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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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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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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