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

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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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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