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HOLLOWED OUT

WHY THE ECONOMY DOESN'T WORK WITHOUT A STRONG MIDDLE CLASS

A dramatic and clearly delineated outline of “how the stage has been set for transformative political conflict.”

The director of economic policy at the Center for American Progress argues that it is time to mount a political challenge to the economic theories—namely, supply-side, or trickle-down economics—that have provided cover for the unparalleled growth in inequality over the past three decades.

Madland states that the theory “has failed in a number of ways and is thus vulnerable to a challenge from the middle out.” Among the failures are the destructive consequences of growing income inequality, responsibility for the 2007-2009 “Great Recession,” and dramatic income-based undermining of opportunities and outcomes in American secondary and college education. As a senior member of the progressive Center for American Progress, Madland takes on the right wing's purblind opposition to raising taxes for expenditures on public goods such as education, which increase cultural and economic potentials in all areas by improving what the author calls “human capital.” College graduation rates, he writes, “have barely budged in over a generation,” and upward mobility is in decline. Furthermore, students from wealthy backgrounds continue to have significant access advantages over their poorer counterparts. “The average income for parents of Harvard students is now $450,000,” writes Madland. As inequality grows, the author shows how power shifts to the wealthy, politics becomes more polarized, and civic engagement suffers. The mad pursuit of profit and advantage—e.g., Wall Street banks insisting on deregulation, which contributed to the crash—and demanding no-strings-attached bailouts eliminate the trust and reciprocity that Madland promotes as a necessary accompaniment to a strong middle class. He believes American democracy “has proven resilient” but is not immune “to wealthy elites gaining disproportionate influence.” As the author notes, such elites, devoted to the theory of supply-side economics, don't readily change their ways.

A dramatic and clearly delineated outline of “how the stage has been set for transformative political conflict.”

Pub Date: June 26, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-520-28164-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Univ. of California

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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