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Publisher's Summary

America has a huge problem. It faces four major challenges, on which its future depends, and it is failing to meet them. In That Used to Be Us, Thomas L. Friedman, one of our most influential columnists, and Michael Mandelbaum, one of our leading foreign policy thinkers, analyze those challenges - globalization, the revolution in information technology, the nation's chronic deficits, and its pattern of energy consumption - and spell out what we need to do now to rediscover America and rise to this moment.

They explain how the end of the cold war blinded the nation to the need to address these issues. They show how our history, when properly understood, provides the key to addressing them, and explain how the paralysis of our political system and the erosion of key American values have made it impossible for us to carry out the policies the country needs. They offer a way out of the trap into which the country has fallen, which includes the rediscovery of some of our most valuable traditions and the creation of a new, third-party movement.

That Used to Be Us is both a searching exploration of the American condition today and a rousing manifesto for American renewal. "As we were writing this book," Friedman and Mandelbaum explain, "we found that when we shared the title with people, they would often nod ruefully and ask: 'But does it have a happy ending?' Our answer is that we can write a happy ending, but it is up to the country - to all of us - to determine whether it is fiction or nonfiction. We need to study harder, save more, spend less, invest wisely, and get back to the formula that made us successful as a country in every previous historical turn. What we need is not novel or foreign, but values, priorities, and practices embedded in our history and culture, applied time and again to propel us forward as a country. That is all part of our past. That used to be us and can be again - if we will it."

©2011 Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum (P)2011 Macmillan Audio

What listeners say about That Used to Be Us

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    4 out of 5 stars

We have met the enemy and it is us.... Pogo

Thomas Friedman & Michael Mandlebaum raise familiar issues and if you read Friedman's "The World is Flat" you will follow this theme. When Friedman wrote that book in 2005 there was no Facebook, no Twitter, no 3D printers and few smart-phones. These and many more changes have become a part of our environment in the past six years. The authors repeatedly ask what is the United States doing to ensure its' citizens have enough education and resources to compete in the new global environment? What happens to our workforce as routine work is shifted to anyplace on the globe or to a machine? In 1970 my first employer, New York Telephone, employed 106,000 people just for New York State and today Verizon has 194,400 for over half the country. NYT once employed 32,000 phone operators all of which are gone with some having been replaced by a machine.

I started listening to Friedman's 16-hour audio book but soon realized it required a hard copy to reference. A lot of information some of which is intense. The authors attempt to put a positive spin on the problems that are accumulating in the US but one reviewer noted that simply describing the problems makes solutions seem overwhelming. This book is an excellent compendium of the major challenges that must be resolved. At the heart of their thesis is information technology and the internet have changed everything and the US is slipping behind that curve at an accelerating rate.

For example: On Sunday our washing machine broke. On Monday I called the company who serviced it five years ago. On Tuesday a repairman arrived. If the machine was unrepairable they would give me a $50 credit for a new machine which they would deliver, install and remove the old machine. I asked if they are still in Teaneck, NJ so I could see what they sold. "Henry" told me they closed all their retail stores four years ago and everything is now done on the internet. They would email me links to recommended machines and I could choose one that would be delivered by a third party. I asked if he was in India and he said no, but how can I know? The repairman arrived, diagnosed a defective water pump, took a picture of the plate with serial and model numbers on an iPhone, emailed it back to dispatch and told me it would cost about $300 to repair. The replacement water pump was manufactured in China.

In essence I am dealing with a virtual company and I learned that the repairmen are all contract employes who are dispatched like taxicabs and obtain parts from a central depot. This is the new business model and an significant percentage of our adult population is or will be unemployed as a result.

Note I ordered Friedman's book book from a Seattle company on Saturday and it was delivered with free-shipping for $15.23 on Tuesday afternoon originating in a warehouse somewhere over the rainbow. The audio version was downloaded from Audible and arrived three minutes after placing the order. If you are in the CD &/or Book business (like Borders, Sam's, Circuit City and Tower Records) you are history along with the careers of many otherwise good people.

Our national goals must have much much more majesty than elimination of government and lower taxes. If our national objective is only inwardly focused reductions then our children and grandchildren are guaranteed to drive on roads with potholes, slow trains that run off schedule, intermittent power, diseases brought about by unprocessed sewage from broken filtration plants, increased social unrest, high energy prices, bosses with foreign accents, more Homeland Security initiatives and no meaningful future such as the one many of us found back in the early 1960s when we entered the workforce.

Robert Soudant

49 people found this helpful

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The world is Flat 2.0

We don't have to agree with evertthing Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum yet like the classic World is Flat this should spark conversations. I'm a proud parent of a 6th grade school teacher and and wish parents would read this. Todays Manhattan Project should be fixing our educational and vocational training. This book gives practical solutions in the changing world and hopefully American which ends I can WILL before flat world 3.0 is here and apathy stays the course for our next generation.

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Very informative

The anthers painstakingly describe what has gotten America into its current economic and political problems and what is needed to get America back on track. As an American this is the most discouraging book I have listened to.

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Do not read this book

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

Do not read this book unless you have never read a column by Friedman. Once again, he pastes together dozens of columns and stories that he has published repeatedly and calls it a book. The greatest disappointment was his co-author, Michael Mandelbaum, a distinguished and accomplished professor of international relations. My hope was that Professor Mandelbaum would put historical and trenchant prespectives into Friedman's endless anecdotes. Unfortunately, Mandelbaum seems to have bought entirely into the Friedman style and is no where to be seen intellectually in this book. I have read probably several hundred of Friedman's columns and his earlier books. What a profound disappointment this one was.

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Nothing new

I listened to his ???The World Is Flat??? and ???Hot, Flat & Crowded??? and they were great. This one was just as long but did not seem to have anything new to say, although it was sprinkled with some interesting tidbits. Also, not sure how much I believe in their solutions to solve these issues.

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should be titled: Hot, Flat and Crowded 2.0

If you have not read/heard any of Friedman's work this will be a great book. If you have been living in a remote community for the past 10 years without access to news about the United States, then this will be a good book. Fortunately, I have read his work and am familiar with the news. I'm disappointed and wish I could get my credit back.

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No original thought present

The authors did not provide a single original thought. Their credentials are insufficient to write a book like this. They simply replicate facts (some hard, some soft) from more prominent, smarter people. While I agree with a lot of what the duo had to say, I have read all the books that are cited and not cited by the two. Skip this book; read Gladwell, Taleb and Carnegie.

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nothing new here

Expected more, after enjoying The World is Flat and Hot, Flat and Crowded. Their big idea for what it's going to take to turn the battleship is, in my view, unrealistic.

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Social Security is something I paid for.

Social Security is something I paid for. Having paid for it for all of my working life I'm not willing to give it up at this late date.

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VERY disappointing

What disappointed you about That Used to Be Us?

After reading Friedman's "The world is Flat", one of the best books I've had the pleasure to read, I was looking forward to this one. Apparently Friedman's co-author, Mandelbaum, in "That Used to Be Us" was convinced that his myopic view from the political left was reality. Mandelbaum would make a good counter balance to Rush Limbaugh.

Has That Used to Be Us turned you off from other books in this genre?

It has for any book that has Michael Mandelbaum as an author, or co author

How could the performance have been better?

Have Friedman pick his co-authors a lot more carefully

1 person found this helpful