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Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy [Deckle Edge] [Hardcover]

Bill Clinton (Author)
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (105 customer reviews)

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Book Description

November 8, 2011
President Bill Clinton gives us his views on the challenges facing the United States today and why government matters—presenting his ideas on restoring economic growth, job creation, financial responsibility, resolving the mortgage crisis, and pursuing a strategy to get us "back in the future business.” He explains how we got into the current economic crisis, and offers specific recommendations on how we can put people back to work, increase bank lending and corporate investment, double our exports, restore our manufacturing base, and create new businesses. He supports President Obama’s emphasis on green technology, saying that changing the way we produce and consume energy is the strategy most likely to spark a fast-growing economy while enhancing our national security.

Clinton also stresses that we need a strong private sector and a smart government working together to restore prosperity and progress, demonstrating that whenever we’ve given in to the temptation to blame government for all our problems, we’ve lost our ability to produce sustained economic growth and shared prosperity.

Clinton writes, “There is simply no evidence that we can succeed in the twenty-first century with an antigovernment strategy,” based on “a philosophy grounded in ‘you’re on your own’ rather than ‘we’re all in this together.’ ” He believes that conflict between government and the private sector has proved to be good politics but has produced bad policies, giving us a weak economy with not enough jobs, growing income inequality and poverty, and a decline in our competitive position. In the real world, cooperation works much better than conflict, and “Americans need victories in real life.”

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“A reality-based strategy for economic renewal packed with ideas on how to fix America’s job machine . . . Offers some well-timed optimism . . . Contains sensible ideas . . . Articulate, engaging.” —Daniel Gross, The Washington Post
 
“A lucid one-man rebuttal of the Tea Party’s anti-government agenda and a practical set of proposals . . . for restoring economic growth. A succinct common-sense argument for why America needs a strong national government, why both spending cuts and increased tax revenues are necessary for addressing the debt problem (which is going to get worse given the demographics of an aging baby-boomer population and the high costs of interest payments), and why that debt problem ‘can’t be solved unless the economy starts growing again.’” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
 
“This book presents page after page of intelligent suggestions on how the U.S. can cut its crippling debt, create new jobs, and get ‘back into the future business’ . . . I found much to agree with.” —James Pressley, Bloomberg News
 
“A personal, plain-spoken economic picture of where we are, a mile-high view of the three decades that got us here, and how to revive our economy in classic ‘American Dream growth’ style. . . . If this list whiplashes from the nitty-gritty to the mile-high view and back again, it demonstrates that Clinton is a politician who can operate at both levels without breaking a sweat. . . . A book with the chutzpah that the Democrats have been missing.” —Carolyn Kellogg, Los Angeles Times
 
"Four stars . . . There’s an upbeat, front-foot tone to Back to Work that is welcome at a time of despair. Love him or hate him, [Clinton] hasn’t lost his touch . . . It’s refreshing to hear from him." —Martin Vander Weyer, The Telegraph (U.K.)
 
“Convincing . . . A rallying cry to America . . . Informed, high-minded, intelligent and persuasive… Clinton is probably the best natural politician of his generation. His skill at framing an argument is without peer and that he generally does so without demagoguery is to his lasting credit. In this case, the fact that he has simple common sense on his side doesn't hurt either. These pages should be required reading for any Democrat running for office next year.” —Erik Tarloff, The Observer (U.K.)
 
“Bill Clinton has an idea. A few dozen ideas, in fact, about ways large and small to get unemployed Americans back to work—from granting property tax breaks for investments that create jobs to painting every flat tar roof in U.S. cities white for the energy savings.” —Susan Page, USA Today
 
“A book full of ideas about how to revive the economy and get America’s unemployed millions back to work . . . The book has two main strengths. First, while arguing, rightly, that in the short run the American economy urgently needs a boost from government spending, it spells out in simple terms why Uncle Sam also needs a credible strategy for sorting out the country’s long-term fiscal problems . . . Second, Mr. Clinton is at his famously wonkish best in scouring America and the world to find practical ideas for getting people back to work." —The Economist
 
“Feisty . . . a cogent, well-informed attack on the GOP’s ‘antigovernment ideology.’ A smart, forthright, appealingly folksy defense of activist government.” —Publishers’ Weekly

