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Good OM Reading: That Used To Be Us

April 11, 2012

I just finished reading Thomas Friedman’s latest book, That Used To Be Us, his follow up to The World is Flat. In it, Friedman and coauthor  Mandelbaum, analyze 4 challenges the US faces—globalization, the revolution in information technology,  chronic deficits, and  excessive energy consumption—and spell out what we need to do now to sustain the American dream and preserve our power in the world. Here are just a few excerpts to give you a flavor of a book you can read in a few evenings.

1. It’s no longer good enough to have one of the best schools in the US; the country’s educational system must be world class to compete with countries like Singapore, where the biggest complaint from parents is that students are not being challenged enough.

2. In the labor market, we must operate as though “no job is safe.” Not just low-skill jobs are being shipped overseas but highly skilled technical work as well. “There is no job that is America’s God-given right [to keep] anymore,” says former H-P CEO Carly Fiorina.

3. The authors quote the governor of Pennsylvania, Edward Rendell, complaining that the NFL postponed a game because of a snowstorm. “It goes against everything that football is all about. We’ve become a nation of wusses.  If this was in China, people would have been marching down to the stadium,  and they would have been doing calculus on the way down.”

4. American workers  should think of themselves like new immigrants: “approaching the world with the view that nothing is owed to you, nothing is given, you have to make it on your own.”

5.  “Thirty years ago, 10 percent of California’s general revenue fund went to higher education and 3 percent to prisons. Today nearly 11 percent goes to prisons and 8 percent to higher education.”

6. “Seventy-five percent of young Americans, between the ages of 17 to 24, are unable to enlist in the military today because they have failed to graduate from high school, have a criminal record or are physically unfit.”

And these are just a few of the problems! For the solutions, read the last chapter of this interesting book.

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