Tuesdays are Ideas Day here at Taking it to the Streets
I recently read Bill Clinton’s “Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy.” It’s a good book to read any time, but particularly helpful in this election season, with the very idea of having a government under attack by a fringe element on the far right.
Regardless of one’s political persuasions, it seems to me that we are all clear that we’re in a very liminal age and that America’s role in that new age emerging is very up for grabs. Baby Boomers and our parents are aware that the world in which we came of age is really all but gone. Younger people are aware that their future seems highly uncertain, and is possibly permanently damaged by the economic meltdown we’re just barely coming emerging from.
Unemployment, while not at Great Depression levels (whoa, that must have been scary!) is the highest it’s been in the lifetimes of everyone under 70.
What then, shall we do?
Both are good books. But if you have time to read just one, you may want to read Clinton’s book in that he is far more succinct.
Like Friedman, he spends more time on the problem than the solution – in this case, the first five (of six) chapters). However, if, like me, you are a progressive/liberal/Democrat/leftist/socialist in a family of Republicans, Clinton provides very good facts, figures, graphs and talking points. It’s my opinion that the Republicans are the greatest spin-meisters known to mankind – getting poor people to vote in their worst instances, bamboozling people to think Obama has caused or added to the debt (the biggest contributors were Bush and Reagan) and otherwise obfuscating the facts to present the agenda of the Koch Brothers and other wealthy puppeteers. Clinton’s charts, graphs and statistics tell another story.
The final chapter “How Do We Get Back into the Future Business” lays out 46 specific things that can be done – most of them RIGHT NOW – to get America back to work and to restore some of what we’ve lost since the long slide began with Reagan. He groups these into some broad-based ideas:
- Get the money flowing
- Build a 21st century infrastructure
- Lead the world in green technologies (my favorite section)
- Restore our manufacturing base
- Double our exports
- Increase the role of the SBA
- Use ‘crowdsourcing’ to fund small businesses (think Kiva and the like)
- Give companies incentives to train the workers they can’t find (there ARE lots of open jobs – Americans just don’t have the needed skills)
- Provide extra incentives to hire people who have been out of work more than six months
- Give employers incentives not to lay off people in the first place
- ‘Insource’ jobs we’ve been outsourcing (I think this is starting to happen)
- Provide incentives for young people to go into so-called STEM fields (Science, technology, engineering and math) as we did in the past for doctors for rural areas
- Grant more H-1B visas to immigrants in STEM fields until we have enough Americans to fill the gap
- Bring more tourists to the US
- Promote affordable opportunities to “buy American”
- Offer a prize for ideas that promote innovation and job creation
- Replicate ‘prosperity centers’
As you can see, it’s full of ideas (46 of them!) and specifics.
The problem, though, as clearly outlined in both Clinton’s book and Friedman’s is political gridlock. And while they both have suggestions (in the problem section) on addressing that, the underlying issue (we have become a plutocracy, not a democracy) isn’t really addressed. Clinton DOES admit to being wrong in repealing Glass-Steagall, which, of course, greatly exacerbated the problem.
But asking politicians to fix Washington is asking the fox to guard the chickens – it is not in our interests to do so. That,however, is another topic.
So, I recommend this book to anyone who cares about America, cares about getting us ‘back to work’.
Have you read “Back to Work”? What’s your take?