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Beyond Outrage: Expanded Edition: What has gone wrong with our economy and our democracy, and how to fix it

Beyond Outrage: Expanded Edition: What has gone wrong with our economy and our democracy, and how to fix it

4.3 12
by Robert B. Reich

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America’s economy and democracy are working for the benefit of an ever-fewer privileged and powerful people. But rather than just complain about it or give up on the system, we must join together and make it work for all of us.

In this timely book, Robert B. Reich argues that nothing good happens in Washington unless citizens are energized and organized to


America’s economy and democracy are working for the benefit of an ever-fewer privileged and powerful people. But rather than just complain about it or give up on the system, we must join together and make it work for all of us.

In this timely book, Robert B. Reich argues that nothing good happens in Washington unless citizens are energized and organized to make sure Washington acts in the public good. The first step is to see the big picture. Beyond Outrage connects the dots, showing why the increasing share of income and wealth going to the top has hobbled jobs and growth for everyone else, undermining our democracy; caused Americans to become increasingly cynical about public life; and turned many Americans against one another. He also explains why the proposals of the “regressive right” are dead wrong and provides a clear roadmap of what must be done instead.

Here’s a plan for action for everyone who cares about the future of America.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Persuasively arguing that Americans haven't learned the economic lessons of the Great Depression and the stock crash of 2008, and stating that "the U.S. economy won't really bounce back until America's surge to inequality is reversed," former labor secretary Reich (Aftershock) examines how we got into this mess and offers solutions in this slim but informative study. In his view, "An economy should exist for the people who inhabit it, not the other way around," Reich writes, assailing the ramifications of Wall Street's unchecked power and the detrimental impact of the "Regressive Right," his term for conservative Republicans whose social Darwinist agenda, helped along by passivity on the part of Democrats, poses a very real threat to the nation. Reich charges Supreme Court Justices Scalia and Thomas, and Newt Gingrich with shady political dealings, while he systematically debunks various right-wing tactics, such as the benefits of lowering taxes on corporations in order to stimulate job growth. As for solutions, Reich's advice ranges from the simple (become an active citizen) to the specific, such as restoring taxes on the rich to pre-1981 levels, expanding Medicare to cover all Americans and tightening restrictions on big banks. Regardless of where readers stand on many of the polarizing concepts he addresses, Reich offers food for thought.
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Kirkus Reviews
Reich (Public Policy/Univ. of California, Berkeley; Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future, 2011, etc.) spells out what he thinks citizens need to do to ensure Washington acts on behalf of the public good, not special interests. Bill Clinton's former labor secretary reports that, due to the emails he receives, he is well aware of the electorate's mood. He believes citizens must band together "without scapegoating or cynicism" on the basis of "moral clarity and undeniable facts" if they want to succeed. Reich writes that the basic bargain--"that employers paid their workers enough to buy what employers were selling"--underlying America's post–World War II prosperity has been violated, with the result of increasing inequality and poverty. This reversal reflects a deliberate choice, which Reich attributes to "regressives," embodied by such officials as Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. They want to "return America to the 1920s--before Social Security, unemployment insurance, labor laws, the minimum wage," etc. Still others, writes the author, want to go back even further, promoting a political revival of 19th-century social Darwinism to justify shameless inequality and survival of the fittest. For Reich, the Republican Party, which disavowed social Darwinism in the 1950s, is marching backward, but the author writes that the Democrats' "stunning failure" to offer an alternative has helped regressives gain political traction. The author outlines a series of organizing initiatives intended to broaden citizen involvement at all levels of government and provides a handy list of the "Ten Biggest Lies" the regressives are using to fuel their campaign. Short and lively, this is a timely contribution to making the ongoing discussion more productive.

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Read an Excerpt

Beyond Outrage: Expanded Edition

What has gone wrong with our economy and our democracy, and how to fix it
By Robert B. Reich


Copyright © 2012 Robert B. Reich
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780345804372


I’ve written this book to give you the big picture of why and how our economy and our democracy are becoming rigged against average working people, what must be done, and what you can do about it. I’ve called it Beyond Outrage for a very specific reason. Your outrage is understandable. Moral outrage is the prerequisite of social change. But you also need to move beyond outrage and take action. The regressive forces seeking to move our nation backward must not be allowed to triumph.

