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The Age of Austerity: How Scarcity Will Remake American Politics [Kindle Edition]

Thomas Byrne Edsall
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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Book Description

One of our most prescient political observers provides a sobering account of how pitched battles over scarce resources will increasingly define American politics in the coming years—and how we might avoid, or at least mitigate, the damage from these ideological and economic battles.
 
In a matter of just three years, a bitter struggle over limited resources has enveloped political discourse at every level in the United States. Fights between haves and have-nots over health care, unemployment benefits, funding for mortgage write-downs, economic stimulus legislation—and, at the local level, over cuts in police protection, garbage collection, and in the number of teachers—have dominated the debate. Elected officials are being forced to make zero-sum choices—or worse, choices with no winners.
    
Resource competition between Democrats and Republicans has left each side determined to protect what it has at the expense of the other. The major issues of the next few years—long-term deficit reduction; entitlement reform, notably of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid; major cuts in defense spending; and difficulty in financing a continuation of American international involvement—suggest that your-gain-is-my-loss politics will inevitably intensify.


Editorial Reviews

Review

“[T]his book makes for timely reading, given the acrimonious partisanship that has animated the 2012 campaign. . . . [Edsall uses] his chops as a political reporter (he spent 25 years covering politics for The Washington Post and is currently writing an online column on the 2012 election for The New York Times) to put these developments in historical perspective and to assess how they might affect this year’s elections.” —Michiko Kakutani, New York Times


“The economic collapse that began in 2008 and its aftermath…has mired us in what Thomas Edsall rightly calls ‘the age of austerity.’ What this means, the former Washington Post reporter argues in his eye-opening and hugely important account, is a transformation of US politics into ‘a dog-eat-dog political competition over diminishing resources.’ Edsall’s point is powerfully argued. . . .  [H]is book is essential . . . reading for anyone seeking to understand our broken politics.” —Chuck Leddy, Boston Globe


“The Age of Austerity is an impressive synthesis of reporting and political science. Eschewing the kind of personality-driven trivia that constitutes so much campaign reporting, Edsall digs deep into the underlying social, economic, and even psychological drivers of America’s increasingly polarized political coalitions.” Matthew Yglesias, Slate


“[A] serious work . . . that repay[s] close attention. . . . Edsall’s book really comes alive . . . when it turns to the political effects of austerity. He believes that US politics will increasingly be characterised by a struggle for resources. . . . [S]ober and precise.” —Gideon Rachman, Financial Times


“Provide[s] much-needed information and analysis. . . . Like other overleveraged nations, the US may well be facing Thomas Edsall's ‘age of austerity.’” —Andrew Hacker, New York Review of Books


“In this erudite primer on the conditions that have brought us to this moment of economic crisis, journalist and Columbia University professor Edsall argues that the U.S. faces a future of diminished resources, and, as a result of partisan intractability, the possibility that we won't overcome current challenges to long-term prosperity. . . .  Providing ample sociological and economic evidence via descriptive graphs and in-depth analysis, Edsall . . . illuminates hard but necessary truths.” —Publishers Weekly


“I strongly recommend that every sensible, intelligent voter read this book before the fall elections.” —Ed Fisher, Morning Sun


“Thomas Edsall has written some of the most important and lasting political books of the last 25 years. Here, he deftly places the debates and controversies of the current moment in a broader historical and policy context. And he explains clearly why our economic woes have political causes—a fact that most people don’t quite believe, but one that urgently needs to be understood.” —Michael Tomasky, political columnist for Newsweek and the Daily Beast


“Tom Edsall is a tough realist with a large conscience and a brilliant mind. That's why he's one of the country’s most important political writers: he faces difficult truths that others try to avoid and discerns important trends before they become trendy—and before most people even notice them. He’s done that again with The Age of Austerity, exactly the right book asking the right questions for our moment.” —E. J. Dionne, Jr., author of Why Americans Hate Politics
 
