A fast-paced, shotgun-style cornucopia of public-policy innovations intended to offer a cohesive agenda for revitalizing American politics, economy, and civil society.
New American Foundation director Halstead and Lind (Vietnam: The Necessary War, 1999, etc.) argue that the US is nearing its fourth period of revolutionary change, the first three being the American Revolution, the Civil War, and the New Deal era. Offering such evidence as the growing apathy of the electorate, the increasing economic disparity between rich and poor, and the abandonment of the cultural ideology of the Melting Pot, the authors set out to provide a blueprint for correcting our wayward national course. After outlining the history of the previous revolutionary periods, they propose a series of sweeping new programs—instituting a national consumption tax to replace the ragtag quilt of existing state and local sales taxes, using a “rank order” voting scheme to help dilute the two-party stranglehold on our current electoral process, reforming immigration laws to cap the number of low-skilled immigrants—to move America toward a “citizen-based social contract” better suited to our information-based New Economy. The difficulty in considering such ideas lies not in their obvious merits but in the paucity of supporting evidence. The political will necessary to carry out any one of the suggested reforms would be staggering. Only a veritable mountain of corroboration would earn serious consideration for such radical proposals as privatizing and applying needs-based testing to such hallmarks of public policy as Social Security, Medicare, and the home mortgage interest deduction, or eliminating corporate income taxes (all put forward here). Absent volumes of supporting evidence, or at least reference to existing studies and relevant historical analogies, it is difficult to be greatly moved by the proposed agenda.
Long in vision, admirable in scope, vacuous in application.