In a lively if scathing depiction of economic mismanagement, greed and bungling at the highest echelons of federal power, Washington Post syndicated columnist Rowen criticizes Lyndon Johnson for escalating the costly, unwinnable war in Vietnam while failing to raise taxes or cut government programs, thereby triggering a devastating spiral of inflation. Rowen argues that Nixon should not have dropped wage-price controls, faults Carter for his inability to curb inflation, and views the ``Reagan revolution'' as a sham that widened the gap between rich and poor while transforming the U.S. into the world's largest debtor nation. Among the luminaries Rowen charges with ineptitude are Alan Greenspan, David Stockman, Paul Volcker, Arthur Burns and other top financial administrators in Washington. He concludes that President Clinton must reallocate funds from military to civilian programs and invest in worker training and education, despite his pledge to reduce the deficit. Author tour. (Aug.)
Journalist Rowen (The Free Enterprisers, 1964) here chronicles the trajectory of the "self-strangulation" of the American economy over the last three decades. Beginning with Lyndon Johnson's misconception that the country's booming productive power could absorb the costs of the escalating war in Vietnam and still escape inflationary price increases, he then traces the interlocking mismanagement of the Nixon and Ford years and Carter's failure to formulate a cohesive economic policy. He concludes that the triumph of greed and moral decay in the Reagan and Bush years helped exacerbate the widening gap between rich and poor. Rowen writes in a lively journalistic style, yet he still takes the time to define distinctive economic terms. His book merits praise for his comprehensive coverage of a long period, although his briefly sketched solutions are dubious or simplistic. Suitable for both academic and public library collections.-Mary Chatfield, Angelo State Univ., San Angelo, Tex.
How many knew in 1968--or recall today--that LBJ's decision not to run "was triggered as much by an international gold crisis as by public opposition to the war"? It's this sort of macroeconomic and international context for history we think we know that Rowen--a leader on the economic beat for five and a half decades--supplies. Rowen's section titles are crisp and critical: "Blunder" (Johnson), "Mismanagement" (Nixon and Ford), "Drift" (Carter), and "Greed" (Reagan and Bush). Rowen rejects scapegoating, blaming "our slow but steady self-strangulation" on the aforementioned behaviors and "a futile chase for dollar stability" and all six presidents' failure to confront "the menace of the oil cartel, the swindlers on Wall Street, or the industrial assault on the environment." But Rowen sheds light as well as heat: his lucid explanations of the full range of domestic and international economic issues bring both recent history and current concerns into focus. Belongs in most public libraries.