"Rebooting the American Dream" by progressive radio and TV host, entrepreneur, activist and author Thom Hartmann proposes how to restore American working class economic and political justice. Suggesting that America's proud industrial past is prologue to the future, Mr. Hartmann discusses the ideas and policies that are known to work if we can only find the wisdom and courage to act. Written with passion, intelligence and wry humor, Mr. Hartmann's accessible and empowering book should be appreciated by a wide audience.
Insprired by Alexander Hamilton's 11-point Plan for American Manufactures, Mr. Hartmann dedicates eleven chapters that touch on critical economic issues including tariffs, taxes, small business, banking, energy, immigration, and more. Mr. Hartmann finds that ever-increasing corporate control of the economy has led to concentrated ownership and wealth at the top while pushing the middle and lower classes of American workers towards the bottom. Drilling into each issue in detail, Mr. Hartmann discusses what policies need to change if we want everyone to participate in the American Dream, not just the few.
For example, Mr. Hartmann contends that stiff tariffs are critical to protecting the kinds of well-paying jobs that can only come from maintaining a strong domestic manufacturing base. On this point, Mr. Hartmann goes against the so-called free trade message that is relentlessly amplified by a media whose multinational corporate sponsors profit handsomely from their exploitation of world labor market disparities. In this light, Mr. Hartmann correctly and forcefully dismisses Thomas Friedman's well-known but erroneous 'flat' earth theory as "nonsense", siding instead with Hamilton and the dozens of other industrial countries around the world today including Germany, South Korea and China who have significantly raised their standards of living by supporting their respective home manufacturing industries.
However, Mr. Hartmann intends to do more than just inform. Trading on his signature radio and television sign-off, "Tag, you're it!" the author hopes that the information conveyed in his book will inspire readers to demand real change in government and accountability from big business. We need more people like Mr. Hartmann.
I highly recommend this book to everyone.
... a quick read, and yet a little short on inspiration (more on that later). For the past several years, I have listened devotedly to Thom Hartmann. Broadcasting out of Oregon to a national audience, Hartmann has tried relentlessly to give voice to the un- and underrepresented in our country; battling corporate personhood and its unrelenting financial influence its billions of dollars has on our democracy, and correct the course our country has traveled over the past thirty years. One thing that I have admired about Hartmann is his desire to invite those who disagree with him on his radio program and debate important issues (Limbaugh and Beck, are you listening?). So it was with great excitement that I was offered a copy of his newest book, "Rebooting the American Dream: 11 Ways to Rebuild Our Country".
On the heels of his last book Threshold: The Crisis of Western Culture (honestly, which I wasn't much inspired to finish), this is a much more practical and real book. Hartmann dissects issues of real importance to our country. Based on the work of Alexander Hamilton, who wrote an eleven step plan for building our country's industrial base, Hartmann takes his principles and places them in the forefront of our Republican shattered American economy. The first chapter alone discusses the hemorrhaging of American jobs due to loop holes and anti-protectionist laws that have opened up the world to American jobs but not American products. Just try and find something in stores that is American made. It's challenging. Other chapters in the book include rolling back Reagan's tax breaks on the rich, the rise and domination of corporate media, and the devastating effect of lobbyist influence on Congress. If you are a regular Hartmann listener, none of these topics are new to Hartmann.
Hartmann does an excellent job placing his arguments in an historical context, which personally resonates with me. He also backs up his arguments with facts and statistics (that I'm sure conservatives don't want to acknowledge). His chapters are short and quick reads, packed full of useful information for those of us wanting to challenge the current status quo. However, I removed one star for man of the chapters being someone impersonal. In an effort to make his points, sometimes Hartmann misses the human connection in these stories. However, the power of the book lies in the information, and it's presented clearly.
In fact, I can see using this book as a guide for writing letters to the editor, for blogs, or for anyone wanting to challenging conservative coworkers or family members who have "drank the Kool-Aid" and think that lower taxes for the rich, more tax breaks for oil companies, and now unlimited corporate spending for advertising in elections. Hartmann has opened the battle with a strong book, and I highly recommend reading it.
