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That Used to Be Us: What Went Wrong with America - And How It Can Come Back. by Thomas L. Friedman, Michael Mandelbaum

3.78  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,012 Ratings  ·  446 Reviews
Pulitzer prize-winning, globally bestselling author charts America's fall from power and influence - and assesses its paths ahead
Paperback, 400 pages
Published 2011 by Little Brown and Company
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Oct 12, 2011 Villate rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Some good thoughts about what is and is not working in America, but an awful lot of "kids these days" sort of talk, too. The authors' fetishization of Asia is also troubling. Having worked closely with Asian students for more than 10 years now, I would say that a large proportion of their vaunted higher educational attainment is either purchased or cheated, not earned. That is not to say that we have nothing to learn from Asian methods of pedagogy, or that they are not in fact "beating" us in te ...more
Fei Fei
"Unscathed by the great disruptions, unburdened by the necessity of great sacrifice, unpressured by the daily effort of confronting a huge global predator... the baby boom generation has in too many cases displayed too little fiscal prudence, too much political partisanship, and too short a sense of history to engage in the collective nation-building at home that America badly needs today."

In summary, the message is clear: Dear Baby Boomers, you fucked up big time. Please fix it before the situa
Delway Burton
Oct 20, 2011 Delway Burton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A perceptive and informative book, while at the same time frightening. Tom Friedman (forget his liberal bent) is a rational and broad-based writer. His access to sources is unique and he is a keen observer, mixing both statistics and anecdotes. If anything he should be faulted for what he leaves out. The book is an analysis of how the good old USA got into this mess. Firstly this is not the first time the nation has been threatened. The analysis of the present is discouraging as long term proble ...more
Apr 02, 2012 J.D. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Let me start by saying that, as a moderate/centrist, I really loved this book! I believe, as the authors do, that neither Democrats are right thinking that the government is the solution to every problem, or that Republicans are right thinking the government is the cause to every problem. The authors are correct in their assertion that we must come together and act collectively, taking the best ideas of both philosophies, if we intend to improve America. The authors nailed it on the head when th ...more
Steve Schlutow
This was a very good book; I agree 100% with their arguments.. I disagree with some of the approaches to resolving their arguments, but many times I do disagree with these author(s) being a conservative.. That said the authors' books are always informative good reads, thus I read enjoy reading them.. This book continuous the authors trend of good books, it is a very interesting book, and I enjoyed the read very much..

The part of the book that I enjoyed the most was education chapters, as how the
Donald Crane
Jul 11, 2012 Donald Crane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really compelling book. The first 80% of it is a damning exploration of how the US has lost its way - educationally and politically, primarily. This part of the book highlights how America has failed to keep up with the rest of the world in science and math education, and how politicians - left and right - insist on making up their own facts to suit their ideology, science and research notwithstanding. (One of my favorite observations: in one study, "49% of US adults do not know how long it take ...more
Loyola University Chicago Libraries
While reading this book, it's very hard not to feel overwhelmed. It's not just that the United States faces a single, all-consuming problem; it faces dozens, if not hundreds of them. There's not very much that's going right in America these days; from our failing schools to dismal unemployment rate to crumbling infrastructure, we barely resemble the global super power that confidently dominated world events after WWII. And even if these problems were easy to solve, our current gridlocked politic ...more
Sep 30, 2011 Book rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World it Invented and How We Can Come Back by Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum

“That Used to Be Us” is the thought-provoking and topical book about the steep economical challenges that America faces. The authors take a systematic approach on what ails America and what can be done to cure it. This 400-page book is broken out in five parts: Part I. The Diagnosis, Part II. The Education Challenge, Part. III. The War on Math and Physics, Par
Scott Lupo
Oct 31, 2011 Scott Lupo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Thank you to Mindy Kittay for suggesting this book. Overall, this is a really great book that outlines the challenges this nation faces along with solutions that the authors consider the pillars of American society. The four challenges the US faces, in the author's opinion, are globalization, the revolution in IT, our deficit, and our energy consumption. The solutions that the authors posit are investment in education, investment in R&D, building infrastructure, immigration, and regulation. ...more
Back in the early 1990's America became obsessed with its rapidly diminishing lead against an Asian country which seemed to be leagues better at business, education, manufacturing and government. Because it would soon become the number one global economy, it's "Theory Z" management practices received our deep study and admiration. The U.S.'s management practices and slack relative educational standards became a source of national shame compared to a country that seemed to do everything right. So ...more
Jason Walker
I'm not sure it is fair to compare US education scores with other countries, I've never been convinced that it isn't the apple and oranges game. Reading this book I think there are many apples and oranges brought to the front. The United States is not at this time the captain of industry and energy production; it will no longer be the captain of space exploration; and it will certainly never again be the leader in anything other than video games -- in a breath real and in a thought impossible. T ...more
Oct 30, 2011 Reiden rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
The beginning and ending were a bit overly-patriotic for my taste, but the main portion of the book made up for that. I've listened to the last couple books by Friedman. I love how his books are up to date, giving a good view on how the world is currently changing. While this book's theme was based around changes in America, there were just as many pieces of the book devoted to other parts of the world besides the US.