 
“As economists handicap the odds of a new recession and speculate about a lost decade for the U.S. economy, Tom Edsall offers a troubling vision of American political and social conflict in circumstances of low growth and intense polarization.  To avoid what he dubs a ‘brutish future,’ our divided leaders will have to come together around a plan for renewed growth that is bound to offend the core constituencies of both political parties.  If Edsall is right, the outlook for such an agreement is dim at best, and the alternative is the decline of the United States.” —William Galston, Senior Fellow at The Brookings Institution and former policy advisor to President Clinton


“Back in 1984 Thomas Edsall followed his bloodhound’s instincts into the labyrinth of Washington and produced a breakthrough account of The New Politics of Inequality, showing us how a quiet transfer of power had taken place in the nation’s capital. . . . Here, during the ‘morning in America’ of the Reagan Revolution, was the beginning of the long crusade bye the richest and most powerful interests to control America’s taxing and spending policies. They succeeded beyond even their own expectations, finally producing a government of the 1 percent, by the 1 percent, and for the 1 percent. Now Edsall has produced another compelling and disturbing book grounded in the diligent and dogged reporting for which he is known and honored. Our present age of austerity is no accident. But there is a ray of light in this book: if our politics brought it on, our politics can change it—once we’ve changed the politicians.” —Bill Moyers


The Age of Austerity greatly clarifies the current frightening crisis in our politics. Thomas Edsall, one of our major political commentators, sees Republicans and Democrats as competing coalitions of haves and have-nots, locked in brutal battles over the fundamentals of modern American government at a time of severe economic duress.  The stakes for America’s future are economic and moral as well as political, and they are as large as they have been since the Great Depression. Edsall's analysis—at once calm and insistent, upsetting and enlightening—is a singularly valuable account of these ugly times.” —Sean Wilentz, Sidney and Ruth Lapidus Professor of the American Revolutionary Era at Princeton University, author of The Rise of American Democracy and The Age of Reagan
 

About the Author

Thomas Edsall is an American journalist and academic, best known for his 25 years covering politics for the Washington Post.  He holds the Joseph Pulitzer II and Edith Pulitzer Moore Professorship in Public Affairs Journalism at Columbia University, and writes an online 2012 election column for the New York Times. In addition, he is a correspondent for The New Republic, and the author of Chain Reaction, a Pulitzer Prize finalist (1992), The New Politics of Equality (1984), and Building Red America (2006), among other works.  Edsall is also the winner of the Carey McWilliams Award of the American Political Science Association.  Mr. Edsall lives in New York and Washington, D.C. with his wife, Mary.


Product Details

  • File Size: 3565 KB
  • Print Length: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor (January 10, 2012)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0050DIX2E
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #592,926 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
79 of 107 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The 2012 Yearbook of Democratic Party Brainwaves January 10, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If anything is clear at this time it is that the American people have been shell-shocked by the Great Recession. Among all other aspects of life we are confused about which political party to trust with the financial future of our country.

In 2008 we elected a Democrat President who followed through on his campaign promise to expand the government's role in providing healthcare. The very instant his agenda was enacted into law we voted the Democrats out of Congress, replacing them with "Tea Party" Republicans who vowed to reverse the Democrat agenda by repealing healthcare reform, lowering taxes, and reducing the reach of government! So now we have a government of two warring factions, anchored to diametrically opposing ideologies, without any sort of middle ground to build a compromise around.

Of course it's not entirely fair to blame the gridlock on our elected officials when "we the people" who elected them are so fickle in switching back and forth between diametrically opposing ideologies. Our representatives are certain to have a difficult time trying to figure out how to represent an electorate that can't make up its mind as to how it wants to be represented! This book is an attempt by political columnist Thomas Edsall to explain why the electorate is so confused and to try to guess which way it might lean when the 2012 votes are counted.

