The Squandering of America
How the Failure of Our Politics Undermines Our Prosperity
By Robert Kuttner
(Knopf, Hardcover, 9781400040803, 352pp.)
Publication Date: November 6, 2007
List Price: $26.95*
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The incomes of most Americans today are static or declining. Tens of millions of workers are newly vulnerable to layoffs and outsourcing. Health care and retirement burdens are increasingly being shifted from employers to individuals. Two-income families find they are working longer hours for lower wages, with decreased social support. As wealth has become more concentrated, the economy has become more recklessly speculative, jeopardizing not only the prospects of ordinary Americans, but the solvency of the entire system. What links these trends, writes Robert Kuttner in this provocative, engaging, and necessary book, is the consolidation of political and economic power by a narrow elite, who blocks the ability of government to restore broad prosperity to the majority of citizens.
Kuttner—one of our most lucid economic critics—explores the roots of these problems and outlines a persuasive, bold alternative. In BusinessWeek, The Boston Globe, and The American Prospect, he has established himself as a prophetic voice connecting economics and politics. Here he demonstrates how our economy has fallen hostage to a casino of financial speculation, creating instability as well as inequality. He debunks alarmist claims about supposed economic hazards, such as Social Security and Medicare, and exposes the genuine dangers: hedge funds and private equity run amok, sub-prime lenders, Wall Street middlemen, and America’s dependence on foreign central banks. He describes how globalization of commerce has been used by business less to promote free trade than to escape the balanced regulation that delivered widespread abundance in the decades after World War II.
While our financial security has weakened under President George W. Bush, Kuttner also faults many Democrats for failing to offer compelling alternatives. Now, with financial markets in crisis and public opinion supporting a more active role for government, he offers a new model of managed capitalism that can deliver security and opportunity, and rekindle democracy as a check on concentrated wealth.
Here is a passionate, articulate naming of the problem and a call for reform. The Squandering of America sets out a path for reclaiming our democratic politics—and our prosperity.
Robert Kuttner is a founder and coeditor of The American Prospect magazine, a Boston Globe columnist, a radio and TV commentator, and a contributor to many magazines. He wrote a column for BusinessWeek for twenty years. His most recent books are Everything for Sale and The End of Laissez-Faire.