Obama's Challenge: America's Economic Crisis and the Power of a Transformative Presidency

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Barack Obama approaches the Presidency at a critical moment in American history, facing simultaneous crises of war, the environment, health care, but most especially in the economy. If he is able to rise to the moment, he could join the ranks of a small handful of previous presidents who have been truly transformative, succeeding in fundamentally changing our economy, society, and democracy for the better.

But this will require imaginative and decisive action as Obama takes ...

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Overview

Barack Obama approaches the Presidency at a critical moment in American history, facing simultaneous crises of war, the environment, health care, but most especially in the economy. If he is able to rise to the moment, he could join the ranks of a small handful of previous presidents who have been truly transformative, succeeding in fundamentally changing our economy, society, and democracy for the better.

But this will require imaginative and decisive action as Obama takes office, action bolder than he has promised during his campaign, and will be all the more difficult given the undertow of conventional wisdom in Washington and on Wall Street that resists fundamental change. Decades of regressive politics and political gridlock have left America in its most precarious situation since the onset of the Great Depression. The collapse of the housing bubble continues, as does the financial meltdown it triggered; a revival of 1970s style stagflation threatens; incomes continue to lag behind inflation; our household and international debts pile higher; disastrous climate change looms; energy and food prices continue their escalation; and the ranks of un- and under-insured Americans grow as the health insurance system unravels.

Facing their own great challenges, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson rallied the American people to overcome deadlocked politics in order to achieve progressive transformations—abolishing slavery, transcending economic depression, and redeeming the promise of civil rights. In his own way, Ronald Reagan oversaw a grand shift in public attitudes and government direction. Each president used exceptional leadership to change the national mood, and then the national policy.

By appealing to what was most noble in the American spirit, these presidents energized movements for change, and in turn put pressure on themselves and on the Congress to move far beyond what was deemed conceivable. They generated accelerating momentum for far-reaching reforms that proved politically irresistible.

Solutions to our multiple challenges do exist, but they won’t be found in overly cautious or expedient quick fixes. With his exceptional skill at appealing to our better angels, Barack Obama could be the right leader at the right time to re-awaken America to the renewed promise of shared prosperity coupled with responsibility towards future generations and the international community with whom we share the Earth. Invoking America’s greatest leaders, Robert Kuttner explains how Obama must be a transformative president—or a failed one.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Bob Kuttner pulls off the all-but-impossible. He hits the high notes with artful precision, lifting expectations and articulating the steps that can make Barack Obama a great president--while setting forth a strong and highly readable call for comprehensive and essential economic change."--John Sweeney, AFL-CIO President

"Obama's Challenge is the fruit of Bob Kuttner's lifetime of engagé reporting, analysis, and advocacy... it is riveting, brilliant, and persuasive. Kuttner, in concise chapters written with great vigor and clarity, shows what the change could look like if Obama is bold enough to go for it and the gods continue to smile on him."--Hendrik Hertzberg, from his New Yorker blog

"As Kuttner convincingly argues, a President Barack Obama will have an historic opportunity to radically transform America's direction--but only if he rejects the tired centrist policies of the past and inspires his fellow citizens to forge new progressive paths. Kuttner systematically lays out the case for why Obama should give full voice to a robust progressive message at a time when the American people are suffering from years of conservative policy. Obama's Challenge is an enlightening road map for all Americans who hunger for a change in direction and priorities in America, and who hope Obama can be our leading agent of change."--Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, founder of DailyKos.com, author of Taking on the System and coauthor of Crashing the Gate

"A manifesto, forceful but fair, by a leading political economist who lays out a bold but solid program if Obama is elected. As current as the morning's newspaper, this book should be read by all activists--especially Barack Obama."--James MacGregor Burns, author of Leadership

"Robert Kuttner has incisively captured the political moment, underscored by the deepening economic crisis. Lucidly and passionately, he lays out the hurdles facing an Obama presidency and challenges him to seize the moment and achieve greatness by redeeming the promise of America."--Arianna Huffington, cofounder and editor-in-chief, The Huffington Post

Gloria Creed-Dikeogu

Library Journal Xpress Reviews-
Verdict: Kuttner's erudite book is highly recommended for readers of all political persuasions who are open to exploring viable solutions for the current U.S. economic and political crises--especially those in favor of working collectively to arrive at a solution.Background: World-renowned economist and educator Kuttner presents a realistic road map decoding the political and economic complexities facing a newly elected American president, who is attempting to keep election promises and secure widespread public support for his party and government. Kuttner offers Barack Obama, his campaign advisors, and readers a persuasive plan of action for meeting these challenges head-on, complete with a thoughtful outline and eloquent examples taken from transformational leaders like Roosevelt, Lincoln, Kennedy, and Johnson, using snippets of strategy gleaned from the past to suggest solutions for our current political and economic dilemmas.

Publishers Weekly
In the latest from Kuttner (The Squandering of America), the liberal author and commentator correctly anticipates the economic failures only recently unfolding, and proposes a bold, transformative plan he believes can only be carried out by presidential candidate Barack Obama. Following the dubious tradition of pre-election expectation-raising, Kuttner proposes a veritable wish list for liberal economists-like permanent investment in public infrastructure, energy independence, active labor market policy (good jobs at good wages), professionalization of human services work like elder- and child-care, housing subsidies, universal health insurance-and why they'll pay off in jobs, health and wealth. Estimating the cost of all these programs at $600 billion until 2010, Kuttner finds convincing reasons to hope for these changes. Comparing Obama's role to FDR and Lincoln's, Kuttner believes the Illinois senator has the ability to inspire the public, and Congress, to carry out this agenda; as timely and apt as it is, left-leaning readers may be energized, or they may be in for quite a bit of disappointment.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781603580793
  • Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing
  • Publication date: 9/15/2008
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Kuttner is the New York Times bestselling author of Obama's Challenge: America's Economic Crisis and the Power of a Transformative Presidency, is cofounder and coeditor of The American Prospect magazine, as well as a Distinguished Senior Fellow of the think tank Demos. He was a longtime columnist for BusinessWeek, and continues to write columns in the Boston Globe.

His previous and widely praised books include The Squandering of America: How the Failure of Our Politics Undermines Our Prosperity; Everything for Sale: The Virtues and Limits of Markets (about which Robert Heilbroner wrote, "I have never seen the market system better described, more intelligently appreciated, or more trenchantly criticized than in Everything for Sale"); The End of Laissez-Faire: National Purpose and the Global Economy After the Cold War; and The Economic Illusion: False Choices Between Prosperity and Social Justice.

Kuttner's magazine writing has appeared in The New York Times Magazine and Book Review, The Atlantic, The New Republic, The New Yorker, Dissent, Columbia Journalism Review, and Harvard Business Review. He has contributed major articles to The New England Journal of Medicine as a national policy correspondent. Formerly an assistant to the legendary I.F. Stone, chief investigator for the Senate Banking Committee, Washington Post staff writer, economics editor for The New Republic, and university lecturer, Kuttner's decades-long intellectual and political project has been to revive the politics and economics of harnessing capitalism to serve a broad public interest.

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Table of Contents

1. A great president or a failed one
2. How transformative presidents lead
3. Audacity versus undertow
4. Repairing a damaged economy
5. A work in progress

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