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Obama's Challenge: America's Economic Crisis and the Power of a Transformative Presidency 1st Edition

21 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1603580793
ISBN-10: 1603580794
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Editorial Reviews Review

Richard Parker on Obama's Challenge
Richard Parker is the author of John Kenneth Galbraith: His Life, His Politics, His Economics. He is an Oxford-trained economist and senior fellow of the Shorenstein Center at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, where he also teaches a course on religion and public policy. A cofounder of the magazine Mother Jones, he writes extensively on economics and public policy.

This is a vitally important book--one which should be read whether you support Barack Obama or not.

It's a concisely reasoned and elegantly written essay on how a truly courageous president could lead us forward. A slender volume, it very usefully sweeps us past the often-overwrought speculation about whether this will or won't be a "transformative" election--akin to Lincoln's, Roosevelt's, JFK's, and even Ronald Reagan's--and on to the real questions of what such an election might accomplish, how, and why.

Obama's Challenge assumes Obama will be elected, but its author is hardly a captive partisan. As a highly regarded journalist and deft policy analyst, Robert Kuttner has been covering presidential elections--as well the politics of governance in the four years between them--for more than three decades. Experience has convinced him that the size and complexity of the problems America and the world are facing today requires an extraordinarily gifted leader--and he is willing here to affirm that Barack Obama might well be that person.

The book's unique contribution, however, is to shows us that the sheer magnitude of those problems will require a President Obama to use his gifts for specific ends--and what those ends should be. We must repair, Kuttner persuades us, the enormous damage that's been done over the past 40 years by heedless business deregulation, careless globalization, massive deficits, environmental neglect, arrogantly unilateral use of military power, increasingly regressive tax system, and most important, by a relentless denigration of the clear value of government itself by those in the highest public offices--even though democratic government has always been and is now, the precondition, not the enemy, of America's past achievement and future hope. In doing so, he cogently explains how derelict conservative ideology, combined with a deformed bipartisanship, led to this situation, how presidents of great potential have in the past became transformative leaders--and how President Obama could take up the promise he offers now, and shape it into the world we need.

Kuttner is refreshingly realistic nonetheless about the roadblocks and pitfalls ahead. Hardly utopian himself, he urges Obama--and his supporters--to grasp the full requirements for transformative change in terms of leadership and values.

In the past, Kuttner has shown himself to be highly adept at parsing complex policy alternatives, but he somberly cautions the new president away from such a path by quoting Lincoln's dictum, "With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it, nothing can succeed." What he elegantly demonstrates instead is that Obama must mobilize the country by helping us take the imaginative steps forward that will allow us together to remake--and redeem--the nation. And if Obama takes time to read this essay before November, it will significantly enhance his prospects of first reaching the White House.

No one can possibly know what lies in store for an Obama presidency--or whether he will in fact reach the White House. This is the only book, however, to cogently explain why and how we must tackle now the great problems that have been so so carelessly created, and by reflecting on earlier transformative presidencies, offers us the map by which President Obama (and we) might chart a truly tranformative presidency.

From Publishers Weekly

In the latest from Kuttner (The Squandering of America), the liberal author and commentator correctly anticipates the economic failures only recently unfolding, and proposes a bold, transformative plan he believes can only be carried out by presidential candidate Barack Obama. Following the dubious tradition of pre-election expectation-raising, Kuttner proposes a veritable wish list for liberal economists-like permanent investment in public infrastructure, energy independence, active labor market policy (good jobs at good wages), professionalization of human services work like elder- and child-care, housing subsidies, universal health insurance-and why they'll pay off in jobs, health and wealth. Estimating the cost of all these programs at $600 billion until 2010, Kuttner finds convincing reasons to hope for these changes. Comparing Obama's role to FDR and Lincoln's, Kuttner believes the Illinois senator has the ability to inspire the public, and Congress, to carry out this agenda; as timely and apt as it is, left-leaning readers may be energized, or they may be in for quite a bit of disappointment.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing; 1 edition (August 25, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1603580794
  • ISBN-13: 978-1603580793
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,643,223 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robert Kuttner is cofounder and coeditor of The American Prospect magazine, as well as a
Distinguished Senior Fellow of the think tank Demos. He was a longtime columnist for
BusinessWeek, and continues to write columns in the Boston Globe.
His previous and widely praised books include The Squandering of America: How the Failure
of Our Politics Undermines Our Prosperity; Everything for Sale: The Virtues and Limits of
Markets (about which Robert Heilbroner wrote, "I have never seen the market system better
described, more intelligently appreciated, or more trenchantly criticized than in Everything for
Sale"); The End of Laissez-Faire: National Purpose and the Global Economy After the Cold
War; and The Economic Illusion: False Choices Between Prosperity and Social Justice.
Kuttner"s magazine writing has appeared in The New York Times Magazine and Book Review,
The Atlantic, The New Republic, The New Yorker, Dissent,
Columbia Journalism Review, and Harvard Business Review. He has contributed
major articles to The New England Journal of Medicine as a national policy correspondent.
Formerly an assistant to the legendary I.F. Stone, chief investigator for the Senate Banking Committee, Washington Post staff writer, economics
editor for The New Republic, and university lecturer, Kuttner"s decades-long intellectual and political project has been to revive the
politics and economics of harnessing capitalism to serve a broad public interest.

