Change for America: A Progressive Blueprint for the 44th President
Edited by Mark Green and Michelle Jolin
Basic Books; 665 pages
Compiled by two of the nation's largest left-leaning think tanks the New Democracy Project and the Center for American Progress Action Fund this collection of 67 agency-by-agency, issue-by-issue essays serves as a bible of progressive thought. It is modeled after 1980's Mandate for Leadership, a book which greatly influenced Ronald Reagan's transition team. Seeing as John Podesta, head of the Center for American Progress, was the head of Barack Obama's transition team, it stands to reason that these recommendations will receive serious consideration. (See a gallery of Obama's cabinet members)
1. On just a few of the many suggested changes in economic policy: "...create a true progressive tax system by reducing rates on those earning under $200,000 and raising top rates on the fortunate few back at least to 38 percent, as in the 1990s when the economy was steaming ahead...strengthen unions one of the few mechanisms able to improve real income for workers by enacting the Employee Free Choice Act...Is all this just 'class warfare,' according to the rhetoric of conservatism? Answers Warren Buffett, now the wealthiest American: 'It's class warfare only because my class started it and is winning.'"
2. On a new mission for the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives: "The 44th president should indicate his intention to reform the Bush initiative by issuing a new executive order within his first 100 days in office to reauthorize and renamed the Faith-Based Office...The White House should make clear that the central mission of the office is to support an agenda to fight domestic and global poverty."
3. On the importance of honesty: "The new administration should respect the profound importance of the government's willingness to admit to the public when it has made a mistake, even at the risk of deep embarrassment or legal liability. Such openness is essential to democracy and the American people's ability to check their representatives through elections."
The Lowdown:In case you weren't aware, the sheer heft of this book and its contents serves to remind that Barack Obama has got a ton on his plate starting now. As the dozens of contributors write, Obama has to: restore America's world leadership role, convince Americans that the government can work for them, responsibly pull out from Iraq, protect the homeland, reduce America's dependence on foreign oil, transition towards a green economy, invest in the nation's crumbling infrastructure, halt torture, close Guantanamo Bay, make the federal government transparent again, reduce global poverty, cut taxes, halt the war on science, expand health-care coverage, utilize diplomacy on a more regular basis, solve the immigration problem, make college more affordable, expand educational opportunities for minorities and low-income Americans, fix FEMA, fix the Department of the Interior, fix the Justice Department and fix the world. Like we said, guy's got a lot on his plate.
Very few people are going to read Change for America front to back. Broken up into topical essays, it's easy to jump back and forth between an explanation of how the Department of Homeland Security stinks to an argument in favor of a new National Energy Council. And while much of the book delves into government bureaucracy to an almost molecular degree, all Americans (even those who don't lean left) should flip through. You'll learn about your government (you'll re-learn all that stuff you picked up in high school and quickly forgot) and you'll have a guide for how the next four to eight years might look. Best to be forewarned.
The Verdict: Skim