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.
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*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