That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back [NOOK Book]

Overview

America is in trouble. We face four major challenges on which our future depends, and we are failing to meet them—and if we delay any longer, soon it will be too late for us to pass along the American dream to future generations.
       In That Used to Be Us, Thomas L. Friedman, one of our most influential columnists, and Michael Mandelbaum, one of our leading foreign policy thinkers, offer both a wake-up call and a call to collective action. They ...

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That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back

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Overview

America is in trouble. We face four major challenges on which our future depends, and we are failing to meet them—and if we delay any longer, soon it will be too late for us to pass along the American dream to future generations.
       In That Used to Be Us, Thomas L. Friedman, one of our most influential columnists, and Michael Mandelbaum, one of our leading foreign policy thinkers, offer both a wake-up call and a call to collective action. They analyze the four challenges we face—globalization, the revolution in information technology, the nation’s chronic deficits, and our pattern of excessive energy consumption—and spell out what we need to do now to sustain the American dream and preserve American power in the world. They explain how the end of the Cold War blinded the nation to the need to address these issues seriously, and how China’s educational successes, industrial might, and technological prowess remind us of the ways in which “that used to be us.” They explain how the paralysis of our political system and the erosion of key American values have made it impossible for us to carry out the policies the country urgently needs.
       And yet Friedman and Mandelbaum believe that the recovery of American greatness is within reach. They show how America’s history, when properly understood, offers a five-part formula for prosperity that will enable us to cope successfully with the challenges we face. They offer vivid profiles of individuals who have not lost sight of the American habits of bold thought and dramatic action. They propose a clear way out of the trap into which the country has fallen, a way that includes the rediscovery of some of our most vital traditions and the creation of a new thirdparty movement to galvanize the country.
       That Used to Be Us is both a searching exploration of the American condition today and a rousing manifesto for American renewal.


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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

According to the co-authors of this book, four major challenges confront America: globalization, the nation's chronic deficits, information technology advances, and intensifying problems in energy consumption. Fortunately, influential New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman and foreign policy expert Michael Mandelbaum don't just offer a diagnosis; they prescribe treatments. This thoughtful, readable analysis of our present situation describes how political factionalism and mindless hedonism have undermined our ability to respond to crises that will loom ever more ominously in the coming decades. Certain to be prominently reviewed.

Walter Russell Mead
…a thoughtful and balanced corrective to critics on the left who believe that our present economic troubles demonstrate the fundamental failure of the liberal democratic capitalist ideas on which American society is built, and the critics on the right who believe that only a return to 19th-century small government policies can save us…Few readers will agree with every observation and argument in this thoroughly researched and passionately argued book, but all of them should find That Used to Be Us compelling, engaging and enlightening.
—The New York Times
David Frum
…a book that is at once enlightened and enlightening. Friedman—not that you need me to tell you this—is a very good reporter…The partnership with Mandelbaum has been fruitful, curbing Friedman's notorious verbal excesses and stiffening the book with extra analytic rigor
—The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly
Reflecting on America's past greatness and its slipping position among global powers, Pulitzer-Prize winning New York Times columnist Friedman (The World is Flat) and foreign policy expert Mandelbaum (The Frugal Superpower) warn against the United States' "dangerous complacency" in the face of increasingly complex global challenges. They repeat a question first posed by Bill Gates ("What was all that good stuff we had that other people copied?") and prescribe a set of sensible government practices for prosperity: invest in public education and infrastructure, foster immigration and scientific research, and set up effective financial regulation. The rapid upheaval of the Arab Spring exemplifies the dynamism of today's intertwined world ("Flat World 2.0"), where ideas and innovation—not goods or skills—are an individual or country's top economic commodities. American workers must approach the global marketplace with creativity in order to remain globally competitive. To that end, they also support reigning in the national debt and committing to the use of alternative energy sources. Broad ranging in its anecdotes and research, conversational (if pedantic) in its tone, and hopeful in its patriotism, they look the challenges of the 21st century squarely in the eye. (Sept.)
From the Publisher

“[In That Used to Be Us there] are big truths, and the authors see them clearly and whole. As is usual in Mr. Friedman’s work the power of the core argument is buttressed by detailed reportage and blizzards of specific fact and detail, but the accumulation of anecdote and evidence never detracts from the book’s central thrust. That Used to Be Us is an important contribution to an intensifying debate, and it deserves the widest possible attention.” —Walter Russell Mead, The New York Times

