A Presidency in Peril

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Title: A Presidency in Peril: The Inside Story of Obama's Promise, Wall Street's Power, and the Struggle to Control Our Economic Future
Published by: Chelsea Green Publishing
Release Date: April 5, 2010
Pages: 332
ISBN13: 978-1603582704


When Barack Obama took office in January 2009, he had an unprecedented chance to do what no other recent president could: seize the nation's financial reins from the corporate elite and return them to the American people. Progressives everywhere held out hope that their new leader would take advantage of the economic crisis he stepped into and enact bold policies that would evoke real financial reforms-putting Main Street in front of Wall Street, at last.

But that, writes Robert Kuttner, is not the way things turned out. Instead, America's best chance for radical financial reform turned into Wall Street's greatest victory. Obama filled his administration with allies of financial elites who were more interested in business as usual than in transformative change. As a consequence, Main Street remained mired in deep recession. Instead of being the instrument of economic renewal, Obama became the target of economic frustration.

In this hard-hitting, incisive account, Kuttner shares his unique, insider view of how the Obama administration not only missed its moment to turn our economy around-but deepened Wall Street's risky grip on America's future. Carefully constructing a one-year history of the problem, the players, and the outcome, Kuttner gives readers an unparalleled account of the president's first year. More importantly, though, Kuttner shows how we could-with swift, decisive action-still enact real reforms. This is a book not to be missed by anyone who wants to understand exactly how Wall Street won, and how Main Street can still fight back.


"Kuttner argues that Obama ignored the template for economic recovery set by Roosevelt during the Great Depression, preferring to seek consensus on all fronts and failing to adopt more radical measures to restore the economy to health. Since it’s already too late to “seize a Roosevelt moment,” Kuttner sees Obama’s best hope in a Harry Truman-style resurrection by finally taking on obstructionist Republicans, remaking himself as a “plainspoken man of the common people,” and opening himself to proposals from the left wing of his own party. Kuttner remains optimistic, but pulls no punches: a “feckless” Obama has disappointed American voters with more of the same."
Publishers Weekly

"Kuttner argues passionately for a progressive movement to hold Obama to the promise he represented of real change in a system that continues to favor the wealthy and influential over common working Americans. A powerful, passionate work with strong arguments for how Obama might save his presidency and more importantly reform the American financial system."
Booklist, Starred Review

"Kuttner's book is a sharp critique of the decisions made—and not made—by President Obama in his first year in office. He offers a clear direction for the President to take in coming years to best serve the interests of ordinary Americans and Main Street. A mobilized progressive movement continually pressuring the Administration is essential for the benefit of working people and for solving the nation's greatest challenges, including regulating Wall street and reforming the economy to support manufacturing as its base rather than financiers at its top."
Leo Gerard, president, United Steelworkers

"In A Presidency in Peril, Robert Kuttner explores how and why Candidate Obama's audacity of hope morphed into President Obama's timidity of governing - from his deferential treatment of Wall Street to his misguided attachment to the fantasy of bipartisanship. But Kuttner goes beyond criticism and offers sharp, practical ideas on how Obama can still redeem the promise of his administration and break the chokehold special interests have on our politics."
Arianna Huffington, cofounder and editor-in-chief, The Huffington Post

"A must-read for the Obama team and its supporters as well as its critics. Kuttner provides the definitive progressive critique of the Obama presidency and charts a way forward—and a way out of the mess we are in."
Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize-winning economist and author of Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy

"Robert Kuttner's A Presidency in Peril gives eloquent, intelligent voice to the simultaneous promise and frustration that so many Americans feel after the first year of the Obama administration. This book warns us of the costs of Obama's possible failure, but also of the paths that might still lead him-and us-to better times."
Alan Brinkley, Allan Nevins Professor of History at Columbia University and author of The Publisher: Henry Luce and His American Century