NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- America's "Mojo" started slipping during the 1973 Arab oil embargo, leading to a decades-long erosion of the country's middle class, said Peter Kiernan, author of American Mojo: Lost and Found. He wants the country to get it back before it's too late.
"That was the moment that we lost control of a vital asset that we had been able to control for a long time. We dictated the production of oil out of the Middle East. The American people then faced oil at $3 a barrel if you can imagine such a thing. That was really the beginning of the beginning," he said
Kiernan's last book Becoming China's Bitch won the International Book Award and was a New York Times bestseller. Prior to becoming an author, Kiernan worked on Wall Street for decades, including a stint at Goldman Sachs (GS). He left in 2000 to pursue venture capital start-ups, nonprofit work and writing. Kiernan has been a board member for the Robin Hood Foundation for 25 years and also headed the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation.
Numbers like jobs reports and GDP don't truly reflect a country's confidence or it's mojo, in Kiernan's view. Instead, he said the best way to measure it is by looking for the aspirations of the middle class.
"Most Americans, even if they are not in the middle class, still aspire to a middle class life. They aspire to have a good job. Have a nice house and a car. Educate their kids if they can afford it. Live for a retirement that's pleasurable, but more important than that, the confidence that their kids are going to be better off than they are. That's how I measure Mojo. That's what's slipping in this country today," said Kiernan.
In American Mojo, Kiernan offers a slew of ways to rebuild the country's middle class "before the world blows by". Some of his solutions include committing to spend a trillion dollars on U.S. infrastructure by raising the gas tax. He also advocates hiring and training veterans with tax benefits and the creation of a Youth Training Commission to get as many of the 6.2 million young people who are NEETs -- Not in Education, Employment or Training -- back to work.
Furthermore, Kiernan wants to offer tax incentives and research and development deductions for any company that builds a new technology 21st century manufacturing and distribution facility. Meanwhile, he suggests renting out visas to tech companies to fill open high end jobs.
As for the current crop of presidential candidates, Kiernan said they all claim to be saviors of the middle class, yet none offer solid solutions to make their lives better.
"Push them to come up with answers. We have a few people that say 'Tax the Rich' and I say 'Great. Once you get the cash from the 1%, what are you going to do with the money?'" said Kiernan. "I think asking those questions is important to bubble up some answers because right now they all claim to be champions of the middle class."