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Aftershock(Inequality for All--Movie Tie-in Edition)
     

Aftershock(Inequality for All--Movie Tie-in Edition)

3.9 125
by Robert B. Reich
 

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Updated and With a New Introduction

When the nation’s economy foundered in 2008, blame was directed almost universally at Wall Street bankers. But Robert B. Reich, one of our most experienced and trusted voices on public policy, suggests another reason for the meltdown. Our real problem, he argues, lies in the increasing concentration of income at

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Aftershock 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 127 reviews.
RobertS_PhD More than 1 year ago
AFTERSHOCK may well be the most important book written on the current economic crisis. I say this because it offers a critical insight that I have seen in very few other places: The fundamental cause of our problems is the relentless drive toward income concentration. The problem with concentrating income into the hands of a few people is that you take money from millions of people who would spend nearly all of it, and give it to a tiny number of people who can't and won't spend it -- but will instead save it, gamble with it, or invest it offshore. The end result is simply too few viable consumers to drive the economy. Reich points out that income for American middle class families has been essentially stagnant or declining for over three decades. The middle class has coped with this in three basic ways: (1) Women have entered the workforce, (2) People worked longer hours, and, of course, (3) We all relied on debt (credit cards and home equity loans) rather than income to support our consumption. Those coping methods are now exhausted, and we are left in a position where average Americans simply do not have sufficient discretionary income to support a sustainable recovery. The great American consumer class -- which was the driving force behind our prosperity in the 1950s and 1960s -- has been largely decimated. To his credit, Reich correctly identifies globalization and, especially, automation technology as primary forces behind declining middle class wages. At the same time, rather than enacting countervailing policies, the United States (beginning with Reagan) has gone in the exact opposite direction and adopted a conservative agenda that has actually accelerated the trend toward income concentration. The one shortcoming of the book is that Reich -- not being a technologist -- fails to anticipate how advancing technology is likely to dramatically worsen the situation in the relatively near future. As someone who works in this area, I can tell you that the degree of progress we are soon likely to see in automation technologies is historically unprecedented. To get a sense of what we may face in the future, I would strongly recommend that this book be read in conjunction with Aftershock: "The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future" Both books offer an eerily similar analysis of the crisis -- both concluding that the problem is a dearth of viable consumers. Both books also propose very similar solutions: direct income supplementation. Reich proposes a negative income tax (which was supported by free-market icon Milton Friedman). Anyone who wants to understand the current crisis and the danger we face in the future should read both "Aftershock" (for its emphasis on political and social implications) and "The Lights in the Tunnel" (for insight into how technology and globalization will continue to transform the economy -- and lead to an even more severe crisis, if we do not act ).
Ken_530 More than 1 year ago
I found this book delightful. It was an easy read - especially for an economics book. The most important discovery Reich makes is Marriner Eccles, who wrote a book showing how he thought through the possible causes of the Great Depression. He was a banker from Utah and became the Chairman of the Federal Reserve under FDR. Thus, in his analysis Reich is not original. His rediscovery of Eccles is a remarkable find. And his similar analysis of the current financial crisis - the concentration of wealth and income at the top - shows how close we recently came to another meltdown like that of 1929-1930. Digging out of the unemployment mess, the lack of the ability of the middle class to sustain purchasing power, and the lack of demand - underlies our 'aftershock.' Solving that problem will be incredibly difficult. Reich sets forth a list of the policy initiatives during the Great Depression and after WWII to show how we slowly got out of that crisis. Much of what we have to do now is similar. But each crisis is different and new. We can take what happened eighty years ago as a lesson and a guide, but we are going to have to think though each new step on its own terms. All this helps me to realize how little power the Fed Chair really has. If Eccles could recognize a major cause of the Great Depression but could do little to overcome it, then Alan Greenspan likely had less influence in getting us into this mess than he would like to claim. An economic and social balance has to be restored. The deal that the average person felt allowed them into the American dream has to be recreated. Otherwise, if the game is rigged in favor of the top players, the small players (that is, the middle class) withdraw and go elsewhere. The old economic game is over. It is not so much that some few were winners. The 'winners' killed the game. It has already ceased to exist. Reich is asking the question - What do we do next?
TWRtwr More than 1 year ago
This is a review not of Robert Reich's work but, rather, of the MP3 audio files you get when you purchase this book on the Barnes & Noble web site and download it. The book comes as four MP3 files and, as of 3/31/2010, all four files truncate the author's narration before the chapter is completed. Robert Reich is literally cut off mid thought. Unless you have a printed copy of the book, there is no way to know how much of the book you are missing. The file sizes and playing times of the flawed files are as follows: Part 1: 30,550 kb 65:05 Part 2: 33,660 kb 71:44 Part 3: 34,441 kb 73:24 Part 4: 28,763 kb 61:17 I contacted customer service about the problem and they said they would notify the publisher that there was a "content problem." They said it would take seven days and that I could re-download the files. They said they could not contact me to let me know when the problem was fixed. I would just have to try again after seven days, re-download the files and see whether or not they had changed. Well, it's been over a week and the files have not been updated and I guess I am left to just wait and try again repeatedly until the problem has been fixed. Obviously, I think this is a poor job by both the publisher and Barnes & Noble. So, buyer beware.
