cover image The Middle Out: The Rise of Progressive Economics and a Return to Shared Prosperity

The Middle Out: The Rise of Progressive Economics and a Return to Shared Prosperity

Michael Tomasky. Doubleday, $28 (304p) ISBN 978-0-385-54716-1

It’s time to repudiate free-market dogma and return to tax-and-spend liberalism, according to this feisty manifesto. New Republic editor Tomasky (If We Can Keep It) criticizes the neoliberal economic consensus of recent decades that emphasized tax cuts, reduced government social spending, privatization, deregulation, and pitiless self-interest; that recipe, he argues, yielded rising inequality, insecurity, and sluggish growth. His proposed antidote is massive government investment in healthcare, childcare, and education. Tomasky is light on policy specifics aside from a broad endorsement of the Biden administration’s stimulus and infrastructure spending, which he absolves of responsibility for inflation and salutes for “commendable progress in changing the economic circumstances of Americans.” He focuses instead on revamped messaging that associates progressive economics with emotionally resonant themes of freedom, democracy, opportunity, and humane values. (“My Republican friends believe that all we need to do is selfishly pursue our own interests,” reads one of his suggested talking points for Democrats. “We think people are more generous than that.”) Tomasky’s critique of free-market orthodoxy is cogent and often stinging, but he takes little account of the tensions now wracking the economy, and many of his messaging prescriptions are already being followed by Democrats including Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren. This rallying cry falls short. Agent: Chris Calhoun, Chris Calhoun Agency. (Sept.)