An exhilarating record of intellectual engagement.

THE VANISHING AMERICAN DREAM

A FRANK LOOK AT THE ECONOMIC REALITIES FACING MIDDLE- AND LOWER-INCOME AMERICANS

A work focuses on a symposium devoted to diagnosing and curing the socioeconomic ailments that plague the lower and middle classes in America.

According to Ludwig, the editor of this volume and the organizer of the discussions at Yale Law School it documents, the lower and middle classes in the United States are desperately falling behind. They are the victims of an “economic tsunami” ravaging them for some time, the effects thrown into grimly sharp relief by the recent pandemic, of which they are “bearing the brunt of the burden.” The crisis is sometimes obscured by an overemphasis on standard economic indices, like the gross domestic product, which fails to capture the heart of the problem. Stagnating and even declining wages and a dearth of employment opportunities as well as the rising costs of basic necessities like shelter, education, and health care have left many in the nation embattled. In spring 2019, Ludwig brought together an impressive assemblage of luminaries to discuss this issue, culled from academia, government, and the world of commerce, including Lawrence H. Summers, the economist, former secretary of the Treasury, and former president of Harvard; Deval Patrick—the former Massachusetts governor, who delivered the keynote address—and Sarah Bloom Raskin, the former deputy secretary of the Treasury. The discussion is subdivided into three panels that investigate the nature of the problem, the possible responses at the national level, and the possible strategies at the local level. The editor not only brings together an accomplished coterie of participants, but also a diverse one. The highlights often involve the principled disagreement among the speakers, exchanges that manage to be edifying, spirited, and unfailingly civil, no small feat in the currently overcharged political climate. Furthermore, the topics touched on are wide-ranging, including the impact of technology on inequality, the exclusivity of elite education, macroeconomic strategies for increasing employment, and the rise of White nationalism and populism. In this lively and engrossing work, Ludwig presents a model of public discourse—informed, multidisciplinary, and shorn of myopic ideological commitments.

An exhilarating record of intellectual engagement.

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63331-044-5

Page Count: 275

Publisher: Disruption Books

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2020

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“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

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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A dynamic critique on the sprawling effects of racism and its effects on today’s youth.

THE TRAYVON GENERATION

An artful book-length essay on generational trauma in Black youth.

Weaving together prose, poetry, and artwork, prizewinning educator, poet, and cultural advocate Alexander, who recited a poem at Barack Obama’s first inauguration ceremony, depicts in sharp relief the realities of living as a Black youth in today’s America. In this short yet poignant book, the author notes the ways in which Black people have always been marginalized, but she looks specifically at the difficult experiences of those who have come of age in the past 25 years. Citing such problems as depression in youth, the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, and how police brutality has become more apparent in the age of social media, Alexander paints a vivid portrait of a societal landscape that is fundamentally different depending on race, class, and other demographic markers. While recounting her personal story—including her 15 years as a professor at Yale, which, like many older colleges, has a problematic history with the slave trade—the author roots the text in history, looking at the legacies of enslavement and Confederacy movements and touching on key figures such as W.E.B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King Jr., and Zora Neale Hurston. The text is punctuated with gripping pieces of art that complement the text. Each piece is compelling in its own right as they entwine with the representation of human experience that Alexander demonstrates for readers. In one of the most significant sections, the author references a letter to Du Bois in which a scholar asked him “whether the negro sheds tears,” and “if so, under what general conditions—anger, fear, shame, pain, sorrow, etc.” At its core, this is a powerful treatise on the humanity of Black Americans and how it has been denied, how generations of people have persisted despite that fact, and how it continues to be one of the most pressing issues we face as a nation.

A dynamic critique on the sprawling effects of racism and its effects on today’s youth.

Pub Date: April 5, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5387-3789-7

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2022

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