Let me say up front that if you're a Conservative / Republican the book will annoy you. Edsall tries to be fair-minded in analyzing our viewpoints; however, he does come across as a Democrat who subconsciously stereotypes Republicans as being somewhere in between Ebenezer Scrooge and Simon Legree.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
With the current economic crisis, the polarization of American politics seems to have reached a nadar: the political process is stalled at an impasse, perhaps a dead end. Even our political institutions, unable to facilitate compromise and negotiation, may be breaking down. Whoever wins the 2012 presidential election, we are told, we face the same, if not worse, polarization. In this fascinating and useful book, Edsall attempts to explain why we find ourselves in this situation, what its implications are, and what we might reasonably expect.

His ideas are simple and straightforward: when we prosper, we think of others and are willing to help them; when we aren't, we don't. This explains, he argues, the direction that each party is taking. In one of the best sections of the book, Edsall looks at the "psychology" behind each of these ideological preferences. Democrats represent empathy as well as community-based solutions that involve the sharing of resources; they see society and the economy as having the ability to take many possible forms, the shape of which politicians control; they are open to new ideas and optimistic. In contrast, Republicans see individual responsibility as the key not only to prosperity, but to the moral development of individuals and hence, society; they put their faith in the "free market" as the most efficient arbiter of economic activity, viewing government actions as destructive interference; they tend to be closed to new ideas and deeply pessimistic.

The heyday of liberal politics, in this view, coincided with the post-war boom years, up until the early 1970s, when productivity was rising and everyone benefitted. Politics was a positive-sum game.
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13 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Important and Timely Book January 31, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Just finished The Age of Austerity and found it to be a cogent and lucid examination of the current state of dysfunctional American politics. Edsall presents a persuasive argument on behalf of the impetus toward conservatism resulting from economic austerity. The author's analysis of the Tea Party phenomenon and the distinction its members often make between middle class govenment benefits and poorer citizens entitlement benefits seemed spot on to this reader. Also, Edsall makes the critical observation, backed with substantial data, demonstrating the centrality of race to the ideological battles of our time.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone seeking a greater understanding of the current political situation in the United States
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3.0 out of 5 stars The Age of Austerity February 3, 2013
By Kate
Format:Kindle Edition
Very excellent informative look at our collective responses to this latest recession. It seems that we as a population are more reactionary than banks, allowing fear to drive our economic, political and moral decisions: much against our future self interest.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Paints a picture that requires action by our Congress November 11, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Currently being use as background in lecture course at the LLI-Manasses. Great service -- good merchandise a should be reading requirement for all who teach high school and college Government.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Ideologue March 29, 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The author has an ideological position well to the left of center and has a tendency to select his data and facts to fit his predetermined position. The topic is an important one and I wanted to learn more from an expert but don't feel I can uncritically trust his writing.
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6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The politics of resentment (3.75 *s) February 25, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
In this look at the highly contentious political landscape that now exists in the US, which had electoral consequences in 2010 and can be expected to continue in 2012, the author suggests that the grossly irresponsible meltdown of Wall St in 2008, combined with the tremendous costs over an entire decade of our Iraq and Afghanistan misadventures, the huge tax breaks showered onto the rich by GW Bush, accelerating entitlement payouts, and greatly reduced federal revenues, has resulted in a politics of austerity and resentment, where the long-simmering divide between haves and have-nots has come rushing to the fore.

In the great expansion of the US economy in the decades following WWII, concerns about distribution of economic gains were largely relegated to the background. But the author notes that beginnings of the politics of resentment can be seen in the rise in the 1960s and 70s of those claiming rights: women, blacks, the poor, etc. At that time an unchallenged US economy had the means to adopt many programs to compensate for the disadvantages that those groups often faced in the marketplace. But the huge deficits and the un- and underemployment beginning in 2009 have completely undermined the mild tolerance for such programs among the "haves," and transformed to a widespread attitude of resentment in 2012.

