An economist and historian puts the Great Recession into historical context and examines the current economic crisis as well as policies designed to benefit the superwealthy at the expense of the other 99 percent of Americans.
Although Orlando’s (Life Is Not a Dress Rehearsal, 2005) letter is ostensibly addressed to the country’s wealthiest one percent, it’s hard to imagine that many of them are eager to hear from yet another writer telling them they’re ruining the economy. For everyone else, though, this well-researched, carefully cited book is a valuable resource for understanding how the country got in such a perilous position and what can be done about it. In addition to exploring the complex web of corruption, greed and deregulation that led to Wall Street’s recent collapse, Orlando explains what this financial crisis had in common with the Great Depression and gives a clear overview of major economic developments since the ’30s, including the New Deal and the development of Medicare and Medicaid. From there, he demonstrates just how difficult turning around the economy really is, since problems with so many government-funded programs have advanced its decline. He shows how the No Child Left Behind Act, welfare cuts and crackdowns on labor unions have combined to leave the 99 percent in the most economically precarious position they’ve faced in years. If this seems like a lot of information to fit into fewer than 100 pages, it is. Using a clear, authoritative writing style, however, Orlando, who received degrees from both the Wharton School and the London School of Economics, manages to present an impressive number of facts without overwhelming readers. In particular, the statistics he presents are startling, even for those who closely follow the state of the economy. It’s hard not to feel outraged when reading, for example, that “CEOs now earn over 200 times what the average worker earns. In 1973, they earned only 27 times the average workers pay.”
A powerful, compact primer on American economics.