Like a previous reviewer said, will anyone in the Obama administration even read it?
Thom Hartmann has delivered another lucid explanation of what's gone wrong in America in recent decades, and, as ever, he is brief and to the point. I read this latest in one sitting and came away with talking points for my own work and a renewed hope that change is possible.
Hartmann is unrelenting in his assertion that Reaganomics and Clintonomics have undone our nation, abetted by corporate interests and the Supreme Court. Globalization has beggared the U.S., crushing the middle class, moving manufacturing and corporate headquarters offshore, and further entrenching the super-rich. CEO pay in this country was at about the world standard before Reagan, some 30 times that of entry-level workers. Now it is routinely 500 times greater than the lowest, and sometimes 5,000 times that level.
The author demonstrates and explains why higher taxes have always raised wages and reduced the size of government and why unions are essential to worker rights. He shows why all of the other developed nations in the world have benefited from universal health care and shows that a simple majority in Congress could make Medicare available to anyone who wanted to join - and that it would be easily and immediately revenue neutral.
Only once does Hartmann slip back into the faith-based thinking that must have been part of his youth when he sideswipes "our belief in the supremacy of science." (He wandered off into magical thinking in one brief stretch of his otherwise thoughtful The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight: Revised and Updated: The Fate of the World and What We Can Do Before It's Too Late). Blaming "our belief" in science for environmental damage is an unfortunate confusion of cause and effect, for which I nearly bumped this review down to four stars - but Hartmann is otherwise so good that I gave him a pass. We don't "believe" or "disbelieve" in science, or shouldn't. We accept or don't accept the results of repeated experiments, and it isn't science that dumps toxins in rivers or allows genetically modified species to go wild, it is public policy and, often, corporate greed at work.
Elsewise, Thom, good on you. And tomorrow, the revolution.
Everything you think you know about America, that is, if you've grown up since the Reagan Revolution and the rise of Fox News.
You know the formula as gospel: if we just cut government spending, cut burdensome regulations on business, and cut taxes, we will all have more freedom, will all be wealthier, and will all be happier. The business of America IS business; free trade and free markets allowed to work without hindrance; interfering unions and overbearing government cast aside - how could it not succeed?
Well after thirty years and more of this put into practice, it HAS - for the top .1% For the rest of us? Not so well at all. Thom Hartmann lays out in this book what has gone wrong in America, and how to make it right, by going back to tried and true policies that made America great in the past and can do so again - IF we can throw off the lies and myths we've been sold by the super rich, the mega corporations, and their wholly owned media.
If you can't understand why ordinary Americans are the ones being told they must be the ones to sacrifice, to give up wages, to work longer and take cuts in Social Security to get the economy going after Wall Street got rewarded for wrecking it; if you can't understand why decades of free trade hasn't made Americans better off and why there is a shortage of good jobs; if you can't figure out why big box store chains can be doing so well when the communities around them are crumbling - then you need to read what Hartmann has to say.
Hartmann describes himself as a "serial entrepreneur" who has created a number of successful businesses (and a couple of flops) - he's got plenty of hands-on practical experience in the real world. He's also written over twenty books and can be heard on the airwaves as one of the few progressive voices out there. Time after time in the book Hartmann goes back to American history to show how things used to be - and how they have changed for the worse. And while much of his case is built on how Reaganomics started us down the slippery slope, Clintonomics comes in for its fair share of blame as well.
In eleven short and highly readable chapters, Hartmann addresses such things as the high cost of free trade, fallacies of tax cutting, sane policies for energy and education, an easy route to real health care reform, the better way to spread democracy around the world, and undoing the replacement of popular government by corporate government.
This book would make an ideal text for a high school civics class or introductory college classes in public administration and political science; each chapter could easily spark weeks of study and investigation. (It would also enrage conservatives terrified of a challenge to everything in their belief system.) Conservatives keep re-writing history to explain their failures; Hartmann uncovers the real history to remind us of what we've forgotten or were never taught. This is the right book at the right time.
on February 21, 2013
I've enjoyed other Thom Hartmann books and was looking forward to reading this one. Unfortunately, the more I read, the more disappointing it got. Although the premise is interesting, there are two significant flaws. First, this is no scholarly tome as it suffers from inadequate factual citation. Sure there are citations, but Thom's conclusions (and statements) generally come from folks he's interviewed on his radio show or blogs he's read; hardly unbiased sources.
