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America is in trouble. We face four major challenges on which our future depends, and we are failing to meet them—and if we delay any longer, soon it will be too late for us to pass along the American dream to future generations. In That Used to Be Us, Thomas L. Friedman, one of our most influential columnists, and Michael Mandelbaum, one of our leading foreign policy thi America is in trouble. We face four major challenges on which our future depends, and we are failing to meet them—and if we delay any longer, soon it will be too late for us to pass along the American dream to future generations. In That Used to Be Us, Thomas L. Friedman, one of our most influential columnists, and Michael Mandelbaum, one of our leading foreign policy thinkers, offer both a wake-up call and a call to collective action. They analyze the four challenges we face—globalization, the revolution in information technology, the nation's chronic deficits, and our pattern of excessive energy consumption—and spell out what we need to do now to sustain the American dream and preserve American power in the world. They explain how the end of the Cold War blinded the nation to the need to address these issues seriously, and how China's educational successes, industrial might, and technological prowess remind us of the ways in which "that used to be us." They explain how the paralysis of our political system and the erosion of key American values have made it impossible for us to carry out the policies the country urgently needs. And yet Friedman and Mandelbaum believe that the recovery of American greatness is within reach. They show how America's history, when properly understood, offers a five-part formula for prosperity that will enable us to cope successfully with the challenges we face. They offer vivid profiles of individuals who have not lost sight of the American habits of bold thought and dramatic action. They propose a clear way out of the trap into which the country has fallen, a way that includes the rediscovery of some of our most vital traditions and the creation of a new thirdparty movement to galvanize the country. That Used to Be Us is both a searching exploration of the American condition today and a rousing manifesto for American renewal.


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America is in trouble. We face four major challenges on which our future depends, and we are failing to meet them—and if we delay any longer, soon it will be too late for us to pass along the American dream to future generations. In That Used to Be Us, Thomas L. Friedman, one of our most influential columnists, and Michael Mandelbaum, one of our leading foreign policy thi America is in trouble. We face four major challenges on which our future depends, and we are failing to meet them—and if we delay any longer, soon it will be too late for us to pass along the American dream to future generations. In That Used to Be Us, Thomas L. Friedman, one of our most influential columnists, and Michael Mandelbaum, one of our leading foreign policy thinkers, offer both a wake-up call and a call to collective action. They analyze the four challenges we face—globalization, the revolution in information technology, the nation's chronic deficits, and our pattern of excessive energy consumption—and spell out what we need to do now to sustain the American dream and preserve American power in the world. They explain how the end of the Cold War blinded the nation to the need to address these issues seriously, and how China's educational successes, industrial might, and technological prowess remind us of the ways in which "that used to be us." They explain how the paralysis of our political system and the erosion of key American values have made it impossible for us to carry out the policies the country urgently needs. And yet Friedman and Mandelbaum believe that the recovery of American greatness is within reach. They show how America's history, when properly understood, offers a five-part formula for prosperity that will enable us to cope successfully with the challenges we face. They offer vivid profiles of individuals who have not lost sight of the American habits of bold thought and dramatic action. They propose a clear way out of the trap into which the country has fallen, a way that includes the rediscovery of some of our most vital traditions and the creation of a new thirdparty movement to galvanize the country. That Used to Be Us is both a searching exploration of the American condition today and a rousing manifesto for American renewal.

30 review for That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back

  1. 5 out of 5

    J.L. Sutton

    Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum’s That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back is an engaging if not always (despite the title) optimistic view of where we are as a country. What do we need to do, what investments do we need to make, to become the dreamers and innovators we’d been in previous decades? Friedman and Mandelbaum analyze the economic and social conditions (as well as legal codes) which allowed our remarkable growth. They also la Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum’s That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back is an engaging if not always (despite the title) optimistic view of where we are as a country. What do we need to do, what investments do we need to make, to become the dreamers and innovators we’d been in previous decades? Friedman and Mandelbaum analyze the economic and social conditions (as well as legal codes) which allowed our remarkable growth. They also lay out what we need to do to ‘come back.’ Their warnings our clear: we can’t wait forever. In addition to climate change, for instance, other countries have learned the lessons of our innovation better than we have. In order to come back, we need to have a rational discussion on our common priorities and invest in our future. We also need to dream big without fear of failure. How big are we capable of dreaming now?

  2. 5 out of 5

    Villate

    Some good thoughts about what is and is not working in America, but an awful lot of "kids these days" sort of talk, too. The authors' fetishization of Asia is also troubling. Having worked closely with Asian students for more than 10 years now, I would say that a large proportion of their vaunted higher educational attainment is either purchased or cheated, not earned. That is not to say that we have nothing to learn from Asian methods of pedagogy, or that they are not in fact "beating" us in te Some good thoughts about what is and is not working in America, but an awful lot of "kids these days" sort of talk, too. The authors' fetishization of Asia is also troubling. Having worked closely with Asian students for more than 10 years now, I would say that a large proportion of their vaunted higher educational attainment is either purchased or cheated, not earned. That is not to say that we have nothing to learn from Asian methods of pedagogy, or that they are not in fact "beating" us in terms of their academic achievement, but these guys are so blinded by the glitz of the new buildings in China and the vast adoption of technological innovations in India that they do not seem to see the corruption, extreme poverty, and lack of opportunity those countries in particular foster in their political and social structures. Short version: America has big problems because of its laziness, complacency, and jealousy of others' success. Other countries whose citizens are less lazy, complacent, and jealous and whose policies are more open to innovation (in all areas) will certainly overtake us if we do not stop stifling the inventiveness and creativity that has made us great. However, the solution presented here is weak at best and positively stupid at worst. We in America should be working hard within our own communities rather than waiting for a political savior to come to our rescue. We tried that in 2008 and it hasn't worked so far.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Fei Fei

