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The Squandering of America: How the Failure of Our Politics Undermines Our Prosperity Paperback – November 11, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As Keynesianism has been surpassed by a resurgent free market ideology, many of the policies, institutions and regulations of the New Deal have been abandoned in favor of a more business-friendly orientation. Kuttner argues that these changes have further enriched the already wealthy at the expense of America's lower and middle classes, exacerbating inequality and systematically weakening the economy. The controversial American Prospect editor favors a form of soft capitalism, in which the vicissitudes of the market and the risk to which it exposes ordinary Americans are tempered by government intervention—or, as he colorfully puts it, public regulation of the market's self-cannibalizing tendencies. Bringing a wealth of historical knowledge to bear on the problems of financial regulation, Kuttner compares the causes of the Great Depression and other economic crises to behavior patterns evident in our market system today, with unfavorable conclusions. However, much of the argumentation may be too technical to hold the interest of a nonspecialist for very long. While some of Kuttner's statistics are dubious and some of his policy recommendations have been thoroughly and universally discredited (e.g., reregulation of the airline industry, bringing the Federal Reserve under presidential control), his book is a useful corrective to more extreme libertarian works. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


“A passionate broadside for restoring widespread prosperity to the middle class and reviving a dispirited democracy.”—BusinessWeek "With seven years' distance from the Clinton era, [Kuttner's] arguments now look emphatically right." —The New York Times Book Review“Robert Kuttner is a prophet whose time has come. This lucid, passionate, razor-sharp book carries a message as urgent as it is clarifying.”—Hendrik Hertzberg “Robert Kuttner has diagnosed the sickness in our body politic.”—The Boston Globe

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (November 11, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400033632
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400033638
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #784,366 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

104 of 108 people found the following review helpful By George Bush HALL OF FAME on November 12, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Kuttner believes that the ultimate test of a democracy is whether it is possible for the people to throw out the governing party. He believes we are close to losing our democracy through domination of politics by big money, decline in participation by ordinary people, and the assault on basic constitutional liberties - as well as rigged rules and stolen elections. Meanwhile, our government has been failing to contain Islamic extremism, using foreign threats to undermine liberty at home, squandering global goodwill and our natural environment (the latter is close to reaching a point of no return), and jeopardizing our solvency.

Kuttner then goes on to present the usual statistics showing how wealth has become much more concentrated within the hands of a few over the last few decades. He goes on, however, to also explain why the middle-class' fate has been worse than most other statistics have portrayed. The bottom 80% own just 10.7% of the total value of stocks - including that contained in their pensions - not the large portion that their numeric participation might suggest.

At the same time, government statistics understate inflation. Housing prices doubled between 1996 and 2006, but the imputed rent figure used in the CPI increased only by one/third - thus, the true inflation rate should be stated as 4.2%/year, not the 2.2% reported. Similarly with improvements in product quality that may not be useful to most - eg. faster and faster computer that are used only for Internet and word-processing, never-ending new features on cell-phones - thus, further understating inflation's effect.

According to "The Two Income Trap" median wages and costs of necessities for families in the early 1970s vs.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Paul Tognetti TOP 500 REVIEWER on December 26, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Take a look around at the economic and political landscape in this country as we enter 2008 and it is really quite difficult to be optimistic about the prospects for the average American worker. You see most of us are not real estate developers, financial speculators or political insiders. Furthermore, while entrepreneurial opportunities still do exist in this nation not everyone is cut out to own their own business. Sadly, as more and more good paying jobs move overseas increasing numbers of Americans find little alternative but to work in offices, retail stores and in various other service industries for lower wages and fewer benefits than were available to workers just a generation ago. Yes, the sad truth is that despite impressive gains in productivity over the past quarter century the standard of living for most average workers has been steadily declining. At the same time the cost of the essentials such as housing, health insurance and sending your child off to college has skyrocketed. But be comforted by the fact that the cost of consumer electronics continues to come down! Looks an awful lot like bread and circus to me! So just what is going on here? In "The Squandering of America" author Robert Kuttner surveys the current political and economic landscape and serves up a pretty frank portrait of just what has been happening to workers in America. And frankly, unless changes are forthcoming in the near term all of us are probably in for a very rough ride.

In "The Squandering of America" Robert Kuttner points out time and again that many of the prerequisites for financial disaster are already in place. First and foremost there is too much money in the hands of too few people.
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25 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Izaak VanGaalen on December 15, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Over the past three decades America's GDP has nearly doubled and unemployment remains fairly low. And if one listens to the evening financial news - other than, say, Lou Dobbs - we hear the chorus singing the praises of free-market capitalism. Robert Kuttner, co-founder of The American Prospect and the Economic Policy Institute, tells us these facts by themselves do not tell the whole story. Most of the economic gains have gone to the top 10%, and more yet to the top 1%. The median American family, however, has suffered a decline in living standards in the last 30 years. And most of the new jobs created in the last 10 years have been on the low-wage end.

A number of new books have appeared recently on the widening income gap. (Robert Reich's Supercapitalism: The Transformation of Business, Democracy, and Everyday Life (Borzoi Books) and Paul Krugman'sThe Conscience of a Liberal are but two examples.) As in the books by Reich and Krugman, Kuttner points out that the income gap was the narrowest between the 1930's and the 1970's. This was a time of "managed capitalism." After the Depression and World War II people turned to government to solve their problems and the government did rather well. It created many of the institutions that regulated and guarded against the excesses of free-market capitalism. It created social insurance programs such as Medicare and Social Security which are now considered indispensible.
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