Rising from the text is a miasma of corporate and political malfeasance and immorality that mocks the platitudes of...

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THE DIVIDE

AMERICAN INJUSTICE IN THE AGE OF THE WEALTH GAP

Rolling Stone journalist Taibbi (Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That Is Breaking America, 2010, etc.) once again rakes from the muck some most malodorous information about inequality in America.

Readers with high blood pressure should make sure they’ve taken their medication before reading this devastating account of the inequality in our justice, immigration and social service systems. Taibbi’s chapters are high-definition photographs contrasting the ways we pursue small-time corruption and essentially reward high-level versions of the same thing. Mixing case studies, interviews and anecdotes with comprehensive research on his topics, the author’s effort should silence the sort of criticism that says, “Yes, those are horrible incidents and miscarriages of justice, but are they representative?” His answer, “Oh, yes!” Taibbi deals with the frisk-and-stop campaign in New York City, the 2008 financial collapse (he reminds us that no one went to jail for the egregious activities of the investment banks involved), the vast resources we allocate for pursuing, prosecuting and deporting illegal immigrants (mostly for petty behavior that pales in significance to that of the wolves of Wall Street), our horrendous persecution of people on food stamps and other public assistance, and the case of whistle-blower Linda Almonte, a well-paid employee for Chase Bank, which summarily fired her when she pointed out their unethical and illegal practices with their credit card holders. Taibbi does not tiptoe through his text. He believes many of our practices are characteristic of a “dystopia,” and he calls Dick Fuld, a major banker, “one of the great assholes of all time” and illegal immigrants, “one of America’s last great cash crops.” Moreover, he is an equal-opportunity critic: Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all wither under the intense sun of Taibbi’s relentless scrutiny.

Rising from the text is a miasma of corporate and political malfeasance and immorality that mocks the platitudes of democracy.

Pub Date: April 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9342-4

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2014

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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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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