A well-written account of a corporate American juggernaut and its implications for society as a whole.



A detailed examination of the retail behemoth.

By the early 2000s, Walmart was often cited as the worst example of “a race-to-the-bottom brand of capitalism,” eliminating competition and chronically underpaying its huge workforce. Then, starting in 2015, Walmart implemented a series of measures, from pay increases to expanded opportunities for its employees, that prompted even skeptics to rethink the company’s image as a bastion of unfettered corporate evil. Wartzman, most recently the author of The End of Loyalty: The Rise and Fall of Good Jobs in America (2017) and a longtime critic of Walmart, wanted to explore the company’s complex journey and image. When Sam Walton opened the first Walmart in Arkansas in 1962, he emphasized low prices, quality products, and serving rural areas; the company went public in 1970 and went on to become one of the nation’s biggest retailers. Walton engendered employee loyalty through profit sharing and stock options, but he also intentionally kept wages low and vehemently opposed efforts to organize labor. After he died in 1992, both outsiders and employees felt the company abandoned any dedication to taking care of its employees in favor of solely cutting costs. Over time, the company improved efforts to be sustainable, was rightfully praised for its efforts during Hurricane Katrina, and expanded worker training; yet “where it had the most direct control—deciding how much to pay its workers—it hadn’t moved an inch.” In 2016, Walmart finally raised its minimum hourly wage to $10 after decades of pressure from labor efforts. Even with the increase, writes the author, “the average full-time employee at the company was still going to be making less than $26,000 a year.” Wartzman’s investigation of the company in all its complexity is thoroughly researched, and he deftly and meaningfully connects the issue of chronically low wages at Walmart to a larger undervaluation of the labor of millions of Americans.

A well-written account of a corporate American juggernaut and its implications for society as a whole.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5417-5799-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2022

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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

ISBN: 9780593239919

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 1, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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Even if they're pie-in-the-sky exercises, Sanders’ pitched arguments bear consideration by nonbillionaires.


Everyone’s favorite avuncular socialist sends up a rousing call to remake the American way of doing business.

“In the twenty-first century we can end the vicious dog-eat-dog economy in which the vast majority struggle to survive,” writes Sanders, “while a handful of billionaires have more wealth than they could spend in a thousand lifetimes.” With that statement, the author updates an argument as old as Marx and Proudhon. In a nice play on words, he condemns “the uber-capitalist system under which we live,” showing how it benefits only the slimmest slice of the few while imposing undue burdens on everyone else. Along the way, Sanders notes that resentment over this inequality was powerful fuel for the disastrous Trump administration, since the Democratic Party thoughtlessly largely abandoned underprivileged voters in favor of “wealthy campaign contributors and the ‘beautiful people.’ ” The author looks squarely at Jeff Bezos, whose company “paid nothing in federal income taxes in 2017 and 2018.” Indeed, writes Sanders, “Bezos is the embodiment of the extreme corporate greed that shapes our times.” Aside from a few passages putting a face to avarice, Sanders lays forth a well-reasoned platform of programs to retool the American economy for greater equity, including investment in education and taking seriously a progressive (in all senses) corporate and personal taxation system to make the rich pay their fair share. In the end, he urges, “We must stop being afraid to call out capitalism and demand fundamental change to a corrupt and rigged system.” One wonders if this firebrand of a manifesto is the opening gambit in still another Sanders run for the presidency. If it is, well, the plutocrats might want to take cover for the duration.

Even if they're pie-in-the-sky exercises, Sanders’ pitched arguments bear consideration by nonbillionaires.

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2023

ISBN: 9780593238714

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 21, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2023

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