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The Squandering of America: How the Failure of Our Politics Undermines Our Prosperity Hardcover – Deckle Edge, November 6, 2007
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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.
"The strength of Kuttner's latest effort is that, with seven years' distance from the Clinton era, his arguments now look emphatically right."
--Noam Scheiber, The New York Times Book Review
"Kuttner has written a very important book."
--Alexander Zaitchik, The San Francisco Chronicle
"A scathing broadside aimed at the failures of laissez-faire American capitalism . . . Kuttner's unique talent is in cutting through the knee-jerk assumptions that have become orthodoxy in American policy debates."
"In this new and wise book Robert Kuttner walks among the wreckage strewn across the landscape by the fundamentalist ideology that took hold in Washington and says there is still hope of averting lasting economic calamity. But his message is clear: Hurry!"
"Robert Kuttner is a prophet whose time has come. This lucid, passionate, razor-sharp book carries a message as urgent as it is clarifying."
“Ten years ago, in Everything for Sale, Robert Kuttner powerfully demonstrated the difference between respect for markets and worship of markets. His new book is just as persuasive and powerfully argued. I hope that this time we heed the warnings, rather than living through the consequences of ignoring them again.”
"If I could assign one book to all the presidential candidates it would be this one. Robert Kuttner, perhaps the most insightful economic commentator in the country, has done it again."
"Robert Kuttner is the intellectual guru of our country’s New Progressive Era. The Squandering of America diagnoses our government’s illnesses and tells us how to cure them."
--Senator Sherrod Brown
"The Squandering of America brilliantly explains how we once created a cooperative and equitable prosperity, how that economy was captured by a financial elite, and how to reclaim America's economic and political
“If you want to understand why America’s prosperity, power and prestige are under siege, read The Squandering of America. This is more than a fine book; it is an education for the tumultuous times that lie ahead.”
“In The Squandering of America, Bob Kuttner tells the story that the financial elites and free-market ideologues would rather not be told: that broad prosperity and economic security, once the foundation of our middle-class economy, are disappearing as quickly as the polar ice caps.
--Senator Byron Dorgan
"In a time of great commotion in American politics and economics, no one connects the dots more clearly or wisely than Robert Kuttner. This is must reading for anyone who wishes to understand why they are feeling so anxious about the economy."
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Top customer reviews
The only weakness in my mind is that Kuttner often says that other countries do it differently from a conservative economist's recommendations--they have higher taxes, offer universal health care, have used trade protection to develop industry--but then Kuttner does not give nearly enough detail of the prevalence or effectiveness of these governmental policies. Nor does he describe the policies in great detail.
Still, an amazingly good, balanced, lefty discussion of today's US economic situation.
The squandering of America is the result of the deliberate dismantling of a managed form of capitalism, guaranteeing broadly diffused prosperity, better economic efficiency and higher stability in the system. The dismantling was called free markets and free trade (better dirty free trade, because agricultural products are untouchables).
For R. Kuttner, rightly, free trade sacrifices the general interest for the self-interest of economic elites (`the class solidarity of insiders'). It resulted in a chronic structural trade deficit (making the US totally dependent on foreign banks), a collapse of the US manufacturing grid and the destruction of good wage contracts.
Free markets are not better, because they are in no way reliable for providing (full) employment, decent wages, education, health care, clean air and water, economic stability, safety and the honesty of financial agents.
Financial deregulation increased inequalities, reduced economic efficiencies and increased economic risks.
Extreme swings in retail gas prices, stealing of pension funds by take-over `artists' or disbursing 250B$ in fees for mutual fund managers between 1997 and 2002 while millions of investors suffered a net loss, can hardly be seen as financial efficiency.
As Robert (!) Triffin in the 1960s correctly predicted the fall of the dollar, Robert Kuttner predicts now a serious decline of the dollar and the general US living standard.
The conservative recipe of cutting domestic spending, of hugely increasing military outlays and cutting taxes for the wealthy, diminished vastly opportunities (education), security (jobs, health care) and living standards for the vast majority of the population. The resulting huge budget deficits were to be `solved' by cuts in social spending.
Money is the prime political currency in the US. Politics are there to serve the money holders, not democracy. The Bush II Administration spent more effort on suppressing voting than on expanding it.
However, the ultimate test of a democracy is whether it is possible to throw out those in power. For R. Kuttner, the answer is YES. Therefore, real democracy should be revived. Mass quiescence is indeed a great convenience and a splendid political success for financial elites.
Robert Kuttner's brilliantly argued book is a must read for all those wanting to understand (and influence) the world we live in.