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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 3 February 2011
Politicians and pundits like to blame Americans' excessive debt for plunging the economy into recession in 2008. But middle-class earners had a good reason for borrowing: Their incomes have dropped since 1980, during a period when the US economy's gains increasingly went to the wealthy. According to former US Secretary of Labor Robert B. Reich, the only way out of the doldrums now is to redress that imbalance and help the middle class resume its role powering the economy. In this book, Reich explores the dire consequences of failing to get workers back to work. Without seeming particularly worried about stirring controversy, he offers his suggestions for restoring the "basic bargain" of shared prosperity: People work and the government supports good jobs backed by a "safety net" of public services. getAbstract recommends Reich's sobering review to those studying ideas about what's broken and how to fix it.
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on 20 February 2011
I loved Robert Reich's previous book "Supercapitalism" and this book, written in our more troubled times, continues the same trail of thought, and pushes on further with some quite radical proposals.

The main theme of this book is that in the US, growing income inequality and the relatively lower purchasing power of the middle classes is the major factor contributing to America's economic problems. It is quite a strongly Keynesian viewpoint, which stresses the difference between middle class consumers who spend and therefore re-circulate a high proportion of their income, and the very wealthy who do not have consumption habits so widely beneficial to their fellow countrymen, and who instead speculate, and invest / spend abroad.

The quality of Reich's writing and the historical and anecdotal insights are as satisfying to read as ever, but to me some of the final analysis and proposals are too brutally socialist to be widely accepted or effective. For example, the case for making the tax system in the US much more progressive in response to widening inequality is a good one, but going beyond that and topping up middle class wages by substantial transfer payments is very radical.

Middle class Americans nostalgic for a time when their country's technological lead meant that their low and medium skilled workers could command high wages may love this book, and find Reich a champion of their interests. However trying to reverse or replace this lost comparative advantage of the US worker with large transfer payments from the rich is a very blunt instrument indeed, which may have many side effects. Also there is an implicit assertion running through this book that the standard of living of the American middle class should be maintained and perpetually rise. For me this sits uncomfortably with the future of our world environmental issues.

It could be argued that it is international trade, and the catching up of countries like China in their technological ability which has caused both the growing inequality and economic problems in the West. Therefore it could be argued that the solution to the problems of the US and others needs to confront more directly these fundamental international trade issues at the root, rather than using the state to treat the symptoms of the problem. In this book Reich warns against "killing the cow", meaning a reactionary response born out of envy of the rich, which could endanger the wider prosperity of our free market and free trade system. This kind of caution is characteristically wise, but perhaps others may have less worries about the free-trade/free-market cow, and perhaps be happy to see it, if not killed, then penned in and put on a diet.
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on 27 December 2013
Interesting analysis on the founding of the Fed by Marriner Eccles - the author focuses on the many similarities between the 2008 recession and the great depression. The middle class stagnation of wages plays an important part of Reich's polemic.

Reich instead of just diagnosing the many causes of the 2008 recession also has an interesting array of policy measures the US government can take to prevent another such crisis; such as negative taxation for those who earn under a certain salary.

The enduring issue to come out of having read 'Aftershock' is the pervasive income inequality that has emerged since the start of the Reagan era (i.e. the creation of the '1%'). Reich's fanciful future in which a demagog ('Margaret Jones') might appear is a useful rhetorical device.
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on 7 March 2013
Robert Reich has produced another highly relevant study of the world economy that really explains what's gone wrong and how the problems should be addressed. He de-bunks the whole myth about why the economic crisis happened, and explains why austerity won't work. It undermines all the current beliefs about overspending causing the crisis, and highlights the new directions that world governments should be taking if they really want to get out of this mess (do they?). After reading this you will be older, wiser and very angry! A great read.
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on 13 November 2013
Refreshingly honest- shows that "we are NOT all in this together". Data is from USA published sources but the analysis is valid for the UK also.
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on 24 July 2013
One only wonder why these obvious conclusions never reached the highest political levels in the US and Europe. Maybe that's the reason Robert Reich only served in Bill Clinton's first term?
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on 18 September 2015
brilliant read!
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on 24 September 2010
I listened to the Author being interviewed in the US earlier this week, and he clearly knows exactly what he is writing about. It is absolutely fascinating, and I endorse his views completely.
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