Excerpt from The Great Unraveling by Paul Krugman, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Great Unraveling

Losing Our Way in the New Century

By Paul Krugman

The Great Unraveling
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: Sep 2003,
    426 pages.
    Paperback: Aug 2004,
    480 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt




America: What went wrong?

The satirical weekly The Onion describes itself as "America's finest news source"—and for the last few years that has been the literal truth. The mock news story for January 18, 2001, reported a speech in which President-elect George W. Bush declared, "Our long national nightmare of peace and prosperity is over." And so it has turned out.

What happened to the good years? For many people, the great emotional turning point—the moment when their dreams of security were shattered—was September 11, 2001. But for me the turn was slower and broader than that.

I don't mean to belittle the horror. But anyone who followed Middle Eastern events knew that the United States was a terrorist target. You may remember that at first everyone assumed that the 1995 bombing in Oklahoma City involved Muslims. Experts on terrorism warned us repeatedly over the years that there would someday be a major attack on U.S. soil—though the sheer size of the mass murder on September 11 was a shock. We knew there were people out there who wanted to hurt us; it wasn't that much of a surprise when they finally scored a hit.

The real surprise was the failure of leadership, private and public, right here at home.

Some people realized that there were business excesses in the 1990s, though they had a hard time getting themselves heard. But the extent and brazenness of the excesses was greater than anyone realized. The bull market, we learned too late, both encouraged and concealed corporate misbehavior on an epic scale. Who could have imagined that famous companies, lauded in business schools as the very models of a major modern corporation, would turn out to be little more than Ponzi schemes? (Actually, some people did say that, but they were dismissed as cranks.)

Even more troubling was the revelation that our political system was far less mature than we thought, that the responsible leadership we had come to take for granted had been a sort of accident. In the 2000 campaign, George W. Bush offered a tax plan and a Social Security plan that were obviously, blatantly based on bogus arithmetic. Yet the media focused on the politics of personality, and avoided explaining the issues. Meanwhile, Alan Greenspan turned out not to be who we thought he was: the stern advocate of austerity and fiscal discipline when a Democrat was in office became an apologist and enabler for irresponsible tax cuts, even in the face of soaring deficits, once the White House had changed hands.

Moreover, the new team showed neither the long-run responsibility nor the short-term flexibility of its predecessors. The original Bush economic plan involved big, long-run tax cuts that phased in only gradually. By 2002 it was clear that this plan had it backwards. Like his father, Bush was presiding over a "jobless recovery"—that is, an economy that was growing, but too slowly to provide new jobs, so that most people found their lives getting worse. This economy badly needed a short-term boost, not a long-run tax cut. And the spectacular deterioration of the budget meant that long-run tax cuts were no longer remotely affordable. Yet Bush's aides continued to insist that their program, formulated back in 1999 at the height of the bubble, was exactly the right solution for the economy's current difficulties. And in early 2003, when they finally seemed to realize that something more was needed, the new "stimulus" plan was practically a clone of the original plan: hardly anything to stimulate the economy now, but lots of long-term tax cuts, mainly for the rich.

More ominously, it gradually became clear that something deeper than mere bad economic ideology was at work. The bigger story was America's political sea change, the central theme of this book's Introduction.



Why me?

From The Great Unraveling: Losing Our Way in the New Century by Paul Krugman. Copyright Paul Krugman. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  
Sign up, win books!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    Mrs. Hemingway
    by Naomi Wood
    Naomi Wood's latest novel, Mrs. Hemingway, is a fictionalized biography covering in turn writer...
  • Book Jacket
    The Stranger on the Train
    by Abbie Taylor
    The opening chapter of Abbie Taylor's debut novel, The Stranger on the Train, took me right back to ...
  • Book Jacket
    Night Film
    by Marisha Pessl
    One of the central tenets of Hinduism states that the world as we know it is just an illusion –...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

Tomlinson Hill
by Chris Tomlinson

Published Jul. 2014

Join the discussion!

  1.  163The City:
    Dean Koontz

All Discussions

Win this book!
Win The Angel of Losses

The Angel of Losses

"Family saga, mystery, and myth intersect in Feldman's debut novel." - Booklist

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

E C H A Silver L

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.