U.S. needs a wake-up call, says new Friedman book

Fri Sep 16, 2011 1:04pm EDT
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By Andrea Burzynski

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A new book by Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum began with a broken subway escalator the authors encountered during their daily commutes that they saw as epitomizing the state of politics and economy.

"That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back" comes at a time when many Americans are puzzling over the issue posed by the title.

Faced with stagnating unemployment numbers, an historic credit downgrade by S&P, and partisan rancor over how to reduce the U.S. debt, the two foreign policy columnists tap into public hunger for answers.

"People are getting more and more concerned. When you see the polls, you find a large majority feels the country is on the wrong track," Mandelbaum told Reuters.

The authors, who describe themselves as "frustrated optimists," attempt to diagnose America's problems and prescribe solutions to return to a robust economy.

The book, which has hit No. 3 on the Publishers Weekly hardcover nonfiction bestsellers list after its release last week, addresses a wide range of popular issues such as the national debt, education, energy consumption and technology.

Friedman and Mandelbaum take pride in the United States' past successes, which they attribute to a set of policy priorities they call "the American formula".

The formula includes government investment in education, infrastructure and research and development, attracting and retaining the most promising immigrants, and certain regulations on the private economy.   Continued...

<p>Author of the book, "The "World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century", Thomas Friedman delivers a speech at a seminar held by Asia Society in Hong Kong December 16, 2008. REUTERS/Woody Wu</p>