Wake Up USA begins with the premise that the United States has “essential needs” consisting of “abundant and economically priced supplies of energy, transportation, housing, food, water, health care, and education” and that long-range planning is needed to secure those needs. Author Citizen Charles then shows, in detail, just how dire those needs are and posits that our current system of planning and acting on those plans is inadequate. For example, he notes that private industry and government agencies don’t work well together to meet those needs, and some needs are even at odds with others, such as the need to protect the environment and the need for economical energy sources. He points out that special interest groups all want special interests met — often with contradictory needs, as well.
To solve these problems, Citizen Charles argues for planning that borders on the utopian: he envisions a “national planning commission” that would bring business, academia and government together to define needs, quantify how much money is required to meet them, and then create long-range plans to get things done. While few will argue with the need for better planning, the naivte of Charles’ solution is off-putting: he appears to assume that all of these entities would work happily together, with none trying to promote their own agendas at the expense of the others and that government officials would simply implement suggested programs with nary a snag. (Perhaps he has overlooked recent coverage of the bitterly contentious health care reform bill?)
In addition to ideas that many readers will find difficult to embrace, Charles presents his argument with a dulling, often overwhelming barrage of statistics that include such esoteric details as the ages of busses and the amount expended on flax subsidies. By themselves, statistics lack the firepower to convince, and the passion that words can add isn’t to be found here.