Hughes makes a strong case for redistribution of wealth, though the memoir elements of the book are more compelling than the...




A co-founder of Facebook draws from personal experience to propose a guaranteed income for working people.

From a family on the fringes of the middle-class in North Carolina, Hughes earned scholarships at an exclusive prep school and Harvard, where one of his roommates was Mark Zuckerberg. At a time when others were beginning their careers, the author had already cashed out his share of the social media phenomenon, earning nearly $500 million. He raised his personal stock with a key role as the director of online organizing for Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign. Then he suffered the first major professional setback in his young career. He bought the New Republic and was initially hailed as a savior of the financially beleaguered magazine, but he left four years later with a staff in tatters and the publication in deeper debt. In addition to chronicling his personal story, Hughes offers a manifesto for a guaranteed income of $500 per month for any working adult making less than $50,000, subsidized by those, like himself, who have a disproportionate share of the nation’s wealth. He admits that when he mentioned the proposal, “most people would walk away curious at best, suspicious at worst.” But the author maintains that such a small amount of financial security would allow workers to ponder leaving jobs they hate or work in fields where there often are not commensurate financial rewards. Mostly, he writes, it’s the right thing to do, and the country can afford it. “We live in the richest country on Earth at its richest moment in history, even though it might not feel that way to most people,” he writes. And why not? Because “the top one percent of Americans controls nearly 40 percent of the wealth in our country—one and a half times more wealth than the entire bottom 90 percent own.”

Hughes makes a strong case for redistribution of wealth, though the memoir elements of the book are more compelling than the economic analysis.

Pub Date: Feb. 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-19659-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.


Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.


The chief White House and Washington correspondent for ABC provides a ringside seat to a disaster-ridden Oval Office.

It is Karl to whom we owe the current popularity of a learned Latin term. Questioning chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, he followed up a perhaps inadvertently honest response on the matter of Ukrainian intervention in the electoral campaign by saying, “What you just described is a quid pro quo.” Mulvaney’s reply: “Get over it.” Karl, who has been covering Trump for decades and knows which buttons to push and which to avoid, is not inclined to get over it: He rightly points out that a reporter today “faces a president who seems to have no appreciation or understanding of the First Amendment and the role of a free press in American democracy.” Yet even against a bellicose, untruthful leader, he adds, the press “is not the opposition party.” The author, who keeps his eye on the subject and not in the mirror, writes of Trump’s ability to stage situations, as when he once called Trump out, at an event, for misrepresenting poll results and Trump waited until the camera was off before exploding, “Fucking nasty guy!”—then finished up the interview as if nothing had happened. Trump and his inner circle are also, by Karl’s account, masters of timing, matching negative news such as the revelation that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election with distractions away from Trump—in this case, by pushing hard on the WikiLeaks emails from the Democratic campaign, news of which arrived at the same time. That isn’t to say that they manage people or the nation well; one of the more damning stories in a book full of them concerns former Homeland Security head Kirstjen Nielsen, cut off at the knees even while trying to do Trump’s bidding.

No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4562-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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