Second, he spares little umbrage towards the Republican Party (and Reagan specifically) but such disdain towards Democrats and the left (who do commit precisely the same sins) is alarming in its absence. For example, when citing examples of appalling corporate bailouts that leave taxpayers on the hook, he leaves out Obama's GM bailout completely. When railing on deep pocketed special interests, he leaves out unions completely. When railing on the bias of Fox and the Sean Hannity's of talk, he gives MSNBC and Bill Maher a pass.
This could have been a very interesting book had it been backed up with more factual references and honest treatment of all players involved.
I almost did not buy this book because I know all this stuff already, but out of respect for the author, who is one of a number of individuals including Jim Fallows, William Greider, Matt Miller, Margaret Wheatley, and Tom Atlee that I consider deeply ethical and inspired, I went ahead and bought it.
As expected, the book is a straight-forward, easy-to-understand "checklist" of eleven things in eleven short chapters, that will "save America." This is where the book almost lost a star, because as good as the list is, it lacks both context and detail--there is nothing wrong with America that cannot be fixed by restoring the Constitution and demanding Electoral Reform legislation by 4 July 2011--and Thom, brilliant as he is, has not connected to the idea of Collective Intelligence and the urgency of harnessing the distributed intelligence of our Commonwealth.
Here is the "checklist" with very short critical comments.
01 Bring manufacturing jobs home. Yes, it will take decades. Most jobs are NOT coming back.
02 Roll back Reagan tax cuts. Agree, but does not go far enough. End personal income taxes and adopt the Automatic Transaction Payment (APT) tax.
03 End crony capitalism and too-big-too fail. The root problem is the two-party tyranny. Electoral Reform is the non-negotiable first step back toward greatness, see David Broder at Phi Beta Iota.
Grand Illusion: The Myth of Voter Choice in a Two-Party Tyranny
04 An informed and educated electorate. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were there first, "A Nation's best defense is an educated citizenry," "Those who mean to govern...." etc. This is half the solution, the other half is creating a Smart Nation, something I have been advocating since 1995, and the reason I would appoint Michael Bloomberg as Vice President for Education, Intelligence, & Research, so as to both move $60 billion from secret waste to public education and research; and to demand that all information funded by the public be available to the public, online, free.
Collective Intelligence: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace
05 Medicare for Everybody. This is where the lack of broader knowledge and the urge to simplify cause me grief. First off, eliminating the Congressional mandate that we not negotiate for prices is why we way 100 times more for medications than Brazil, China, Thailand, or South Africa, to name just four. Second, health policy comes in four parts when a government is not corrupt: healthy lifestyle, healthy environment, alternative & natural cures, and last and least, medical and pharmaceutical intervention. HEALTH is the poster child for everything that is wrong with the US government, the US culture, and the inert foolish US public.
Election 2008: Lipstick on the Pig (Substance of Governance; Legitimate Grievances; Candidates on the Issues; Balanced Budget 101; Call to Arms: Fund We Not Them; Annotated Bibliography)
06 NASCAR Patches for Congress. This is cute but annoying. Electoral Reform ends corporate involvement in elections and governance with the exception of being a full participant in information sharing and sense-making among the eight tribes of intelligence (academic, civil society, commercial, government, law enforcement, media, military, and non-governmental). Electoral Reform forces all legislation into the open prior to vote, and also forces line items scrutiny by the public, down to the zip code level, in advance of vote.
