this horrid excuse for a book was ever published. I only got 1/2 way through before I literally threw it in the garbage. Not only due to the shoddy writing style...but for god sakes, look at the end notes that he incessantly refers to. After the first mention of statistics I thought something seemed a little fishy. This buffoon of a writer actually (and repeatedly) cites his own previous publications, disreputable sources...and Wikipedia. You would be far better off having a discussion on the subject with your waitress at Denny's.
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on September 29, 2011
Ignoring the gap between rhetoric and performance, this reads like Talbott listens to what Obama says, while seeming blind to what he does. The book is based on campaign rhetoric rather than performance. The book starts wrong at the very first paragraph of the preface where it is claimed that Obama does not assign blame for current problems. Nearly three years into his administration Obama still prefaces most speeches with the statement that he inherited his problems. He well supports the Democratic party technique of covering its mistakes with the philosophy that one bad administration deserves another. Talbott gets the economics wrong in blaming the Bush tax cuts for the inherited debt. There is little mention of the effects of NAFTA. Talbott ignores the economics of war, where Obama policy follows Bush to the letter in spite of campaign promises. There is unsubstantiated denigration of supply-siders who concentrate on expanding production rather than over promising on the distribution side. Failure of stimulus programs was perhaps not clear when the book was written in 2008. Talbott hopes that Obama has foresight. The book was too early to see the monstrosity called 'Obamacare' or the subsequent economic failure. I wonder what Talbott thinks now.

Covering specifically the following topics from the outline:

1.Economic Justice
2.Economic Opportunity
3.The Current Financial crisis
4.The Biggest Problem: Corporate Lobbying
5.Globalization and Jobs
6.Global Warming and Energy Policy
7.Affordable Healthcare
8.Aging of the Population
9.Cooperation is the Key
10.Ethics and Economics

1. Talbott (and Obama) make a fundamental ideological error of equating equality with equity.
Earmarks have been extended not reduced. There has been no action on lobbying.
Hedge fund legislation written by Frank and Dodd, the very ones responsible for the bubble, is a joke.

2. Talbott's ideology shows in calling Obama a "constitutional scholar". Obama's campaign promise of transparency is ignored. Can Obama point to the Constitutional provision giving him power to require people to purchase health insurance? That's a stretch, even for the elastic clause. His hoped for education plan has been well buried in less significant programs.

3. For the current financial crisis Talbott attaches no blame on CRA and easy money policies of prior Democratic administrations encouragement of consumption at expense of savings and investment.

4. In the standard populist diatribe against lobbying Talbot fails to recognize that most lobbying is a reaction to bad regulation.

5. He says that most economists swear by Ricardo's comparative advantage theory. He
hasn't read more current articles involving expansion of the job exodus and drive toward service economy.

6. Global warming support for doing wrong things like ethanol subsidies and cost ineffective but Sierra club pleasing alternative energy sources at the expense of nuclear energy and natural gas.

7. Off the wall health care solutions are from Talbott, thankfully not from Obama.

8. In the standard message against privatization of SS, Talbott ignores the low return while estimating that preservation requires raising income tax levels to 60%; apparently not a problem

9. Presidential rhetoric about cooperation between parties has been well exposed as a sham
characterized by Nancy Pelosi: "We won the election so we write the legislation." The health care battle as well as the 2010 tax rate issue showed how Obama cooperates until he doesn't get what he wants and then uses his majority to ram legislation through congress.

10. Talbott gives a good good lecture on the ethics of poverty without relating it to Obama policy.

The epilogue asks can he pull it off? At this point (2011) only Michelle thinks so. In Talbott's next book 'The 86 Biggest Lies on Wall Street' he admits that the Obama administration is wasting billions on ineffective stimulus and bailouts. Maybe his take on 'Obamanics' would be improved if he has a chance to make a revision. This one is strictly ideological party politics. For a more thoughtful analysis of the liberal position read 'Obama's Challenge' by Robert Kuttner (2007) or anything by Joseph Stiglitz.
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on September 17, 2008
I read this book with an open mind and a longing for the insights to Obama and while Talbott's writing was clear, it was a bit naive. His insistence on economic justice as the fix to our financial issues is nothing more than redistribution of wealth. His disdain for Americans who want a 12000 square foot house and a Hummer reveals a deep bias. Of course no one needs that much space, but in this country we value liberty and freedom to choose. It's not the governments place to decide what we need and/or want.
One of Obamas campaign promises is to raise taxes on the wealthy, those making over $250K a year. Talbott says the current system 'gives money to top earners", when in fact the system allows top earners to keep more of the money they have earned. I think this basic difference in economic viewpoint is what irked me the most, being one of those 'lucky' few that Obama considers rich. He seems to know that the 'rich will not reinvest their extra money, they will put in a savings account. This is how it works. I have two kids in private college. They couldn't get into the UC system for their majors because they were impacted. I pay 40K a year, per student. I am too rich to qualify for any aid. So any and all extra money we get to keep is going to private colleges.
Most people considered wealthy work just as hard as those who make less money, so it's very difficult to not see Obama's policies as nothing more than socialism wrapped in a pretty package and topped with a pinch of guilt.
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on December 14, 2008
I found this book very interesting but not quite what I expected. I was expecting a more detailed explanation of exactly why bottom up economics will work much better than trickle down has. With historical data or accepted financial theory to back it up. This is an argument I have been making for years and was hoping this would give me some concrete facts and statistics to support this idea. A lot of the book instead were suggestions by the author of how Obama should run his administration. I agree with much of it, though not all, but am still left with little historic proof of the concept.

