Customer Review

Reviewed in the United States on September 7, 2011
That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World it Invented and How We Can Come Back by Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum

"That Used to Be Us" is the thought-provoking and topical book about the steep economical challenges that America faces. The authors take a systematic approach on what ails America and what can be done to cure it. This 400-page book is broken out in five parts: Part I. The Diagnosis, Part II. The Education Challenge, Part. III. The War on Math and Physics, Part IV. Political Failure and Part V. Rediscovering America.

Positives:
1. Two great authors who come together to write a seamless engaging book on a very important topic.
2. As well a researched book as you will find. Great historical references.
3. Great overall approach. As an industrial engineer, it follows closely an engineering design process: define the problem, analyze the problem, generate alternative designs, evaluate the alternatives, select the preferred design and implement it. Well at least, that's how I see it.
4. As even-handed a book as you will find. The authors go out of their way to be fair, and most importantly, it works!
5. Elegant and engaging prose, full of interesting anecdotes.
6. In the first part of the book the authors provide a solid foundation on our current problems and uses China as a springboard to illustrate them.
7. The flattening of the economic playing field.
8. The four major challenges to America: how to adapt to globalization, how to adjust to information technology (IT) revolution, how to cope with deficits, and how to manage a world of both rising energy consumption and rising climate threats.
9. Great examples throughout book!
10. The Five Pillars of Prosperity: education, infrastructure, immigration, research and development, and the implementation of necessary regulations.
11. So many great facts sprinkled throughout the book. For instance, Lincoln signed the National Academy of Sciences into being on March 3, 1863.
12. Great historical presidential facts.
13. Education, education, education. The book does a wonderful job of stressing the importance of education and how America stacks up with the rest of the world. Educational indeed!
14. Love how the authors relay the recurring theme of the dichotomy between Democrats and Republicans.
15. As a technical guy, I enjoy all those references that have significance in my career. Technological history.
16. The impact of technology.
17. A look at today's job market. Very interesting. Creative creators and creative servers.
18. Carlson's Law.
19. Science literacy a topic that really hits home.
20. Once again, a great look at education. Insightful!
21. So much wisdom, "American young people have got to understand from an early age that the world pays off on results, not on effort". Agreed.
22. The importance of critical thinking.
23. An important look at the deficit! We need to shrink it to a manageable level.
24. Excellent quotations, "If you are asking the wrong questions, the answers don't matter, and increasingly we are asking the wrong questions".
25. Monetary systems.
26. The realization that we are facing three unhappy options: raise interest rates, print money to cover the deficit; or close the gap with a combination of spending cuts and tax increases.
27. The sins of Democrats and Republicans...
28. The authors demonstrate convictions of their fiscal positions. They also provide four guidelines for America to follow: seriousness, purpose of exercise, cuts across the board, and raise revenue through taxation.
29. 1979 an impactful year indeed!
30. Global warming, it's a reality people!! Great succinct comments.
31. Clean energy as the next major cutting-edge industry. And what other countries are doing.
32. Interesting facts about President Nixon.
33. Vicious food price cycle and how we can counter.
34. Did I mention the importance of education??
35. Our failing infrastructure.
36. "Only two-thirds of the engineers who receive PHD's from the United States universities are not United States citizens". Worth sharing...get the book.
37. The interesting case of California.
38. Entrepreneurial start-ups.
39. Deregulation...once a proponent of it, even I can understand the damages that resulted from lack of smart oversight.
40. Time to cut entitlements, whether we like it or not...
41. The reality that our political system is paralyzed.
42. "Special interests" and their impact. Lobbyists...
43. The realization that seventy-eight million baby boomers will cause the costs of Social security and Medicare to skyrocket. Ouch!
44. Tough decisions need to be made, sensible arguments.
45. The changes needed to regain America's greatness.
46. Situational values vs. sustainable values.
47. The armed forces as the bastions of civic idealism.
48. Great examples of small businesses that work and their challenges.
49. An amusing yet thought-provoking look at what the great French aristocrat, Alexis de Tocqueville's book "Democracy in America" would look like today.
50. A compelling case for a third party.
51. The authors leave us with hope!

Negatives:
1. Very disappointed that the book did not have a bibliography.
2. No links or even a notes section.
3. Not enough emphasis on the fact that our natural resources are limited and have a major impact on the economy.
4. Supporters from both parties will have something to complain about, which is a good thing.
5. Stats can be misleading especially when referring to other countries; references would have helped the readers look further into it.

In summary, an excellent book. The authors defined America's economical and political problems and provided compelling arguments on how to address them. The book really worked for me. As an engineer it touched upon many subjects that are near and dear to my heart. The authors did a wonderful job of laying out their premise and provided a satisfactory route to address such problems. Authors like Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum remind me why I love reading so much. You may not agree with all their strategies but you will appreciate the wisdom provided. I highly recommend this book!

Further recommendations: "The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality" by Richard Heinberg, "The Crash Course" by Chris Martenson, and "Aftershock" by Robert B. Reich.
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