Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy Hardcover – Deckle Edge, November 8, 2011
|New from||Used from|
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
“A reality-based strategy for economic renewal packed with ideas on how to fix America’s job machine . . . Offers some well-timed optimism . . . Contains sensible ideas . . . Articulate, engaging.” —Daniel Gross, The Washington Post
“A lucid one-man rebuttal of the Tea Party’s anti-government agenda and a practical set of proposals . . . for restoring economic growth. A succinct common-sense argument for why America needs a strong national government, why both spending cuts and increased tax revenues are necessary for addressing the debt problem (which is going to get worse given the demographics of an aging baby-boomer population and the high costs of interest payments), and why that debt problem ‘can’t be solved unless the economy starts growing again.’” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“This book presents page after page of intelligent suggestions on how the U.S. can cut its crippling debt, create new jobs, and get ‘back into the future business’ . . . I found much to agree with.” —James Pressley, Bloomberg News
“A personal, plain-spoken economic picture of where we are, a mile-high view of the three decades that got us here, and how to revive our economy in classic ‘American Dream growth’ style. . . . If this list whiplashes from the nitty-gritty to the mile-high view and back again, it demonstrates that Clinton is a politician who can operate at both levels without breaking a sweat. . . . A book with the chutzpah that the Democrats have been missing.” —Carolyn Kellogg, Los Angeles Times
"Four stars . . . There’s an upbeat, front-foot tone to Back to Work that is welcome at a time of despair. Love him or hate him, [Clinton] hasn’t lost his touch . . . It’s refreshing to hear from him." —Martin Vander Weyer, The Telegraph (U.K.)
“Convincing . . . A rallying cry to America . . . Informed, high-minded, intelligent and persuasive… Clinton is probably the best natural politician of his generation. His skill at framing an argument is without peer and that he generally does so without demagoguery is to his lasting credit. In this case, the fact that he has simple common sense on his side doesn't hurt either. These pages should be required reading for any Democrat running for office next year.” —Erik Tarloff, The Observer (U.K.)
“Bill Clinton has an idea. A few dozen ideas, in fact, about ways large and small to get unemployed Americans back to work—from granting property tax breaks for investments that create jobs to painting every flat tar roof in U.S. cities white for the energy savings.” —Susan Page, USA Today
“A book full of ideas about how to revive the economy and get America’s unemployed millions back to work . . . The book has two main strengths. First, while arguing, rightly, that in the short run the American economy urgently needs a boost from government spending, it spells out in simple terms why Uncle Sam also needs a credible strategy for sorting out the country’s long-term fiscal problems . . . Second, Mr. Clinton is at his famously wonkish best in scouring America and the world to find practical ideas for getting people back to work." —The Economist
“Feisty . . . a cogent, well-informed attack on the GOP’s ‘antigovernment ideology.’ A smart, forthright, appealingly folksy defense of activist government.” —Publishers’ Weekly
“I wrote this book because I love my country and I'm concerned about our future,” writes Bill Clinton. “As I often said when I first ran for President in 1992, America at its core is an idea—the idea that no matter who you are or where you're from, if you work hard and play by the rules, you'll have the freedom and opportunity to pursue your own dreams and leave your kids a country where they can chase theirs.” In Back to Work, Clinton details how we can get out of the current economic crisis and lay a foundation for long-term prosperity. He offers specific recommendations on how we can put people back to work and create new businesses, increase bank lending and corporate investment, double our exports, and restore our manufacturing base. He supports President Obama’s emphasis on green technology, saying that change in the way we produce and consume energy is the strategy most likely to spark a fast-growing economy and enhance our national security. Clinton also says that we need both a strong economy and a smart government working together to restore prosperity and progress. He demonstrates that whenever we’ve given in to the temptation to blame government for our problems, we’ve lost our commitment to shared prosperity, balanced growth, financial responsibility, and investment in the future. That has led our nation into trouble because there are some things we have to do together. For example, he says, “Our ability to compete in the twenty-first century is dependent on our willingness to invest in infrastructure: we need faster broadband, a state-of-the-art national electrical grid, modernized water and sewer systems, and the best airports, trains, roads, and bridges. “There is no evidence that we can succeed in the twenty-first century with an antigovernment strategy,” writes Clinton, “with a philosophy grounded in ‘You’re on your own’ rather than ‘We’re all in this together.’” Clinton believes that conflict between government and the private sector has proved to be remarkably good politics, but it has produced bad policies, giving us a weak economy with few jobs, growing income inequality and poverty, and a decline in our competitive position. In the real world, cooperation works much better than conflict, and “we need victories in the real world.”