    "Unscathed by the great disruptions, unburdened by the necessity of great sacrifice, unpressured by the daily effort of confronting a huge global predator... the baby boom generation has in too many cases displayed too little fiscal prudence, too much political partisanship, and too short a sense of history to engage in the collective nation-building at home that America badly needs today." In summary, the message is clear: Dear Baby Boomers, you fucked up big time. Please fix it before the situa "Unscathed by the great disruptions, unburdened by the necessity of great sacrifice, unpressured by the daily effort of confronting a huge global predator... the baby boom generation has in too many cases displayed too little fiscal prudence, too much political partisanship, and too short a sense of history to engage in the collective nation-building at home that America badly needs today." In summary, the message is clear: Dear Baby Boomers, you fucked up big time. Please fix it before the situation becomes completely hopeless. Please and thank you, the United States of America. I'll admit, Friedman and Mandelbaum are nothing if not well-intentioned. They've openly declared themselves here as "frustrated optimists", intent on warning fellow Americans the depth and breath of United States' problems. And these problems are equally embarrassing and completely serious. Let me illustrate here through a number of quotes: From Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education: “Currently about one-fourth of ninth graders fail to graduate high school within four years. Among the O.E.C.D. countries, only Mexico, Spain, Turkey and New Zealand have higher dropout rates than the United States.” From Nobel Prize winner in Economics, Joseph Stiglitz: “The top 1 percent of Americans now take in roughly one-fourth of America’s total income every year. In terms of wealth rather than income, . . . the top 1 percent now controls 40 percent of the total. This is new. Twenty-five years ago, the corresponding figures were 12 percent and 33 percent.” "China's Tsinghua and Peking Universities are the two largest suppliers of students who receive Ph.D's in the United States." "It took China's Teda Construction Group thirty-two weeks to build a world-class convention center from the ground up - including giant escalators in every corner - and it was taking the Washington Metro crew twenty-four weeks to repair two tiny escalators of twenty-one steps each." Citing professional quotes, statistics and real-life anecdotes, Friedman and Mandelbaum hammers home four critical challenges facing the US: 1. The slacking quality, attention, and funding of education across the country and it's effects on the current and future workforce 2. "War on Math", as in the out-of-control, crippling national debt that's unjustly burdening the younger generation for the sake of the retiring, older generation 3. "War on Physics", as in the blatant denial of climate change and the need for massive environment/energy policy overhauls in the nation 4. Political gridlock in Washington, encumbered by "hyperpartisanship", 24/7 media scrutiny and money. An impressive list with some truly telling analysis. The proofs are there: America is in decline. What's worse, according to the authors, the decline is slow in coming and hence, we fail to even recognize the existence of the problem. This is an important topic but the book falls short in truly addressing the problem. I have three main criticisms: 1. The authors excessive patriotism and optimism interferes with their arguments and undermines their credibility by drawing contradictory statements. What do I mean by this? Here's what I found in the first chapter: "We believe that China is getting 90% of the potential benefits from its second-rate political system.... we are getting only 50% of the potential benefits from our first-rate political system." ... wait, what? PC much? I'm not a government expert by any means but neither are they (one's a journalist and the other's a foreign policy professor). Quite a stupid thing to say in my opinion, especially as they then went on to illustrate just how "first-rate" the American political system is with an entire section titled: "Political Failure". The authors' continuous contention to the superiority of the American political system lacks any such economic OR social proof in the book. While commenting on the state of education in the US, they make the comment that schools must learn to "inspire" students unlike the Chinese educational system that notoriously "stifle creativity" (with no citation of evidence I might add). Fine, but then please don't turn around in the very next section and urge for an open-door policy towards high-skilled immigrants from India and China, whose "capabilities" and "innovative-thinking" will sustain the brain-pool of America's workforce and drive the US economy. And the string of contradictory evidence and statements go on. I find it highly hypocritical that while the authors are urging for a change in the attitude of readers, in particular, that "sense of entitlement and righteousness of American ways", they are in fact propagating that very sentiment through their writings. They are emphatic that this book isn't a comparison between American and Chinese ways nor about changing American policies to follow China's example, yet at every opportunity, Freidman and Mandelbaum seem to be contrasting two countries - just look at the examples I drew up for this review! 2. They repeatedly state that the problem is serious yet you wouldn't be able to tell from the Introduction or Conclusion. Reading this book from beginning to the end reminds me of listening to a tender-hearted mother. She loves her problematic son dearly, knows that he needs serious help and tries to warns her son of this. Yet she phrases her words so delicately - not wishing to unduly injure or offend - that the dire message gets lost. This is what the book reads like for me. The opening and ending are so full of optimism and pep as the authors try to rally the spirits of the reader that the stark stories they've included in the middle are lost amidst reassurances. I wish they had been more decisive in their message: There's serious trouble, listen up! 3. With such foreboding tidings, you would usually expect that it comes with an "unless" - those concrete steps that will reverse America's fortune. But - and here is my main criticism - their main recommendations & solutions are frustratingly vague, incomplete and incapable of immediate action. For example, the authors encourage for more educational funding and government policies to encourage quality teaching. That's all fine, yet they've completely ignored the glaring problem that is increasingly unaffordable post-secondary education. Unless something is done to make college tuitions more affordable, America's "education gap" will continue to widen. To combat the national debt and climate change, they call for balanced budgets - increasing taxes where they are due - and green energy innovation. Also good. But precisely how/where...? The authors did not elaborate on the details. In terms of the political gridlock at Washington, DC. they have perhaps the most ... creative, shall I say... solution to the problem: "Shock Therapy". That is, the introduction of a third, independent political party to force a stop to the hyperpartisanship of congress by introducing a more candid, centrist view towards politics. But who would they propose for this role? Just who are they thinking about in particular who will step up to the plate? With no concrete plans of change, Freidman and Mandelbaum instead relies heavily on anecdotal examples of success. They are essentially saying: Take heart! Change is possible. See here, here and here. But at the conclusion, you, the average reader, is still left in a confusing quadmire about how to proceed on a personal level. Bottom-line: An important topic to tackle and write about, certainly. But, the evidence - significantly lacking in certain areas and misleading in others as it were - is not anything new. The arguments and solutions are fairly standard to those already in the loop and provide no additional enlightenment. The one positive is perhaps that the literary clout of these two authors in writing this book will, produce more open, honest and focused discussions to recovering some of that former "American greatness".

  4. 5 out of 5

    J.D.

    Let me start by saying that, as a moderate/centrist, I really loved this book! I believe, as the authors do, that neither Democrats are right thinking that the government is the solution to every problem, or that Republicans are right thinking the government is the cause to every problem. The authors are correct in their assertion that we must come together and act collectively, taking the best ideas of both philosophies, if we intend to improve America. The authors nailed it on the head when th Let me start by saying that, as a moderate/centrist, I really loved this book! I believe, as the authors do, that neither Democrats are right thinking that the government is the solution to every problem, or that Republicans are right thinking the government is the cause to every problem. The authors are correct in their assertion that we must come together and act collectively, taking the best ideas of both philosophies, if we intend to improve America. The authors nailed it on the head when they they discussed why America is in trouble right now, how we got there, and what we need to do to return it to the best nation in the world--both now and continuing in the years to come. My favorite chapters, personally, are "Ignoring Our History,""Whatever It Is, I'm Against It," and "Homework x 2: The American Dream." The authors are spot-on when they identified the four major challenges we face--the first two we have a problem grasping and the second two we just plain ignore: globalization, the IT revolution, out-of- control deficit, and excessive energy consumption. Their solution: improvements in education, infrastructure, immigration policy, research and development, and regulation. Reading their book, their outlined solution seemed obvious to me as the best, if not only, sustainable plan to ensuring present and future prosperity for this nation. Of course, the problem is that Americans today (myself included) are too stupid, ignorant (especially of our past history and logical and mathematical sense), hyper-partisan, greedy, and entitled to do a thing about it. The authors are dead-on when they observe how Americans today think too much about what we want now instead of what we will need later. If we want something, whether it be social security, medicare, better schools, or more jobs, we're going to have to pay for it. Whether it's by ourselves now or our children later, we WILL have to pay. Unfortunately, too many of us have forgotten that making sacrifices in the present, while investing in the future, is the way we've always overcome major challenges in the past. I personally believe America can be great again. Of course, if we continue to be a nation of idiots who vote hyper-partisan ideologues into office rather than moderate problem solvers; delude ourselves into thinking we can pay for two wars, plus medicare and social security for all retiring baby-boomers, without raising taxes and cutting spending; see education as a social issue rather than an economic one, where it's O.K. if slave-wage earning teachers have lost any motivation to improve their craft and students aren't learning the skills they need to get tomorrow's jobs; believe we're better off addicted to terrorist-funding and earth-polluting oil instead of jumping on the next great market that is clean energy; or lastly, believe every piece of bulls**t. we hear on the internet or Fox News (such as global warming being a myth)--even when it laughs in the face of math, physics, and logic--we are all completely and utterly screwed.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Delway Burton

    A perceptive and informative book, while at the same time frightening. Tom Friedman (forget his liberal bent) is a rational and broad-based writer. His access to sources is unique and he is a keen observer, mixing both statistics and anecdotes. If anything he should be faulted for what he leaves out. The book is an analysis of how the good old USA got into this mess. Firstly this is not the first time the nation has been threatened. The analysis of the present is discouraging as long term proble A perceptive and informative book, while at the same time frightening. Tom Friedman (forget his liberal bent) is a rational and broad-based writer. His access to sources is unique and he is a keen observer, mixing both statistics and anecdotes. If anything he should be faulted for what he leaves out. The book is an analysis of how the good old USA got into this mess. Firstly this is not the first time the nation has been threatened. The analysis of the present is discouraging as long term problems have grown to reach a monumental scale. The reader is left to question whether they represent insurmountable burdens or by way of some national pick-me-up they can be cured. The examination of the facts, especially the workings of our government over the past 60 years is fact based and very accurate, and to some degree the opinions expressed about our present predicament ring true, but if anything the authors are too optimistic. After reading about our failed education system, our dysfunctional government, our lack of a national ethic, our global failure to compete, our abandonment of science, and global warming, one feels overwhelmed. When 50% of the population pay no income tax and 80+ million entitlement checks are mailed each month and the long term unemployed reaches 25-30% in some communities, one is left with the feeling that the shit has hit the fan. I would like to find a way over my cynicism, but this read has only increased it.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Book

