Authors: Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum

Publisher: FSG Books – 380 pages

Book Review by Paiso Jamakar

This is an excellent book and I must say, long overdue. Written by two highly qualified people with the right combination of knowledge, understanding and insight on the causes of America’s economic decline, the book suggests bold and realistic solutions to its major problems.

America is in trouble! This is the warning call from these two keen observers of America and its eroding politico-economic situation on the world stage.

I would say that America is not just in trouble. It is in big and serious trouble. It has permanently lost tens of millions of jobs to China, India and other countries, mostly in the Asia-Pacific region and South America. And it has two other huge problems (which you will read below) besides the four problems that are outlined and discussed in this very important book. This eye-opening book should be required reading for top political leaders in he United States.

Thomas Friedman, a longtime foreign correspondent and columnist for The New York Times, who has written on China and India relative to the United States, is the author of five other books including his two last well-known ones: The World Is Flat (2005)and Hot, Flat and Crowded (2008).

Michael Mandelbaum, his friend of more than 20 years, has written extensively on international relations and is a professor and director of American Foreign Policy at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. He is the author of a dozen other books including his most recent one The Frugal Superpower (2010).

The authors outline four major problems the United States faces today: globalization, the revolution in information technology, the nation’s chronic deficits and its pattern of excessive energy consumption.

These challenges must be addressed and overcome on a timely basis, Friedman and Mandelbaum strongly urge. They write: “if we delay any longer, soon it will be too late for us to pass along the American Dream to future generations.”

To these four major challenges, I would add two others that have caused U.S. economic decline and continues to do so rapidly: an economy that has gone seriously out of balance with governments at the Federal, state, county and local levels consuming nearly half of the United States’ gross domestic product while creating no new income; and excessive corporation, property and individual income taxes that have simply driven out (and continues to drive out) businesses, jobs and people out of the U.S. at a fast pace.

Friedman and Mandelbaum recall from their childhood and youth an America that had ambition, drive, energy, focus and the will to propel the country forward. They observe a present-day America whose leadership lacks vision and the right solutions to tackle its debilitating and monstrous situation of a mounting debt and out-of-control government deficit-spending.

I add my view that unless debt growth and mounting government deficit is stopped,

it will remain a huge obstacle to GDP growth. GDP growth and job growth are inseparable. And job loss (2.5 million jobs have been lost since Obama took his oath of office in January 2009) will continue to go unabated unless the government stops spending more money than it takes in, and stops borrowing and printing money it doesn’t have, in order to spend it.

I also assert that American jobs have not just been lost. They have been lost permanently to people in other countries. Most U.S. manufacturing jobs have been lost forever and cannot come back unless some critical decisions are made and actions taken in Washington D.C.

Friedman, having traveled to China, the fastest-growing major economy in the world today, sees clearly its modernization in the skyscrapers and other marvels and how the world’s No.2 economy is racing forward. I believe that unless the U.S. addresses its problems squarely and takes the right decisions and actions, its GDP may one day – not too far in the future – be surpassed by that of China.

The authors point out that America’s political system has become paralyzed, and the key values that made this country great have eroded to a great extent. They show how the Internet has leveled the playing field around the world with the rapid spread of knowledge and needed skills and put the U.S. into a competitive disadvantage due to higher cost and lower supply of people with the needed skills in many fields.

They also point out how America’s educational system, not having adapted to changed priorities around the world – the critical need for more math, physics, engineering and technical knowledge and skills in economic development – has caused Americans to rapidly lose jobs, while at the same the emphasis on these subjects by China, India and other countries, has made America’s competitors gain much more employment.

The authors present a well thought-out five-part plan to tackle America’s problems and reverse its economic decline. I would urge you all to get a copy of this book of great insight to find out what that plan is, and what you as an individual can do to contribute to your country’s growth as well as secure yourself financially in an increasingly competitive global economy.