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Clinton disagrees with those who view government as a problem. The recent economic meltdown happened because banks were overleveraged--and this happened because there was insufficient government oversight. We did not have a full-scale depression because the government saved the financial system from collapse and used the stimulus to keep unemployment 1.5 to 2 percent lower than it would have been. Government was part of the solution. "Over the last three decades, whenever we've given in to the temptation to blame the government for all our problems, we've lost our commitment to shared prosperity, balanced growth, financial responsibility, and investment in the future." (p. 14)
Clinton outlines the proper role. "Government should empower us to do things we need or want to do that we can only do together by pooling our resources and spending them in large enough amounts... (p. 48). Specifically, government agencies and regulations should play a large role in the following areas: National security; assistance to those unable to fully support themselves; decent retirement for seniors; equal access to opportunity; economic development; oversight of the financial sector; protection of public interests the market cannot fix; investments for long-term, large-scale projects; and collection of revenue. (p. 49)
The most important short-term issue is government debt. "There are only three things we can do... restrain spending below current projections, raise taxes, and grow the economy faster. We have to do all three." (p. 56). The author outlines a strategy for this three-pronged attack. A brief summary does not do it justice, but two aspects are worth noting. First, immigration policy can be shaped to not only be self-sustaining, but to grow the economy and increase tax revenues. Second, the 35 percent corporate tax rate yields an average of only 23 percent because of tax incentives that are not used by all. We could have a lower corporate tax rate if it was applied evenly to all. This would have several beneficial economic effects--including returning jobs to America from abroad.
The next section book compares our current situation to what we experienced in the nation's past. Like many concerned about income inequity (see Paul Krugman's The Conscience of a Liberal), Clinton reveres the post-WWII era as a time of equity and shared prosperity. "After World War II until 1980, the bottom 90 percent of Americans consistently earned about 65 percent of the national income, and the top 10 percent earned about 35 percent, of which 10 percent went to the top 1 percent... In the 1980s, Wall Street and many large corporations embraced what was then a new idea--that publicly traded companies' first and overwhelming obligation is to their shareholders... This approach has continued to increase the percentage of GDP claimed by the financial sector and to concentrate income gains among already wealthy Americans. It has helped a considerable number of people become millionaires and billionaires, but it has led to stagnant wages for almost everyone else." (p. 85-89)
The author then analyzes economic policies in industrialized nations, concluding that low levels of taxation and regulation do not necessarily result in prosperity and growth. "The success of the nations doing better than we are is due to government policies that equalize opportunities and prepare their people to seize them." (p. 107) Like Mitt Romney in Believe in America, Clinton presents forty-six recommendations to help "put a lot of people to work now." Here are five that interested me:
2. Let people with government-guaranteed mortgages who aren't delinquent refinance their mortgages at the current low interest rate.
5. Let companies repatriate [offshore] cash now with no tax liability if it's reinvested to create new jobs.
26. Negotiate long-term contracts to sell food to China, Saudi Arabia, and other nations facing food shortages.
36. Provide an extra incentive to hire people who've been out of work more than six months.
41. Keep pushing for comprehensive immigration reform, and in the meantime grant more H-1B visas to immigrants in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields until we have enough qualified citizens to fill the openings.
This is an intelligent book. Clinton does not angrily reject ideas that benefit both the wealthy and the not-so-wealthy. He does not stir readers' envy of other's wealth to justify taking it away. In fact, he recognizes businesses that have succeeded through innovation and hard work. Occasionally nonpartisan, he disagrees with President Obama and praises programs and policies of political rivals.
I have one concern and one question. Clinton's characterization of the right is too conveniently narrow. There are some on the right who understand little about the economy. But there are also those on the left who have little knowledge of how their favorite programs are funded. It disingenuously pits apples against kumquats to advance such well-crafted arguments from the left and use the least sophisticated elements of the right as their foil. I'd like to measure Bill Clinton's apples against some life-sized oranges.
My question is about Clinton's role for the nongovernment, nonprofit sector. One response to his proposals is that the Federal government should not drive so many of them. A smaller government version might achieve more bipartisan support. He mentions several nonprofit initiatives he has undertaken, so clearly he envisions some appropriate nonprofit role. Perhaps I should read Clinton's Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World next to answer my question. Perhaps I will.