    That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World it Invented and How We Can Come Back by Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum “That Used to Be Us” is the thought-provoking and topical book about the steep economical challenges that America faces. The authors take a systematic approach on what ails America and what can be done to cure it. This 400-page book is broken out in five parts: Part I. The Diagnosis, Part II. The Education Challenge, Part. III. The War on Math and Physics, Par That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World it Invented and How We Can Come Back by Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum “That Used to Be Us” is the thought-provoking and topical book about the steep economical challenges that America faces. The authors take a systematic approach on what ails America and what can be done to cure it. This 400-page book is broken out in five parts: Part I. The Diagnosis, Part II. The Education Challenge, Part. III. The War on Math and Physics, Part IV. Political Failure and Part V. Rediscovering America. Positives: 1. Two great authors who come together to write a seamless engaging book on a very important topic. 2. As well a researched book as you will find. Great historical references. 3. Great overall approach. As an industrial engineer, it follows closely an engineering design process: define the problem, analyze the problem, generate alternative designs, evaluate the alternatives, select the preferred design and implement it. Well at least, that’s how I see it. 4. As even-handed a book as you will find. The authors go out of their way to be fair, and most importantly, it works! 5. Elegant and engaging prose, full of interesting anecdotes. 6. In the first part of the book the authors provide a solid foundation on our current problems and uses China as a springboard to illustrate them. 7. The flattening of the economic playing field. 8. The four major challenges to America: how to adapt to globalization, how to adjust to information technology (IT) revolution, how to cope with deficits, and how to manage a world of both rising energy consumption and rising climate threats. 9. Great examples throughout book! 10. The Five Pillars of Prosperity: education, infrastructure, immigration, research and development, and the implementation of necessary regulations. 11. So many great facts sprinkled throughout the book. For instance, Lincoln signed the National Academy of Sciences into being on March 3, 1863. 12. Great historical presidential facts. 13. Education, education, education. The book does a wonderful job of stressing the importance of education and how America stacks up with the rest of the world. Educational indeed! 14. Love how the authors relay the recurring theme of the dichotomy between Democrats and Republicans. 15. As a technical guy, I enjoy all those references that have significance in my career. Technological history. 16. The impact of technology. 17. A look at today’s job market. Very interesting. Creative creators and creative servers. 18. Carlson’s Law. 19. Science literacy a topic that really hits home. 20. Once again, a great look at education. Insightful! 21. So much wisdom, “American young people have got to understand from an early age that the world pays off on results, not on effort”. Agreed. 22. The importance of critical thinking. 23. An important look at the deficit! We need to shrink it to a manageable level. 24. Excellent quotations, “If you are asking the wrong questions, the answers don’t matter, and increasingly we are asking the wrong questions”. 25. Monetary systems. 26. The realization that we are facing three unhappy options: raise interest rates, print money to cover the deficit; or close the gap with a combination of spending cuts and tax increases. 27. The sins of Democrats and Republicans… 28. The authors demonstrate convictions of their fiscal positions. They also provide four guidelines for America to follow: seriousness, purpose of exercise, cuts across the board, and raise revenue through taxation. 29. 1979 an impactful year indeed! 30. Global warming, it’s a reality people!! Great succinct comments. 31. Clean energy as the next major cutting-edge industry. And what other countries are doing. 32. Interesting facts about President Nixon. 33. Vicious food price cycle and how we can counter. 34. Did I mention the importance of education?? 35. Our failing infrastructure. 36. “Only two-thirds of the engineers who receive PHD’s from the United States universities are not United States citizens”. Worth sharing…get the book. 37. The interesting case of California. 38. Entrepreneurial start-ups. 39. Deregulation…once a proponent of it, even I can understand the damages that resulted from lack of smart oversight. 40. Time to cut entitlements, whether we like it or not… 41. The reality that our political system is paralyzed. 42. “Special interests” and their impact. Lobbyists… 43. The realization that seventy-eight million baby boomers will cause the costs of Social security and Medicare to skyrocket. Ouch! 44. Tough decisions need to be made, sensible arguments. 45. The changes needed to regain America’s greatness. 46. Situational values vs. sustainable values. 47. The armed forces as the bastions of civic idealism. 48. Great examples of small businesses that work and their challenges. 49. An amusing yet thought-provoking look at what the great French aristocrat, Alexis de Tocqueville’s book “Democracy in America” would look like today. 50. A compelling case for a third party. 51. The authors leave us with hope! Negatives: 1. Very disappointed that the book did not have a bibliography. 2. No links or even a notes section. 3. Not enough emphasis on the fact that our natural resources are limited and have a major impact on the economy. 4. Supporters from both parties will have something to complain about, which is a good thing. 5. Stats can be misleading especially when referring to other countries; references would have helped the readers look further into it. In summary, an excellent book. The authors defined America’s economical and political problems and provided compelling arguments on how to address them. The book really worked for me. As an engineer it touched upon many subjects that are near and dear to my heart. The authors did a wonderful job of laying out their premise and provided a satisfactory route to address such problems. Authors like Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum remind me why I love reading so much. You may not agree with all their strategies but you will appreciate the wisdom provided. I highly recommend this book! Further recommendations: “The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality” by Richard Heinberg, “The Crash Course” by Chris Martenson, and “Aftershock” by Robert B. Reich.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Donald Crane

    Really compelling book. The first 80% of it is a damning exploration of how the US has lost its way - educationally and politically, primarily. This part of the book highlights how America has failed to keep up with the rest of the world in science and math education, and how politicians - left and right - insist on making up their own facts to suit their ideology, science and research notwithstanding. (One of my favorite observations: in one study, "49% of US adults do not know how long it take Really compelling book. The first 80% of it is a damning exploration of how the US has lost its way - educationally and politically, primarily. This part of the book highlights how America has failed to keep up with the rest of the world in science and math education, and how politicians - left and right - insist on making up their own facts to suit their ideology, science and research notwithstanding. (One of my favorite observations: in one study, "49% of US adults do not know how long it takes for the Earth to revolve around the Sun." Yikes.) So that's a really short summary of the case Friedman and Mandelbaum make to demonstrate the need to try something different. The ending makes several suggestions about how we can shock our political system into coming to grips with reality, recognizing that it's the responsibility of citizens to make this happen. It's an optimistic end, one that might just work, though it's very hard to be hopeful with the steady drumbeat of dysfunction we see every day. The warning, however, is that failure to act will simply result in forced actions down the road that will be much more painful - even more severe cuts in federal spending; higher taxes; higher unemployment due to an unemployable, poorly educated workforce; and severe hardship resulting from runaway climate change that we ignored for too long. One really interesting point made in the book is that the mid-twentieth century work ethic is no longer enough - now employees need to have the basic math skills to perform their jobs, but also must consistently innovate to differentiate themselves from both domestic and international workers. It's a global labor force, and work goes to the people who can create value. Fine book, sobering at times, but well worth reading. And implementing.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Steve Schlutow

    This was a very good book; I agree 100% with their arguments.. I disagree with some of the approaches to resolving their arguments, but many times I do disagree with these author(s) being a conservative.. That said the authors' books are always informative good reads, thus I read enjoy reading them.. This book continuous the authors trend of good books, it is a very interesting book, and I enjoyed the read very much.. The part of the book that I enjoyed the most was education chapters, as how the This was a very good book; I agree 100% with their arguments.. I disagree with some of the approaches to resolving their arguments, but many times I do disagree with these author(s) being a conservative.. That said the authors' books are always informative good reads, thus I read enjoy reading them.. This book continuous the authors trend of good books, it is a very interesting book, and I enjoyed the read very much.. The part of the book that I enjoyed the most was education chapters, as how the US has fallen behind other countries--common knowledge.. I liked their approach of the subject.. The authors said one of the reasons we have fallen behind was the fact we reward on ef fort--I have always hated that, as an athlete and a coach.. When I ever I received a participation reward (as a kid) I would just chuck it--I do not need to be reminded I sucked, and did not place.. That is what the authors talk as on of the problems are with generations today is that they expect something with no result--I gave effort and participated, REWARD ME... As a teacher (and a former coach), I hate rewarding effort, I want results--do you know it, and(or) did you achieve it.. Their are other great examples that we can all take from our lives(like above) and visualize in the book--I enjoy books when authors do this..