Book Description

“I wrote this book because I love my country and I'm concerned about our future,” writes Bill Clinton. “As I often said when I first ran for President in 1992, America at its core is an idea—the idea that no matter who you are or where you're from, if you work hard and play by the rules, you'll have the freedom and opportunity to pursue your own dreams and leave your kids a country where they can chase theirs.” In Back to Work, Clinton details how we can get out of the current economic crisis and lay a foundation for long-term prosperity. He offers specific recommendations on how we can put people back to work and create new businesses, increase bank lending and corporate investment, double our exports, and restore our manufacturing base. He supports President Obama’s emphasis on green technology, saying that change in the way we produce and consume energy is the strategy most likely to spark a fast-growing economy and enhance our national security. Clinton also says that we need both a strong economy and a smart government working together to restore prosperity and progress. He demonstrates that whenever we’ve given in to the temptation to blame government for our problems, we’ve lost our commitment to shared prosperity, balanced growth, financial responsibility, and investment in the future. That has led our nation into trouble because there are some things we have to do together. For example, he says, “Our ability to compete in the twenty-first century is dependent on our willingness to invest in infrastructure: we need faster broadband, a state-of-the-art national electrical grid, modernized water and sewer systems, and the best airports, trains, roads, and bridges. “There is no evidence that we can succeed in the twenty-first century with an antigovernment strategy,” writes Clinton, “with a philosophy grounded in ‘You’re on your own’ rather than ‘We’re all in this together.’” Clinton believes that conflict between government and the private sector has proved to be remarkably good politics, but it has produced bad policies, giving us a weak economy with few jobs, growing income inequality and poverty, and a decline in our competitive position. In the real world, cooperation works much better than conflict, and “we need victories in the real world.”

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition, First Printing edition (November 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307959759
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307959751
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.9 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (105 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #20,847 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

William Jefferson Clinton was the 42nd president of the United States. Under his leadership, the country enjoyed the strongest economy in a generation and the longest economic expansion in United States history. President Clinton's core values of building community, creating opportunity, and demanding responsibility resulted in unprecedented progress for America, including moving the nation from record deficits to record surpluses; the creation of over 22 million jobs--more than any other administration; low levels of unemployment, poverty, and crime; and the highest home ownership and college enrollment rates in history. After leaving the White House, President Clinton established the William J. Clinton Foundation with the mission to strengthen the capacity of people in the United States and throughout the world to meet the challenges of global interdependence. His Clinton Global Initiative brings together global leaders to devise and implement innovative solutions to some of the world's most pressing issues. He served as the UN Envoy for Tsunami Recovery and is now the UN Special Envoy to Haiti.

Customer Reviews

Very easy reading and recommend this book for everyone! George  |  37 reviewers made a similar statement
Lies That Bind Former President Clinton's book is a cure for depression. Delinda L. McCann  |  15 reviewers made a similar statement
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
195 of 226 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Critical Advice for America November 8, 2011
Format:Hardcover
In "Back to Work," President Clinton offers a compelling argument that the most critical problem facing America today is a lack of support for smart and effective government -- and in particular the inability of the public and private sectors to work together in the best interests of the country. Clinton begins by laying out the history of the Republican war on government that started with Ronald Reagan. Republicans have consistently argued that, in every area except national security, "government is the problem -- not the solution." The result has been self-fulfilling as conservative politicians have gained power and then worked actively to destroy the effectiveness of government, rather than work to improve it.

Clinton compares our current situation with that of other developed countries, virtually all of which are able to achieve a workable synthesis of government and business. The United States, for example, is the only industrialized nation with a complete inability to leverage smart government in a way that offers some control over escalating health care costs. The result is diminshed confidence in our future solvency, and the discouraging reality that nations significantly less wealthy than the United States are able to provide far better social safety nets for their citizens.

Clinton also shows that today's political disfunction and idealogical gridlock is NOT characteristic of America's history. The book lists a number of Republican presidents -- including Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Eisenhower -- who believed that government was an essential tool for the public welfare and made substantial investments in infrastruture and other areas.

Perhaps the most important sentence in the book is this: "There is simply no evidence that we can succeed in the twenty-first century with an antigovernment strategy." This statement is abundantly true. Things seem to be moving at a faster and faster rate, and the economic environment is ever more complex. Financial innovations on Wall Street are beyond comprehension. Climate change is a looming threat we seem unable to confront.

The book contains a number of good ideas for moving forward and returning to national competitiveness. My only criticism is that I don't think the President fully grasps how extraordinarily fast the changes are likely to come over the next decade and beyond. Information technology is accelerating and will have a dramatic impact on the jobs and livelihoods of Americans and on the overall economy.
President Clinton's call for an end to anti-government rhetoric and the development of a smart private/public sector partnership could not come at a more crucial time.
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126 of 150 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Amazon Verified Purchase
Dare we hope that this kind of thinking will be the politics of the future? A lot of people will use this review format to rant ideological politics, but it seems to me that Former President Clinton wrote an exceptional book here without the promotion of a political or ideological viewpoint. This book isn't about him or the Democrats or the next election. It is all about how we got here and what to do next.

