Title: The Opportunity Agenda: A Bold Democratic Plan to Grow the Middle Class
Author: Winston C. Fisher and Sly James
Genre: Politics, Social Policy
On paper, New York business and civic leader Winston Fisher and former Kansas City mayor Sly James seem to have nothing in common. They come from different generations, backgrounds, geographies, and professions. Despite their apparent differences, they share one central belief: the Democratic Party is overdue for major disruption. In The Opportunity Agenda, Fisher and James propose a new path forward that focuses on what really matters: appealing to the people. The 2016 presidential election revealed the extent of the deep economic anxieties felt by working- and middle-class Americans across the country—an insecurity that reshaped American history with the election of Donald Trump. Democrats failed to make a compelling case to promote their vision for the future. Equipped with a refreshing arsenal of bold ideas to expand the middle class, Fisher and James offer a plan to grow the party’s base, win over moderates and independents, and explain in no uncertain terms what Democrats will do for you, the American voter. In this era of increasing political turmoil, old habits, stale messaging, and a “get even” mentality, any momentum the Democratic Party once had has stalled. It will take innovative solutions to shake up the Democratic establishment and energize voters across the political spectrum. That’s where The Opportunity Agenda comes in. Insightful, accessible, and compelling, it outlines tangible strategies the Democratic Party needs for long-term success. This is a must-read for anyone invested in the future of our country and the forgotten middle class.
A timely book that is well-written in terms of formatting and prose. The message is aimed specifically towards one audience only. And even in that case, the audience may be even more specific. This isn't really a message for the card-carrying democrat. This is a message for the card-carrying members of the policy association of the DNC.
One can only think the two authors have tried a more direct approach to policy change but were rebuffed. The Opportunity Agenda is a last-ditch public attempt to shed light on five potential policy choices for the DNC. I did have specific thoughts related to the content as I read this book. These thoughts are detailed below:
First and foremost, they are not wrong. The premise that the Democrat party tends to beat a dead horse every election cycle is true. You need to look no further than the cobwebbed morass of crap that masqueraded as Elizabeth Warren's leadership campaign as proof.
Chapter 1 details the need for comprehensive childcare for every American of all political stripes. It is true this issue resonates with blue and red voters. The biggest flaw in the argument here is there's no explanation of how this will be paid for. It is all well and good to say for every one dollar you save, sixteen of these dollars go here and seven of those dollars go there. Where does one get the first dollar to access these savings? Without concrete economic explanations, this is just so much braying in the wind.
Chapter 2 points out flaws in the education system. Their points are well made but they bring up at least two counter points. The authors surmise that simply using rote has set back the ability for kids to get forward in the 21st century. The Japanese education system is nearly all rote and they seem to have no problem being ably employed in the 21st century.
The second point is that the education provided now doesn't get students ready for the jobs of the 21st century. Why, then, are nearly all the types of clothing we buy and wear made by teenage girls in sweatshops in Bangladesh? Can't a high school grad from Wisconsin make a shirt? Why are smart phones made by kids or political prisoners in China? Can't American high school grads do that just as well? If Mexican laborers can make cars in Juarez, why can't American high school kids make cars?
The issue may not be the kids aren't trained to do today's jobs...the issue may be that companies have put the jobs in the third world to maximize profit and take the jobs from capable Americans.
Chapter 3 about infrastructure repair is well thought out and makes a cogent appeal to common business sense. The only flaw here is the acronym PPP is missing the huge P that sits in every government office in the USA. The Private/Public/Partnership must deal with Pork Barrelling. It will take a huge paradigm shift to get elected politicians en masse to agree to stop setting up construction deals that pad their chosen nest. I wish them luck with that as it is an affliction that hits both Republicans and Democrats, big and small.
The authors suggest making banks more palatable to giving small businesses loans is the answer. I am not certain how anyone can do anything to make a too big to fail bank agree to help a little person. Perhaps a government-run small business loan bank might be the solution.
The Opportunity Agenda is well researched and well thought out. It offers a number of real life examples to illustrate the points. Whether the points are doable isn't the concern. The Opportunity Agenda is a good one for every member of the Democratic Party to read and put into use.
My Rating: 5 stars
Buy it Now:
Winston C. Fisher is a partner at Fisher Brothers, a real estate firm based in New York City, and CEO of AREA15, an experiential retail and entertainment company. Mr. Fisher also serves as cochair of Governor Cuomo’s New York City Regional Economic Development Council and is active in civic and policy organizations and higher education institutions, including the Center for an Urban Future, the Real Estate Board of New York, and Syracuse University.
Sly James is the former mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, and responsible for overseeing the city’s renaissance. Throughout his tenure, Mr. James moved the needle on universal pre-K, spearheaded the construction and expansion of a streetcar line, and successfully passed an $800 million infrastructure package. He has also served on numerous boards and commissions, including The Missouri Board of Law Examiners, the Economic Development Corporation, and as president of the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association. Mr. James previously authored the critically acclaimed autobiography A Passion For Purpose, a mantra by which he based his tenure as mayor and his life.
Social Media Links:
Winston Twitter https://twitter.com/Winston_Fisher1
Sly Twitter https://twitter.com/MayorSlyJames
Reviewed by: Mr. N
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