DurangoBo More than 1 year ago
Good short read. Mr. Reich hits the nail on the head in identifying some of the causes for our economic problems. His solutions are a bit off base and reflect his progresive liberal bias.
LN_Adcox More than 1 year ago
This book was well written, easily understandable by the layman and interesting to anyone unwilling to accept current economic and political rhetoric at face value. The reader is not presented and overwhelmed with complex formulas, theories or esoteric arguments. The premise of the book is that a rebalanced global economy whereby Americans save more and borrow less is not the solution to sustained economic recovery, but that what is needed is a rebalancing of the American economy so that benefits are shared more widely. Simply put, if wealth is monopolized by the few, and the earnings of the many are inadequate, an economy produces more goods and services than its people are capable of purchasing. When income is concentrated among the few, the demand for goods and services shrink. The savings of the rich are hoarded, circulated in speculation, or invested abroad. Reich makes many comparisons between the Great Depression and the Great Recession of 2008. He cites the famous economist John Maynard Keynes. During the Great Depression, Keynes declared capitalism to be the best system ever devised to achieve a civilized economic society, but he recognized two major flaws. It fails to provide full employment, and distribution of wealth and incomes is arbitrary and inequitable. This makes capitalism highly unstable and vulnerable to economic booms followed by catastrophic collapse. Government's responsibility is to correct these faults according to Keynes. On the other hand, classical economists held that markets are self-correcting. Large scale unemployment would be solved by forcing workers to experience joblessness long enough to accept lower wages. Hence Hoover economists urged against government action to combat the Great Depression. The Great Recession of 2008 was put off by coping mechanisms employed by the middle class which were eventually overwhelmed and became ineffective. Reich attributes the superficial or apparent recovery of the stock market to the bailout, but criticizes many of the abuses. He describes the unholy alliance of government, big business and the fabulously wealthy. Reich predicts a long period of high unemployment and points out that those that find jobs will most likely earn much less than they previously did. He warns of a possible backlash if a "new contract" isn't forged with the middle class providing them equitable return for their labor and offers several suggestions for doing so. However, he predicts enlightened political cooperation will occur to prevent a serious backlash. I do not embrace many of Reich's rebalancing suggestions. I do wholeheartedly support increasing taxes on the wealthiest 5% of Americans that are currently only taxed at the 15 to 20% rate as most of their wealth is categorized as capital gains. I also do not share his optimism of the likelihood of enlightened political cooperation. Instead I am left feeling resentful and somewhat duped since all politicians regardless of Democratic, Republican, "Tea Party" or other affiliation seem to be expounding the same time worn trickle down economics or simply asking us for money to defeat the incumbent. In may cases I think we are being asked by politicians to take actions (support or reject legislation or principles) that are not in the best interests of the middle class. At any rate, I highly recommend this book. Wholehearted agreement is not necessary to come away with a much better understanding of where we are and how we got here.
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Reich seems to have a grasp on the world economy and how it has effected the U.S. over the past century. His writing can be complex since the topic is such! But he explains it in a way that actually makes sense. Agree or not with his position - he understands where our economy has come from and where we might go if we don't think about all repercussions. I'd like to sit in a lecture of his sometime to learn more.
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Grammared More than 1 year ago
An Important Read Whether You Agree or Not ***** Robert B. Reich’s Aftershock has helped me understand the American economy of the past and present far more than any other article or Wiki-page that I have read before. That being said, I highly suggest spending $13 on this book to stimulate the economy… also because Reich gives genius and powerful reasons for the concentration of wealth at the top of the ladder. It’s a great start to finding an interest in the economy. Reich pulls from Eccles and Keynes, two famous economists who found their heyday in the beginning of the 20th century, and directs the book like that of history; he uses their ideas in order to describe (or prescribe with economic antibiotics, rather) the traumas of the past, present, and future. And, although he shows a humorous side quite, stereotypically, uncommon of former Secretaries under the President’s cabinet, Reich treats this book like a burning building: he goes in, masterfully releases information to the public (albeit smashing down others’ doors), and exits swiftly before it crashes on him. The book is simply short and sweet. Aftershock is divided twenty perfectly sized chapters, which, in turn, are segregated into three parts: The Broken Bargain, Backlash, and The Bargain Restored. A main theme recurring in all of his chapters is the concept of ‘the bargain.’ It insists that the United States needs to maintain combined demand so that the productive capacity of the economy does not “outrun the ability of ordinary people to buy, which would give businesses less incentive to invest” (page 31). This basic bargain, Reich seems to agree with Eccles, will give the working class a fair share in economic growth. This book is exceptionally applicable to today’s concerns, especially with media’s popular coined term and broad coverage of the “99%.” Though, it does seem too sure in its answers. With all great theorists, Reich gives good resolutions but does not run through the repercussions that might result. It only leaves the reader to decide. With that, I recommend everyone to get their hands on this book and do so for themselves.
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