by Peter S. Goodman ‧ RELEASE DATE: Jan. 18, 2022
An urgent, timely, and compelling message with nearly limitless implications.
The consequences of unfettered avarice.
New York Times global economics correspondent Goodman mounts a scathing critique of the greed, narcissism, and hypocrisy that characterize those in “the stratosphere of the globe-trotting class,” many of whom gather at the annual World Economic Forum held in the Swiss Alpine town of Davos. Davos Man—an epithet coined by political scientist Samuel Huntington—is “an unusual predator whose power comes in part from his keen ability to adopt the guise of an ally.” The “relentless plunder” perpetrated by Davos Man, Goodman argues persuasively, “is the decisive force behind the rise of right-wing populist movements around the world,” leading to widening economic inequality, intense public anger, and dire threats to democracy. The author closely examines five individuals: private equity magnate Stephen Schwarzman; JPMorgan Chase executive Jamie Dimon; asset manager Larry Fink; Amazon’s Jeff Bezos; and Salesforce founder and CEO Marc Benioff, who promotes himself as “the most empathetic corporate chieftain.” At the same time that these men broadcast their concern for social justice, they enrich themselves by manipulating economies, lobbying politicians, eviscerating regulations, weakening government oversight, and extracting huge tax benefits. Fink’s professed concern for the environment, for example, is really an alarm about risk to investments: “In a world under assault by rising seas and turbulent weather, how safe was real estate, and what were the implications for mortgage-backed securities?” During the mortgage crisis, Schwarzman’s company bought foreclosed properties, amassing a large inventory that it leased to desperate renters. With their yachts, multiple mansions, and private islands, they prove themselves “unmoored from the rest of human experience.” Reining in Davos Man, Goodman asserts, “can happen only through the exercise of democracy—by unleashing strategies centered on boosting wages and working opportunities, by erecting new forms of social insurance, by reviving and enforcing antitrust law, by modernizing the tax code to focus on wealth.”An urgent, timely, and compelling message with nearly limitless implications.
Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022
Page Count: 480
Publisher: Custom House/Morrow
Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2021
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021
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by Matthew Desmond ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 21, 2023
A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.
A thoughtful program for eradicating poverty from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Evicted.
“America’s poverty is not for lack of resources,” writes Desmond. “We lack something else.” That something else is compassion, in part, but it’s also the lack of a social system that insists that everyone pull their weight—and that includes the corporations and wealthy individuals who, the IRS estimates, get away without paying upward of $1 trillion per year. Desmond, who grew up in modest circumstances and suffered poverty in young adulthood, points to the deleterious effects of being poor—among countless others, the precarity of health care and housing (with no meaningful controls on rent), lack of transportation, the constant threat of losing one’s job due to illness, and the need to care for dependent children. It does not help, Desmond adds, that so few working people are represented by unions or that Black Americans, even those who have followed the “three rules” (graduate from high school, get a full-time job, wait until marriage to have children), are far likelier to be poor than their White compatriots. Furthermore, so many full-time jobs are being recast as contracted, fire-at-will gigs, “not a break from the norm as much as an extension of it, a continuation of corporations finding new ways to limit their obligations to workers.” By Desmond’s reckoning, besides amending these conditions, it would not take a miracle to eliminate poverty: about $177 billion, which would help end hunger and homelessness and “make immense headway in driving down the many agonizing correlates of poverty, like violence, sickness, and despair.” These are matters requiring systemic reform, which will in turn require Americans to elect officials who will enact that reform. And all of us, the author urges, must become “poverty abolitionists…refusing to live as unwitting enemies of the poor.” Fortune 500 CEOs won’t like Desmond’s message for rewriting the social contract—which is precisely the point.A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.
Pub Date: March 21, 2023
Page Count: 288
Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2022
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023
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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.
“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
Page Count: 432
Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019
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