A few of the cases made in the book:
1. Our current two-party political system
Oct 18, 2011 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Once you get past all the cliches and bumper sticker slogans, Tom again has a good book. I was a huge fan of world is flat but only kinda liked hot flat and crowded. This book is kind of the love child of both (but not exactly). Although I don't agree with a lot of his politics, he hits the nail on the head with education and business. For some reason people just don't seem to get that the world and business has shifted for good. You don't need lots of people to make lots of money anymore and as ...more
Dana Stabenow
I finally skimmed through to the end. If you've never read one of Friedman's books, this one is probably the one you want to read first (although my personal favorite of his is still From Beirut to Jerusalem). If you have read all of his books already, you have read most of this before somewhere else. Essentially the message is: Stop spending money on waging war and start spending it on supporting the peace, especially in infrastructure and education.

I'm not as anxious about the future of the U
Ellen Christian
Jan 05, 2012 Ellen Christian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
That Used To Be Us was written by Thomas L. Friedman (a New York Times columnist) and Michael Mandelbaum (Director of Foreign Policy at Johns Hopkins). That Used To Be Us is a call to action. It's a bucket of cold water meant to wake up Americans and get them to see what's really happened to our country. Friedman and Mandelbaum take a look at four challenges that our country is facing: globalization, the revolution in information technology, the nation's chronic deficits and our pattern of exces ...more
Keith Swenson
Nov 12, 2011 Keith Swenson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For me, four stars means it is an excellent book I completely enjoyed. Five stars mean it is not only excellent, but that it is a rare and important book that everyone should read. I want to give this book 6 stars that means not only excellent because this is important and urgent -- drop whatever you are doing now and read this book NOW!

Tom Friedman's "The World Is Flat" (2005) book had a tremendous impact on our culture, but it presents a defeatist tone. "That used to be us" completes the messa
Oct 26, 2011 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent look at the America of the future. Like several other books written by Thomas Friedman this particular book looks at the things America needs to correct and soon if we want to remain a prosperous and free nation. Although like many reviewers I think the author's bent towards liberal views to solve most of these problems are sometimes off base; he is correct in noting that none of this can get done with strict party partisanship and the lack of a third more moderate vision for Americ ...more
Mar 29, 2013 Ben rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, economics
Thomas Friedman has been pushing a consistent thesis for the past several years. Beginning in 1999 with The Lexus and the Olive Tree, Friedman has concluded that a convergence of the IT revolution, global warming, and the clash of ancient and modern cultures has brought about a sort of “tipping point” in modern history – a point in which nations and individuals either get control of globalization or lose control altogether. That Used to Be Us continues Friedman’s themes from his previous works, ...more
Meg - A Bookish Affair
Full disclosure: I'm a big Thomas Friedman fan. I think he has a lot of interesting things to say and a lot of good ideas. I'm less familiar with Michael Mandelbaum although some of his books are now on my TBR based on what he discussed in this book.

Anyhow, I really liked this book. The authors start out with talking about how we've kind of lost our way as a country. We've had a lot of things (such as the recession) thrust upon us but we've sort of gotten lazy too. The book opens with a story a
Jan 02, 2012 Jerry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics
This book talks about four Major Challenges:
How to adapt to globalization
How to adjust to the Information Technology (IT) revolution
How to cope with the large and soaring budget deficits stemming from the growing demands on government at every level
How to manage a world of both rising energy consumption and rising climate threats

The authors at times are balanced in their analysis but tend to lean left of center favoring progressive solutions. They note the impact of lobbying and the role of publ
Jan 05, 2012 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: The American People!
I will be the first to admit that I am a fan of Friedman. The authors did a good job of trying to stay in the center of the aisle, but believe that they ultimately are a little to the left. To be honest, I don't really care what one's political views are, but rather that we are working together to better America in general.

