THE ROAD FROM HERE: Liberalism and Realities in the 1980s by Paul Tsongas

THE ROAD FROM HERE: Liberalism and Realities in the 1980s

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Written before the 1980 election debacle for his party and his liberal colleagues, this is Massachusetts' junior senator Tsongas' appeal for a realistic and pragmatic liberalism. What's ostensibly ""realistic"" about this new liberalism is: 1) Tsongas' acceptance that energy is the number one problem, and that there is no way we can free ourselves from foreign domination without some use of nuclear power (this, coincident with the almost total collapse of nuclear plant construction nationwide); 2) his acknowledgement that a lot of social programs--like CETA--proved to be easily corruptible; and 3) his readiness to embrace ""the business community"" in order to make life better for us all. Coming from Lowell, Mass., Tsongas has seen the results of capital flight out of the old industrial areas, and his solution, which has brought him the support of business in his election campaigns, is to provide tax breaks and other incentives to draw industry back. This has to be coupled with tax breaks for investment and savings, and a new attitude by the American workforce that management is their ally and foreign workers are the enemy. (Tsongas notes that part of the reason for capital flight is a run away from unionized workers; but that's all we hear of the problem.) It was the collapse of Chrysler that convinced him of all this; and he teamed up with the conservative Luger of Indiana to write the bill that bailed out the company by imposing a wage freeze on the UAW. In the long run, a wage freeze was better than the loss of work, he argues. Tsongas mentions the collusion between the auto industry and the UAW--one side works the Republicans, the other the Democrats--but doesn't pursue it. There, at least, he might have broken some fresh ground. Overall, one wonders both how new and how liberal the new liberalism is. Liberalism, that is, has always united social justice with free enterprise. The best description of this program--pro or con--is moderate.

Pub Date: Sept. 24th, 1981
Publisher: Knopf