The Book Beat: The American dream deferred – Terre Haute Tribune Star

In an election year, opinions and tensions run high. Which “side” is at fault? Who is going to pick up the pieces? Who is going to create change?

Author Hedrick Smith,a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who has also won awards for his PBS primetime specials that examine systemic problems in modern America, wrote “Who Stole the American Dream?” in 2012, but he could have written it yesterday. Consider this snippet for example:

“In the 1992 presidential election, Texas billionaire Ross Perot ran for president and won nearly 20 percent of the popular vote running as an independent. At that time, 39 percent of the voters voiced dissatisfaction with how government was being run. Today [2012], dissatisfaction with both parties in Washington is far higher – 81 percent.”

Focusing on the years 1971 to 2012, Smith says the problem facing America is that, in addition to corporate influence, the “two sides” in politics have long been unable to compromise. Over the past three decades, “we have become Two Americas,” he writes. “We are no longer one large American family with shared prosperity and shared political and economic power, as we were in the decades following World War II. Today, no common enemy unites us as a nation. No common enterprise like settling the West or rocketing to the moon inspires us as a people.”

“We are today a sharply divided country – divided by power, money, and ideology. Our politics have become rancorous and polarized, our political leaders unable to resolve the most basic problems.”

Further into the book, Smith examines a name familiar to Indiana: Evan Bayh. Smith uses Bayh as an example of a politician who was in favor of reducing the polarization, or finding the “political center,” but who became so disheartened that he left the Senate.

Investigating topics such as the housing crisis, the disappearance of pensions and the “accidental beginnings of 401(k)” plans, and the corporate takeover of politics, “Who Stole the American Dream?” is an interesting review of recent history. Smith includes stories of times when the general public held a lot of sway, as when then-President Nixon was forced to find a solution to an environmental crisis, and times when the general public was “not paying attention.” Individual readers may vacillate between surprise and outrage among the pages of this book.

However, Smith does not write this book just to criticize or point out America’s flaws. The last two chapters spell out his “Ten Steps to Reclaim the Dream.” These steps include items such as “Step #6: Push China to Live up to Fair Trade to Generate Four Million Jobs in the United States,” and “Step #9: Rebuild the Political Center.”

This hefty book comes in at 426 pages in the print version, not including the appendix or notes. Some readers may find the e-audiobook easier to follow.

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