A succinct body of essays by knowledgeable, sympathetic observers on the grievances of the Occupy Wall Street protestors.
Byrne (A Genius for Living: The Life of Frieda Lawrence, 1995) organizes the collection into three parts: “How We Got There,” “Where We Are Now” and “Solutions.” Economists Paul Krugman and Robin Wells give a crisp historical overview on how the excoriated “1 percent” quadrupled its real income between 1979 and 2007, leaving America as unequal as it had been on the eve of the Great Depression and unable to implement an adequate government policy because of the recent Congressional paralysis. Philip Dray reminds readers of the “enduring and seminal” legacy of protest movements preceding OWS, such as the Great Rail Strike of 1877 and the spontaneous lunch-counter sit-ins by black students in Greensboro, N.C., in 1960. Michael Hiltzik finds a good lesson in the Townsend movement of 1933, which demanded government attention to the concerns of the aged. Unsurprisingly, the machinations of Wall Street dominate many of the essays: John Cassidy delves into what was good about Wall Street (addressing the capital-raising needs of their clients) and how it went terribly dysfunctional (exploiting instantaneous trading movements), while the reform of the tax system garners vigorous responses, such as those from Peter Diamond and Emmanuel Saez. Joel Bakan severely scrutinizes the “psychopathic personhood” of corporations, and Eliot Spitzer proposes income-contingent loans for struggling students. Some of the most fleshed-out essays put the OWS protests into a wider worldwide perspective—e.g., Nouriel Roubini’s simplified economics tutorial on the toll of globalization; and Robert M. Buckley’s daring assessment of the parallels between OWS and the pan-European uprisings of 1848. Other notable contributors include Pankaj Mishra, Barbara Ehrenreich, Paul Volcker, Robert Reich, Scott Turow and Jeffrey Sachs.
An educational, highly useful primer on what’s broken and how to fix it.