edited by David Cay Johnston ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 1, 2014
A potent chronicle of America’s “extreme inequality, the worst by far of any nation with a modern economy.”
Investigative reporter Johnston (The Fine Print: How Big Companies Use "Plain English" to Rob You Blind, 2012, etc.) collects together writings from forty authors representing many different fields of endeavor to present a multifaceted picture of inequality.
Among the contributors are President Barack Obama, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Nobel laureates Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman, journalist Barbara Ehrenreich, international trade unionists, and specialists from academia and the think-tank world—even Studs Terkel. The keynote of the collection is the president's Dec. 6, 2011, speech in Osawatomie, Kan., in which he argued that widening inequality contributed to the financial collapse in 2008. On that occasion, Obama struck a note of optimism about his reforms and their prospects for implementation. Johnston's introduction is quite a bit more pessimistic, as he notes that nearly 95 percent of all income gains between 2009 and 2012 went to the top 1 percent. The income of the “vast majority, the bottom 90 per cent,” shrank by 15.7 percent on average, to a level lower than it was in 1966. Other contributors fill out the picture and shape a timeline of the widening of the divisions. Warren's piece on the disappearing middle class was written in 2004. In 2007, Ehrenreich exposed Home Depot Chairman Robert Nardelli's monstrous 2007 golden parachute. A chapter by Donald S. Shepherd, Elizabeth Setren and Donna Cooper on how hunger increased in America during the recession by 30 percent appeared on Slate in 2012. Also documented: how income inequality constricts access to goods both public and private, like food, education and health care. Johnston includes an excerpt from Adam Smith's 1776 Wealth of Nations: “By necessaries I understand not only the commodities which are indispensably necessary for the support of life, but whatever the custom of the country renders it indecent for creditable people, even of the lowest order, to be without.”A potent chronicle of America’s “extreme inequality, the worst by far of any nation with a modern economy.”
Pub Date: April 1, 2014
Page Count: 320
Publisher: The New Press
Review Posted Online: Feb. 25, 2014
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014
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by Ta-Nehisi Coates ‧ RELEASE DATE: July 8, 2015
This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”
Awards & Accolades
Best Books Of 2015
New York Times Bestseller
National Book Award Winner
Pulitzer Prize Finalist
The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.
Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”
Pub Date: July 8, 2015
Page Count: 176
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Review Posted Online: May 5, 2015
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015
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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.
“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.
It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.
Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019
Page Count: 432
Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019
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