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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A rare non-partisan look at why we're in debt and how hard it will be to get out, February 9, 2013
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This review is from: Here's the Deal (Kindle Single) (Kindle Edition)
Dave Leonhardt's appearance on Morning Joe encouraged me to buy his Kindle single. This format is an interesting way of getting one's views out quickly for discussion. Singles seem more substantial and researched than a blog, newspaper or magazine article, but less reasoned than a book. It's somehow disconcerting how quickly these get published in the current news cycle, but they seem to be the new way for news and cable journalists to get published. With the media's monopoly in deciding what we see on television and online, I'm not sold yet on this incursion into books where traditional authors tend to provide an alternative, more rigorous viewpoint.

With that said, Leonhardt's argument is clearly presented and non-partisan--something that's hard to come by in media's continued fascination with the parties' battling. As Leonhardt points out, none of this coverage or the actual political process is addressing or seriously discussing the fundamental issues that have gotten us where we are today. As opposed to most books in this category, he does not get into the blame game or what bipartisan efforts it will take to make things work again. He does not exude a sense of desperation like many of those books do.

Leonhardt points out that Clinton's and Obama's administrations have made the biggest headway toward reducing the debt--notwithstanding the Republican claims to the contrary. But he asserts that none of the battles in Congress have much to do with the real underlying problems that will make it hard on future generations--health care costs, military spending, lack of investment in research that will lead to the next big things, and our failure to collect taxes that should be collected.

An omission in the issues Leonhardt covers in his argument is the favored role that corporations have enjoyed from both parties in our current quandary. Leonhardt goes back to Reagan to trace the beginnings of the Republican's lower taxes crusade. Since that time, American companies have also gotten maximum support from the government, which has resulted in favorable tax breaks, subsidies, an ability to offshore for cheaper sources of labor, and an escape route for getting away from providing pensions and increasingly medical coverage. Leonhardt implies that this generation (especially baby boomers) is selfish in its unwillingness to pay higher taxes or accept stricter Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid taxes and benefits--all at the expense of our children and grandchildren who will be forced to pay those debts we are incurring. I would argue that over the last 30-50 years, many older Americans have seen the pensions and things they were counting on in retirement slowly fading away. In such an environment where companies seem to get all the breaks, it's tough not to count on the few remaining benefits and "entitlements" they were planning on.

All in all, "Here's the Deal" offers a relatively hopeful outlook for getting through our current economic, political and world-standing issues. Leonhardt explains how we still have a much better chance to succeed relative to other countries and economies. What he does well here is put it more in our terms rather than looking at these issues from an "inside the government" filter. This single is a good investment of an hour or two to read and think about.
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 13, 2013 3:43:33 PM PST
Great review. Very in depth. I have not read the book, so have no opinion. However, it is good to avoid the "blame game" when it quite possible that we are in the midst of historic changes where we have little understanding.

I certainly want senior citizens and retired military to have secure retirements, but it is also possible that we simply cannot afford that anymore; or at least not as secure as in the past. I am reminded of the phrase "Demographics is destiny." A balanced budget is first a math problem, and second a policy problem.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 13, 2013 5:00:07 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 13, 2013 5:02:33 PM PST
Tom Sales says:
Thanks for the comment, Mr. C. You're right that we're in new territory now. Energy surpluses, less consumer indebtedness, health care reaction to Obamacare, new strategies from the military--all are new phenomena that could affect our ability to get out of debt. Hopefully, capitalism kicks in to trump the political games.

Posted on Feb 16, 2013 9:30:04 PM PST
Not sure what you mean by this: "Leonhardt points out that Clinton's and Obama's administrations have made the biggest headway toward reducing the debt--notwithstanding the Republican claims to the contrary."

Clinton, sure, although you have to consider that he had Republicans in both houses of Congress after 1994. But Obama? He's had 4 straight years of $1 trillion+ deficits, a historical record by a wide margin. You can claim that those weren't his fault, or that they were justified. But that he made progress on the deficit? What numbers have you been looking at?

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 17, 2013 7:28:54 AM PST
The Debt not the deficit!

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 17, 2013 6:42:42 PM PST
True, but the debt cannot be reduced while increasing the deficit. It is reasonable to ask how Obama can make progress reducing the debt while it is actually going up, and deficits are bigger than ever. As Burford says, perhaps Obama's deficits were necessary, perhaps those deficits would have been even worse if he had done nothing, but such necessity does not mean that he made progress in reducing debt. The debt is larger. It just is.

Posted on Apr 14, 2013 10:35:03 PM PDT
I have to wonder if it was Obama himself writing this review. How exactly has the Obama administration " made the biggest headway toward reducing the debt" when the debt held by the public has almost tripled (thus far) during his presidency? Really?

The author makes some valid points, but it is hardly non-partisan. Especially when he says that basically the results aren't in yet for Obama...I think the numbers thus far speak for themselves.
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