An impassioned argument backed by rigorous economic analysis.

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THE PRICE OF INEQUALITY

HOW TODAY'S DIVIDED SOCIETY ENDANGERS OUR FUTURE

From one of the world's leading economists, a political call to action in defense of equality and human rights.

Nobel laureate Stiglitz (Economics/Columbia Univ.; Freefall: America, Free Markets and the Sinking of the World Economy, 2010, etc.) insists that increasing inequality in the United States stems from a breakdown of the country's political and economic systems. The failure to hold any banker accountable for actions that contributed to the recent economic crisis is a prime symptom of the case. The current level of inequality, writes the author, “increases instability, reduces productivity, and undermines democracy.” Stiglitz concedes that there is merit in the arguments of those who point to the effects of technology, greed or the absence of bank regulation as contributing factors, and he agrees that corrective measures are needed. He goes further, arguing that inequality is a by-product of the ability to exploit consumers through monopoly power, and borrowers through shady practices. He shows that the consequences include a monopolistic redistribution powerful enough to have caused massive distortions in the U.S. financial system. This is still not the deeper problem, however. More fundamentally, people underestimate the problem of inequality; as a result, they fail to perceive the changes that are already underway. Stiglitz presents the situation as “the bigger battle over perceptions and over big ideas,” a battle being fought through persuasion, framing, misrepresentation and obfuscation. Changing course requires winning this battle for truth. In this way, he argues, equality, the rule of law and accountability can be reestablished.

An impassioned argument backed by rigorous economic analysis.

Pub Date: June 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-393-08869-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2012

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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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