Running on Empty: How the Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It
07 End Fossil Energy Dependence. This is one of the better chapters among an already good bunch, and resonated with me. What Thom is missing here is Buckminster Fuller's emphasis on comprehensive design that also eliminates the underlying early industrial era insistence on waste in the construction of home and work environments with very expensive and unnecessary central generation (electricity) and receiving (sewage) infrastructure. Infinite free sustainable energy is achievable now, but NOT as a pipe dream of natural gas harvesting and centralized wind farms, but rather as a just-enough just in time local application that leverages all forms in renewable ways LOCALLY. This includes the need to achieve distributed small cities (100,000 maximum) linked by high-speed rail. My review of Buckminster Fuller's 1928 book, Ideas and Integrities: A Spontaneous Autobiographical Disclosure is essential to appreciating both Thom's brilliance, and the areas where additional reflections would be helpful.
08 Bring Military Home, Offer the Good. Many of us have been advocating reform of the military (the poster child for cronnyism and waste until Goldman Sachs figured out how to do financial bubbles) for decades. This short chapter is a very light mix of downsize the military and bring our troops home for EVERYWHERE (over 750 bases worldwide) and of how (the blinding mid-Atlantic insight) we should offer only the good.
The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (The American Empire Project)
09 Illegal Immigration is Illegal Business. This chapter was one where the author weaves a number of themes together very very well, and may be the best in the whole book. The recommendations (starting with the title, "Put Lou Dobbs Out to Pasture," and going on toward achieving sound economic policy that does not permit paying illegal workers at all, along with bringing back the unions, all warmed my heart and passed my brain test. Illegal immigration is a problem created by the two-party tyranny and the US Chamber of Commerce. INTEGRITY is all that is needed to eliminate it.
State of the Unions: How Labor Can Strengthen the Middle Class, Improve Our Economy, and Regain Political Influence
10 Corporate personality ("Wal-Mart is NOT a Person") begins with a repetition of a story I have heard before but never seen fully documented, that the Supreme Court did NOT grant personality status to corporations but a court reporter erroneously created a record that they did--the recent Supreme Court ruling is so treasonous as to warrant public scorn and a search for impeachment possibilities. Organizations are not people, this is so basic I cannot consider any candidate for President to be honest unless they vow to end this crime against humanity in our legal system.
The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power
11 In the Shadow of the Dragon is about the possibilities of employee-owned companies and getting back to ethical capitalism that restores the connection between production useful to humanity, and well-off consumers who can support a cycle of constant innovation INCLUDING social and ecological efficiencies. I learned from this chapter.
The Philosophy of Sustainable Design
I am limited to 10 links so am going back up to insert another nine. I read in 98 categories, Amazon refuses all my suggestions (e.g. allow readers to select reviewers and then see what they have reviewed in specific categories such as democracy or education), so I finally did it myself at Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog, where you can also see my special lists including the two that support my latest book, INTELLIGENCE for EARTH: Clarity, Diversity, Integrity, & Sustainaabilty. Those two lists are my best offering for anyone who likes to read and think, all my reviews being both summative of the book in question, and free online.
Worth a Look: Book Review Lists (Positive)
Worth a Look: Book Review Lists (Negative)
Thom Hartman's "Rebooting the American Dream" is an essential book to understanding the current economic and political climate we find ourselves in today. While most books of this type quickly devolve into partisan rants and finger-pointing, Hartman's tale serves more as a history lesson. It opens after a brief intro with a document from our own National Archives (which I often find is ironically the enemy of the official story of American history put force by "patriots") written by one Alexander Hamilton known as his "Report on Manufactures". It is fascinating. What makes it so is that for some 200 years, the contents of that document served as the roadmap to turning an assortment of colonies into the world's foremost superpower and economic center. Ironically, if one were to put forth this simple and undeniably effective strategy to prosperity today, they would be shouted down as an anti-American Socialist. By presenting this one essentially American historical document from one of the undisputed fathers of this nation, Hartman literally slays any doubt that something is very very wrong in our country. After all, looking at the past is always the best indicator for the future. Other countries have rebuilt themselves using our past economic policies and are now surpassing us while we languish a mere three decades after Hamilton's plan was first slashed and burned by Ronald Reagan (Clinton's entry into NATO and the WTO would later seal our fate), so what exactly has stopped us from returning to the American trade policies that made us the richest nation on earth? Why have we allowed ourselves to go from the biggest lender of money to the biggest debtor in such a short time? Well, that's the question, isn't it.