The authors brought to light the four following issues that are discussed in further detail consistently throughout the book: Globalization, the Information Technology (IT) Re
Jan 20, 2013 Shaun rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book quite interesting. We all know that our country (the USA) is messed up and our politicians on many levels would rather spend money we don't have to continue along the path of the status quo, rather than make the hard decisions to implement policies to fix our long term problems, because they are more worried about staying in office than making our country better. The authors provide many ideas to fix our problems, but many of their solutions require Democrats and Republicans to ...more
Mar 29, 2012 Brad rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Brad by: Washington Post
I really liked this book. It's a well-written explanation of some of the biggest challenges that the nation is facing today, and some ideas about how we can best face and overcome them. I really liked that I picked it up within about 6 months of its being published, as the book felt very current.

There is an excellent chapter about education (ch. 6), and some very interesting ideas about a useful shock to the system (ch. 15) about how to help get the country back on track. There was a solid expla
Tony Canas
Nov 21, 2011 Tony Canas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've read several books about the financial crisis, the fall of enron, the US deficit, globalization and what's wrong with the world, but none provide as succinct an answer as Thomas Friedman's latest. While his last 2 books "The World is Flat" and "Hot, Flat and Crowded" are all about the issues of globalization and climate change, this one is about how we can fix our position in the world and get the US back in track to remain the superpower that it is today, because sadly we are simply not on ...more
Zach Olsen
Oct 02, 2011 Zach Olsen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is fantastic just like all of Thomas Friedman's books. Most of the book paints a pretty dismal picture of the current state of America. Nearly all facets of America are slipping or have slipped behind - education, innovation, infrastructure. The most discouraging aspect is that these problems require big and difficult changes that our current political atmosphere aren't ready or willing to handle like both increasing taxes and decreasing spending. I like the solutions laid out in the b ...more
Dec 12, 2011 Tracy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Can't recommend this enough. I think this should be required reading for all living in America, especially right before an election year. This book describes the issues we are facing as a nation in such a clear and readable format, but also tells how we got to this point and how we can potentially recover. I felt this book was very balanced in feedback against both the left and the right - both need to make sacrifices, which is something our country has not been doing as of late. I came away wit ...more
Oct 02, 2011 Cheryl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you are like me and are very concerned about the future of our country, "That Used to Be Us" is a must read. Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas Friedman analyzes where we went wrong in education, politics, globalization, information technology, energy dependence and what we need to do as a nation to get back on the right track. There is plenty of blame to go around - teachers, parents, politicians of both political parties, the attitudes and situational ethics of the baby boomers, excessive busines ...more
Nov 11, 2015 Susan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent book -- while I don't agree with everything, its a good read for folks on both sides of the political aisle.
This is a good book to read after The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century, I'm glad I did. Although I think it was also a little too long like said book and could have been condensed.

Basically the USA needs to pull it's head out of it's a-word or China will dominate. We don't need to be like China to get back in the game but we need to do something because the problem we face isn't China, it's ourselves. I agree with their thoughts that a 3rd political party needs to rise
Tio Stib
Oct 01, 2014 Tio Stib rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thomas Friedman is a rare writer who is rational, extremely well informed, and refreshingly real and succinct in his evaluation of world affairs. I have followed him for years and have found each of his books extremely insightful and more importantly, inspiring. While it is easy to find problems in today’s world, there are few authors with the depth of intellect to be able to see through the problems to possible solutions. This is Friedman’s strength. His clear and concise descriptions of the ma ...more
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What is wrong with America? 1 4 May 13, 2014 12:04AM  
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  • House of Bush, House of Saud: The Secret Relationship Between the World's Two Most Powerful Dynasties
  • Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President
  • Take It Back: A Battle Plan for Democratic Victory
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  • Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power
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  • So Damn Much Money: The Triumph of Lobbying and the Corrosion of American Government
  • The Time of Our Lives: A conversation about America; Who we are, where we've been, and where we need to go now, to recapture the American dream
  • The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception
  • The Longest War: A History of the War on Terror and the Battles with Al Qaeda Since 9/11
  • Forgotten Continent: The Battle for Latin America's Soul
Thomas Lauren Friedman is an American journalist. He is an op-ed contributor to The New York Times, whose column appears twice weekly and mainly addresses topics on foreign affairs. Friedman is known for supporting a compromise resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, modernization of the Arab world, environmentalism and globalization. He is considered to be a pluralist and most of his comm ...more
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“It generated horrific noises that sound like a TRex trapped in a tar pit screeching its dying screams.” 2 likes
“As we peer into society’s future, we—you and I, and our government—must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. —President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Farewell Address,” 0 likes
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