“Friedman and Mandelbaum are men of the American elite, and they write to salute those members of the American elite who behave public-spiritedly and to scourge those who do not. They are winners, writing to urge other winners to have more of a care for their fellow citizens who are not winners. And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that! . . . American society has had a big serving of that ugly anti-elitist spirit in the recent past. It could use more of the generous responsible spirit Friedman and Mandelbaum recommend.” —David Frum, The New York Times Book Review

“[An] important and eminently readable book…” —Stanley Hoffmann, The New York Review of Books

“This is a book of exceptional importance, written on a sweeping scale with remarkable clarity by two of our most gifted thinkers. A soon-to-be best seller, it should be read by policymakers and every American concerned about our country's future.” —Elizabeth L. Winter, Library Journal

Library Journal
Globalization. Infotech shake-up. Out-of-control energy consumption. Lasting deficits. The four big problems we're not grappling with, according to three-time Pulitzer Prize winner Friedman (The World Is Flat) and Mandelbaum, director of the American Foreign Policy program at Johns Hopkins. Here they analyze the problems and offer some solutions, including the revival of our core values (okay, vague) and establishment of a third party. Sure to grab attention, given Friedman's rep, and get the debate going.
Kirkus Reviews

A comprehensive but unoriginal look at the challenges America faces in 2011 and beyond.

New York Timescolumnist Friedman (Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution—and How It Can Save America, 2008, etc.) and Mandelbaum (American Foreign Policy/Johns Hopkins Univ.; The Frugal Superpower: America's Global Leadership in a Cash-Strapped Era, 2010, etc.) join forces to explain why they believe America's glory days are waning and what Americans should do to reverse the downward slide. The authors suggest that America's problems should be addressed through "stick-to-itiveness," political compromise and a renewed sense of national purpose. Americans must admit that global warming exists, impose saner environmental regulations, reform the immigration policy, demand more from teachers, principals and schools, lower government spending and break the addiction to oil. None of these recommendations are new, and all have been argued more cogently elsewhere. (For more incisive discussions of climate change, see Bill McKibben's Eaarth. Regarding oil, see Amanda Little's Power Trip.) Friedman and Mandelbaum's solutions to America's difficulties take the form of motivational slogans littered with clichés, and they delight in relating inspirational tales of average Americans who accomplished great things by being "just too dumb to quit." More than once, they write that Americans must be prepared to do "something big and hard together," to become "creative creators." The urgency of deficit reduction places "the future of the country" in our hands, "as it was for the GIs on the beaches of Normandy." High-skilled immigrants are "brainy risk takers;" low-skilled immigrants are "the brawny ones" (America needs both). Friedman and Mandelbaum are clearly attempting to make complicated concepts accessible to a general audience. However, in relying on Friedman's trademark blend of condescension, clumsy analogies and uninspiring centrism, they fail to break any new ground.

While the challenges described in the book are serious indeed, and most readers will agree with much of what the authors explore, the narrative execution is lacking. Disappointing.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781429995115
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 9/5/2011
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 84,476
  • File size: 873 KB

Meet the Author

Thomas L. Friedman

Thomas L. Friedman is an internationally renowned author, reporter, and columnist—the recipient of three Pulitzer Prizes and the author of five bestselling books, among them From Beirut to Jerusalem and The World Is Flat.
 
He was born in Minneapolis in 1953, and grew up in the middle-class Minneapolis suburb of St. Louis Park. He graduated from Brandeis University in 1975 with a degree in Mediterranean studies, attended St. Antony's College, Oxford, on a Marshall Scholarship, and received an M.Phil. degree in modern Middle East studies from Oxford.
 
After three years with United Press International, he joined The New York Times, where he has worked ever since as a reporter, correspondent, bureau chief, and columnist. At the Times, he has won three Pulitzer Prizes: in 1983 for international reporting (from Lebanon), in 1988 for international reporting (from Israel), and in 2002 for his columns after the September 11th attacks. 
 
Friedman’s first book, From Beirut to Jerusalem, won the National Book Award in 1989. His second book, The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization (1999), won the Overseas Press Club Award for best book on foreign policy in 2000. In 2002 FSG published a collection of his Pulitzer Prize-winning columns, along with a diary he kept after 9/11, as Longitudes and Attitudes: Exploring the World After September 11. His fourth book, The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century (2005) became a #1 New York Times bestseller and received the inaugural Financial Times/Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award in November 2005. A revised and expanded edition was published in hardcover in 2006 and in 2007. The World Is Flat has sold more than 4 million copies in thirty-seven languages. 
 
