A strongly argued account that provides useful ammunition for anyone seeking to effect change in a medical system that...

ONE NATION, UNINSURED

WHY THE U.S. HAS NO NATIONAL HEALTH INSURANCE

Every one of the Western industrialized powers guarantees its citizens comprehensive coverage for essential health care—except the United States. Sociologist Quadagno (The Color of Welfare, 1994) ably explores the logic behind this appalling fact.

It’s a complex question, as Quadagno allows: Amortization and other risk-analysis models mingle with myriad underwriting plans and the plain high cost of medical care to make comprehensive health care a maddeningly elusive goal. And then, of course, the powers that be don’t want it. It is for those reasons, but not those reasons alone, that so many Americans lack basic coverage—and their numbers are larger by far than the official count of 45 million in 2003, “because many more people are uninsured for some period over any two-year time span.” The poor are almost always uninsured, except under the most generalized of plans; in a two-year span, nearly 60 percent of non-elderly Hispanics were also uninsured, as against 43 percent of African-Americans and 23 percent of whites. Part of the problem is that minorities are less likely than whites to have jobs that offer health care benefits. But attempts to include all Americans in a national plan have been stymied for more than a century. Heroes are few and villains many here. When Franklin Roosevelt attempted to include health insurance in the 1935 Social Security Act, the American Medical Association successfully argued that it “smacked of socialism and communism and might incite revolution.” When Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower attempted health care reforms during their administrations, they met much the same opposition, this time with the strong backing of the insurance industry. And, as Quadagno relates, the present administration is indisposed toward any reform that would threaten the status quo, period, even as the average annual cost of a family policy in 2003 rose to $9,068.

A strongly argued account that provides useful ammunition for anyone seeking to effect change in a medical system that willfully excludes so many who so need it.

Pub Date: April 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-19-516039-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2005

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Harari delivers yet another tour de force.

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21 LESSONS FOR THE 21ST CENTURY

A highly instructive exploration of “current affairs and…the immediate future of human societies.”

Having produced an international bestseller about human origins (Sapiens, 2015, etc.) and avoided the sophomore jinx writing about our destiny (Homo Deus, 2017), Harari (History/Hebrew Univ. of Jerusalem) proves that he has not lost his touch, casting a brilliantly insightful eye on today’s myriad crises, from Trump to terrorism, Brexit to big data. As the author emphasizes, “humans think in stories rather than in facts, numbers, or equations, and the simpler the story, the better. Every person, group, and nation has its own tales and myths.” Three grand stories once predicted the future. World War II eliminated the fascist story but stimulated communism for a few decades until its collapse. The liberal story—think democracy, free markets, and globalism—reigned supreme for a decade until the 20th-century nasties—dictators, populists, and nationalists—came back in style. They promote jingoism over international cooperation, vilify the opposition, demonize immigrants and rival nations, and then win elections. “A bit like the Soviet elites in the 1980s,” writes Harari, “liberals don’t understand how history deviates from its preordained course, and they lack an alternative prism through which to interpret reality.” The author certainly understands, and in 21 painfully astute essays, he delivers his take on where our increasingly “post-truth” world is headed. Human ingenuity, which enables us to control the outside world, may soon re-engineer our insides, extend life, and guide our thoughts. Science-fiction movies get the future wrong, if only because they have happy endings. Most readers will find Harari’s narrative deliciously reasonable, including his explanation of the stories (not actually true but rational) of those who elect dictators, populists, and nationalists. His remedies for wildly disruptive technology (biotech, infotech) and its consequences (climate change, mass unemployment) ring true, provided nations act with more good sense than they have shown throughout history.

Harari delivers yet another tour de force.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-51217-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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Not flawless, but one of the best recent analyses of the contemporary woes of American economics and politics.

WHO STOLE THE AMERICAN DREAM?

Remarkably comprehensive and coherent analysis of and prescriptions for America’s contemporary economic malaise by Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Smith (Rethinking America, 1995, etc.).

“Over the past three decades,” writes the author, “we have become Two Americas.” We have arrived at a new Gilded Age, where “gross inequality of income and wealth” have become endemic. Such inequality is not simply the result of “impersonal and irresistible market forces,” but of quite deliberate corporate strategies and the public policies that enabled them. Smith sets out on a mission to trace the history of these strategies and policies, which transformed America from a roughly fair society to its current status as a plutocracy. He leaves few stones unturned. CEO culture has moved since the 1970s from a concern for the general well-being of society, including employees, to the single-minded pursuit of personal enrichment and short-term increases in stock prices. During much of the ’70s, CEO pay was roughly 40 times a worker’s pay; today that number is 367. Whether it be through outsourcing and factory closings, corporate reneging on once-promised contributions to employee health and retirement funds, the deregulation of Wall Street and the financial markets, a tax code which favors overwhelmingly the interests of corporate heads and the superrich—all of which Smith examines in fascinating detail—the American middle class has been left floundering. For its part, government has simply become an enabler and partner of the rich, as the rich have turned wealth into political influence and rigid conservative opposition has created the politics of gridlock. What, then, is to be done? Here, Smith’s brilliant analyses turn tepid, as he advocates for “a peaceful political revolution at the grassroots” to realign the priorities of government and the economy but offers only the vaguest of clues as to how this might occur.

Not flawless, but one of the best recent analyses of the contemporary woes of American economics and politics.

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4000-6966-8

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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