Short on policy recommendations for stopping these outrages, but long on details sure to stoke the debate about American tax...

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THE CHEATING OF AMERICA

HOW TAX AVOIDANCE AND EVASION BY THE SUPER RICH ARE COSTING THE COUNTRY BILLIONS AND WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT

A hard-hitting, dismaying investigation of how the wealthiest individuals and largest corporations in the US use legal and illegal means to reduce or eliminate their taxes—and thereby stiff everyone else.

As of 1998, taxpayer noncompliance cost the federal government an estimated $195 billion annually. This account of how this massive tax chiseling came to be perpetrated was painstakingly researched by Lewis (The Buying of the President 2000, not reviewed), former Philadelphia Inquirer researcher Allison, and several of their associates from the nonprofit Center for Public Integrity. While admitting that Americans so distrust the IRS that they are unwilling to provide it with manpower adequate for conducting investigations, the authors make the compelling point that, without fair tax administration, the gap between rich and poor will only widen. The numbers alone tell a staggering story: Taxes paid by corporations on profits reported to the IRS declined from 26 percent to 20 percent between 1990 and 1997. At the same time, IRS officials admit that the agency targets the poor and middle-class disproportionately for audits because, unlike the rich, they are unlikely to engage in protracted, expensive legal sieges. Running to more than 17,000 pages in some editions, the Internal Revenue Code offers a labyrinth of net operating losses, offshore trusts, and real-estate shelters. Lewis and his associates use case studies to highlight these and other ingenious dodges crafted by accountants and tax attorneys. For instance, Joe Conforte, owner of a notorious Nevada bordello, insisted that his prostitutes were not employees but independent contractors—a claim later employed successfully by Microsoft, Xerox, and other corporations in shaving costs for Social Security, health insurance, and pensions. Assiduous tax schemers have even forsaken American citizenship or control of their companies to avoid paying the piper.

Short on policy recommendations for stopping these outrages, but long on details sure to stoke the debate about American tax equity.

Pub Date: March 20, 2001

ISBN: 0-380-97682-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2001

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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Not only the definitive life, but a tour de force by a master.

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EDISON

One of history’s most prolific inventors receives his due from one of the world’s greatest biographers.

Pulitzer and National Book Award winner Morris (This Living Hand and Other Essays, 2012, etc.), who died this year, agrees that Thomas Edison (1847-1931) almost certainly said, “genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration,” and few readers of this outstanding biography will doubt that he was the quintessential workaholic. Raised in a middle-class Michigan family, Edison displayed an obsessive entrepreneurial spirit from childhood. As an adolescent, he ran a thriving business selling food and newspapers on a local railroad. Learning Morse code, he spent the Civil War as a telegrapher, impressing colleagues with his speed and superiors with his ability to improve the equipment. In 1870, he opened his own shop to produce inventions to order. By 1876, he had money to build a large laboratory in New Jersey, possibly the world’s first industrial research facility. Never a loner, Edison hired talented people to assist him. The dazzling results included the first commercially successful light bulb for which, Morris reminds readers, he invented the entire system: dynamo, wires, transformers, connections, and switches. Critics proclaim that Edison’s innovations (motion pictures, fluoroscope, rechargeable batteries, mimeograph, etc.) were merely improvements on others’ work, but this is mostly a matter of sour grapes. Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone was a clunky, short-range device until it added Edison’s carbon microphone. And his phonograph flabbergasted everyone. Humans had been making images long before Daguerre, but no one had ever reproduced sound. Morris rivetingly describes the personalities, business details, and practical uses of Edison’s inventions as well as the massive technical details of years of research and trial and error for both his triumphs and his failures. For no obvious reason, the author writes in reverse chronological order, beginning in 1920, with each of the seven following chapters backtracking a decade. It may not satisfy all readers, but it works.

Not only the definitive life, but a tour de force by a master.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9311-0

Page Count: 800

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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