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59 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lots of ideas, some are excellent, July 2, 2008
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This review is from: Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream (Hardcover)
This small book does an excellent job of summarizing the political history of the Republican Party the past 60 years or so. It offers a critique of where it went, if not wrong, at least out of focus the past eight years. It is a companion to David Frum's book, "Comeback," and the authors refer to Frum's ideas frequently although he is not credited at the end. Some of their ideas I agree with, some I don't know enough about to criticize and I disagree with their health care chapter although I agree on its importance. The emphasis is on the appeal of the Republican Party to the "Sam's Club voter," a term they claim to have originated and which has been used by Governor Pawlenty of Minnesota. It is a very useful concept and the heart of this book. Their argument is that the family is a crucial institution for the lower income and less educated American. They discuss how the family, as an institution, has been badly damaged in the past 40 years and they offer suggestions on how to undo some of the damage.

The first three chapters are probably the best and summarize the history of attempted Republican reforms that would attract the working class voter to form a new coalition after the Roosevelt New Deal coalition broke up in the 1960s. They point out that, after 30 years of steady progress, wages for working class people stagnated beginning about 1973. They say little about the high inflation of the Carter years but I remember it well and think it deserves more emphasis because of its terrible effect on affordability of home ownership.

They point out, as does David Frum, that the high crime, high inflation and stagnant economy of the 70s were all mostly solved during the Reagan era and, following that, the working class had less affinity for the Republican party of George Bush. Their analysis of the attraction of Ross Perot for the working class voter was insightful and explains much. They point out that the Clinton years were actually quite conservative although I would give more credit to the Republican Congress after 1994 than they do. I agree that the impeachment frenzy was a terrible error and forced Clinton to the left as he sought allies.

They are quite complimentary to George W Bush's domestic agenda and the 9/11 attacks probably harmed the Republican Party by bringing a preoccupation with the war on radical Islam that diverted it from a realignment on domestic issues. They quote Bush as saying essentially that the war trumped all the domestic issues. That worked until the war began to go sour in 2005. From Chapter six on, the book is about suggested solutions, many of which are innovative and worth consideration.

I was disappointed with their chapter on health care because they use the French system as an example of how not to reform it. They misstate the principle of the French system which is that the patient pays the doctor in a fee-for-service transaction, then is reimbursed by the health plan, a non-profit corporation regulated by the government, at a 75% rate. For some service, the reimbursement is less and the patient has the option of purchasing coinsurance, like our "MediGap" policies, to cover the remaining 25%. There are a number of technological efficiencies that American doctors would love to see. The fee schedule is low for French doctors but medical education is free and doctors have the option to bill more than the government fee schedule. It is an interesting program to study and a possible alternative to the Canadian-style single payer system favored by the American left. They complain about the drain of the French health system on the economy but it uses about 10% of the GDP, whereas our own health care consumes over 16%. The French economy is harmed by the cost of the welfare state and the regulation of employment. If we could get to 10% of our economy for health care, it would save many billions. Health care is the single biggest issue for "Sam's Club voters" and should be a major focus for the Republican Party. I was disappointed to see this error. The French system is pluralistic, like ours, and a useful model to study. It is also the best health care system in Europe and probably the world. I should add that I am a physician with 40 years of private practice and a graduate degree in health care policy.

This book is a valuable addition to the debate on where the Republican Party goes over the next few years whether John McCain is elected or not. The best parts are its analysis of where we have been and how some opportunities were missed. I agree with the basic premise that the high income investor classes and education elites are no longer the base of the Republican Party. They are more concerned with life-style and cultural issues and are confident they can evade the additional taxes that President Obama has in mind. The natural base for the Republicans is now made up of traditional families, the people described in "The Millionaire Next Door," and potential middle class voters who need a fairer system to climb the ladder of success. These authors have many ideas on how to accomplish this that are worth the price of the book.
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Showing 1-10 of 13 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 2, 2008 9:29:49 AM PDT
Both "Comeback" and "Grand New Party" indirectly deal with the economic illiteracy of the common folk. Many Americans believe in an economic interventionist government. They fail to understand that these policies will only hurt their only pocketbooks. A prudent Republican must acknowledge this fact---and still find a way to convert these sadly deluded people over to more capitalist remedies. Much of the blame for this madness is due to the shabby writings of Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. and other left-wing historians. The widely held myth that "FDR saved capitalism" has done enormous damage.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 2, 2008 2:55:41 PM PDT
Gary Becker got a Nobel Prize for finding that poor, uneducated people still know how to act in their own self interest. That is why welfare reform worked, in spite of all predictions to the contrary. I wouldn't be too confident that they are economically illiterate when it comes to their self interest. We have to learn to steer some of that self interest toward sound macro-economics. They are absolutely correct that the combination of FICA and health insurance premiums have eaten up all the wage gains since 1988.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 4, 2008 12:23:11 PM PDT
"Poor, uneducated people" may instinctively know how to "act in their own interest" on an immediate personal level. However, when it comes to politics---they usually behave in a self destructive manner. They are easily seduced into embracing policies which will only give them short term relief. They rarely have any idea what is best for themselves in the long run. This is why so many are against free trade and prefer protectionist measures.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 11, 2008 1:12:18 PM PDT
The present credit crisis suggests that "poor, uneducated people" are not the only ones with short term goals.

Posted on Nov 10, 2008 11:15:17 AM PST
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 7, 2008 7:04:20 AM PST
Whamo says:
Thom Hartman's book "Screwed: The Undeclared War on the Middle Class" has a chapter at the end that all Republicans should read. Basically, the real conservative movement has been taken over by the super-rich with propaganda for fools with pro big-business policies that are unAmerican. The standard of living for the common man has decreased, despite promises that "trickle down" profits will reap rewards, as retirement, healthcare, education, and employment opportunities for Americans have been outsourced or replaced by tax cuts for the rich.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 25, 2009 8:55:51 PM PST
I would not want to spend a night in an American emergency room, either. Have you ? I was riding in an airport shuttle last week while the driver told me one more horror story. We simply have to do something about basic health care and I fear Obama will screw it up with a Canadian program.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 25, 2009 8:57:58 PM PST
I disagree that it is the conservative movement that has been taken over. It is the liberal movement that has been taken over. Look at the present "stimulus" bill for an example. Tax cuts for people who pay taxes are the Republican principle. The rich mostly vote for Democrats these days.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 12, 2009 2:57:27 PM PDT
Have you spent a night there?
Really? I have lived in france for several years and I have read a lot about health systems in the world. french system is clearly one of the best (much better than the British or the Canadian one which is shown as example here in US)

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 27, 2009 3:15:44 PM PST
Most of my personal experience with the French health care system consists of attending surgical conferences to learn about new techniques developed in France. Most of the laparoscopic surgery we do was developed in France. Their care is very advanced and their pharmaceutical industry has always been good.
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