124 Chapters
Medium 9781605097060

Chapter 5 Medicare “Part E”—for Everybody

Hartmann, Thom Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

The Great Society is a place where every child can find knowledge to enrich his mind and to enlarge his talents. It is a place where the city of man serves not only the needs of the body and the demands of commerce but the desire for beauty and the hunger for community. It is a place where men are more concerned with the quality of their goals than the quantity of their goods.”

—Lyndon Baines Johnson

THERE ARE TWO IMPORTANT REASONS FOR HAVING A STRONG SOcial safety net, one based in sound economic policy and the other in our common humanity. So it’s no surprise that the countries that have strong social safety nets tend to have resilient economies and a higher quality of life.

Ultimately, social safety nets are about managing risk and unforeseen contingencies. On the one hand, there are the risks that we want people to take, such as starting a new business. On the other hand, there are unforeseen events that are so severe—like becoming paralyzed in an accident—that no one person (unless incredibly wealthy) could handle the expenses associated with them. In both cases, by setting up a social safety net that distributes the costs of responding to them across the wide spectrum of society, we minimize both the societal cost and the individual suffering.

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Medium 9781576754634

Chapter 3 The Rise of the Corporatocracy

Hartmann, Thom Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Walking through a park on a sunny summer day in Portland, Oregon, I stumbled across a stunning example of what has happened to the middle class in the cons’ America.

Thirty or more people were sitting on blankets and lawn chairs under a big oak tree in a semicircle around a middle-aged, suit-wearing woman with a flip chart. Those in the circle wore mostly casual clothes, and the average age seemed to be midforties, although there were a few as young as midtwenties and a few who looked to be in their sixties. Two men in the group—both in their fifties, by appearance—had gone to the trouble of dressing in business suits, although they looked painfully uncomfortable sitting on their lawn chairs in the open park.

As I walked by, I heard the woman extolling the virtues of “cheerfulness" and rhetorically asking her students, “Would you want to hire you?”

Welcome to the world of those who have fallen out of America’s white-collar middle class and are tapping their IRAs, 401(k)s, and overextended credit cards to pay for workshops like this one to figure out how they can get decent-paying jobs to replace the ones they’ve lost.

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Medium 9781605095592

CHAPTER 4 The Boston Tea Party Revealed

Hartmann, Thom Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

They [those who wrote and signed the Declaration of Independence] meant to set up a standard maxim for free society, which would be familiar to all, and revered by all; constantly looked to, constantly labored for, and even though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated, and thereby constantly spreading and deepening the influence and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people of all colors everywhere. The assertion that “all men are created equal” was of no practical use in effecting our separation from Great Britain; and it was placed in the Declaration not for that, but for future use. Its authors meant it to be—as, thank God, it is now proving itself—a stumbling block to all those who in after times might seek to turn a free people back into the hateful paths of despotism.

—Abraham Lincoln, speech in Springfield,
June 26, 1857, commenting on the Dred Scott decision of the U.S. Supreme Court


Facts when justly arranged interpret themselves. They tell the story. For this purpose a little fact is as important as what is called a big fact. The picture may be well-nigh finished, but it remains vague for want of one more fact. When that missing fact is discovered all others become clear and distinct; it is like turning a light, properly shaded, upon a painting which but a moment before was a blur in the dimness.1

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Medium 9781576757611

Younger-Culture Drugs of Control

Hartmann, Thom Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

From The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight:
Waking Up to Personal and Global Transformation

It is not heroin or cocaine that makes one an addict, it is the need to escape from a harsh reality. There are more television addicts, more baseball and football addicts, more movie addicts, and certainly more alcohol addicts in this country than there are narcotics addicts.


POLITICIANS AND WRITERS OFTEN REFER TO OUR CURRENT ERA AS the Information Age. The average person alive today, they say, knows more than anybody at any time in the past. Through the Internet, encyclopedias on CDs and DVDs, and 700-channel television, the collective knowledge of the planet is available instantly to even the most ordinary of citizens, they say. It’s a wonderful thing, and we’re spectacularly well informed.

But is this really so?

If we are so well informed, why is it that when you ask most Americans simple questions about the history of the world, you get a blank look? How many of our children have read even one of Shakespeare’s plays all the way through? How many people know with any depth beyond the 15-second sound bites served up on the evening TV news the genesis and the significance of the wars in, for example, Afghanistan or the Congo? Or that the United States government is still stealing Indian lands in Alaska, Arizona, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Wyoming, and a dozen other states?

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Chapter 1 Bring My Job Home!

Hartmann, Thom Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

By preferring the support of domestic to that of foreign industry, he [the entrepreneur] intends only his own security, and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention.

—Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations, 1776*


About a year after President Barack Obama took office, on the first anniversary of his major economic recovery legislation, his administration was struggling to get the word out that the legislation was, in fact, quite a success story. I found myself invited to the White House as part of a small group of well-known authors and bloggers to meet with a top administration economist as part of this promotion effort.

It was an odd problem they were facing, given that this president was masterful during the 2008 election campaign in communicating his ideas and his vision to the American public. So what happened? Why didn’t America know that the $787 billion legislation represented one of the largest middle-class tax cuts in American history, that it had demonstrably created or preserved between 1.5 million and 3 million jobs, and that it had, in all probability, prevented the severe recession Obama inherited from George W. Bush from turning into a second Republican Great Depression, at least in the short term?

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