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A Presidency in Peril: The Inside Story of Obama's Promise, Wall Street's Power, and the Struggle to Control our Economic Future [Kindle Edition]

Robert Kuttner
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

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Book Description

When Barack Obama took office in January 2009, he had an unprecedented chance to do what no other recent president could: seize the nation’s financial reins from the corporate elite and return them to the American people. Progressives everywhere held out hope that their new leader would take advantage of the economic crisis he stepped into and enact bold policies that would evoke real financial reforms—putting Main Street in front of Wall Street, at last.But that, writes Robert Kuttner, is not the way things turned out. Instead, America’s best chance for radical financial reform turned into Wall Street’s greatest victory. Obama filled his administration with allies of financial elites who were more interested in business as usual than in transformative change. As a consequence, Main Street remained mired in deep recession. Instead of being the instrument of economic renewal, Obama became the target of economic frustration.In this hard-hitting, incisive account, Kuttner shares his unique, insider view of how the Obama administration not only missed its moment to turn our economy around—but deepened Wall Street’s risky grip on America’s future. Carefully constructing a one-year history of the problem, the players, and the outcome, Kuttner gives readers an unparalleled account of the president’s first year.More importantly, Kuttner shows how we could—with swift, decisive action—still enact real reforms, and how Barack Obama could redeem his promise.This is a book not to be missed by anyone who wants to understand exactly how Wall Street won, and how Main Street can still fight back.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Before Barack Obama's first year in office was over, the whisper of failure was already on lips of disillusioned progressives like Kuttner (Obama's Challenge). For The American Prospect co-founder and co-editor, Obama's embrace of Wall Street insiders like Timothy Geithner, Robert Rubin, and Lawrence Summers irrevocably sullied the President's message of hope and change. Worse, Kuttner sees nothing original in Obama's responses to the recession; bailing out banks over homeowners and reappointing Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke were simple retreads of Clinton and Bush II policies. Indeed, Kuttner argues that Obama ignored the template for economic recovery set by Roosevelt during the Great Depression, preferring to seek consensus on all fronts and failing to adopt more radical measures to restore the economy to health. Since it's already too late to "seize a Roosevelt moment," Kuttner sees Obama's best hope in a Harry Truman-style resurrection by finally taking on obstructionist Republicans, remaking himself as a "plainspoken man of the common people," and opening himself to proposals from the left wing of his own party. Kuttner remains optimistic, but pulls no punches: a "feckless" Obama has disappointed American voters with more of the same.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Kuttner follows his previous work, Obama’s Challenge (2008), with a scathing criticism that Obama has thus far followed in the footsteps of his predecessor, favoring Wall Street and failing to rein in its more rapacious practices. Drawing on investigations, testimony, and his own research, Kuttner details the outrageous characters and deals that have saved firms with political clout (Citibank) and shut down those without it (Bear Stearns and Lehman). He further details the enormous influence of Goldman Sachs in a system of “crony capitalism,” a revolving door of Goldman alumni who have worked for administrations dating back to the Clinton era and are now calling the shots behind the scenes in the Obama administration. By propping up failed institutions, Obama is prolonging the agony of the financial crisis, argues Kuttner. Even worse, the administration is squandering an opportunity for real financial reform on a level comparable to that of the New Deal era. Rather than prop up failed banks, the administration should have recapitalized them and restructured the entire banking system, regulating exotic derivatives and providing needed consumer protections. Kuttner argues passionately for a progressive movement to hold Obama to the promise he represented of real change in a system that continues to favor the wealthy and influential over common working Americans. A powerful, passionate work with strong arguments for how Obama might save his presidency and—more importantly—reform the American financial system. --Vanessa Bush

Product Details

  • File Size: 614 KB
  • Print Length: 332 pages
  • Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing (August 23, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005IRZHUS
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,007,841 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
42 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Restoring the Audacity to Hope May 2, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Paul Kuttner gives disillusioned Obama voters the vocabulary to understand why the President who instilled such hope in 2008 leaves us so cold in 2010. While the administration chases increasingly unpopular ancillary goals, Americans worry about their pocketbooks, and watch Obama's economists squander his mandate by protecting the people who created our mess. President Obama lets the noble goal of bipartisanship trump actually getting anything done.

Kuttner, a political economist, dissects specifically the administration's poor fiscal choices in its first fourteen months. He isn't a historian, polemicist, or journalist; he presents no illusion of completeness or reportorial balance. Kuttner doesn't deny that he wishes Obama were more proactive and Keynesian, and that he's urging the President further to the left. He writes in hopes that Obama can reclaim the initiative and turn a failing economy around.

This book spares no personalities. Kuttner's chief enemy isn't the Republican minority, but the Robert Rubin branch of the Democratic party. Rubin as much as anyone bears personal blame for the current snafu, but Obama's economic team is dominated by Rubin protégés. Instead of boldly wading in to repair the deeply damaged economy, Obama has stayed hands-off, letting Rubin, Geithner, and Bernanke molly-coddle those who created our economic mess.