Obama's Challenge Web Site
Demos - A Network for Ideas and Action
The American Prospect

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Robert Moore HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 12, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Ronald Reagan famously (and wrongly) said that government wasn't the solution to the problem; it was the problem. In fact, it is the solution to the problem. We have now suffered through thirty years of a federal government that has been intentionally impaired so that it will not function for the American people, but instead has worked almost exclusively for the needs and whims of big business. And big business isn't the solution to the problem; it is the problem. I've been arguing this with free marketers since the eighties when I engaged in countless debates with University of Chicago business school and economics students while I was a graduate student there. There they unleashed such asinine theories as that moldy oldie, "The private sector can do things more efficiently than the public sector." Well, no. The mess in the attempted rebuilding in Iraq and the Gulf Coast have proven that, if it was ever in doubt (and multiple independent studies have reinforced the common sense idea that the private sector is certainly not more efficient than the public, and is definitely less cost efficient, since they have to figure in a profit margin). The whole trickle down idea, which has been put forth repeatedly over the past century, has been shown to be false over and over and over again. As Will Rogers put in so well in the twenties, some people think gold is like water: put it at the top and it will just trickle down. But, Rogers insisted, gold isn't like water at all. Put it at the top and it just stays there.Read more ›
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Hazel Henderson on September 5, 2008
Format: Paperback
Robert Kuttner has performed a service in Obama's Challenge by bringing to the Democratic nominee's attention the pitfalls to be faced by the next Administration. The USA is facing a profound transition. Our citizens must adjust to the diminished role the US plays, economically, militarily and in its influence. While adapting to this new global reality and the rise of China, India, Brazil, Russia and other nations, the next US President must deal with the severest financial crisis since the Great Depression and the urgent need to shift our economy from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy.

I hope that Obama, David Axelrod, David Plouffe and all of his team will read Robert Kuttner's wise analysis and go beyond that outdated "economics box" so as to address more fully the systemic crises our next president will face.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Donna L. Hayes on September 12, 2008
Format: Paperback
I downloaded this on my Kindle and was finished reading in a couple of days. This is a very fair and balanced book which is refreshing. It emphasizes the importance of our current state of the economy, health insurance etc. and the massive changes needed to fix them.
I highly recommend this book.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By James C. Hershey on October 27, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Robert Kuttner, the author of this book, has a rare ability to project a current reality forward in time, and surmise the resulting consequences of our present situation. His previous book, "The squandering of America: How the failure of our politics undermines our prosperity" (2007) detailed how the current financial crisis would unfold as a result of too much deregulation. In this book he discusses the ways in which a transformative presidency could address the challenges before our country in the current economic situation. His is a message of both sacrifice and hope. I recommend this book highly to any who have despaired over what our country has become.
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Kuttner offers an appraisal of Obama as a uniquely talented, fully equipped, potentially transformative leader that should be obvious to anyone who heard his Philadelphia speech on race a couple of months ago or his near-perfect acceptance speech of recent days. Obama has shown himself to be equal parts intellect and inspiring motivator, a tactician capable of putting his opponent on the ropes by using the opponent's own weaponry, a visionary capable of seeing a perennially green forest but not at a loss for keeping count of the trees in his own back yard (or the number of back yards he's listed as owner of). So Kuttner's book is repeating the obvious and is basically a preachment to the choir. It won't change any minds, especially ones that it can't reach.

What is not so obvious is Kutner's basic assumption: that America's problems and Obama's solutions are so transparently known to everyone that his Presidency is all but assured. In August millions of American voters who had previously fancied themselves as tolerant, unbiased types for allowing the Jefferson's into their home every week, suddenly saw on their giant HDTV screens not merely faces of another color but images of those who are on the brink of representing their own face. It is no longer a matter of viewing the "other" from a safe and comfortable distance, congratulating ourselves on our imagined tolerance, but of being wakened to the real possibility of the "other" becoming "us.
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