Review: Come Home America: The Rise and Fall (and Redeeming Promise) of Our Country

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5.0 out of 5 stars Read Fire Side Chat Review–This is Supplemental

February 20, 2010

William Greider

Very rarely do I find reviews as lengthy as my own. Please read and appreciate the Fireside Chat review that is deservedly popular with readers. I first encountered William Greider while managing the international conference on “National Security and National Competitiveness: Open Source Solutions,” and I realized that the way the US Government was mis-managing our democracy and our public commons was central to the demise of America. The two books I have most appreciated by him are Who Will Tell The People? : The Betrayal Of American Democracy and The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy but I have to remind myself that before I knew him personally I had also read and appreciated Secrets of the Temple: How the Federal Reserve Runs the Country as well as One World Ready or Not: The Manic Logic of Global Capitalism (Hardcover).

I like the “fireside chat” description of this book and am providing my own summary primarily for my own benefit and the benefit of those that follow all of my non-fiction reviews at Phi Beta Iota, the Public Intelligence Blog where all of my reviews, in 98 non-fiction categories, are more easily exploited than here at Amazon (but they all lead back to Amazon.

QUOTE (1): We live in a country where telling the hard truth with clarity has become taboo.

QUOTE (7): From the birth of our nation, it was always ordinary people, pushing from the bottom against an entrenched status quo, that led to the most momentous changes in American life.

QUOTE (14): An authentic democracy would learn how to listen respectfully and incorporate this private knowledge of citizens into the process of public decision making.

QUOTE (180) The gravest blow to the common morality, in my view, was the repeal of the federal law against usury.

QUOTE (197): Thinking about these things led me to conclude that America is in much deeper trouble than is generally realized and that restoring national well-being will require profound change–a historic transformation in how we live and work as well as in how we are governed.

QUOTE (258) “We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence,” Roosevelt declared in his 1944 State of the Union message. “Necessitous men are not free men.”

QUOTE (274): From a grounding of self-knowledge, people can change the nation. They can use their well-formed convictions as leverage to destabilize the official system and open the way for deep reform. But first, people have to “own” their conversations–they have to get free of propaganda so they can talk coherently about the circumstances and values of their own lives. My hunch is that Americas of diverse political views and stark social differences would be surprised to find themselves much more in accord with each other on fundamental matters than we are led to expect.

QUOTE (288): To rehabilitate democracy and reclaim our role as citizens, Americans have to change the architecture of political power by creating a third front for popular sovereignty. The empty space between big government and the private sector’s concentrated power could be filled by citizens in many new formations–groups large and small, local and national, that would speak independently and use their powers to persuade or punch the existing order.

The author agrees with those many other authors I have reviewed–too many for Amazon’s ten link limit, see Phi Beta Iota–on the terrible betrayal of the public trust by the two political parties that have shut out all others and destroyed democracy; and the equally terrible betrayal of the public trust–enabled by Senator Phil Gramm (R-TX) and a Senate lacking in integrity–by the Wall Street financial community that created phantom wealth–the author points out that the American economy grew five times while the financial “valuations” grew seventeen times, I twelve of those were phantom wealth.

The author is uniquely qualified to tar and feather Alan Greenspan, and I am personally pleased that a new depth of public intelligence is enabling the “outing” of people like Al Gore, Bill Bradley and many others who abandoned their commitment to the public interest and chose to join Wall Street in the phantom wealth business, with carbon credits being but the latest scheme to bilk the public and abuse the Third World.

The author points my attention to the book Many Minds, One Heart: SNCC’s Dream for a New America and while it cannot make my already crowded reading list, I share that pointer with readers of this review.

Over-all the book outlines five aspects destroying American democracy and prosperity:

01 Globalization

02 Militarization

03 Free Market Ideology Creating an Inequitable Society (concentration of wealth)

04 Ecological Crisis and Oil Scarcity (to which I would add clean safe water)

05 Decayed democracy–I did not see it specifically in the book, but the US is now no longer considered by international standards to be a full democracy.

The author puts forward five imperatives for reform:

01 Restore moral principle and public obligation to the financial system and to corporations [to which I would add a reversal of the Supreme Court decision on corporate campaign contributions, and an end to Personality exemptions from liability of corporations and their leaders)

02 Replenish our battered social reality by reversing the forces that for three decades have depressed wages and destroyed work for broad ranks of Americans

03 People need and deserve to have a sturdy platform under their everyday lives that will ensure them access to the "essential needs" ranging from good health care to schooling, from guarantees for a comfortable old age to affordable transportation and well-heated homes.

04 Reinvent American capitalism by literally reforming the values and operating assumptions within business and finance so the economy functions with less wasteful destruction and more responsiveness to society at large.

05 The federal government has to yield some of its own power in order to encourage a new era of social and economic innovation.

The author draws to a close with three ideas for embrace by all:

01 Every American who is willing and able ought to have the right to work a job that pays a libable wage.

02 Everyone who works, whether in the front office or on the assembly line, deserves to "own" their work, that is, to exercise personal responsibility for what they do and enjoy mutual respect and the right to be part of the decision-making within the enterprise

03 To lead the way for social values, the economy needs a new reform minded business organization, call its a social corporation, that competes with old line corporations that continue to emphasize profit over society.

The final chapter, on "The Undergorund River," is about We the People, and the author is much taken with, as I am, the book byThe Populist Moment: A Short History of the Agrarian Revolt in America (Galaxy Books). Although I am certain the author is well aware of the literatures on wealth of networks, the power of the collective we, and on transpartisan and postpartisan issue networks, those are not featured here but are a logicial follow-on to the author's high level view of the rise and fall and potential reincarnation of America the Beautiful.

Rather than try to list a few more books within Amazon's limit I will list four I have published and point readers to my other 1,500 reviews at Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence blog where 98 categories make it possible to do what Amazon refuses to implement here: see all my reviews on democracy, on capitalism, on empire, on philosophy, etcetera.

Election 2008: Lipstick on the Pig (Substance of Governance; Legitimate Grievances; Candidates on the Issues; Balanced Budget 101; Call to Arms: Fund We Not Them; Annotated Bibliography)
The New Craft of Intelligence: Personal, Public, & Political--Citizen's Action Handbook for Fighting Terrorism, Genocide, Disease, Toxic Bombs, & Corruption
THE SMART NATION ACT: Public Intelligence in the Public Interest
INTELLIGENCE for EARTH: Clarity, Diversity, Integrity, & Sustainaabilty

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