A pointed, in-the-trenches study whose thrust will be borne out with time.

THE NEW NEW DEAL

THE HIDDEN STORY OF CHANGE IN THE OBAMA ERA

A cogent reality check of President Obama’s Recovery Act.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, otherwise known as the stimulus bill, signed into law in February 2009, less than a month after Obama’s inauguration, proved the most important piece of legislation of his administration, yet was quickly excoriated by Republicans and overshadowed by the health care debate. The huge $787 billion injection into the collapsing economy inherited from George W. Bush was called a “massive boondoggle to our maxed-out national credit card” and allowed the ailing Republican Party to get its “mojo back.” In fact, writes Time senior national correspondent Grunwald (The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise, 2007) in this detailed breakdown of the bill’s provenance, debate, passage and effects, the “stimulus” (no longer so-called because it became a bad word) contained the seeds of all that Obama had promised in his inaugural message of change regarding energy, health care, education and the economy, and has proved remarkably fruitful despite the bad publicity and slow growth in jobs. The author compares its importance in arresting widespread depression and worsening economic scenarios to Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, although the stimulus was much larger. Further, Obama, unlike FDR, did not remain silent during the crucial transition period between administrations but embraced the Troubled Asset Relief Program and the bailout of the U.S. auto industry. Obama’s choice of Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff strenuously communicated the need for urgency in acting, while the president’s stocking his economic team with Clinton insiders underscored Obama’s determination for a Keynesian “prime the pump” approach to saving the economy. Obama’s stimulus launched massive clean energy investments, electronic medicine, infrastructure repairs, high-speed rails, Race to the Top and 100-plus other forward-seeing programs.

A pointed, in-the-trenches study whose thrust will be borne out with time.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-4232-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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