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.
"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."