In 2008 he brought out Hot, Flat, and Crowded, which was published in a revised edition a year later. His sixth book, That Used to Be Us: How American Fell Behind in the World We Invented and How We Can Come Back, co-written with Michael Mandelbaum, will be published in September 2011.
 

Michael Mandelbaum, the Christian A. Herter Professor and Director of American Foreign Policy at The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, is the author or coauthor of twelve books, including The Ideas That Conquered the World.

Biography

When September 11 drastically reshifted America's focus and priorities, Thomas L. Friedman was the author readers turned to as a guide to the dynamics of the Middle East. In a mediascape crowded with pundits, the New York Times foreign affairs columnist and author has emerged as the preeminent commentator in his field, informed by his 20-plus years as a journalist covering the rapidly shifting politics in the region.

The title of his first book, From Beirut to Jerusalem, describes his trajectory as New York Times bureau chief in both cities in the '80s. He interrupted his journalism career in 1988 when the Guggenheim Foundation awarded him a fellowship to write a book about his experiences. The result was a personal narrative that described not only his harrowing experiences in Lebanon and Israel but also contained exposition about the roots of his interest in the Middle East, a visit to Israel that burgeoned into a full-blown obsession. Friedman himself put it best, in the book's prelude: "It is a strange, funny, sometimes violent, and always unpredictable road, this road from Beirut to Jerusalem, and in many ways, I have been traveling it all my adult life." From Beirut to Jerusalem won the National Book Award and spent a year on the Times bestseller list.

This road analogy is one of several Friedman will make over the course of a column or book. He reduces the intimidation factor of complex subjects by offering ample (but not copious) background, plain but intelligent language, and occasional humor. On Iraq's history before Saddam: "Romper Room it was not." On globalization: "If [it] were a sport, it would be the 100-meter dash, over and over and over. And no matter how many times you win, you have to race again the next day."

Friedman again offered complex concepts in appealingly dramatic terms in 1989's The Lexus and the Olive Tree, his distillation of the new global economy. He sets up the contrast between the old, Cold War system ("sumo wrestling") and the new globalization system (the 100-meter dash). Another part of why Friedman can be so readable is that he sometimes makes it seem as if his life is one big kaffeeklatsch with the scholars and decision makers of the world. In a chapter from The Lexus and the Olive Tree, he mentions a comment made by a friend who is also "the leading political columnist in Jordan." The day after seeing this friend, Friedman writes, "I happen to go to Israel and meet with Jacob Frenkel, then governor of Israel's Central Bank and a University of Chicago-trained economist." Thus another illustrative point is made. Friedman frames the world not just as he sees it, but also includes the perspective of the many citizens he has made it a point to include in the dialogue.

In 2002, Friedman won a third Pulitzer for his writing in the New York Times, and the demand for his perspicacity post-September 11 makes the release of Longitudes and Attitudes: Exploring the World After September 11 almost a foregone conclusion. Breaking the book into before, during, and after, Friedman presents what he calls a "word album" of America's response to the tragedy. It is undeniably a changed world, and Friedman is undeniably the man to help readers make sense of it.

Good To Know

Friedman lives with his wife Ann and daughters Orly and Natalie in Bethesda, Maryland, a suburb of Washington.

In high school, Friedman became "insufferable" in his obsession with Israel, he says. He wrote in From Beirut to Jersualem: "When the Syrians arrested thirteen Jews in Damascus, I wore a button for weeks that said Free the Damascus 13, which most of my high-school classmates thought referred to an underground offshoot of the Chicago 7. I recall my mother saying to me gently, 'Is that really necessary?' when I put the button on one Sunday morning to wear to our country-club brunch."

As the chief diplomatic correspondent for the New York Times from 1989 to 1992, Friedman logged some 500,000 miles following Secretary of State James Baker and chronicling the end of the Cold War.

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    1. Hometown:
      Washington, D.C. area
    1. Date of Birth:
      July 20, 1953
    2. Place of Birth:
      Minneapolis, Minnesota
    1. Education:
      B.A. in Mediterranean Studies, Brandeis University, 1975; M.A. in Modern Middle East Studies, Oxford University, 1978
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

THAT USED TO BE US

How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back
By Thomas L. Friedman Michael Mandelbaum

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC

Copyright © 2011 Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-374-28890-7


Preface

Growing Up in America

A reader might ask why two people who have devoted their careers to writing about foreign affairs—one of us as a foreign correspondent and columnist at The New York Times and the other as a professor of American foreign policy at The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies—have collaborated on a book about the American condition today. The answer is simple. We have been friends for more than twenty years, and in that time hardly a week has gone by without our discussing some aspect of international relations and American foreign policy. But in the last couple of years, we started to notice something: Every conversation would begin with foreign policy but end with domestic policy—what was happening, or not happening, in the United States. Try as we might to redirect them, the conversations kept coming back to America and our seeming inability today to rise to our greatest challenges.

