A view of corporate America from afar that will likely offend some readers but ring with truth for others.

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MIDNIGHT IN THE AMERICAN EMPIRE

HOW CORPORATIONS AND THEIR POLITICAL SERVANTS ARE DESTROYING THE AMERICAN DREAM

A Moscow-based, American political commentator for the TV news channel Russia Today looks with alarm and dismay at what he sees as the corporate domination of his native land.

In this passionate debut laced with sardonic humor, Pittsburgh native Bridge writes that American citizens, formerly rugged individualists, have been reduced to mere consumers under the heel of profit-driven, power-hungry transnational corporate elites. These corporations, he asserts, have vastly enriched themselves by waging war on ordinary workers, while virtually turning the U.S. government into a wholly owned subsidiary. “Today in America,” he writes, “a handful of powerful corporate forces are exerting pressure on the political system to such a degree that to speak of democracy is to sound like a fool and a simpleton.” U.S. Supreme Court decisions granting personhood to corporations, he writes, have perverted the intentions of the founders by giving corporate entities rights meant for living, breathing human beings. In this well-argued, liberally footnoted book, he finds that even the press is too deeply infected by corporate ownership to sound a clarion call over all that has gone wrong, since to do so, he writes, would be to bite the hand of the master. Instead, he notes, corporate-owned mass media deliver increasingly coarse entertainment, while military adventures flicker in the background. The book reads like the heartfelt cry of an expatriate, although his style is sometimes a bit over-the-top. Bridge obviously depicts contemporary America as an oppressive place, but he makes his case too strongly for readers to completely discount it—even if he isn’t the first to present such a picture. However, since Bridge has been living in Moscow, readers might be interested in his take on post-Soviet Russian society, but about this subject, he’s largely silent.

A view of corporate America from afar that will likely offend some readers but ring with truth for others.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1480209466

Page Count: 230

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 12, 2013

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A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

ECONOMIC DIGNITY

Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

FRONT ROW AT THE TRUMP SHOW

The chief White House and Washington correspondent for ABC provides a ringside seat to a disaster-ridden Oval Office.

It is Karl to whom we owe the current popularity of a learned Latin term. Questioning chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, he followed up a perhaps inadvertently honest response on the matter of Ukrainian intervention in the electoral campaign by saying, “What you just described is a quid pro quo.” Mulvaney’s reply: “Get over it.” Karl, who has been covering Trump for decades and knows which buttons to push and which to avoid, is not inclined to get over it: He rightly points out that a reporter today “faces a president who seems to have no appreciation or understanding of the First Amendment and the role of a free press in American democracy.” Yet even against a bellicose, untruthful leader, he adds, the press “is not the opposition party.” The author, who keeps his eye on the subject and not in the mirror, writes of Trump’s ability to stage situations, as when he once called Trump out, at an event, for misrepresenting poll results and Trump waited until the camera was off before exploding, “Fucking nasty guy!”—then finished up the interview as if nothing had happened. Trump and his inner circle are also, by Karl’s account, masters of timing, matching negative news such as the revelation that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election with distractions away from Trump—in this case, by pushing hard on the WikiLeaks emails from the Democratic campaign, news of which arrived at the same time. That isn’t to say that they manage people or the nation well; one of the more damning stories in a book full of them concerns former Homeland Security head Kirstjen Nielsen, cut off at the knees even while trying to do Trump’s bidding.

No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4562-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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