An alarming, fact-driven jeremiad urging change and action.

THE BILLIONAIRE BOONDOGGLE

HOW OUR POLITICIANS LET CORPORATIONS AND BIGWIGS STEAL OUR MONEY AND JOBS

Garofalo, the former assistant managing editor for opinion at U.S. News and World Report, presents an astute argument against the courting of big entertainment by politicians and city leaders.

The author asserts that this greed-driven entanglement is a mutually beneficial financial arrangement only profitable for those doing the handshaking, leaving community programs and employment forecasters with the empty promises of sizable funding that often fails to materialize. Armed with palpable outrage, Garofalo systematically supports his allegations with pages of fact-based, real-world examples. He begins with the Hollywood movie machine, which swoops into urban areas with the promise of an “economic renaissance” and reaps the benefits of tax breaks, funding that could be earmarked for government programs or underfunded schools. The author describes internet retail giant Amazon’s epic search for a second North American headquarters location, which ignited a fiery bidding war in several major cities. Yet the company’s proposal required aggressive corporate tax incentives to “offset initial capital outlay and ongoing operational costs.” The location offering the sweetest deal wins, Garofalo acknowledges, but at the expense of funding local social services and infrastructural improvements that truly require the kind of financial support spent on corporate tax breaks. In a few of the author’s most inspired and fiery rants, he skewers sports stadium “swindles” and hosting bids for the World Cup or the Olympics, which he colorfully describes as “an orgy of waste, spending, and unfulfilled promises.” Refreshingly, he also discusses a concerted group of grassroots Bostonian activists who managed to deflect the entire bid away from their city. Though not entertainment-based, big-box stores and the public subsidies they receive also attract Garofalo’s scrutiny. A robust closing chapter on the history and the dizzying facets of the corporate tax provides an appropriate coda to an intensive analysis. Though he advocates for swift policy changes and corporate tax reform, the base-level solution, he writes, is resisting shoulder-shrugging complacency and voting in local representatives who will resist this type of inequitable exchange.

An alarming, fact-driven jeremiad urging change and action.

Pub Date: March 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-16233-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 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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