  9. 4 out of 5

    Loyola University Chicago Libraries

    While reading this book, it's very hard not to feel overwhelmed. It's not just that the United States faces a single, all-consuming problem; it faces dozens, if not hundreds of them. There's not very much that's going right in America these days; from our failing schools to dismal unemployment rate to crumbling infrastructure, we barely resemble the global super power that confidently dominated world events after WWII. And even if these problems were easy to solve, our current gridlocked politic While reading this book, it's very hard not to feel overwhelmed. It's not just that the United States faces a single, all-consuming problem; it faces dozens, if not hundreds of them. There's not very much that's going right in America these days; from our failing schools to dismal unemployment rate to crumbling infrastructure, we barely resemble the global super power that confidently dominated world events after WWII. And even if these problems were easy to solve, our current gridlocked political system makes even the smallest change nearly impossible. It's not always easy to keep up with current events, much less understand the socio-historic causes behind today's crises. Friedman and Mandelbaum do an excellent job getting us up to speed and providing essential background information. They also mostly succeed at taking a centrist stance, leveling criticism at both the right and left. While the book contains more problems than solutions, I certainly don't expect these journalists to solve the country's problems in a 400 page book, and to their credit, there are a few surprisingly good ideas found within. By the end, I still felt overwhelmed, but also highly informed and motivated to contribute to a solution.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Maria

    Friedman and Mandelbaum believe that we, as Americans, are failing to meet the 4 major challenges of our time: 1. globalization, 2. information technology revolution, 3. national deficits and 4. energy consumption. The tragedy they say, is that we used to lead the world in all of these areas. They point out the historical trends that lead us to our current path and the what decisions we have to make to turn it around. Why I started it: I have a history crush on Friedman and I needed to inject som Friedman and Mandelbaum believe that we, as Americans, are failing to meet the 4 major challenges of our time: 1. globalization, 2. information technology revolution, 3. national deficits and 4. energy consumption. The tragedy they say, is that we used to lead the world in all of these areas. They point out the historical trends that lead us to our current path and the what decisions we have to make to turn it around. Why I started it: I have a history crush on Friedman and I needed to inject some non-fiction into my audio selection. Why I finished it: This would be an awesome book discussion selection. And while I agreed with the authors on many points I would love to have someone else to debate it with.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Keith Swenson

    For me, four stars means it is an excellent book I completely enjoyed. Five stars mean it is not only excellent, but that it is a rare and important book that everyone should read. I want to give this book 6 stars that means not only excellent because this is important and urgent -- drop whatever you are doing now and read this book NOW! Tom Friedman's "The World Is Flat" (2005) book had a tremendous impact on our culture, but it presents a defeatist tone. "That used to be us" completes the messa For me, four stars means it is an excellent book I completely enjoyed. Five stars mean it is not only excellent, but that it is a rare and important book that everyone should read. I want to give this book 6 stars that means not only excellent because this is important and urgent -- drop whatever you are doing now and read this book NOW! Tom Friedman's "The World Is Flat" (2005) book had a tremendous impact on our culture, but it presents a defeatist tone. "That used to be us" completes the message by saying what America should do to fit in and thrive in a flat world. What I really liked was the clear and lucid presentation of the current situation that America is in. It is a decidedly pro-American stance with the explicit agenda to return to the greatness exemplified by the America of 1950/1960 when NASA sent people to the moon, and seemed to be at the center of all advances. Section 1 is a humbling presentation of evidence of how far America has fallen behind along with history of how America came to be in a position of strength in the first place. Section 2 & 3 is the heart of the book: Chapter 4/5 - how the workplace has changed: we need more knowledge workers who are able to deal with creativity and unpredictability. This fundamental change in the workplace is the reason that unemployment remains high while the economy is growing. Chapter 6/7 - how the education system is failing to produce such workers along with plenty fo evidence that the education system is failing in general. Education is the single most important key to reasserting greatness, but it is going to take the political will to act now, and then it will take a couple decades to see the result. Chapter 9 - the War on Math: how nonsense is told by supposed news sources, and how the public is discouraged from verifying wild claims that could be debunked using simple math. Chapter 10 - the War On Physics: more nonsense and how science is losing ground to superstition and propaganda from those who benefit from the public being confused about basic facts. Section 4 is about politics. It is a searing critique of how the current political system is deadlocked and unable to accomplish even basic legislative tasks while "The national debate is consumed by absurd distractions such as establishing beyond a doubt that the president was born in the United States." It is about how greed is the motivation, and lobbyists are running the country, to the benefit of special interest groups. Meanwhile nobody is concerned about the big long term picture. The book then ends on a positive note with a lengthy discussion of what can be done. Bright energetic people still find America is the best place in the world to launch a new venture. America still has advantages, and there is every reason we can hold on to that. We will need to get the public debate centered on right things, the things that matter. From a historical perspective we are changing from a resource-rich economy, to a knowledge worker driven economy, and an education to support this is more important than ever. Continuing to do what has worked in the past will not do. Do I have any critique of the book? The first half was a page turner, toward the end it dragged on a bit. This can be forgiven; the scope is large. If I could get everyone to read the first half, it would be enough. The clear, well researched, lucid presentation of our current situation, cutting through the political rhetoric and disinformation, is invaluable. As an America, I feel this might be our best, last hope.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Zora