This situation, of course, has enormous foreign policy implications. America plays a huge and, more often than not, constructive role in the world today. But that role depends on the country's social, political, and economic health. And America today is not healthy—economically or politically. This book is our effort to explain how we got into that state and how we get out of it.

We beg the reader's indulgence with one style issue. At times, we include stories, anecdotes, and interviews that involve only one of us. To make clear who is involved, we must, in effect, quote ourselves: "As Tom recalled ..." "As Michael wrote ..." You can't simply say "I said" or "I saw" when you have a co-authored book with a lot of reporting in it.

Readers familiar with our work know its mainly as authors and commentators, but we are also both, well, Americans. That is important, because that identity drives the book as much as our policy interests do. So here are just a few words of introduction from each of us—not as experts but as citizens.

Tom: I was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and was raised in a small suburb called St. Louis Park-made famous by the brothers Ethan and Joel Coen in their movie A Serious Man, which was set in our neighborhood. Senator Al Franken, the Coen brothers, the Harvard political philosopher Michael J. Sandel, the political scientist Norman Ornstein, the longtime NFL football coach Marc Trestman, and I all grew up in and around that little suburb within a few years of one another, and it surely had a big impact on all of its. In my case, it bred a deep optimism about America and the notion that we really can act collectively for the common good.

In 1971, the year I graduated from high school, Time magazine had a cover featuring then Minnesota governor Wendell Anderson holding up a fish he had just caught, under the headline "The Good Life in Minnesota." It was all about "the state that works." When the senators from your childhood were the Democrats Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale, and Eugene McCarthy, your congressmen were the moderate Republicans Clark MacGregor and Bill Frenzel, and the leading corporations in your state—Dayton's, Target, General Mills, and 3M—were pioneers in corporate social responsibility and believed that it was part of their mission to help build things like the Tyrone Guthrie Theater, you wound up with a deep conviction that politics really can work and that there is a viable political center in American life.

I attended public school with the same group of kids from K through 12. In those days in Minnesota, private schools were for kids in trouble. Private school was pretty much unheard of for middle-class St. Louis Park kids, and pretty much everyone was middle-class. My mom enlisted in the U.S. Navy in World War II, and my parents actually bought our home thanks to the loan she got through the GI Bill. My dad, who never went to college, was vice president of a company that sold ball bearings. My wife, Ann Bucksbaum, was born in Marshalltown, Iowa, and was raised in Des Moines. To this day, my best friends are still those kids I grew up with in St. Louis Park, and I still carry around a mental image—no doubt idealized—of Minnesota that anchors and informs a lot of my political choices. No matter where I go—London, Beirut, Jerusalem, Washington, Beijing, or Bangalore—I'm always looking to rediscover that land of ten thousand lakes where politics actually worked to make people's lives better, not pull them apart. That used to be us. In fact, it used to be my neighborhood.

Michael: While Tom and his wife come from the middle of the country, my wife, Anne Mandelbaum, and I grew up on the two coasts—she in Manhattan and I in Berkeley, California. My father was a professor of anthropology at the University of California, and my mother, after my two siblings and I reached high school age, became a public school teacher and then joined the education faculty at the university that we called, simply, Cal.

Although Berkeley has a reputation for political radicalism, during my childhood in the 1950s it had more in common with Tom's Minneapolis than with the Berkeley the world has come to know. It was more a slice of Middle America than a hotbed of revolution. As amazing as it may seem today, for part of my boyhood it had a Republican mayor and was represented by a Republican congressman.

One episode from those years is particularly relevant to this book. It occurred in the wake of the Soviet Union's 1957 launching of Sputnik, the first Earth-orbiting satellite. The event was a shock to the United States, and the shock waves reached Garfield Junior High School (since renamed after Martin Luther King Jr.), where I was in seventh grade. The entire student body was summoned to an assembly at which the principal solemnly informed us that in the future we all would have to study harder, and that mathematics and science would be crucial.

Given my parents' commitment to education, I did not need to be told that school and studying were important. But I was impressed by the gravity of the moment. I understood that the United States faced a national challenge and that everyone would have to contribute to meeting it. I did not doubt that America, and Americans, would meet it. There is no going back to the 1950s, and there are many reasons to be glad that that is so, but the kind of seriousness the country was capable of then is just as necessary now.

