Turning Adam Smith against the hypocrisy of free-marketeers is not the least of the strengths of this solid treatment of a...

WE ARE BETTER THAN THIS

HOW GOVERNMENT SHOULD SPEND OUR MONEY

Kleinbard (Law and Business/Univ. of Southern California) orchestrates an encyclopedic, and sometimes eye-opening, introduction to the American tax system's mysteries and secrets, including subsidies and handouts and its relation to the budget process and the economy.

The author, trained in tax law and formerly chief of staff to the Joint Committee on Taxation, delivers an unusually spirited defense of the U.S. government and its power to tax in opposition to the “hatred” expressed by taxation's detractors and the government's opponents, whom he calls “market triumphalists.” He painstakingly documents how roughly $2.5 trillion of taxpayers' money is frittered away each year through subsidies in the form of deductions and credits, as well as through inefficiencies. Kleinbard believes fiscal policy is “applied moral philosophy,” and he believes that a lack of education of children may be the federal government's most serious problem. Without proper education, he fears for the future of the country. Yet local property taxes, which largely finance the education system, cannot provide equal opportunity for all. What he calls the market triumphalists' “pernicious conflation of market freedom and political liberty” impoverishes everyone's understanding of freedom. Mortgage deductions and the employer-based health system, which alone squanders more than $1 trillion per year through subsidies to employers and their insured employees, indirectly fund a massive transfer of resources to the nation's richest. These subsidies do not figure in the legislative process at all, writes the author, and are never discussed as charges borne by all taxpayers. Such “subsurface spending” is buried in the tax code, “amounting to as much as all defense and nondefense discretionary spending.”

Turning Adam Smith against the hypocrisy of free-marketeers is not the least of the strengths of this solid treatment of a potentially existential issue.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2014

ISBN: 978-0199332243

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN

Bernstein and Woodward, the two Washington Post journalists who broke the Big Story, tell how they did it by old fashioned seat-of-the-pants reporting — in other words, lots of intuition and a thick stack of phone numbers. They've saved a few scoops for the occasion, the biggest being the name of their early inside source, the "sacrificial lamb" H**h Sl**n. But Washingtonians who talked will be most surprised by the admission that their rumored contacts in the FBI and elsewhere never existed; many who were telephoned for "confirmation" were revealing more than they realized. The real drama, and there's plenty of it, lies in the private-eye tactics employed by Bernstein and Woodward (they refer to themselves in the third person, strictly on a last name basis). The centerpiece of their own covert operation was an unnamed high government source they call Deep Throat, with whom Woodward arranged secret meetings by positioning the potted palm on his balcony and through codes scribbled in his morning newspaper. Woodward's wee hours meetings with Deep Throat in an underground parking garage are sheer cinema: we can just see Robert Redford (it has to be Robert Redford) watching warily for muggers and stubbing out endless cigarettes while Deep Throat spills the inside dope about the plumbers. Then too, they amass enough seamy detail to fascinate even the most avid Watergate wallower — what a drunken and abusive Mitchell threatened to do to Post publisher Katherine Graham's tit, and more on the Segretti connection — including the activities of a USC campus political group known as the Ratfuckers whose former members served as a recruiting pool for the Nixon White House. As the scandal goes public and out of their hands Bernstein and Woodward seem as stunned as the rest of us at where their search for the "head ratfucker" has led. You have to agree with what their City Editor Barry Sussman realized way back in the beginning — "We've never had a story like this. Just never."

Pub Date: June 18, 1974

ISBN: 0671894412

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1974

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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