Massive TARP funds stopped mega-banks from hemorrhaging money, but did nothing about the institutional gangrene that created the problem in the first place.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Presidency in Peril, or a Country in Peril? June 9, 2010
Format:Hardcover
This is the book I thought I was buying when I bought the "valentine to Obama" by Jonathan Alter called "The "Promise." Alter's book, disappointingly, proved to be little more than a gift-wrapped package of apologies for Obama's meager accomplishments so far: all done without any serious policy analysis. Alter makes Timothy Geithner a hero?

Not so here. In this carefully researched nuanced brief, Kuttner is not afraid to call a spade a spade. He puts his analysis where his mouth is, and in doing so, provides some serious behind-the-scenes revelations bout the cabal responsible for the financial collapse, albeit from an avowedly progressive perspective. Thank god however, this did not turn out to be just another Obama apologia. As a "born-again ex-Obama supporter," I share the author's main concern: That our new President has spent all of his political capital chasing the "phantom of bipartisanism" by "hacking," "tacking" and "triangulating" his way to the right. In the process, he has had to cozy up to the Wall Street crowd, led by Bill Clinton's buddy, Robert Rubin, and also at the same time, has found it convenient to jettison his base: the progressives (like me) who "went to the well" for him during the election. Kuttner makes the point that once we progressives have elected Obama it is still our duty to help keep him honest? Well, excuse me? I thought that was precisely why we elected him? Why is it that the Republicans do not have to "keep their elected officials" honest, when we democrats do? Why do, once we have elected them, they get the religious bug to want to move to the "non-existent center?" All of a sudden, once elected, democrats (but not the Republicans) have found the new (non-existent) religion of bipartisanism?
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The reporting in this book is excellent, the kind of detail about how President Obama has made his choices, filled his cabinet, and created his policy alternatives -- the kind of detail that used to be reported in long articles in the New York Times and Washington Post.

The tone of the book is mildly alarmist. The author is concerned that the Obama team has triangulated towards Wall Street, towards advisors that support power and money institutions, and away from clear principles. This judgement, popular among progressives, is premature.

I have always believed that the test of a policy, left or right, is whether it persists in a workable fashion. It is a temporary victory to pass a bill, to announce a reform. A signing ceremony may be a cool thing, but there is something called implementation that has been given short shrift among political reporters. They have essentially gravitated towards a sports reporting model, concentrating on whom is winning the moment. This book, as well sourced as it is, has a bias. That bias is not the unobjectionable progressivism of the author, it is the desire for closure, too early in the complex Presidency of Barack Obama.

Surely, the test of this President is whether financial reforms allow stable growth in the American economy, and not whether some organizations got richer? Surely the test for health care reform is whether it expands coverage and lowers or contains costs? Yet halfway through the first quarter, we have pundits calling "game over".

This book should have been a long, detailed article, and the title should have been "Obama: The First Quarter". To be fair, the author does note that the timing is early, and that Obama is on the brink, not in the tank.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't waste your time
According to Kuttner, no one can have an honest or respectable disagreement with his politics. He regards liberals who disagree with him as fools or sellouts, conservatives who... Read more
Published 11 months ago by John J. Olson
5.0 out of 5 stars A Presidency in Peril
One of the most important studies of Obama's early years in power. Excellent read by one of the best commentators on contemporary US politics
Published 16 months ago by David Coates
5.0 out of 5 stars A high-minded, princely book
For a long time, I have been (and so have the media) very confused by Obama's mixed messages. One day he is praised by the media, another day he is scathingly attacked. Read more
Published on January 17, 2011 by S. Spilka
5.0 out of 5 stars Can you progressives "Handle the truth"?
In the movie "A Few Good men" Nickelson suggested that Cruise could not handle the truth. This is an outstanding book to understand the reality of the Obama Presidency. Read more
Published on July 18, 2010 by David Rosenberg
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wake Up Call for Action to Ensure a Bright Economic Future
Is the Obama presidency, in peril? Really? What an unusual pronouncement, especially less than a year and a half into it. But Robert Kuttner makes a fascinating case. Read more
Published on July 7, 2010 by Roger D. Launius
5.0 out of 5 stars Gives voice to countless Americans
"A Presidency in Peril" might well be the book that Robert Kuttner was born to write. Sporting impeccable credentials as a journalist, editor, educator and economist, Mr. Read more
Published on June 18, 2010 by Malvin
5.0 out of 5 stars An enlightening and riveting read sure to please
Promises can prove hard to keep when the realities of power settle in. "A Presidency in Peril: The Inside Story of Obama's Promise, Wall Street's Power, and the Struggle to Control... Read more
Published on June 15, 2010 by Midwest Book Review
5.0 out of 5 stars our economy in peril
We are watching a frightful rerun of recent history, an insecure President imprisoned by simple-minded thugs. Read more
Published on June 11, 2010 by J. Smith
4.0 out of 5 stars It kills me to give this a good review...
...but I have too.

First, let me state I completely disagree with the author on nearly everything; he is clearly hard left and I am what he would consider hard right. Read more
Published on June 10, 2010 by Anna
3.0 out of 5 stars Obama's First Year: An Early Judgment
Written just months ago, as Barack Obama began his second year as president, political and economic analyst Robert Kuttner, author of "A Presidency in Peril," posits that he has... Read more
Published on June 1, 2010 by Michael G. Lustig
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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


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