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A study guide worthy of national attention, debate, and intelligent dinner conversation on the state of our nation.

Book Review: The Audacity of Help: Obama’s Economic Plan and the Remaking of America by John F. Wasik

The Audacity of Help: Obama’s Economic Plan and the Remaking of America offers a journalist’s take on the compelling issues facing the 44th president of the United States, and the long road from campaign promise to reality.

Author John F. Wasik, a Bloomberg News columnist, brought this book out at lightning speed, encompassing an overview of Obama’s major campaign promises, pitted against their outcomes. The introduction includes a section on Obamanomics and a chronicle of Bush-Era Bust with a balanced explanation of the factors leading to recent issues such as “The Age of Froth Ends,” “Mortgage Madness” and “Reality Show Time.”

This is a lively and relevant look at the critical turning point in American history we’ve lived with in the past year. Wasik’s meticulous research in The Audacity of Help provides an analysis of all Obama’s major  promises, then looks at what legislation was actually passed by Congress. Going further, the book shows who benefits most from various legislation, and what needs to be done next.

Obama’s promise to make college affordable is a prime example of the value of this book to consumers, business owners, and those who want more clarity that they get through news soundbites:

“While Obama proposed an American Opportunity Tax Credit of $4,000 toward free college education, Congress actually adopted that name for the former Hope Scholarship, offering only as much as $2,500/year, just through 2010. Eligibility stipulations include an income limit. Congress also did nothing to simplify the cumbersome financial aid process, which Obama promised to eliminate.”

Wasik is an expert on housing issues, as I recently reviewed here in his The Cul-de-Sac Syndrome: Turning Around the Unsustainable American Dream. As population growth forged ahead, homes became more elaborate and expensive. By 2006 an average of 37 percent of monthly income went to housing expenses. The realities of “house lust” meant people were no longer keeping up with their parents' lifestyles and no longer able to stop the debt spiral.

In The Audacity of Help, Wasik skillfully weaves Obama's policies and plans throughout an entire chapter entitled: “Restoring Home Ownership.” This should be required reading for all Americans interested in getting to the heart of the housing crisis.

All of Obama’s promises require capital, and Wasik looks at the obstacles, including the enormous political capital Obama needs to push his agenda along.

Wasik walks us through what a new economy agenda would look like and how it may reshape America. Top points are:

  • People come first, not markets
  • Corporate democracy is key
  • Phantom wealth should be taxed
  • A pluralistic partnership should displace patrimony and corporatocracy.

The progressive manifesto and bottom-up approach to lifting the middle class and poor up the economic scale can potentially motivate and mobilize an entire nation. Here, Wasik quotes Obama:

“Just as a family has to make hard choices about where to spend and where to save, so do we, as a government. There are times when you can afford to redecorate your house and there are times where you need to work on rebuilding its foundation. Today, we have to focus on foundations.”

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