We now live and work in the nation's capital, where we have seen firsthand the government's failure to come to terms with the major challenges the country faces. But although this book's perspective on the present is gloomy, its hopes and expectations for the future are high. We know that America can meet its challenges. After all, that's the America where we grew up.

Thomas L. Friedman Michael Mandelbaum Bethesda, Maryland, June 2011

Chapter One

If You See Something, Say Something

This is a book about America that begins in China.

In September 2010, Tom attended the World Economic Forum's summer conference in Tianjin, China. Five years earlier, getting to Tianjin had involved a three-and-a-half-hour car ride from Beijing to a polluted, crowded Chinese version of Detroit, but things had changed. Now, to get to Tianjin, you head to the Beijing South Railway Station—an ultramodern flying saucer of a building with glass walls and an oval roof covered with 3,246 solar panels—buy a ticket from an electronic kiosk offering choices in Chinese and English, and board a world-class high-speed train that goes right to another roomy, modern train station in downtown Tianjin. Said to be the fastest in the world when it began operating in 2008, the Chinese bullet train covers 115 kilometers, or 72 miles, in a mere twenty-nine minutes.

The conference itself took place at the Tianjin Meijiang Convention and Exhibition Center—a massive, beautifully appointed structure, the like of which exists in few American cities. As if the convention center wasn't impressive enough, the conference's co-sponsors in Tianjin gave some facts and figures about it (www.tj-summerdavos.cn). They noted that it contained a total floor area of 230,000 square meters (almost 2.5 million square feet) and that "construction of the Meijiang Convention Center started on September 15, 2009, and was completed in May, 2010." Reading that line, Tom started counting on his fingers: Let's see—September, October, November, December, January ...

Eight months.

Returning home to Maryland from that trip, Tom was describing the Tianjin complex and how quickly it was built to Michael and his wife, Anne. At one point Anne asked: "Excuse me, Tom. Have you been to our subway stop lately?" We all live in Bethesda and often use the Washington Metrorail subway to get to work in downtown Washington, D.C. Tom had just been at the Bethesda station and knew exactly what Anne was talking about: The two short escalators had been under repair for nearly six months. While the one being fixed was closed, the other had to be shut off and converted into a two-way staircase. At rush hour, this was creating a huge mess. Everyone trying to get on or off the platform had to squeeze single file up and down one frozen escalator. It sometimes took ten minutes just to get out of the station. A sign on the closed escalator said that its repairs were part of a massive escalator "modernization" project.

What was taking this "modernization" project so long? We investigated. Cathy Asato, a spokeswoman for the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority, had told the Maryland Community News (October 20, 2010) that "the repairs were scheduled to take about six months and are on schedule. Mechanics need 10 to 12 weeks to fix each escalator."

A simple comparison made a startling point: It took China's Teda Construction Group thirty-two weeks to build a world-class convention center from the ground up—including giant escalators in every corner—and it was taking the Washington Metro crew twenty-four weeks to repair two tiny escalators of twenty-one steps each. We searched a little further and found that WTOP, a local news radio station, had interviewed the Metro interim general manager, Richard Sarles, on July 20, 2010. Sure, these escalators are old, he said, but "they have not been kept in a state of good repair. We're behind the curve on that, so we have to catch up ... Just last week, smoke began pouring out of the escalators at the Dupont Circle station during rush hour."

On November 14, 2010, The Washington Post ran a letter to the editor from Mark Thompson of Kensington, Maryland, who wrote:

I have noted with interest your reporting on the $225,000 study that Metro hired Vertical Transportation Excellence to conduct into the sorry state of the system's escalators and elevators ... I am sure that the study has merit. But as someone who has ridden Metro for more than 30 years, I can think of an easier way to assess the health of the escalators. For decades they ran silently and efficiently. But over the past several years-when the escalators are running-aging or ill-fitting parts have generated horrific noises that sound to me like a Tyrannosaurus Rex trapped in a tar pit screeching its dying screams.

The quote we found most disturbing, though, came from a Maryland Community News story about the long lines at rush hour caused by the seemingly endless Metro repairs: "'My impression, standing on line there, is people have sort of gotten used to it,' said Benjamin Ross, who lives in Bethesda and commutes every day from the downtown station."

