THE AGE OF AUSTERITY by Thomas Byrne Edsall


How Scarcity Will Remake American Politics
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New Republic and National Journal correspondent Edsall (Public Affairs Journalism/Columbia Univ.; Building Red America: The New Conservative Coalition and the Drive For Permanent Power, 2006, etc.) returns with a heavily documented elaboration of his thesis that austerity will continue to polarize the country.

The author pulls few punches in this grim account of where we are and where we’re heading. From the first page (“A brutish future stands before us”), he points repeatedly to the essential conflict in the country: In periods of austerity, the haves will fight desperately to keep their assets; the have-nots will suffer. Edsall argues that President Obama fell into a GOP pit when he focused on debts and deficits, traditional Republican issues (at least when they are not in power); he handed the agenda to them, and the power-shifting mid-term elections of 2010 granted the GOP the political clout they’d lost in 2008. Throughout, Edsall marshals statistical data (the text is chockablock with charts and graphs) to quantify what has become common political sense: The Left and the Right are fundamentally different—not just politically but economically, morally and psychologically. He recognizes the monolithic character of the GOP legislators and the elasticity of the Democrats. Republican voters, he writes, do not want cuts in Medicare, Social Security and defense spending (programs from which they benefit), but they are willing and often eager to support cuts in programs that principally benefit the poor. Edsall examines a number of key events that illustrate the divide: Medicaid cuts in Arizona, anti-immigration laws, busing conflicts in North Carolina, the flow of jobs overseas and more. Although the author begins in fairly evenhanded fashion, the current of his argument eventually runs to the left.

Perhaps too Lefty for the Righties, but a stark snapshot of the present and a dark view of the future.

Pub Date: Jan. 10th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-385-53519-9
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2011


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