I definitely recommend the book because as I said there are some very interesting ideas in it.
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on August 24, 2008
"Obamanomics" presents some of the approaches an Obama administration would employ to lower the debt, close the gap between the rich and poor, and lessen the enormous influence corporations have on U.S. and global society in general The Corporation. There is a tendency among supporters of plutocracy to ridicule those who criticize corporations, but it's a critique that's even more necessary now than it was when Teddy Roosevelt was trust-busting, and when Thomas Jefferson was saying, "I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country."
Obama does not accept money from lobbyists, which is a stark contrast to John McCain who welcomes lobbyists into his "straight-talk" bus McCain: The Myth of a Maverick.

Talbott points out that an Obama administration would be friendlier toward the working class, which has suffered tremendously under the Bush administration Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class - And What We Can Do about It (BK Currents (Paperback)). As people are pressured to work more hours while losing benefits, CEOs and the investor class walk off with wheel barrows full of money. To add insult to injury, a lot of the wealthy's so-called "earnings" come about through taxpayer investment in research and development, tax credits, government purchases, and countless other forms of socialism for the rich Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You with the Bill).

An Obama administration will face all sorts of obstacles to creating real change. Our plutocracy is deeply entrenched and ruthless The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. Nevertheless, this book shows that there is a movement developing that is bigger than Obama and is doing its own work to advance causes like worker rights A Country That Works: Getting America Back on Track, Fair Trade Fair Trade for All: How Trade Can Promote Development, and sustainability Green to Gold: How Smart Companies Use Environmental Strategy to Innovate, Create Value, and Build Competitive Advantage. Even if the right-wing rigs this election (see books like "How to Rig an Election: Confessions of a Republican Operative" and DVDs such as "Hacking Democracy"), concerned people will continue the paradigm shift that is reflected in the Obama phenomenon and in journals like Yes!. Whether it will grow large enough and quickly enough is hard to say, but it's fun to watch its development and to find ways to make our own contributions Getting a Grip: Clarity, Creativity, and Courage in a World Gone Mad.
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on January 15, 2010
My title reflects the utter disconnect between the flowery speeches in this book and the clear recent record. The author talks about Obama seeking "economic justice" but only vaguely defines it. Where he does define it, it is with a clear bias against the past administration. For instance he talks about how Bush's tax cuts "helps corporations while running up a huge debt"...well perhaps he should take a look at Obama deficit?? That makes Bush look like a piker! I also liked the way he talked about the negative impact on ecopnomic justice of the Bush bankruptcy bill....but, Obama has been absolutely silent about the repeal of that. Basically this might have been a very interesting book to advance the Obama campaign but it is very slanted and utterly ignores reality...such as Obama continuing most Bush banking polices and TARP.
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on August 12, 2008
Talbott wrote a prescient book about the housing crisis in 2003 The Coming Crash in the Housing Market. I was curious what Talbott would say about Obama's policies. But, the book disappoints because Talbott makes up the facts. Also, the book is more about his views than Obama's.

Talbott arbitrarily portrays the U.S. economy as a fiscal basket case. He describes the U.S. debt level as unsustainably high. He omits to mention that the majority of the debt is held by the Government. What counts is government debt held by the public which at 37% of GDP is far lower than Japan (182.4%), Italy (104%), France (66.6%) and Canada (64.0%). He similarly characterizes our Budget Deficit as gigantic. He does not mention it represents a sustainable 3.3% of GDP.

Talbott fabricates statistics. The current unemployment rate is 5%. But, Talbott refers to speculations from the Connecticut's Green Party in representing unemployment at 12% to 15%. Later, he even goes higher suggesting it is closer to 18%. He also stated that the poverty rate has doubled since the late eighties. Actually, it steadily decreased from 13.4% in 1987 to 12.3% in 2006 (most recent data from US Census). Talbott arbitrarily dismisses GDP figures as simply the sum of fixing mistakes (pollution clean up), over-consumption, and activities that were recently added such as homemaking services. This allows him to dismiss the strong U.S. record of growing real GDP per capita for decades.

He considers the lack of enforcement in insider trading to be the main underlying cause of all recent financial crises from the LBO collapse in 1990 to the Russian bond default in 1998, and the current housing crisis. But, those financial crises were not related to insider trading. Also, insider trading is ferociously prosecuted. Just ask Mike Milken, Ivan Boesky, and Martha Stewart.