His heartfelt belief in America comes through again and again. He says, "I do believe in American exceptionalism. My life has been graced by it," (pg 113) and "I don't know how this will turn out. I just know that for more than two hundred years, everyone who's bet against the United States has lost." (pg 192)

He has a low opinion of antigovernment ideology and says, "There is simply no evidence that we can succeed in the twenty-first century with an antigovernment strategy." (pg 118)

A brief survey of what is in this book:

Part I "Where We Are" includes; Chapters 1-3 (pgs 1-54) "Why we need government" (a philosophical discussion as well as historical review) and the antigovernment movement, Chapter 4 "Debt" and Chapter 5 "Competition" (total, 116 pgs)

Part II "What Can We Do" includes; Chapter 6 "How do we get back in the future business" (pg 117-188) Pages 122-185 include a 48 point list and description of how each point might benefit America.

I tend to avoid political books, but this isn't an ideological book; it reminds me a bit of Thomas Friedman's best book "The World is Flat" in the references to multiple examples of other businesses and countries, but this book is all about making America succeed into the future. It is a straight up discussion of ideas and frank assessment of what worked and didn't work and careful discussion of what might work in the future. What impressed me was the statistics, examples and research instead of posturing and rhetoric. For example, "Both mobility studies conclude that the success of the nations doing better than we are is due to government policies that equalize opportunities and prepare their people to seize them." (pg 106) This nonpolitical approach to problems seems more contemporary and valuable.

Perhaps with this book, the wisdom of former president Bill Clinton will help to point the way back to the American Dream. In my opinion, this book, based on philosophical contemplation, experience and research is his best by far because I think we are getting the absolute best from him. He makes the point "No one can take the future away from us. But we can take it away from ourselves," (pg 117). This book reads as a heartfelt effort, an act of love for America and the American people.
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44 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars reminder of where America should be headed November 11, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition
I went in to this book a bit skeptical due to our current state of politics, but came out with a solid overview of the current economic state, how we got here and how we will move on to better things. I hope this has an impact on politics or at least voters because I feel more optimistic that there are realistic solutions to our problems here in the US.

Unfortunately, I am not sure that our polarized politicians are open to common sense solutions. How I wish that we were back in the 90's, and not just because the economy was better. Politicians were actually interested in the long-term policy of the US instead of bickering.

As a moderate voter, it was refreshing to read a little bit of common sense and honest and clear explanations of economic policy matters. Highly recommended and easy to read!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Ideas
In this book Bill Clinton gives us his take on the present major issues facing America today. In the first part of the book he discuss the differences between the two major parties... Read more
Published 14 days ago by Valerie B. Lull
4.0 out of 5 stars Is Anyone Listening?
Clinton has some wonderful ideas, if only we could get a majority of our congress to buy into them. While I don't agree with all of his points, I was happy to see that some one is... Read more
Published 16 days ago by Bob Glaser
4.0 out of 5 stars He was wrong?
It was refreshing to read that a president thinks he was wrong during his presidency or could have done more. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Rosanita
4.0 out of 5 stars Apologizing for bad government
Clinton's thesis is that government deserves more credit than currently given. While a huge improvement over the feeble literary efforts of ex-president Jimmy Carter, this book... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Gderf
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book. Lists facts and stats but not too overbearing.
Bill Clinton is a great politician and good author. He knows what he's talking about and can put it in a way that's easy to understand and not too boring. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Hawkeye XT
4.0 out of 5 stars Practice what is preached?
President Clinton unfortunately spend about 10% of the book addressing real & new ideas, 30% supporting President Obama, and 60% patting himself on the back. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Reviewer
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful and Focused
I have always appreciated Bill Clinton's intellect and political adeptness and this volume is right in line. It is a good read and easily accessable. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Gregory G. Caiazzo
4.0 out of 5 stars A moderately good read
This was a sincere attempt to offer solutions, but I disagreed with many of the assessments of the nation's problems and the most likely remedies. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Tara Hayden
3.0 out of 5 stars Optimism
Fans of political nonfiction who are tired of partisan negativism will find a positive, optimistic and balanced presentation about government in Bill Clinton's Back to Work: Why We... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Stephen T. Hopkins
5.0 out of 5 stars Blueprint to fix things...
Clinton spells out how we got where we are in relatively simple terms. He makes a logical argument about how the Tea Party has the entire economy in a choke-hold and their... Read more
Published 4 months ago by J loves books
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