Alperovitz’s conversational style avoids academic jargon while making complex issues easy (some might say too easy) to...

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WHAT THEN MUST WE DO?

STRAIGHT TALK ABOUT THE NEXT AMERICAN REVOLUTION

Any cure for America’s economic plight lies deeper than politics as usual, argues an author who believes that a fundamental, radical, systemic transformation offers the possibility of an economic corrective.

Alperovitz (Political Economy/Univ. of Maryland; America Beyond Capitalism, 2004) argues that a faulty sense of history underlies what little faith remains in economic progress through conventional politics. For those who would categorize the New Deal as a political triumph, he counters that it had “a very, very unusual context…in large part made possible by a massive global Depression” and led to “postwar achievements [that] were in significant part made possible by the ongoing impact of a massive (and highly unusual, global-scale) war and its extraordinary aftermath.” In short, great change spawned by great crises, not the working of the political process. The economic disparity between the rich and the masses has since gotten much wider, with no indication that politics can even address the situation, let alone improve it, as the decline of labor unions has left the power of corporate wealth unchecked and unchallenged. Yet the author believes he “offers a reasonably hopeful sense of the future, and a strategy aimed at possibly getting there.” Such hope lies in “the democratization of wealth,” through employee-owned companies, regional co-ops, the systemic transformation of the banking and health care industries into public utilities and an emphasis on “what has often been called the triple bottom line (emphasizing people and planet in addition to profit).” And if such radical restructuring causes some to scream about socialism, he counters that “socialism—real socialism, not the fuzzy kind conservatives try to pin on Barack Obama—is as common as grass…in the United States.”

Alperovitz’s conversational style avoids academic jargon while making complex issues easy (some might say too easy) to digest, but he’s not likely to convince those of the conservative persuasion that a more hopeful future involves more collective action and government consolidation.

Pub Date: May 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-60358-491-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Chelsea Green

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2013

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

ECONOMIC DIGNITY

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.

FRONT ROW AT THE TRUMP SHOW

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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