I have been involved in public life, off and on, for more than forty years. I’ve served under three presidents. When not in office, I’ve done my share of organizing and rabble-­rousing, along with teaching, speaking, and writing about what I know and what I believe. I have never been as concerned as I am now about the future of our democracy, the corrupting effects of big money in our politics, the stridency and demagoguery of the regressive right, and the accumulation of wealth and power at the very top. We are perilously close to losing an economy and a democracy that are meant to work for everyone and to replacing them with an ­economy and a government that will exist mainly for a few wealthy and powerful people.

This book is meant to help you focus on what needs to be done and how you can contribute, and to encourage you not to feel bound by what you think is politically possible this year or next. You need to understand why the stakes are so high and why your participation—­now and in the future—­is so important. I’ve tried to array concepts and arguments in a way that you’ll find helpful. All the facts I’ve cited are from government reports unless otherwise indicated.

In my experience, nothing good happens in Washington unless good people outside Washington become mobilized, organized, and energized to make it happen. Nothing worth changing in America will actually change unless you and others like you are committed to achieving that change.

Connecting the Dots

The first thing you need to do is connect the dots and understand how many troubling but seemingly unrelated things are interwoven. The challenge we face is systemic. The fundamentals of our economy are out of whack, which has distorted our democracy, and these distortions, in turn, are making it harder to fix the economic fundamentals. Later in the book we’ll examine several of these dots in detail, but now I’d like you to see the big picture.

The first dot: For three decades almost all the gains from economic growth have gone to the top. In the 1960s and 1970s, the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans got 9–­10 percent of our total income. By 2007, just before the Great Recession, that share had more than doubled, to 23.5 percent. Over the same period the wealthiest one-­tenth of 1 percent tripled its share. We haven’t experienced this degree of concentrated wealth since the Gilded Age of the late nineteenth century. The 400 richest Americans now have more wealth than the entire bottom half of earners—­150 million Americans—­put together. Meanwhile, over the last three decades the wages of the typical worker have stagnated, averaging only about $280 more a year than thirty years ago, adjusted for inflation. That’s less than a 1 percent gain over more than a third of a century. Since 2001, the median wage has actually dropped.

This connects to . . .

The second dot: The Great Recession was followed by an anemic recovery. Because so much income and wealth have gone to the top, America’s vast middle class no longer has the purchasing power to keep the economy going—­not, at least, without going deeper and deeper into debt. But debt bubbles burst. The burst of 2008 ushered in a terrible recession—­the worst economic calamity to hit this country since the Great Depression of the 1930s—­as middle-­class consumers had to sharply reduce their spending and as businesses, faced with declining sales, had to lay off millions. We bottomed out, but the so-­called recovery has been one of the most anemic on record. That’s because the middle class still lacks the purchasing power to keep the economy going and can no longer rely on borrowing.

While at the same time . . .

The third dot: Political power flows to the top. As income and wealth have risen to the top, so has political clout. Obviously, not everyone who’s rich is intentionally corrupting our democracy. For those so inclined, however, the process is subtle and lethal. In order to be elected or reelected, politicians rely greatly on advertising, whose costs have risen as campaign spending escalates. They find the money where more and more of the money is located—­with CEOs and other top executives of big corporations and with traders and fund managers on Wall Street. A Supreme Court dominated by conservative jurists has opened the floodgates to unlimited amounts of money flowing into political campaigns. The wealth of the super-­rich also works its way into politics through the corporations they run or own, which employ legions of lobbyists and public relations experts. And their wealth buys direct access to elected officials in informal dinners, rounds of golf, overnight stays in the Lincoln Bedroom, and fancy boondoggles.

Which connects to . . .

The fourth dot: Corporations and the very rich get to pay lower taxes, receive more corporate welfare, and are bound by fewer regulations. Money paid to politicians doesn’t enrich them directly; that would be illegal. Rather, it makes politicians dependent on their patrons in order to be reelected. So when top corporate executives or Wall Street traders and managers want something from politicians they have backed, those politicians are likely to respond positively. What these patrons want most are lower taxes for themselves and their businesses. They also want subsidies, bailouts, government contracts, loan guarantees, and other forms of corporate welfare, and fewer regulations. The tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003—­and extended for two years in 2010—­in 2011 saved the richest 1.4 million taxpayers (the top 1 percent) more money than the rest of America’s 140,890,000 taxpayers received in total income.