Talbott contradicts himself when proposing solutions to the current financial crisis. First, he states it is the financial system that needs assistance more than homeowners. But, he gripes that the government assisted Bear Stearns' acquisition by JP Morgan. He said this did nothing but bail out hedge fund cronies that financed the campaigns of politicians. This is nonsense. The transaction was engineered by Ben Bernanke, Fed Chairman, and Hank Paulson, Secretary of the Treasury. These are not elected politicians. They don't have campaign funds. Talbott wanted the hedge funds to go down with Bear Stearns. But, Bernanke and Paulson understood their fall would have put at risk the banks and the entire financial system. If you care to study this issue, I recommend instead The Trillion Dollar Meltdown: Easy Money, High Rollers, and the Great Credit Crash

Moving on to discrimination, Talbott states that if you walk off the street after serving a couple of years in prison for a drug offense you will have a hard time finding a good job because there is "an enormous amount of prejudice in the workforce" (pg. 63). Against former drug dealers, there is!

Talbott goes on about the ills of trickle down economics and states it is wrong to cut tax for the rich. He forgets to mention that per IRS records, the top 1% share of total income tax paid increased from 26.8% in 1992 to 38.4% in 2005 (most recent data). This trend is due to the closing of tax shelters.

Per Talbott, the business world is one of monopolies and price collusion. He asks why do cable companies charge hundreds of dollars per month? Why do credit cards charge the same exorbitant rates? How do most banks charge ridiculous monthly fees? But, cable rates are a fraction of what he represents. Credit cards offer a broad range of rates and many banks offer free checking accounts.

Talbott states that trade with any low cost producers such as China is bad for the majority of Americans. However, in a later section he contradicts himself by stating: "America is at its peak international political and economic power. It is hard to imagine it being able to extract more value from its trading partners than it is doing today." His solution is "fair trade" where the U.S. would dictate how trading partners manufacture goods (no coal fired electricity) and how much it pays its workers. This ignores countries sovereignty and is just disguised protectionism. Talbott suggests we should strengthen Labor to protect workers from evil of corporations. Those anti-trade pro-labor recommendations are counterproductive as they increase cost of goods, impair labor flexibility, and increase unemployment. Here Talbott and Obama are on the same page. To better understand trade issues I recommend The Post-American World.

Talbott's chapter on energy is mixed. It partly reflects Obama's policies. But, the policies seem utopian. The cornerstone would be a CO2 cap and trade market similar to the EU one. But, Talbott omits the problems the EU has in implementing it. He also believes such a market would generate government revenues while it simply transfers wealth from emitters to non-emitters. Talbott recommends cellulosic ethanol whose conversion into alcohol is even more challenging and expensive than corn ethanol that he dismissed as unworkable. Also, he indicates the cost of a national healthcare plan would be financed by a carbon tax. But, in the chapter on energy he never mentions carbon tax. To get a better understanding of energy markets I strongly suggest Gusher of Lies: The Dangerous Delusions of Energy Independence.

Talbott's list of the 25 greatest threats to U.S. prosperity (pg. 178) is incoherent. Near the top you'll find Globalization (cost $60 trillion, that's 20% larger than the World's GDP!), Trade with China ($50 trillion), Demise of workers rights ($40 trillion). Those reflect his anti-trade and pro-labor biases. Next, you will find Animal rights (cost $20 trillion, 40% of World's GDP!) way ahead of religious fundamentalism, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, and war. Both the ranking and the cost estimates lack any sense. For a list that makes sense I suggest Solutions for the World's Biggest Problems: Costs and Benefits

To learn about Obama's policies, just go to his site or read The Audacity of Hope.
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on July 31, 2008
This book presents an excellent overview of Obama's "bottom-up" economic policy. The author explains how current economic policies are hurting our economy, especially our hard-working middle class. Talbott presents Obama's economic policy in a way that lay people can understand, covering the current financial crisis, how globalization is affecting the American worker, the effect of global warming, and the need for affordable health care for the American citizen. Talbott's book details what Obama plans to do in order to deal with these problems. Talbott also addresses the detrimental effects of corporate lobbying and how it is one of the primary causes of many of the major problems in the country. The author states "The concept that a corporation is a "person" entitled to the rights of persons, such as the right to seek an audience with elected officials, violates any conception of what the founding fathers meant by individual rights." After reading this straightforward, no nonsense book on Obama's plans to boost the economy any Republican, Independent, or Democrat will come away with a sense that our economic problems can be solved if we, as a country, are willing to make the necessary changes. The book is a quick read and well worth the time spent doing so.
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on April 14, 2013
I saw this in a library sale. No takers. What a surprise.

This was published in 2008. In 2013 we are no better off. In fact, worse, if you count the millions of people who have simply given up trying to find a job.

So, the premise behind this book is as flawed as the Obama Misadministration has been.

Or is there another "Recovery Summer" planned?
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