Not only does "Rebooting the American Dream" outline the root of our woes and present the simplest and clearest solutions, it draws upon the author's numerous experiences in economics as a "serial entrepreneur" and media (he is also a radio host) to concisely show how corporate America has quite literally taken over the airwaves through deregulation to enlist the help of the same people they seek to crush (Tea Party) and over time secured the services of the Supreme Court as well. With Reagan and Bush's 4 nominees having granted corporations "free speech" and the power to spend unlimited money destroying any politician who threatens the current status quo, it is going to get much worse before it gets better. And what is this mythical "status quo"? Well, you remember Monopoly right? Interestingly, the game was developed as a cautionary economic tale, but it has become our capitalist mantra. The soul of Reaganomics is deregulation, and deregulation and non-enforcement of existing antitrust laws essentially has turned America into a giant game of Monopoly. Anybody know what happens at the end of the game?....... Exactly.
Hartmann also spends some time busting tax myths, explaining why the Bush/Obama stimulus packages should have worked but didn't and why Obamacare's needless complexities have scared many Americans off of the notion of universal healthcare, revealing the actual origin of the second amendment (it's intention was never to let you have an assault rifle with explosive ammunition to shoot your neighbor's cats with, NRA members), explaining how international corporations are able to game the system by manipulating money to both dodge paying taxes and at the same time collect taxpayer money, exploring the hugely successful employee-owned Mondragon corporation as an alternative to soul-sucking capitalism and spirit-crushing communism, dropping disturbing facts concerning our status compared to other developed countries, discussing illegal immigration (and the only possible solution to it), and even offering up a bit of praise for Glenn Beck if you can believe it. This book is brimming. "Rebooting the American Dream" may well turn many conservative readers off with it's harsh indictments of Ronald Reagan, but the facts are verifiable and the evidence is right outside you window, in your house, and often on the other end of your phone. It's sitting on the street corner with a cardboard sign. It's every object you've bought that bears the infamous "made in China" label. It's the Indian accent when you call tech support. We joke and complain about these things, but how often do we wonder what changed in our country to make that come about? How can domestic companies compete against international corporations delivering our jobs to China to sidestep unfortunate expenses like "human rights" and "living wages" and then shipping the goods back here tariff-free for record profits to reinvest anywhere but America? Isn't the American dream to start your own business and not be immediately crushed by Wal-Mart or bought out by Disney and help support your community? It used to be achievable. Now it's exactly what it says: a dream.
This is easily the best book of this type I've read. It is packed with suppressed American history that should be taught in every school, peppered with shockingly simple tactics unethically used by some to manipulate our economy for short-term personal gain at the expense of our nation's long-term health, uses basic economics and simple language to clearly explain each point, and really manages to sum up our current situation more comprehensively then I could have imagined while offering simple solutions to each problem posed. The tricky part will be getting a government that has officially been handed to corporate America on a platter by the highest court in the land to listen to it's people. We can only pray the light at the end of this tunnel isn't the White House and Capitol Building burning.
As long as we depend on radio and television run by the very people sucking our financial blood for personal gain for information, We the People will be too busy fighting each over non-issues like sexual preferences, political orientation, and immigration status we will never be able to see the real causes of our woes. Pick up a book. Research on the internet. Don't just slap on your "I Voted" sticker to feel good about yourself. Figure out who you voted for instead of just looking the the "Republican" or "Democrat" next to the names and see through their records that neither is looking out for your best interest. Not even a glance. If we want change, it will not come from joining some ironically-named billionaire-funded Tea Party who actively oppose the exact values they claim to represent. It will come from personal education that you would not find in a school even if we weren't being intentionally priced out of opportunities for higher learning. Our problems have solutions and the problem is that none of them are partisan; just American. And that just doesn't seem to be good enough anymore. No point in saving the country when you don't get to take sole credit. "Rebooting the American Dream" is an easy read and a comprehensive chronicle of what exact policies and practices are currently dragging us down and what we can do to reverse this downward spiral. It uses American history itself as it's argument instead of the shrill baseless opinions, accusations, and whining that define our current political climate today. You can't do any better than that.
