Nov 30 2012

America The Possible: Manifesto for a New Economy

Republicans reacted angrily to a White House proposal made yesterday by Timothy Geithner to avert the so-called fiscal cliff. The proposal, which they complained was essentially the same as the one made by the President ten days ago, would firstly extend only middle class tax cuts and increase estate taxes to their 2009 levels, while allowing for tax cuts on the wealthy and on capital gains to expire. The proposal would secondly raise an additional $600 billion in taxes from other sources, while cutting $400 billion from social safety net programs.

While it seems as though differences between the two major parties on this issue are insurmountable, American public opinion is clearly weighed heavily on the side of taxing the richest 2% of Americans while cutting taxes on the rest of the 98%. Reflecting these sentiments is a new book by James Gustave Speth called “America The Possible: Manifesto For A New Economy.”

Dubbed the “ultimate insider” by Time Magazine, Speth’s book draws on more than 40 years of experience including his work as White House environmental adviser to President Carter, leader of the largest UN program for international development, and energy adviser to Bill Clinton. In America the Possible, Speth takes on the big-picture issues of what is wrong with the United States, why Americans must change the system, and how to create that change.

To replace the current broken economic and political system in the US, Speth suggests a radical path forward using a specific set of transformative solutions, such as: changing the indicators by which we measure the health of a society from GDP to quality of life, changing who corporations are beholden to from shareholders to stakeholders, and changing our consumerist culture into one based on “mindful consumption.”

Speth makes the case that the current US obsession with expansion has resulted in an environment on the brink of disaster and a population crushed under policies that maximize profits at the expense of people’s quality of life. But, he still sees hope, particularly in movements like Occupy Wall Street, stating, “I think there’s still a plausible case that we haven’t lost the game, that we can build an attractive and livable future.”

GUEST: James Gustave Speth, professor at the Vermont Law School, an independent school specializing in environmental, energy and international law, served as White House advisor to Jimmy Carter, and author of America The Possible: Manifesto For A New Economy. His earlier books include “Red Sky at Morning: America and the Crisis of of the Global Environment,” “The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability.”

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One Response to “America The Possible: Manifesto for a New Economy”

  1. RPon 01 Dec 2012 at 2:33 pm

    I disagree with the guest on one point: as devastating as climate change is and could continue to be, I think the greatest threat to the human race remains nuclear warfare. The Doomsday Clock is as close to midnight as it’s ever been.

    I worry about climate change on a daily basis and act on a daily basis, but I don’t forget the looming danger of nuclear annihilation either. (By the way, there’s what I consider an interesting documentary about nuclear disarmament called Countdown to Zero, available on Netflix.)

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