Leading to . . .

The fifth dot: Government budgets are squeezed. With so much of the nation’s income and wealth at the top, tax rates on top earners and corporations dropping, and most workers’ wages stalling or declining, tax revenues at all levels of government have fallen precipitously. This has led to a major squeeze on public budgets at all levels of government. The result has been deteriorating schools, less college aid, crowded and pockmarked highways, unsafe bridges, antiquated public transportation, unkempt parks, fewer police officers, fewer social workers, and the decline of almost everything else the broader public relies on.

Which connects to . . .

The sixth dot: Average Americans are competing with one another for slices of a shrinking pie. There is now more intense competition for a dwindling number of jobs, a smaller share of total income, and ever more limited public services. Native-­born Americans are threatened by new immigrants; private sector workers are resentful of public employees; ­non-unionized workers are threatened by the unionized; middle-­class Americans are competing with the poor. Rather than feel that we’re all in it together, we increasingly have the sense that each of us is on his or her own.

Which leads, finally, to . . .

The seventh dot: A meaner and more cynical politics prevails. Because of all these occurrences, our politics has become ­nastier, more polarized, and increasingly paralyzed. Compromise is more difficult. Elections are more venomous, political advertising increasingly negative. Angry voters are more willing to support candidates who vilify their opponents and find easy scapegoats. Talking heads have become shouting heads. Many Americans have grown cynical about our collective ability to solve our problems. And that cynicism has become a self-­fulfilling prophecy, as nothing gets solved.

Connect these dots and you understand why we’ve come to where we are. We’re in a vicious cycle. Our economy and our democracy depend on it being reversed. The well-­being of your children and grandchildren requires it.

In Part One, I describe how the game is becoming rigged against average working people and in favor of wealthy plutocrats and large corporations. In Part Two, I explain the rise of the regressive right, a movement designed not to conserve what we have but to take America backward toward the social Darwinist ideas that prevailed in the late nineteenth century. In Part Three, I suggest what you can do to reverse this perilous course.


Excerpted from Beyond Outrage: Expanded Edition by Robert B. Reich Copyright © 2012 by Robert B. Reich. Excerpted by permission of Vintage, a division of Random House, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the Richard and Rhoda Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton, and he served as an adviser to President-elect Barack Obama. He has written twelve books, including The Work of Nations (which has been translated into twenty-two languages), Supercapitalism, and the best sellers The Next American Frontier, The Future of Success, Locked in the Cabinet, and, most recently, Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future. His articles have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Times, the Financial Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. He is co-founding editor of The American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause. His bi-weekly commentaries on public radio’s Marketplace are heard by nearly five million people. In 2003, Reich was awarded the prestigious Václav Havel Foundation Prize for pioneering work in economic and social thought. In 2008, Time magazine named him one of the ten most successful cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century, and The Wall Street Journal named him one of the nation’s ten most influential business thought-leaders.

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Beyond Outrage: Expanded Edition: What has gone wrong with our economy and our democracy, and how to fix it 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Robert Reich writes a compelling, measured estimation of the current state of US society in this fast-reading, well-documented policy position paper. Never shrill, he lets the facts speak for themselves. At the same time, he deftly deconstructs the fundamental mistaken premises guarded by well-known fallacy gatekeepers from Fox News to Newt Gengrich. He even traces the latest Republican policy positions to a surprising advocate: Herbert Hoover. This book offers those on the left a clear and concise explanation and reasoning for Progressive ideas and ideals. For those on the right, this book is an absolute must-read to clearly understand a true progressive's perspective of the issues facing our society; it's policy premises are based on facts, not vitriol, and deserves a fair, open-minded read.
TellTheTruth More than 1 year ago
The use of Anonymous is more and more disgusting. The Tea Party and GOP can put in a dozen praising or attacking a book to set its rating. Robert Reich is a brilliant writer who deserves 5 stars for his insight into our economy and those who would turn it await from the people.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Reasoned analysis of America's economic issues as relevant today as when it was written
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