June 9, 2015
Interviews: Peter D. Kiernan
"Like most Americans, I knew our middle class faced tribulations… and I worried why we tolerated such a retreat—much less steadily and painfully for decades."
—Peter D. Kiernan
ABOUT THE AUTHORPeter D. Kiernan is a successful businessman, venture philanthropist, and corporate and government advisor. For decades he has been a tireless advocate for poverty fighting organizations, education reform, disability and disease related charities, and hospital boards. His work in these activities has taken him to every continent on the globe. In books and articles he has investigated how our nation has procrastinated and ignored facing its most pressing problems.
His latest book, American Mojo: Lost and Found, is a penetrating look at how America has let its core middle class founder and how we are preventing this resilient majority form achieving their destiny.
In unflinching detail, American Mojo points out how the rich and poor have changed dramatically as the decades have passed, how our social and economic landscape has weathered each successive boom and stormy bust, and how we are using half century and older remedies to fight a new and constantly shifting array of vexations.
Much like Kiernan’s last book, the International Book Award winning multiple best seller Becoming China’s Bitch and Nine More Catastrophes We Must Avoid Right Now: A Manifesto for the Radical Center, his latest work is thoroughly researched investigative analysis with scores of practical and achievable steps Americans can take to fulfill their national promise.
But what sparked the book in his mind?
Trouble Always Starts With a Great Question
by Peter Kiernan
Trouble always starts with a great question, and one sparked my book American Mojo: Lost and Found.
Just as my last book Becoming China’s Bitch and Nine More Catastrophes We Must Avoid Right Now entered final edits, I was strolling the Bund in Shanghai. Beneath the snapping red flags a young Chinese business man asked me “Why are you letting your middle class wither and die… we are trying mightily to create one and you seem so indifferent?"
Like most Americans, I knew our middle class faced tribulations… and I worried why we tolerated such a retreat—much less steadily and painfully for decades.
That simple query launched a multi-year examination of the history of our middle class, to follow its ascension after World War II and its surge in the 50s and 60s. American Mojo traces how cracks appeared in the foundation and how many Americans were uninvited to the middle class dream.
That journey pursued the economic conflagrations through the 80s and 90s, and the enormous changes in the American population—all prelude to the lost mojo of the Great Recession. The inquiry answered one more question.
Can our mojo be found? The keys to restoring our middle class are everywhere—especially in the aspirations of the massive middle class in the developing world. Who on earth knows better than Americans how to feed the needs of a growing middle class?
American Mojo approaches the middle class differently… with individual stories, not demographer’s digits and census categories. Each chapter commences with one person’s consequence, and together these stories animate the struggle our middle class has faced.
For all the pain of no wage growth and the loss of breadwinner jobs, there remains a resiliency that can lift our middle class once again. But the answers will come from places in our society that you least expect and from parts of the globe rarely considered by domestic policy ostriches who refuse to see the big picture. Finding our mojo requires two powerful forces to achieve harmony—one the ever changing, gifted and spirited people throughout our nation; and two the emerging countries creating their own unique middle classes.
American greatness is found in these unlikely places—because outside our border lies 80 percent of the world’s purchasing power, 92 percent of the world’s economic growth and 95 percent of the world’s consumers. And they are hungry for well-being in a way that should sound familiar.
Finding our American Mojo requires connecting dots we have been unwilling to connect, abandoning stereotypes and recollections at home and embracing new realities. America possesses every resource to restore the luster of our middle class. The greatest of these is courage to make difficult decisions for the betterment of many.
American Mojo: Lost and Found sets this new course.
"For all the pain of no wage growth and the loss of breadwinner jobs, there remains a resiliency that can lift our middle class once again. But the answers will come from places in our society that you least expect and from parts of the globe rarely considered by domestic policy ostriches who refuse to see the big picture."
NEXTYou can learn more about Peter Kiernan and American Mojo: Lost and Found at peterkiernan.com, and come back tomorrow for the beginning of our interview with him. It's going to be a good one!
About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.