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Beyond Outrage
Cover of Beyond Outrage
Beyond Outrage
Expanded Edition: What has gone wrong with our economy and our democracy, and how to fix it
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America's economy and democracy are working for the benefit of an ever-fewer privileged and powerful people. But rather than just complain about it or give up on the system, we must join together and make it work for all of us.

In this timely book, Robert B. Reich argues that nothing good happens in Washington unless citizens are energized and organized to make sure Washington acts in the public good. The first step is to see the big picture. Beyond Outrage connects the dots, showing why the increasing share of income and wealth going to the top has hobbled jobs and growth for everyone else, undermining our democracy; caused Americans to become increasingly cynical about public life; and turned many Americans against one another. He also explains why the proposals of the "regressive right" are dead wrong and provides a clear roadmap of what must be done instead.

Here's a plan for action for everyone who cares about the future of America.

America's economy and democracy are working for the benefit of an ever-fewer privileged and powerful people. But rather than just complain about it or give up on the system, we must join together and make it work for all of us.

In this timely book, Robert B. Reich argues that nothing good happens in Washington unless citizens are energized and organized to make sure Washington acts in the public good. The first step is to see the big picture. Beyond Outrage connects the dots, showing why the increasing share of income and wealth going to the top has hobbled jobs and growth for everyone else, undermining our democracy; caused Americans to become increasingly cynical about public life; and turned many Americans against one another. He also explains why the proposals of the "regressive right" are dead wrong and provides a clear roadmap of what must be done instead.

Here's a plan for action for everyone who cares about the future of America.

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  • Introduction

    I've written this book to give you the big picture of why and how our economy and our democracy are becoming rigged against average working people, what must be done, and what you can do about it. I've called it Beyond Outrage for a very specific reason. Your outrage is understandable. Moral outrage is the prerequisite of social change. But you also need to move beyond outrage and take action. The regressive forces seeking to move our nation backward must not be allowed to triumph.

    I have been involved in public life, off and on, for more than forty years. I've served under three presidents. When not in office, I've done my share of organizing and rabble-­rousing, along with teaching, speaking, and writing about what I know and what I believe. I have never been as concerned as I am now about the future of our democracy, the corrupting effects of big money in our politics, the stridency and demagoguery of the regressive right, and the accumulation of wealth and power at the very top. We are perilously close to losing an economy and a democracy that are meant to work for everyone and to replacing them with an ­economy and a government that will exist mainly for a few wealthy and powerful people.

    This book is meant to help you focus on what needs to be done and how you can contribute, and to encourage you not to feel bound by what you think is politically possible this year or next. You need to understand why the stakes are so high and why your participation--­now and in the future--­is so important. I've tried to array concepts and arguments in a way that you'll find helpful. All the facts I've cited are from government reports unless otherwise indicated.

    In my experience, nothing good happens in Washington unless good people outside Washington become mobilized, organized, and energized to make it happen. Nothing worth changing in America will actually change unless you and others like you are committed to achieving that change.


    Connecting the Dots


    The first thing you need to do is connect the dots and understand how many troubling but seemingly unrelated things are interwoven. The challenge we face is systemic. The fundamentals of our economy are out of whack, which has distorted our democracy, and these distortions, in turn, are making it harder to fix the economic fundamentals. Later in the book we'll examine several of these dots in detail, but now I'd like you to see the big picture.

    The first dot: For three decades almost all the gains from economic growth have gone to the top. In the 1960s and 1970s, the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans got 9--­10 percent of our total income. By 2007, just before the Great Recession, that share had more than doubled, to 23.5 percent. Over the same period the wealthiest one-­tenth of 1 percent tripled its share. We haven't experienced this degree of concentrated wealth since the Gilded Age of the late nineteenth century. The 400 richest Americans now have more wealth than the entire bottom half of earners--­150 million Americans--­put together. Meanwhile, over the last three decades the wages of the typical worker have stagnated, averaging only about $280 more a year than thirty years ago, adjusted for inflation. That's less than a 1 percent gain over more than a third of a century. Since 2001, the median wage has actually dropped.

    This connects to . . .

    The second dot: The Great Recession was followed by an anemic recovery. Because so much income and wealth have gone to the top, America's vast middle class no longer has the purchasing power to keep the economy going--­not, at least, without going deeper and deeper into debt. But...

About the Author-
  • Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the Richard and Rhoda Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton, and he served as an adviser to President-elect Barack Obama. He has written twelve books, including The Work of Nations (which has been translated into twenty-two languages), Supercapitalism, and the best sellers The Next American Frontier, The Future of Success, Locked in the Cabinet, and, most recently, Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future. His articles have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Times, the Financial Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. He is co-founding editor of The American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause. His bi-weekly commentaries on public radio's Marketplace are heard by nearly five million people. In 2003, Reich was awarded the prestigious Václav Havel Foundation Prize for pioneering work in economic and social thought. In 2008, Time magazine named him one of the ten most successful cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century, and The Wall Street Journal named him one of the nation's ten most influential business thought-leaders.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    October 29, 2012
    Persuasively arguing that Americans haven't learned the economic lessons of the Great Depression and the stock crash of 2008, and stating that "the U.S. economy won't really bounce back until America's surge to inequality is reversed," former labor secretary Reich (Aftershock) examines how we got into this mess and offers solutions in this slim but informative study. In his view, "An economy should exist for the people who inhabit it, not the other way around," Reich writes, assailing the ramifications of Wall Street's unchecked power and the detrimental impact of the "Regressive Right," his term for conservative Republicans whose social Darwinist agenda, helped along by passivity on the part of Democrats, poses a very real threat to the nation. Reich charges Supreme Court Justices Scalia and Thomas, and Newt Gingrich with shady political dealings, while he systematically debunks various right-wing tactics, such as the benefits of lowering taxes on corporations in order to stimulate job growth. As for solutions, Reich's advice ranges from the simple (become an active citizen) to the specific, such as restoring taxes on the rich to pre-1981 levels, expanding Medicare to cover all Americans and tightening restrictions on big banks. Regardless of where readers stand on many of the polarizing concepts he addresses, Reich offers food for thought.

  • Kirkus

    September 1, 2012
    Reich (Public Policy/Univ. of California, Berkeley; Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future, 2011, etc.) spells out what he thinks citizens need to do to ensure Washington acts on behalf of the public good, not special interests. Bill Clinton's former labor secretary reports that, due to the emails he receives, he is well aware of the electorate's mood. He believes citizens must band together "without scapegoating or cynicism" on the basis of "moral clarity and undeniable facts" if they want to succeed. Reich writes that the basic bargain--"that employers paid their workers enough to buy what employers were selling"--underlying America's post-World War II prosperity has been violated, with the result of increasing inequality and poverty. This reversal reflects a deliberate choice, which Reich attributes to "regressives," embodied by such officials as Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. They want to "return America to the 1920s--before Social Security, unemployment insurance, labor laws, the minimum wage," etc. Still others, writes the author, want to go back even further, promoting a political revival of 19th-century social Darwinism to justify shameless inequality and survival of the fittest. For Reich, the Republican Party, which disavowed social Darwinism in the 1950s, is marching backward, but the author writes that the Democrats' "stunning failure" to offer an alternative has helped regressives gain political traction. The author outlines a series of organizing initiatives intended to broaden citizen involvement at all levels of government and provides a handy list of the "Ten Biggest Lies" the regressives are using to fuel their campaign. Short and lively, this is a timely contribution to making the ongoing discussion more productive.

    COPYRIGHT(2012) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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Expanded Edition: What has gone wrong with our economy and our democracy, and how to fix it
Robert B. Reich
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