Sobering, smart reading with many pointed lessons for activists.

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FEAR CITY

NEW YORK'S FISCAL CRISIS AND THE RISE OF AUSTERITY POLITICS

New York may be an amusement park for the very rich these days, but as this grimly detailed historical account reveals, there was a time….

“Ford to City: Drop Dead.” The New York Daily News headline of Oct. 30, 1975, still resounds. It wouldn’t be long before Ford gave way to Carter and the Summer of Sam, but the president’s shock-doctrine belief that the U.S. had entered “an age of austerity, in which it was no longer possible for the government to pay for many social services to which the American people had grown accustomed,” has also remained constant in the years since. Phillips-Fein (History/NYU Gallatin School of Individualized Study; Invisible Hands: The Making of the Conservative Movement from the New Deal to Reagan, 2009, etc.) deftly recounts the clash between government entities and vested interests as New York struggled to cope with slashed social service budgets, funding that contributed to what economists call public goods of use to society at large but that was frowned on by the dawning every-man-for-himself conservative movement that has since held sway. Those austerity budgets soon threatened to bring the city to the edge of bankruptcy, which was itself a shock doctrine all its own—for, as Phillips-Fein writes, “the financial collapse of New York would be the ultimate symbol of American economic decline, a demonstration to the whole world that the United States was no longer the preeminent nation it had been over the postwar years.” Given events since, New York’s crisis—and the author’s astute account of it—seems oddly timely, a swirl of “crisis budgets” and union-busting, of collapsing public education systems and declining labor power. In the end, she writes, as New York went in the ’70s and beyond, so went the nation, from a time when government held public goods to be of value to one in which private enterprise is the “sole way to fuel social development”—perfectly consonant, that is to say, with an economy and culture of inequality.

Sobering, smart reading with many pointed lessons for activists.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9525-8

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Feb. 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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