Using data from several polls and voting choices, the author clearly establishes that the "haves," that is those older, whiter, and richer, now largely find those dependent on government assistance of all forms to be mostly undeserving. And the vast majority of them have some connection with the Republican Party and its mania for cutting taxes and government spending despite the consequences to both the economy and to individuals.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
This was for work of course.
Published 1 month ago by momof4inif
1.0 out of 5 stars Slanted Stinker
Can’t really “review” this book. Couldn’t get through the First Chapter - I feel it was slanted and NOT objective. I felt as if Karl Rove was speaking. Read more
Published 21 months ago by Rob Toth
3.0 out of 5 stars AGE OF AUSTERITY
IT IS OK BUT IT COMES ACOSS AS SOME CONSERVATIVE CLAPTRAP BUT IT IS STILL A GOOD READ AND RECCOMENDED TO THOSE OF A MORE CONSERVATIVE BENT
Published on December 27, 2012 by RICHARD SCHEIBERLE
2.0 out of 5 stars "At Some Point, You Reach the Limit of Ability to Pay"
This quote from the book comes from a Democratic State Senator from NJ. The author spends the entire book both agreeing with this premise while at the same time demanding that,... Read more
Published on June 15, 2012 by Abe Krieger
1.0 out of 5 stars Just a political re-run...
This book is relatively slim and has over 50 pages of acknowledgements at the back - which leaves about 150 +/- pages for the actual book. Read more
Published on March 28, 2012 by Sunny R
3.0 out of 5 stars THE AUSTERITY CONSPIRACY
THE REPUBLICON AUSTERITY CONSPIRACY IS NOT COVERED IN THIS BOOK.
WHEN REPUBLICONS GET INTO POWER THEY SPEND LIKE DRUNKEN SAILORS,
LOWER TAXES ON THE RICH AND... Read more
Published on February 15, 2012 by FRANKLY FRANK
3.0 out of 5 stars Obvious, and Sometimes Confusing
America can no longer finance the wishes of both parties - eg. more military spending and lower taxes for Republicans, more welfare and education spending for Democrats. Read more
Published on February 12, 2012 by Loyd E. Eskildson
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More About the Author

Thomas Byrne Edsall is an online columnist for the New York Times and a correspondent for The New Republic. He holds the Joseph Pulitzer II and Edith Pulitzer Moore Chair in Public Affairs Journalism at Columbia University. He joined the full-time faculty at Columbia in 2006 after a twenty-five year career at The Washington Post. During that time, he covered all aspects of national politics, including presidential elections, the House and Senate, lobbying, tax policy, demographic trends, social welfare, and the politics of race and ethnicity.

Edsall served in 2006 as a guest columnist for the print edition of the New York Times. Before he came to the Washington Post he reported for The Baltimore Sun and The Providence Journal. He has covered politics for The National Journal, and has contributed TV and radio commentary to CNN, CSPAN, MSNBC, PBS, FOX, and NPR.

Edsall is the author of five books: The Age of Austerity (2012); Building Red America (2006); Chain Reaction: The Impact of Race, Rights, and Taxes on American Politics (2005); Power and Money: Writing About Politics (1988); and The New Politics of Inequality (1984).

He is also the editor of or contributor to a number of other books: Red and Blue Nation? Characteristics and Causes of America's Polarized Politics, contributor (2006); Varieties of Progressivism in America, contributor, 2004; Deadlock: The Inside Story of America's Closest Election (2001); Present Discontents, contributor (1997); The Rise and Fall of the New Deal Order 1930-1980, contributor, (1989); The Reagan Legacy, (co-editor and contributor) (1988).

Edsall has written extensively for magazines, with articles appearing in American Prospect, The Atlantic Monthly, Civilization, Dissent, Harper's, The Nation, The National Journal, The New Republic, The New York Review of Books, the Washington Monthly.

Edsall's 1992 book Chain Reaction was a Pulitzer finalist in general non-fiction. His awards include the Carey McWilliams Award of the American Political Science Association, the Bill Pryor Award and the Front Page Award of the Newspaper Guild, a yearlong fellowship at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and several Media Fellowships at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Edsall attended Brown University and received a B.A. from Boston University.




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