Customer Review

Reviewed in the United States on August 28, 2008
In this hard-hitting (naming names), but profoundly human book, Robert Kuttner analyses the reasons why the US is very close to losing its democracy, not just by rigged rules and stolen elections, but by the domination of politics by big money, the decline of political participation by ordinary people and the assault on basic constitutional liberties (using foreign threats to undermine freedom at home).

Economics
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.

Finance
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.

Government policies
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.

Politics
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.
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