The National Watercooler

People have sort of gotten used to it. Indeed, that sense of resignation, that sense that, well, this is just how things are in America today, that sense that America's best days are behind it and China's best days are ahead of it, have become the subject of watercooler, dinner-party, grocery-line, and classroom conversations all across America today. We hear the doubts from children, who haven't been to China. Tom took part in the September 2010 Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI) meeting in San Jose, California. As part of the program, there was a "School of the Future Design Competition," which called for junior high school students to design their own ideal green school. He met with the finalists on the last morning of the convention, and they talked about global trends. At one point, Tom asked them what they thought about China. A young blond-haired junior high school student, Isabelle Foster, from Old Lyme Middle School in Connecticut, remarked, "It seems like they have more ambition and will than we do." Tom asked her, "Where did you get that thought?" She couldn't really explain it, she said. She had never visited China. But it was just how she felt. It's in the air.

We heard the doubts about America from Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, in his angry reaction after the National Football League postponed for two days a game scheduled in Philadelphia between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Minnesota Vikings-because of a severe snowstorm. The NFL ordered the games postponed because it didn't want fans driving on icy, snow-covered roads. But Rendell saw it as an indicator of something more troubling-that Americans had gone soft. "It goes against everything that football is all about," Rendell said in an interview with the sports radio station 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia (December 27, 2010). "We've become a nation of wusses. The Chinese are kicking our butt in everything. If this was in China, do you think the Chinese would have called off the game? People would have been marching down to the stadium, they would have walked, and they would have been doing calculus on the way down."

We read the doubts in letters to the editor, such as this impassioned post by Eric R. on The New York Times comments page under a column Tom wrote about China (December 1, 2010):

We are nearly complete in our evolution from Lewis and Clark into Elmer Fudd and Yosemite Sam. We used to embrace challenges, endure privation, throttle our fear and strike out into the (unknown) wilderness. In this mode we rallied to span the continent with railroads, construct a national highway system, defeated monstrous dictators, cured polio and landed men on the moon. Now we text and put on makeup as we drive, spend more on video games than books, forswear exercise, demonize hunting, and are rapidly succumbing to obesity and diabetes. So much for the pioneering spirit that made its (once) the greatest nation on earth, one that others looked up to and called "exceptional."

Sometimes the doubts hit its where we least expect them. A few weeks after returning from China, Tom went to the White House to conduct an interview. He passed through the Secret Service checkpoint on Pennsylvania Avenue, and after putting his bags through the X-ray machine and collecting them, he grabbed the metal door handle to enter the White House driveway. The handle came off in his hand. "Oh, it does that sometimes," the Secret Service agent at the door said nonchalantly, as Tom tried to fit the wobbly handle back into the socket.

And often now we hear those doubts from visitors here-as when a neighbor in Bethesda mentions that over the years he has hired several young women from Germany to help with his child care, and they always remark on two things: how many squirrels there are in Washington, and how rutted the streets are. They just can't believe that America's capital would have such potholed streets.

Frustrated Optimists

So, do we buy the idea, increasingly popular in some circles, that Britain owned the nineteenth century, America dominated the twentieth century, and China will inevitably reign supreme in the twenty-first century-and that all you have to do is fly from Tianjin or Shanghai to Washington, D.C., and take the subway to know that?

Excerpted from THAT USED TO BE US: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back by Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum, published in September 2011 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. Copyright © 2011 by Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum. All rights reserved.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from THAT USED TO BE US by Thomas L. Friedman Michael Mandelbaum Copyright © 2011 by Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. 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.

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Table of Contents

Preface: Growing up in America 11

Part I The Diagnosis

1 If You See Something, Say Something 19

2 Ignoring Our Problems 38

3 Ignoring Our History 77

Part II The Education Challenge

4 Up in the Air 113

5 Help Wanted 167

6 Homework × 2 = The American Dream 202

7 Average Is Over 268

Part III The War on Math and Physics

8 "This Is Our Due" 309

9 The War on Math (and the Future) 317

10 The War on Physics and Other Good Things 361

Part IV Political Failure

11 The Terrible Twos 417

12 "Whatever It Is, I'm Against It" 469

13 Devaluation 534

Part V Rediscovering America

14 They Just Didn't Get the Word 571

15 Shock Therapy 626

16 Rediscovering America 668

Acknowledgments 687

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Reading Group Guide

“It makes no sense for China to have better rail systems than us, and Singapore having better airports than us. And we just learned that China now has the fastest supercomputer on Earth—that used to be us.” —President Barack Obama, November 3, 2010

From the skyrocketing federal deficit to plummeting rankings in education, America faces a turbulent future. How did we get to this point? What will it take to make our nation a beacon of innovation and prosperity once again? In That Used to Be Us, Thomas L. Friedman, one of our most influential columnists, and Michael Mandelbaum, one of our leading foreign policy thinkers, provide a searching, clear-eyed assessment of the situation, with bold solutions for getting the country back on track. Drawing on in-depth analysis from around the globe, their approach balances evidence from a variety of viewpoints, including the political, entrepreneurial, scientific, and technological sectors. Despite America’s woes, the authors argue, our nation’s ideals remain strong—strong enough to propel us to a new era of reinvention.