    omg, could not take it one more minute. After being fascinated with Gov. Cuomo and thinking through the truly amazing things he has done in NY State in ten years (plus give him the four years as AG, because those were amazing too), I thought, gee, maybe a moderate kind of politics has some appeal for me again. Sure, socially progressive, but lots of building and infrastructure and tax breaks for corporations because that keeps them in place (and not outsourcing to slave-labor countries) and that omg, could not take it one more minute. After being fascinated with Gov. Cuomo and thinking through the truly amazing things he has done in NY State in ten years (plus give him the four years as AG, because those were amazing too), I thought, gee, maybe a moderate kind of politics has some appeal for me again. Sure, socially progressive, but lots of building and infrastructure and tax breaks for corporations because that keeps them in place (and not outsourcing to slave-labor countries) and that leads to jobs, which leads to prosperity, and that leads to happier people less angry about stuff like giving gays rights and maybe finally policing the police, and thus a better world comes about because economic stability is a good thing. Or something. I think that's the argument I was making for myself, or Cuomo made, and I was thinking, "okay, maybe...maybe...could be." So I hunted down some "moderate solution" books and this is one of them I saw referenced. And it's... well... nuts. There is within its covers a delusional view of American history that ignores that we stole "our" land in the first place, and that the American Dream only worked for white men, and that having an enemy to fight in the cold war (which they seem to regret losing!) led to the very military excesses that meant we fell further and further behind on keeping up infrastructure and education, which cause the problems they (correctly) cite about us. And their bizarrely optimistic view that "something" will replace oil as the cheap endless energy source for the future just made me want to bang my head against the headboard of the bed behind me. I didn't. Instead I tossed it aside. Look, oil is going to end. And we keep wasting it and we need to use every drop remaining to build some sort of electrical generation alternatives (all of which require astonishing amounts of oil to build) so at least we don't freeze or boil to death in the climate crisis future, and the American dream is DEAD and needs to stay dead because endless growth is not only impossible, it's a BAD IDEA in the first place. Be frugal should be the message, not "let's build the tallest skyscraper in the world again!" because what the hell use is the tallest skyscraper when we're back up to a third of Americans not having health insurance enough to get a broken leg bone set? When a college education everyplace BUT New York for a working class or middle class kid means 20 years of debt to crawl out from under. When Americans are getting stupider and extremist religions are on the upswing that loathe science and facts and leave us in a situation where people are too freaking stupid to understand what a pandemic is and who to listen to about such a thing. This is some weird Pollyanna nonsense written by a couple of privileged baby boomer men who just don't get anything. Dollars to donuts they've always had health insurance and have not, like me, had to cut off suspected skin cancers with a GD X-Acto knife and wrapped a broken foot with strips of sheeting because who the hell can afford an ER? To people like me, stuff like this makes me want to hunt the authors down and slap them upside of the head. So a leftist book pushes me to the left and this moderate stuff pushes me to the left and right-wing stuff definitely pushes me to the left. Justice Dems or nothing for me, thank you very much. And Grandpa and Grandpa here should really get on the clue bus.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    Once you get past all the cliches and bumper sticker slogans, Tom again has a good book. I was a huge fan of world is flat but only kinda liked hot flat and crowded. This book is kind of the love child of both (but not exactly). Although I don't agree with a lot of his politics, he hits the nail on the head with education and business. For some reason people just don't seem to get that the world and business has shifted for good. You don't need lots of people to make lots of money anymore and as Once you get past all the cliches and bumper sticker slogans, Tom again has a good book. I was a huge fan of world is flat but only kinda liked hot flat and crowded. This book is kind of the love child of both (but not exactly). Although I don't agree with a lot of his politics, he hits the nail on the head with education and business. For some reason people just don't seem to get that the world and business has shifted for good. You don't need lots of people to make lots of money anymore and as a consequence there are going to be less jobs going forward. Facebook has been valued at around $60B but only has 2,000 employees for example. With technology improving and business forced to learn how to operate lean and mean because of the great recession, businesses don't need to hire especially coupled with the fact there is no demand. People get mad at business for not hiring while having $2T on the sidelines, but their anger is unjustified in the fact there is not enough demand or economic stability to make such an investment. They just don't need to hire new people to get the job done anymore. Existing employees, new machines and software are more productive and less costly. So what does this mean for the uneducated and the unemployed? I think this book sums it up - better get cracking at educating yourself and/or starting your own company. It is a global economy now - the genie is out of the bottle - the train has left the station - and no business in their right mind is going to pay one person to shine the fork and another to polish the spoon when they can get someone from another labor market (or a computer) to do them both for less. Fair or unfair it is reality. Labor is not only cheap now but intelligent labor is cheap and will continue to be so. What happens to the losers in this economic showdown will be what makes or breaks this country and unlike Friedman, I'm not as optimistic that a society that feels as entitled as ours will prosper in this new economic reality we find ourselves in. I hope I'm wrong.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Chris Dietzel

    I very much enjoyed Friedman's The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century and also Longitudes and Attitudes: The World in the Age of Terrorism but I found this book flawed from the start. As someone who is pessimistic of the trajectory the United States is taking, this should have been a perfect fit for me. However, a series of issues kept me from enjoying it. 1) He repeatedly states that U.S. tax payer needs to be prepared to pay higher taxes in return for less while never no I very much enjoyed Friedman's The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century and also Longitudes and Attitudes: The World in the Age of Terrorism but I found this book flawed from the start. As someone who is pessimistic of the trajectory the United States is taking, this should have been a perfect fit for me. However, a series of issues kept me from enjoying it. 1) He repeatedly states that U.S. tax payer needs to be prepared to pay higher taxes in return for less while never noting that other countries pay more in exchange for more (Sweden, Japan, etc.) or pay less and in exchange for receiving less (Russia, Costa Rica, etc.). He never justifies why the American tax payer should be the exception and pay more yet receive less benefits from their taxes. He also never acknowledges that companies like Amazon and Apple pay zero in taxes while the U.S. tax payer pays a higher percent of the overall taxes than any other time in history. 2) All four of the main issues he discusses have a common root in the fact that our politicians are failing us. While Friedman does cover the failures of U.S. politics and politicians, he does not acknowledge that everything he writes to in the book can be tied to this one factor. That's like writing a book on the numbers 4, 6, 8, and 10 and then never noting the most important thing in common between all of them is that they have the same core denominator of 2 in common. 3) At best, he is a war apologist. At worst, he is an advertisement for the industrial war complex. He admits the war in Iraq was a mistake but notes it will be worth it if it ultimately results in the country becoming a democracy. This is straight out of the war machine's playbook. He says the war was about preventing Iraq from getting nuclear weapons, which is revisionist garbage. It was based on them supporting 9/11, which they were not. Then the excuse was WMDs, which was also not true. Then it was, "well, maybe they would have gotten WMDs one day... and plus, we gave them democracy!" He argues that wars to prevent countries from getting nuclear weapons are justified, which is what warhawks give as the reason for unprovoked wars against North Korea and Iran. I have heard Friedman described as a progressive or liberal. In this book, at least, nothing could be further from the truth. He is neither conservative nor liberal; he is 100% a corporatist. He wants the tax payer to pay more taxes but the corporations to pay none. He thinks corporations know how to best regulate themselves and even recommends "safe fracking", something that doesn't exist. He thinks tax payers should have paid for the war in Iraq, etc. There are a couple parts of the book where he introduced good ideas and where I learned a couple things but overall I felt this book was built on a faulty premise it cover never recover from. For readers looking for an analysis on why America is in decline, I highly recommend anything by Chris Hedges.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    An important book for anyone who cares about America. The book was written before the 2012 election, and we were already falling behind much of the rest of the world. The authors give their formula for making America great again, and--surprise!--it's the polar opposite of Trump's: invest heavily in education, infrastructure, and R&D; lessen our dependence on foreign oil; reduce carbon emissions and invest in clean energy; welcome immigrants; reduce the deficit by reducing social benefits AND rai An important book for anyone who cares about America. The book was written before the 2012 election, and we were already falling behind much of the rest of the world. The authors give their formula for making America great again, and--surprise!--it's the polar opposite of Trump's: invest heavily in education, infrastructure, and R&D; lessen our dependence on foreign oil; reduce carbon emissions and invest in clean energy; welcome immigrants; reduce the deficit by reducing social benefits AND raising taxes; end the war on science and math; etc. The authors are optimistic about America's future, but they didn't give me much cause to be. Our political system is broken and incapable of correcting itself. Their solution is to have a charismatic third-party candidate emerge who will champion their formula. Well, we had essentially a third-party candidate in Trump, and he just brought out America's dark side and tried to set the country back 60 years. As the authors point out, if we regress 20 years, it puts us 40 years behind the rest of the world because the world--a world we created, the authors are fond of pointing out--keeps moving ahead at an accelerated rate. The book made me fear for my country. But the first step toward bringing about change is to recognize the world we live in and how we got to where we are.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sherry Sharpnack

    This book would have been so much better if I had read it closer to its publication date of 2011. As off the rails as the two authors felt our country was in 2010, can you imagine how they would feel nearly a decade later, w/ the circus that is Donald Trump? Basically, the authors feel that America has turned its back on investing in itself to make our future as technologically competitive as our past. They go to great lengths to describe our failing infrastructure and educational systems, and co This book would have been so much better if I had read it closer to its publication date of 2011. As off the rails as the two authors felt our country was in 2010, can you imagine how they would feel nearly a decade later, w/ the circus that is Donald Trump? Basically, the authors feel that America has turned its back on investing in itself to make our future as technologically competitive as our past. They go to great lengths to describe our failing infrastructure and educational systems, and connect that to America’s flagging leadership on the global stage. They address the four challenges that we need to address in order to reassert ourselves as global leaders: 1) How to adapt to globalization; 2) How to adjust to the information technology; 3) How to cope w/ the soaring budget deficits stemming on the demands on government on so many levels; and 4) How to manage a world of increasing energy consumption and rising climate threats. If the authors could only see how these issues have all worsened b/c NO ONE has heeded their Cassandra-like warnings! All the above are so much worse now than in 2011. Here is their answer for addressing these problems: “What we need... is to understand our own history. We need to adapt the formula, the priorities, and the practices that are embedded in that history and in our culture. We need to reconnect with the values and ideals that made the American dream so compelling for so many generations of Americans, as well as for so many millions of people across the globe. That is all part of our past. That used to be us. And because that used to be is, it can be again. That is why, today, the history books we need to read are our own and the country we need to rediscover is America.” p. 356.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Mills

