- Audible Audio Edition
- Listening Length: 4 hours and 19 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
- Audible.com Release Date: April 6, 2010
- Whispersync for Voice: Ready
- Language: English
- ASIN: B003FOOG94
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
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The Walk Audible – Unabridged
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Top Customer Reviews
Reich points out that income for American middle class families has been essentially stagnant or declining for over three decades. The middle class has coped with this in three basic ways: (1) Women have entered the workforce, (2) People worked longer hours, and, of course, (3) We all relied on debt (credit cards and home equity loans) rather than income to support our consumption. Those coping methods are now exhausted, and we are left in a position where average Americans simply do not have sufficient discretionary income to support a sustainable recovery. The great American consumer class -- which was the driving force behind our prosperity in the 1950s and 1960s -- has been largely decimated.
To his credit, Reich correctly identifies globalization and, especially, automation technology as primary forces behind declining middle class wages. At the same time, rather than enacting countervailing policies, the United States (beginning with Reagan) has gone in the exact opposite direction and adopted a conservative agenda that has actually accelerated the trend toward income concentration.Read more ›
Reich's main thesis is that the current transition the US economy is under is misunderstood. Many of the policy elite (Geithner, Volcker) have repeated the familiar claim that Americans are living beyond their means. Personally I don't discount that completely but Reich's insight goes much deeper and rings truer: "The problem was not that American spent beyond their means but that their means had not kept up with what the larger economy could and should have been able to provide them."
"We cannot have a sustained recovery until we address it. ... Until this transformation is made, our economy will continue to experience phantom recoveries and speculative bubbles, each more distressing than the one before."
Anyone looking at the unemployment data since WWII has to wonder why the unemployment component of the last three recessions is so prolonged. Instead of a sharp trend up, there are long slopes of delayed returns to peak employment. (Google "calculated risk blog" and look at Dec. 2010 articles.) I believe Reich has demonstrated the main culprit this. To be clear, he is not describing the detailed mechanics of what triggered the Great Recession. (Nouriel Roubini has a good book that I would recommend for more on the financial fraud, leverage and credit risks involved - Crisis Economics: A Crash Course in the Future of Finance.Read more ›
*I have since read the book too. Excellent read!
This created a structural problem in the economy, since middle class workers no longer can afford to buy the products and services they produce, and the very rich cannot possibly spend the vast amounts of money they accumulate. Businesses remain "profitable" by outsourcing jobs or replacing workers with technology; this compounds the middle class dilemma because many of the jobs they did are gone forever.
With a shrinking consumer base for the products they offer, businesses cannot justify expansion, and do not create jobs. The rich, looking for places to put the huge amounts of money they control, are attracted to speculation; new bubbles are inevitable. At the same time, great wealth translates into political power, making any useful change extremely difficult.
Since the problems are structural, they must be solved with structural changes, and Reich ends with a list of suggestions for the kinds of changes that could help direct more money and success to middle class Americans. Many readers will think his suggestions are politically unfeasible, and while he makes a valiant stab at optimism, it is clear that Reich is very much aware of the obstacles in the way.
Before things get better, it seems, they will have to get worse. Much worse.
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