Advertisement

Review: Come Home, America by William Greider

Sunday in The Baltimore Sun, read a review of Come Home, America: The Rise and Fall (And Redeeming Promise) Of Our Country by William Greider. Here's an excerpt from the review by Glenn C. Altschuler, a professor of American Studies at Cornell University:

For decades, William Greider acknowledges, he has played the role of Cassandra, "warning of dire economic consequences ahead and being mostly ignored." ... In Come Home, America, (Rodale / 328 pages / $25.95) Greider reprises his critique of corporate and finance capitalism and proposes new structures for the shattered economy. By turns informative and impractical, provocative and polemical, the book at its best asks tough and timely questions about the relationship among government, public purposes and private corporations. ...

Greider calls for a "popular formation" of citizens committed to confronting politicians "with tough demands and nagging intrusions." If it acquires the requisite scale and skills, he suggests, the formation just might force them to reduce defense spending in the United States to the combined total of the 10 next-biggest military powers. This "modest" proposal, he points out, would cut the Pentagon's budget by about $180 billion.

Advertisement

Greider is equally apoplectic about the disastrous impact of globalization on American workers. Lower prices for goods, he insists, do not come close to compensating for the devastating losses in jobs, wages and national wealth. Trade deficits make the gross domestic product $1.5 trillion smaller. And the hundreds of billions in debt held by China (and other "emerging" countries) will surely come back to bite us.

In the context of a worldwide recession, alas, Greider's proposed solutions seem unworkable.

Capping U.S. trade deficits through a general emergency tariff authorized under the charter of the World Trade Organization would almost certainly lead to a disastrous tariff war. A corporate income tax tied to adherence to "standards that promote the public good" and/or how much "value added production remains at home versus how much moved abroad" would be difficult to enforce — and is equally likely to result in retaliation from countries intent on protecting their own industrial sectors. ...

And so Greider is doing what he does best: the work of Cassandra. He's helping ordinary Americans understand what they need to know about those who hold power. He's challenging them to do something about it, even though he knows that, in all likelihood, "nothing much" will happen. And he's deriving satisfaction from the role he plays "in keeping unsanctioned ideas alive for the next generation, passing them forward to whoever inherits the democratic faith."

Advertisement
Advertisement