    A very good summary of some of the things that have gone wrong in our country, and how they can be remedied. Author is somewhat more big-government oriented than I, but his points are cogently expressed and valid, especially his concerns about the expanding national debt and the need to reduce spending.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Diana Petty-stone

    Interesting and very informative.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ray

    I'll admit that I didn't fully read this book. It was a gift to me and I gave my best shot to read it but after about 1/3rd of the way through I couldn't finish it. It simply felt too boring and like it was saying things that were a bit too obvious (like we need to improve education).

  20. 5 out of 5

    thewestchestarian

    Back in the early 1990's America became obsessed with its rapidly diminishing lead against an Asian country which seemed to be leagues better at business, education, manufacturing and government. Because it would soon become the number one global economy, it's "Theory Z" management practices received our deep study and admiration. The U.S.'s management practices and slack relative educational standards became a source of national shame compared to a country that seemed to do everything right. So Back in the early 1990's America became obsessed with its rapidly diminishing lead against an Asian country which seemed to be leagues better at business, education, manufacturing and government. Because it would soon become the number one global economy, it's "Theory Z" management practices received our deep study and admiration. The U.S.'s management practices and slack relative educational standards became a source of national shame compared to a country that seemed to do everything right. Somewhere between '93 and '95, however, the metaphorical man behind the curtain of the great and powerfully Oz was exposed as Japan's undisciplined lending practices and refusal to write off the resulting bad debts sent their economy in a famous "Lost Decade." When is the last time you heard why can't the U.S. be more like Japan? Ah, but as economists and Friedman and Mandelbaum in this book say: "this time it's different." Sure, the U.S.'s China envy over their manufacturing prowess, explosive economic growth and increasing influence has morphed into study of China's management and educational practices (Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother) just like before. Sure, U.S. business students minor in Mandarin just like they use to study Japanese back then. Sure, China's near double-digit sustained GDP growth threatens to make it the world's premiere place to do business just as Japan's did in the late 80's. And sure, the U.S. worries about reliance on continuing Chinese investments to pull the economy out of its doldrums just as it looked to the east during the '90 to '92 recession. However, this time it's different. Friedman and Mandelbaum may indeed have a point. Get passed some of the hand-wringing about broken escalators and aging airports and the pair do present worrisome trends in declining educational investments and, particularly, a political system that does very much resemble World Wrestling Federation more than the impassioned but respectful debate Washington, Jefferson, Adams and the other founding fathers used to get the place started. The authors, New York Time political commentators by trade, are most in their element when talking about this political system and their best points grow out of the admission that the 24/7 news cycle created to cover the 9-11 attacks are massively counter-productive when reporting on nuanced matters of public policy. On this poisoned ground, nothing much is going to grow and some cause for concern over continued American single-superpower-dom is credible.Friedman and Mandelbaum tie many of their solutions to the old bug-a-boo of recasting the U.S. educational system. They cite the old familiar world rankings showing the U.S. trailing Latvia in math and they point east to the educational prowess of Chinese and other Asian-country students in comparison. The authors miss some cultural context in their prescription. As Dennis Miller pointed out in his rants from early 90's, America was never what you would call highbrow. Eastern education practices work well partially because their basic culture holds education in high-esteem. In the U.S. being called an "Einstein" is not necessarily a compliment. Thus putting all of the eggs in the education basket may not be "...how we come back" as the subtitle puts it.As NY Times writers, little complaint can be made of the book's style. As foreign policy wonks, however, complaint can be made of a fair amount of digressiveness, arcania and, frankly, droning on. The book contains some unnecessarily filler; the most humorous example is the recitation of nearly all the lyrics from T Bone Burnett's Fallin' and Flyin'. It's a good song but does a political book really need a musical interlude? The authors adopt the hugely irritating habit normally reserved for business books of consultant-ese. We learn about "Creative Creators", and how they differ from "Creative Servers" in a spiral of consultant speak that culminates in the revelation that "Uncreative Creators" actually exist. Also borrowed from the latest Franklin-Covey publication is practice of holding up the behavior of a single once-in-a-generation success as a model. In this case the boys talk about how(has he been officially sainted yet?) Steve Jobs dropped out of Reed College, studied calligraphy and parlayed these experiences to build a half-trillion dollar company. Better practical career advance you are unlikely to receive.In short, the old democrats are right to despair that the American empire may be following the natural arc that diminished the British empire and took out the Romans, Macedonians and Egyptians before her. Whether solutions can be found east of Mongolia and west of Formosia is to be determined.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Alicia

    I thought that this was a very intriguing book. I thought that the picking and pulling a part of the left and the right was fantastic. I enjoyed that it didn’t play the blame game with one side, but put the fault where it should be, with everyone. If we just keep letting party lines get in the way of progress to make out country better, we will not succeed and we will therein create more issues in the future with education, jobs, and overall sustainability. I like the thought process of adding a I thought that this was a very intriguing book. I thought that the picking and pulling a part of the left and the right was fantastic. I enjoyed that it didn’t play the blame game with one side, but put the fault where it should be, with everyone. If we just keep letting party lines get in the way of progress to make out country better, we will not succeed and we will therein create more issues in the future with education, jobs, and overall sustainability. I like the thought process of adding a third party candidate to the election process. I know that there were two others in this election that ran, but Friedman and Mandelbaum make an argument as to the importance of breaking up this two party system that isn't working as well as it should and challenge the status quo of our current party system. I thought that it was curious their thoughts about both parties being fiscally irresponsible by taking out loans for wars that we aren’t able to pay back from foreign investors. They stress the importance of paying these loans back but it comes at a price (which I think is why nothing will be done). Both parties have to be fiscally conservative TOGETHER to cut the budget and potentially taxing more. I don’t ever see this happening. I don’t think that in their current state the parties will work together. There was a section of the book that struck a really important fact; that both parties, for the most part, run on meaningless issues that have no real substance when it comes to the core issues plaguing our nation- lack of education, the slowing information technology revolution –the fact that other countries are advancing over the US, our deficits, and most of all (my opinion) our energy consumption. There were a few interesting stories of other countries and their uses of renewable energy and how they are succeeding in their endeavors but we are stuck in this rut which is mainly blamed on big oil companies with their lobbyist in Washington with the ability to halt anything that could threaten their industry. And the fact that the lobbyists in Washington have far more power than they should in this industry. Overall I really liked this book; there were many more good points made and how to solve these issues. This is another good point that I enjoyed about the book. They stated a problem and suggested a solution. I don’t mind stating issues, but coming up with solutions to issues is admirable.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kkraemer

