A clearheaded and -eyed argument that will speak to the business community. But can it penetrate the bubble surrounding the...

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STEERING CLEAR

HOW TO AVOID A DEBT CRISIS AND SECURE OUR ECONOMIC FUTURE

A pox on the House—and on all the houses, writes financier Peterson (The Education of an American Dreamer: How a Son of Greek Immigrants Learned His Way from a Nebraska Diner to Washington, Wall Street, and Beyond, 2009, etc.), that contribute to the “confluence of forces that threatens America’s long-term economic future.”

Those forces are many: a demographic crisis whereby, in just a few years, 15 percent of the population will be over the age of 65; the entitlement program that serves that ever older population; the health care regime that is layered atop the entitlement program, with health care costs projected to be the single major driver of federal spending in the next 35 years; a fundamentally and fatally flawed system of taxation; and, perhaps worst of all, “our dysfunctional political system with its myopic inability to compromise or reconcile rigid ideologies.” That’s a strong diagnosis, particularly the latter characterization, coming as it does from a former Republican stalwart. Yet Peterson writes candidly and refreshingly of the impediments his party has placed in the way of meaningful reform—not that the Democrats get off any easier. The author notes that one impediment is the refusal to raise taxes, particularly corporate taxes; he observes that the nominal rate is already the highest in the industrialized world, but he also correctly adds the rejoinder that usually goes unspoken—that corporations receive significant breaks to drive down their marginal rates. Only a combination of cost-cutting and revenue-raising will get us out of the mess, Peterson writes, since “we can’t simply hope for another economic boom so big that it will let us grow our way out of the problem.” Expectations will also have to change, he adds, since taxpayers say they want to fix the budget but then back away when the changes in costs and benefits look to be more than superficial.

A clearheaded and -eyed argument that will speak to the business community. But can it penetrate the bubble surrounding the political class?

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2015

ISBN: 978-1591847809

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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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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