A wake-up call for every American, That Used to Be Us raises the most important questions of our time. We hope this guide will enrich your discussion of Friedman and Mandelbaum’s inspiring action plan.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 66 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 12, 2011

    Boycott Tom Friedman!

    Tom Friedman was one of the great proponents of globalization and "making the world smaller." Now that globalization and hyper-capitalism has led to the collapse of the West, Mr. Friedman wants to feed us a load of crap about how we can once again recapture the business, industry and virtues that we sold cheaply for our mass consumption service economy. Mr. Friedman can join the Republicans and Democrats and bite me.

    11 out of 30 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2011

    Thought Provoking, Intelligent Read

    The hardest part of reading this book was setting aside preconceived notions in order to fairly analyze what Friedman and Mandelbaum clearly lay out. The authors stick fairly close to centrist ideas though some political leanings come through in their choice of examples and descriptions. While the presentation of problems and solutions are the opinions of the authors, they come across in an honest, credible manner. Whether you agree or disagree with the content, there is no doubt this book is thought provoking and intellectually challenging especially if you are worried about the future of the US.

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 12, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    That Used to Be Us

    In this self-styled ¿wake-up call and pep talk,¿ award-winning journalist Thomas L. Friedman and professor and foreign policy expert Michael Mandelbaum offer their diagnosis of what they see as America¿s decline and set out some ideas to arrest its fall. In the first part, they largely succeed, detailing with illustrative, eye-opening stories and studies the depth of the problems Americans have ignored for too long: globalization, technology, national debt and climate change. However, they lose some steam in their prescriptive section where the challenges they outline seem to call for more than a pep talk ¿ although their ideas are worth considering and are great fodder for debates on real issues. Be prepared: Parts of this book make you want to cry; others make you want to scream; some pages do both. getAbstract suggests this bestseller to those in education, business and the public sector who want to understand the magnitude of America¿s challenges before rolling up their sleeves and getting to work on solutions.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 4, 2012

    Comments about Friedman & Mandelbaum’

    Comments about Friedman & Mandelbaum’s book titled:
    “That used to be us”

    Much of the book describes the severe problems of our economy, our politics, industry and educational system. At the same time, much space is devoted to well known USA accomplishments in the past, and rightfully so. Space is also devoted to how often foreign people do a much better job today than Americans in areas such as education and economic growth, not to forget financial management. All true.

    The authors’ dearest wishes are for America to learn from their observations and in particular accept the fact that in their view of the modern world it would be essential for the USA to make the Government, much more of a real partner in business to become broadly competitive again. Clearly, that last part might cause very serious problems with those who believe that as little government as possible is preferable. Government should be supportive of a free market economy but not a competitor and player. Since Government assets and power greatly exceeds the business community’s resources it would not take long for us to end up like any other socialist Republic in the world. That’s not how we got to be who we are. Many people today, unfortunately, are not aware of it.

    Furthermore and unfortunately, the authors appear to be unqualified in matters of general physics and particularly in their attempt to make green energy and other hair-brained energy schemes basic elements of their recommendations to achieve a more promising future. In reality, it puts some of their energy related recommendations off the table. Plentiful and eventually cheap energy, from fossil fuels to nuclear and hydro and geothermal will take care of our future for at least the next 100 years. The lesson here is to let the energy industry keep us in a surplus energy condition and not allow the Government to waste billions of tax payer’s money on ill conceived green energy plots.
    As a graduate engineer I appreciate that neither carbon dioxide nor ocean acidification is likely to cause us problems for a very long time, if ever.

    The Chapter on education is the most challenging in my view and describes some of the currently active and innovative approaches to achieving serious improvements in the knowledge levels of teenagers and college students. Without achieving that, college level education is really a waste of money and time and will do nothing to make these youngsters more employable.

    What disappoints me in the book though is the lack of a common thread running through the issues that contributed to if not caused our current below-par condition as a nation of historically well-educated and clear thinking Americans. In my opinion that thread is our cultural demise during the past 60 years. Ask yourself, where is the spirit of hard work, at a job or in school? Where is the famous American habit of shaking hands on a deal without a 50 page legal document to back it up?