    Every American should read this book, all 377 pages of it. They should read it, think about it, talk about it with their friends, and consider world, national, and personal events through the lenses that are framed in these pages. They should spend time. It's important: America can serve this world as a stabilizer that offers people opportunity, education, and the right to be visionaries. America can serve this world as a place where all live in some degree of peace. It has institutions that bal Every American should read this book, all 377 pages of it. They should read it, think about it, talk about it with their friends, and consider world, national, and personal events through the lenses that are framed in these pages. They should spend time. It's important: America can serve this world as a stabilizer that offers people opportunity, education, and the right to be visionaries. America can serve this world as a place where all live in some degree of peace. It has institutions that balance the rights of the individual with the very real fact that individuals have been monitored well enough over the last 15 years so that there have been no attacks on American soil. Not an accident…and the world needs such stability. Most of this book analyzes how we got from what we were to what we are, and the authors are, in fact, fair and balanced. They're clear about their conclusions and about their data and their thinking…and every American ought to care enough about our country to read 377 pages rather than line up in front of the media outlet that best echoes their own pre-determined attitudes. Knowledge matters. In the end, this is also a very hopeful book. The authors look at us and see that we are, in fact, people who move beyond our situational selfishness to sustainably reach out to one another. We are people who can make plans, and in our own lives, we know that plans take time and effort. The authors believe that we need to deal with four changes in the world: the rise of IT, globalization, our deficit, and our energy use. . Because of the first 2 changes, we are competing with billions of workers; because of the last 2, our own workers will be hobbled with debt. None of these challenges will be easy to solve. All will require deep thought well beyond bumper sticker epithets currently thrown out during the 24 hour news cycle. By understanding how we got here, we can think about where we want to go. This book is a beginning point for the deep thinking that we Americans must do.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Todd Stockslager

    Review title: Becoming us again Friedman made his fame with most readers in his book The World is Flat, which described how computing and communications technology were leading to radical globalization. While That Used to Be Us is not strictly speaking a followup, as he contiued his journalism and writing in other books and was joined by a co-author on this one, it does provide explanations for America's stumbling response to globalism and steps to recover our stride--to becoming us again. As suc Review title: Becoming us again Friedman made his fame with most readers in his book The World is Flat, which described how computing and communications technology were leading to radical globalization. While That Used to Be Us is not strictly speaking a followup, as he contiued his journalism and writing in other books and was joined by a co-author on this one, it does provide explanations for America's stumbling response to globalism and steps to recover our stride--to becoming us again. As such, while some of this book is addressed to business as was Flat, which I shelved in Business, Us is focused more on politics and people so I shelved it in Politics. Friedman and Mandelbaum identify four challenges for America in the flat world: globalization, information technology, rising national debt pushed up by growing annual government deficits, and rising energy consumption and climate change. Then they identify five levers that we must lengthen and strengthen to address the challenges: improving education, investing in infrastructure, addressing immigration, increasing private and public research and development funding, and simplifying and focusing regulation to achieve desired objectives. They devote the most pages--the only lever meriting it's own section, four chapters--to education because of its vital importance to the solution, the size of the gap we need to address to be competitive globally, and the direct and very personal impact our failing educational system is having on preparing and retraining American workers to compete globally. They also devote a major portion of the book to the gridlock that has arisen in American politics in the last two decades as each party has moved to the extreme edges of their respective positions, resulting in the inability to compromise on commonsense approaches to address any of the five levers. This has resulted in what the authors call a war on math (ignoring the huge deficits and assuring voters that spending cuts and tax increases are not necessary to prevent economic disasters in the future) and physics (ignoring opportunities to invest in clean energy technologies and move away from fossil fuels to combat political dependence on suppliers and reduce the impact of climate change). Working journalists like Friedman--working on the first draft of history--and professors like Mandelbaum--buried deep in academia--are not always accurate at assessing the world from the longer or broader view. Since the time of their writing in 2011, when the economy was still in the downturn from the mortgage crisis of 2008, the American economy has made a strong recovery especially when compared against its global competition, and new stocks of domestic natural gas and oil combined with newer high efficiency and cleaner cars, buildings, and power plants have made many of the gains in energy self-sufficiency and environmental improvements that the authors feared we lacked the will and regulatory influence to achieve. It was a bit disingenuous for the authors to castigate American efforts to lean up the environment and praise China for its efforts and investment there when the American environment is so much cleaner than that of China because of massive American investment in environmental cleanup over the last 50 years which China is just now recognizing must be done. The authors call themselves optimistic because "we stand on our heads a lot" (p. 326), where the bottoms-up view of America and Americans applying their native intelligence, innovation, and enthusiasm is much better than the view from the top where American political leadership is stuck in gridlock and unable to make decisions that would benefit all of us. I think the progress i described in the previous paragraph is an indicator of the strength of the American system of economics, finance, and the rule of law (the authors stress the value of property rights, patent law, relative lack of legal corruption, and stable markets and regulatory systems as contributors to America's continued success) that when combined with our individual abilities still makes America the greatest country in the world. That said, there is no question that we need to improve our educational systems, make hard choices to fund the government by reducing spending and increasing taxes while making targeted investments in R & D and cleaner energy technologies, and address immigration, as the authors recommend. Because of the failure of the Democratic and Republican parties to govern wisely or at all (it has been decades since Congress has followed its process to plan and pass the annual federal budget, resulting in shutdowns, overspending, and pork barrel legislation without rational long term thinking), the authors believe that a "radical centrist" politician needs to run as a third party presidential candidate so that they could influence the winning party's platform even though they would have no chance to win themselves. It is clear that Donald Trump, even though he arose outside the Republican party machinery, is not the candidate they had in mind. He took over the Republican platform and drove it further away from the center, cutting taxes and focusing all of his political energy on blaming immigrants for crime and economic problems, resulting in yet another government shutdown and stopgap funding bill with no rational plan. When Friedman and Mandelbaum talk about immigration, the problem they identify is that we don't encourage enough immigration of the right kind (educated, innovative technical workers), not the blame-immigration card that Trump is playing. So there is hope that we can be us again, based on the strength of our people and our 250 years of independence independent thinking. It just isn't a sure thing, as Friedman and Mandelbaum rightly make clear, but we can make it happen: We want [America] to be the place where innovators and entrepreneurs the world over come to locate all or part of their operations because our workforce is so productive; our infrastructure and Internet bandwidth are so advanced; our openness to talent from anywhere is second to none; our funding for basic research is so generous; our rule of law, patent protection, and investment- and manufacturing-friendly tax code is superior to what can be found in any other country; and our openness to collaboration is unparalleled--all because we have updated and expanded our formula for success. We want America to be the place where people dream something, design something, start something, collaborate with others on something, and manufacture something--in an age in which every link in that chain can now be added in so many places. (p. 335)

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ellen Christian

    That Used To Be Us was written by Thomas L. Friedman (a New York Times columnist) and Michael Mandelbaum (Director of Foreign Policy at Johns Hopkins). That Used To Be Us is a call to action. It's a bucket of cold water meant to wake up Americans and get them to see what's really happened to our country. Friedman and Mandelbaum take a look at four challenges that our country is facing: globalization, the revolution in information technology, the nation's chronic deficits and our pattern of exces That Used To Be Us was written by Thomas L. Friedman (a New York Times columnist) and Michael Mandelbaum (Director of Foreign Policy at Johns Hopkins). That Used To Be Us is a call to action. It's a bucket of cold water meant to wake up Americans and get them to see what's really happened to our country. Friedman and Mandelbaum take a look at four challenges that our country is facing: globalization, the revolution in information technology, the nation's chronic deficits and our pattern of excessive energy consumption. The authors believe that we have fallen into a trap of complacency and flat out laziness. Do you remember when your father/grandfather told you that when he was younger he had to walk to school in five feet of snow, barefoot, uphill both ways? If your father is like mine, it was always in response to you being lazy or not working hard enough. If that's the case, you'll sort of understand where the authors are coming from. They feel that we as Americans have grown lazy and used to the problems in our country - like our failing roads and the horrible state of our public school systems. We think it's *just the way it is now* and have resigned ourselves to accept it the way it is. Our country is in a slow decline and it is just slow enough for us not to notice it - sort of like the frog in the pot of hot water. The authors feel that we need to make a collective effort on a large sale to rediscover some of our most vital traditions and create a new third-party movement to galvanize the country. They offer profiles of individuals who have managed to hang onto the habits of bold thought and dramatic action and suggest a five-part formula for taking America back where it belongs.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Meg - A Bookish Affair

