A noted economist argues that deep reforms are needed to bring renewed prosperity to the United States—a nation “dangerously out of balance,” where a tiny elite holds wealth and power without regard for their fellow citizens.
Known for his studies of economies in Latin America, Asia, and elsewhere, Sachs (Healthy Policy and Management/Columbia Univ.; Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet, 2008, etc.) weighs in for the first time on America’s economic ills. Drawing on diverse studies and surveys, he characterizes the U.S. as a competitive market society in which “the rich and powerful fail to behave with respect, honesty, and compassion toward the rest of society and toward the world.” From the New Deal through the 1960s, the federal government steered the national economy for the public good. But in the ’80s, power shifted to special interests, whose concern was private advantage, leaving the U.S. economy vulnerable to the 2008 collapse. To restore prosperity, writes Sachs, America must once again have an activist government that works within the market system to create a more balanced economy and a society based on social trust, honesty and compassion. The author writes that most Americans support such reforms, but are misrepresented in Congress, where both parties enact policies “to the right of the public’s true values” to please wealthy contributors. Sachs considers the effects of such forces as globalization, social change and media saturation, and shows how national consensus dissipated as a result of the civil-rights movement, the upsurge in Hispanic immigration, the rise of the Sun Belt and suburbanization. Like social scientist Raj Patel (The Value of Nothing, 2010), Sachs writes that we must abandon the craving for wealth and create a more mindful society. A lucid writer, the author is refreshingly direct—tax cuts for the wealthy are “immoral and counterproductive”; stimulus funding and budget cutting are “gimmicks”—and he offers recommendations for serious reform.
An important assessment of what ails America, and a must-read for policymakers.