Book Review: ‘The End of Loser Liberalism’ by Dean Baker

Discussion on economics fills the news these days, as Obama and his Republican rivals lay out their plans for 2012 and the Occupy Wall Street movement voices the frustrations of countless people underemployed and burdened by debt. In this historic moment, the ability to understand the economy and evaluate proposals for reform has become more vital than ever. In The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive, Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research articulates a vision for economic reform sure to spark rich debate about the measures the US government should take to bring the economy back on track.

Baker argues that progressives need to put forward new ideas rather than focusing only on increasing taxes on the wealthy, a narrowness of vision Baker calls “loser liberalism.” Instead, Baker encourages progressives to broaden the scope of their economic critique in proposing solutions to unemployment and economic inequality. Several of the ideas that Baker suggests include:

Restructuring the Federal Reserve to be more democratically accountable by doing away with bankers’ power to appoint Fed officials and making all officials presidential appointees. Stimulating manufacturing-sector growth through using the Federal Reserve and the Treasury alter the value of the dollar relative to other currencies to make American exports more attractive in foreign markets. Ending the era of “too big to fail” banks by mandating that large banks such as Bank of America or J.P. Morgan disassemble themselves into smaller companies. Implementing a financial speculation tax on trading of stocks and bonds.

Many of these proposals seem like prime ideas that advocacy groups and congressional representatives could adopt and debate.

I enjoyed reading The End of Loser Liberalism because Baker lays out his arguments clearly, using language that is accessible to the general public without coming across as overly simplistic. Baker conveys a clear progressive vision, advocating ideas to produce jobs and greater economic equality, but he relies on more than rhetoric to make his point; Baker backs up his arguments with data from sources such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Federal Reserve, and the Congressional Budget Office, among others. I found this refreshing because often discussions about the economy remain limited to ideological platitudes about a “free market” versus a “fair market.” Discussions based in ideology rarely make progress, because people rarely wish to change deeply felt beliefs, but providing concrete ideas for solutions helps advance discussion on the economy by giving citizens and policy-makers solid ideas to consider.

Dean Baker has made The End of Loser Liberalism available for free through the Center for Economic and Policy Research website, so be sure to download a copy of your own today.

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