    Full disclosure: I'm a big Thomas Friedman fan. I think he has a lot of interesting things to say and a lot of good ideas. I'm less familiar with Michael Mandelbaum although some of his books are now on my TBR based on what he discussed in this book. Anyhow, I really liked this book. The authors start out with talking about how we've kind of lost our way as a country. We've had a lot of things (such as the recession) thrust upon us but we've sort of gotten lazy too. The book opens with a story a Full disclosure: I'm a big Thomas Friedman fan. I think he has a lot of interesting things to say and a lot of good ideas. I'm less familiar with Michael Mandelbaum although some of his books are now on my TBR based on what he discussed in this book. Anyhow, I really liked this book. The authors start out with talking about how we've kind of lost our way as a country. We've had a lot of things (such as the recession) thrust upon us but we've sort of gotten lazy too. The book opens with a story about the Washington, DC Metro (something I know a little bit about having ridden it every weekday for the past couple years) and how it's sort of a metaphor for all of the ills that we're feeling and how we've sort of gotten used to it and are at a loss to change things. Friedman and Mandelbaum start out by talking about several challenges that the United States is currently facing. They use lots of examples to illustrate what they're talking about and they brought up a lot of things that I've never thought about before. One thing that I like about Friedman's books is that I think they're accessible to those that don't have a lot of background in things like economics and foreign relations. On the other hand, I think even those like myself who are sort of economics and poli sci nerds (guilty!), can get something new to think about out of these books. Even though I don't agree with every single thing in this book, it definitely made me think a little bit, something good in any book like this!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Scott Lupo

    Thank you to Mindy Kittay for suggesting this book. Overall, this is a really great book that outlines the challenges this nation faces along with solutions that the authors consider the pillars of American society. The four challenges the US faces, in the author's opinion, are globalization, the revolution in IT, our deficit, and our energy consumption. The solutions that the authors posit are investment in education, investment in R&D, building infrastructure, immigration, and regulation. They Thank you to Mindy Kittay for suggesting this book. Overall, this is a really great book that outlines the challenges this nation faces along with solutions that the authors consider the pillars of American society. The four challenges the US faces, in the author's opinion, are globalization, the revolution in IT, our deficit, and our energy consumption. The solutions that the authors posit are investment in education, investment in R&D, building infrastructure, immigration, and regulation. They do a nice job of summarizing how the US got to this point in history, putting blame judiciously amongst all political persuasions. I generally agreed with their conclusions on both how we got to where we are today and what the potential solutions should be tomorrow because they actually use facts to construct their theories (I know, you're shocked aren't you?) I also was encouraged by their voice in this book. It was not accusatory in nature. They understand we are all in this together and that we have to make hard decisions to better the country regardless of faith, dogma, ideals, etc. I wasn't keen on their solution of shock therapy for our political system and I feel some of their allusions to how things used to be are romanticized (as we usually do when we try to remember how things were in the past). This is a good read for anybody who follows the state of our nation or would like a pragmatic view of the state of affairs we find ourselves in these days.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jason Walker

    I'm not sure it is fair to compare US education scores with other countries, I've never been convinced that it isn't the apple and oranges game. Reading this book I think there are many apples and oranges brought to the front. The United States is not at this time the captain of industry and energy production; it will no longer be the captain of space exploration; and it will certainly never again be the leader in anything other than video games -- in a breath real and in a thought impossible. T I'm not sure it is fair to compare US education scores with other countries, I've never been convinced that it isn't the apple and oranges game. Reading this book I think there are many apples and oranges brought to the front. The United States is not at this time the captain of industry and energy production; it will no longer be the captain of space exploration; and it will certainly never again be the leader in anything other than video games -- in a breath real and in a thought impossible. That is what this book presents along with a solution. I have read numerous pieces and books by these authors and even gave one title away as a Xmas gift a few years ago. That said my conclusion, slightly different from the authors', is not that the US is failing because of apathy alone, it's because we are completely divided on security and responsibility; the national agenda is a buffoon's race; politics stop more than approved at a Federal level; and there isn't a person wealth salt in D.C. Standardizing education under the NCLBH was a mistake. Removing the US from the gold-standard was a mistake.How many other things should we cite? This book raises dozens of questions and the very adept authors attempt to rationalize and project reasonable answers, but the truth is blinding from the beginning: we are not the people we used to be. We need to change the rules and we need to catch up to the rules that changed when we didn't notice.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Reiden

    The beginning and ending were a bit overly-patriotic for my taste, but the main portion of the book made up for that. I've listened to the last couple books by Friedman. I love how his books are up to date, giving a good view on how the world is currently changing. While this book's theme was based around changes in America, there were just as many pieces of the book devoted to other parts of the world besides the US. A few of the cases made in the book: 1. Our current two-party political system The beginning and ending were a bit overly-patriotic for my taste, but the main portion of the book made up for that. I've listened to the last couple books by Friedman. I love how his books are up to date, giving a good view on how the world is currently changing. While this book's theme was based around changes in America, there were just as many pieces of the book devoted to other parts of the world besides the US. A few of the cases made in the book: 1. Our current two-party political system is not working - we need another independent alternative. 2. We need to invest more money into education, research & development, and infrostructure. 3. We need to make it easier for startups, as well as for immigrants, to move and work here in the US. 5. We need a leader who can inspire collective action from the people. All of the above points are of course argued persuasively throughout the book, with an emphasis on our need for better education. I found most of the material in the book to be practical, with great ideas for people on a personal level, on up to a national level. This is definitely a book I'll be recommending to friends and family. It was well written, and was filled with relevant information for anyone wanting to participate in today's society.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jerry

    This book talks about four Major Challenges: How to adapt to globalization How to adjust to the Information Technology (IT) revolution How to cope with the large and soaring budget deficits stemming from the growing demands on government at every level How to manage a world of both rising energy consumption and rising climate threats The authors at times are balanced in their analysis but tend to lean left of center favoring progressive solutions. They note the impact of lobbying and the role of publ This book talks about four Major Challenges: How to adapt to globalization How to adjust to the Information Technology (IT) revolution How to cope with the large and soaring budget deficits stemming from the growing demands on government at every level How to manage a world of both rising energy consumption and rising climate threats The authors at times are balanced in their analysis but tend to lean left of center favoring progressive solutions. They note the impact of lobbying and the role of public sector unions but go easy on unions in suggesting solutions. They suggest we need to spend more on education without commenting on the very low value to cost ratio we are currently getting. They do not have much to say about the role of misallocation of resources in our current predicament. I say too much capital has been devoted to the financial sector, inefficient education, inefficient government, inefficient health care, over-priced housing, and commodities (speculation on oil and gold). Not enough investment in value adding sectors such as manufacturing. The authors buy into the notion of climate change as “settled science.”

  30. 5 out of 5

    Shaun

    I found this book quite interesting. We all know that our country (the USA) is messed up and our politicians on many levels would rather spend money we don't have to continue along the path of the status quo, rather than make the hard decisions to implement policies to fix our long term problems, because they are more worried about staying in office than making our country better. The authors provide many ideas to fix our problems, but many of their solutions require Democrats and Republicans to I found this book quite interesting. We all know that our country (the USA) is messed up and our politicians on many levels would rather spend money we don't have to continue along the path of the status quo, rather than make the hard decisions to implement policies to fix our long term problems, because they are more worried about staying in office than making our country better. The authors provide many ideas to fix our problems, but many of their solutions require Democrats and Republicans to find common ground in the middle of most issues. Given how most politicians would rather not give any ground to help solve our problems, the authors recommend we create a third party that's in the middle of the two current major political parties. I didn't agree with all of their recommended solutions, but they did have many good ideas that I feel could make a positive difference to our country in helping us solve our problems. If we don't work together and fix our country soon, we will crash and arrive at a point where the freedoms we enjoy today and our current prosperous way of life will be gone. This is a very though-provoking read, which I recommend reading!

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