While I don't agree with everything the author argues, it's certainly food for thought given the crossroads the country is at, and the enormous problems around the corner. It's based on Alexander Hamilton's guidelines, so the question is whether a 200-year old document has any relevance to today's economy, and the author understandably makes a few assumptions and leaps of faith along the way. It's an interesting mix of liberal and conservative ideas, and some of the points include:
- Reestablishing manufacturing domestically
- Ending the tax disparity between the wealthy and everyone else
- Preventing oligarchies and "too big to fail" to reintroduce competition
- Improving education
- Universal healthcare
- Disconnecting corporate finance with politics and pulling the curtain back on lobbying
- Ending carbon energy dependence
- Preventing companies from hiring illegal labor
- Clearly defining that companies are not people
Obviously, this is a major simplification of every issue in his book, but you can see it touches on a wide range of issues with many varying opinions. Those on the far left or far right of the political spectrum will agree with about half of the book and hate everything else for either making no sense or not going far enough.
But I think that would be unfair - it's probably better to see Hartmann's ideas as discussion points for many important issues, and even if you don't agree with the author's conclusions, he's nevertheless braver than 99% of politicians who avoid any serious debate in favor of sound-bites and division-based rhetoric.
Rebooting the American Dream gave me a lot to think about. Some things I've always agreed with; on some points, I had wondered if anyone else had doubts; some parts surprised me completely, but made me want to do my homework instead of disagreeing right away.
Thom Hartmann makes a number of sweeping proposals in this book, based on current knowledge of economics, but also on an 11-point proposal made by Alexander Hamilton to the brand-new United States of America. This proposal puts the current situation into a historic context and brings cohesiveness to the book. He also points out which countries have followed similar plans, historically and in the present day.
This book is not dry or boring, and if it leaves you scratching your head and diving into some additional research, that's not a bad thing. Many references are listed, so there's a good starting point.
I need to read this one again. I hope everyone reads it at least once.
on March 19, 2013
Since the 1970's we've blamed our problems on corporations and big business, but what exactly has the average citizen done for the nation? The "Occupy" movement, with their months-long encampments, got so much press coverage, but what about the people that work? What about the people that volunteer? The people that work for low wages to make it all work, why was nobody singing their praises?
There's an homage here to the small town mom & pop store. The locally owned and run bookstore, cafe, bank, haberdasher, shoestore, hardware store, etc. The money goes into a local bank, kids have afterschool jobs, owners/employees patronize local businesses, etc. But as the owners get old, the stores close, and their children don't want to take over the store. These "local" businesses are being taken over by corporations; Gap, Urban Outfitters, Starbucks, KFC, Bank of America, Barnes and Noble.
Hartmann raises valid points about how other countries changed their economies. South Korea went from a backwater to a business hub, thanks to protectionism. Japan did the same. If you wanted to import something that could be made at home, it was taxed heavily. If the import was necessary for domestic industry, then you could bring it in, tax free. American Cadlillacs were taxed as imports, but the metal needed to make Hondas could be brought in without hassle.
If you go to Kmart right before Christmas, you'll see people going haywire to buy junk for their kids. Plastic toys by the dozen, junky gifts for all the relatives, stuff that they probably don't even want. It's made in China, and brought in untaxed, or why else would it be so cheap? It breaks and wears out quick, so what do we have? China exports plastic junk, we let it in untaxed, and it fills up our landfills.
I do have a minor disagreement with the author on the following counts:
1. The USA is huge, while South Korea is tiny (and homogenous, so there's no racial/religious conflict.) What worked for South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and other tiny countries, would not work for this one.
2. It's hard work to run a store, and not a lot of people want the job. If nobody in the town wants the responsibility of running a bookstore, who do you think will show up to fill the vacuum? Most likely a chain of bookstores. The same hold true with restaurants and cafes. Even if it's a mom & pop store, it could still be run by foreigners who only employ their relatives. Local kids won't be able to get an afterschool job there.