    Why is it that so few people really know the basics of our national history? This deplorable condition allows schools to teach that American culture is no better or worse than anyone else’s. Which is a preposterous affront to teach, of course, but indicative of our problems.

    In my view these are some of the aspects that caused our current political, educational and economic condition. The authors recognize our practical national problem and they believe, notwithstanding the contrary evidence, that we still have enough guts, skills, drive, imagination and assets to get us out of this box to a better future. I hope they are right. Frankly, I am not so sure, for the simple reason that the cultural deficiencies at the root of our problem are also the hardest and most challenging aspects of our national existence to repair.

    The book closes on a positive note but at the same time may mislead us in thinking that our challenge is just “another job” we have to perform to be back in shape again soon instead of the existential attempt it really is at recapturing our critical and unique national dynamics of exceptionalism and the world’s “least offensive policeman”.

    Frederik Engel 3/4/2012

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2011

    A must read

    Great read, I would almost say a must read. This book exposes our current thinking in the US and what we need to get back on track. You may not agree with all of it but the facts provided will make you think. Republicans and Democrats we can all learn a bit from this.

    3 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 29, 2012

    "Covers a lot of territory & provides a lot of food for

    "Covers a lot of territory & provides a lot of food for thought, and some interesting insights, but the suggested answer to every problem seems to be some version of "more government". Also goes off on a horribly one-sided (and only loosely-related) rant on "global warming" that seems out of place a midst the other topics. Plenty of interesting discussion, but very biased, bordering on ignorant, in much of the presentation. I sometimes felt like I was just listening to a semi-educated MSNBC addict, rather than a best-selling author."

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 25, 2012

    Every American should read this book!!

    Normally when I read books like this I am snoozing halfway through but this one kept my attention. This book covers both our weaknesses and our strengths but this country is quickly slipping while our political leaders are basically ineffective. America has been able to do great things when our backs are against the wall but we need to wake up...NOW!!! Read this and get inspired!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011

    This author is onto something

    I'm considering writing my college thesis on Thomas Friedman especially the more I read his books. I first came up with the idea after my government professor loved a paper I had written about him. I'm looking for feedback from anyone who has an opinion about whether or not this would make for a good thesis topic? Thanks to all who take the time to reply.

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 24, 2011

    Very recommended

    A very good review of our problems. The proposed solutions are of course to be argued.

    1 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2012

    Recommended

    Friedman and Mandelbaum are insightful journalists who have been all over the world, so they bring a fresh perspective about how to help America.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2012

    Same ole same ole story. It ignores we are spending much of our

    Same ole same ole story. It ignores we are spending much of our national treasury on wars, bases, and corporate resource grabbing all over the world. We act like the old British Empire. Who said we should rule the world and decide for other nations their future?

    London banksters rob our treasury using bailouts which aren't even American but international with no oversight or punishment. Whose on "Welfare"? There is no regulation in Britain of banks so they stole them all. How about we set up off shore banks in Hawaii and encourage the wealthy in Britain, Switzerland, etc. a "secret tax haven" here? It is only fair.

    The refusal to tax the billionaires who hide their stash in off shore banks says it all. Our troops protect drug fields in Afghanistan and we call it "Al Qaeda". The fox (global banksters, military industrial compiex, health and insurance corporations, etc.) is in the hen house (White House) and new party leaders make no difference.

    Globalization has destroyed our treasury and jobs...companies gone off shore. Follow the money. It certainly isn't here to build our infrastructure, educate our own, or defend ourselves.

    Until we understand the problem we can't solve it Mr. Friedman.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 19, 2012

    May i rp Dawnkit?

    May i rp Dawnkit?

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 15, 2012

    Highly recommend

    Great easy read and information is presented clearly. The book is insightful and very helpful for understanding/identifying the problems of the economy and the stagnation of the workforce.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2012

    That used to be us

    It's fareasier to dissect and analyze Humpty's fall from grace than to put him back together again. The book is a great analysis, but solutions?? Not so much.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2012

    Should be required reading for U.S. high school students.

    Great for anyone trying to understand how the U.S. got into the situation it's in, and why it's important to have more than one skill as far as your employment.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 16, 2012

    Somewhat Boring.

    Mr. Friedman should learn to write better. He is not much of a story teller, and I found myself sleeping when I picked up this book.

    APC 2012

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2012

    Not Typical Friedman

    Somewhat disappointed... especially by conclusions. Constant rehashing of themes. Could have made salient points in 1/3 the pages.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2011

    Opinion supported with fact.

    Makes you think and most ideas are right on.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 66 Customer Reviews

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