A dizzying read, but a timely and important work.

FOLLOW THE MONEY

HOW GEORGE W. BUSH AND THE TEXAS REPUBLICANS HOG-TIED AMERICA

All the president’s men of Houston receive a powerful lashing in this soundly researched, only occasionally sarcastic exposé of high-level corruption by investigative journalist Anderson (Art Held Hostage: The Battle Over the Barnes Collection, 2003, etc.).

The author skillfully moves from the 15-block section of downtown Houston that anchors such corporate giants as Reliant Energy, Enron, Shell Oil, Dynegy Corp. and James A. Baker III’s Institute for Public Policy (at Rice University) to the power center of George W. Bush’s Washington. With the changing of the guard in Texas in 1994—when Governor Ann Richards was voted out and the mild-mannered George W. moved in (thanks to the behind-the-scenes machinations of Karl Rove)—the Republicans had a “pig roast.” And with the Republican surge came the right-wing Congressman Tom DeLay, who was seemingly innocuous until he became majority whip in 1995. A dangerous Republican trio was formed by Jack Abramoff, Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed, who gained access to DeLay through his chief of staff Ed Buckham. Together, they effectively worked as lobbyists for many dubious and (for them) lucrative enterprises, such as the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, which would eventually pay Abramoff some $7.2 million in lobbying fees and provide the convenient off-site location for U.S. Family Network (USFN), DeLay’s “grassroots” organization used for political contributions and money laundering. Another pet lobby was the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, which paid Abramoff grandly to lobby against the proposed federal tax on Indian casino profits. Anderson ably chronicles this incredible tale of unbridled greed in government by “Casino Jack” and “DeLay, Inc.” and follows the money trail through the infamous 2000 presidential election recount and the rigging of justice over the war in Iraq. The trail leads to Texas cronies Dick Cheney, Jim Baker and Alberto Gonzales, who all get a thrashing here, though Anderson falls short of indicting the president, who is chastised for his lack of “oversight.”

A dizzying read, but a timely and important work.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-7432-8643-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2007

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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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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