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GOING BIG

FDR'S LEGACY AND BIDEN’S NEW DEAL

A cogent reminder of the importance of federal policy, presidential leadership, and the elusiveness of economic justice.

A political autopsy describing how Democratic presidents abandoned the progressive legacy of Franklin Roosevelt and allowed economic inequality to deepen.

Kuttner, co-founder of Economic Policy Institute and The American Prospect, opens with an urgent assessment of our current political landscape: “Joe Biden’s presidency will be either a historic pivot back to New Deal economics and forward to energized democracy, or a heartbreaking interregnum between two bouts of deepening American fascism. We are facing the most momentous threat to the American republic since the Civil War.” The touchstone for his sharp analysis is the New Deal, “a model of progressive policy and politics” that was committed to economic justice. While Harry Truman left FDR’s legacy intact and Lyndon Johnson expanded it with his war on poverty and civil rights legislation that attended to issues FDR had ignored, Jimmy Carter initiated a retreat that has continued for four decades. A quarter-century of prosperity had ended, and the Democratic Party tacked to the right. Following Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama championed economic growth, Wall Street prosperity, and global trade, catering to college-educated workers and the wealthy rather than addressing racial and economic equality for the working class. Once again, economic policy was delegated to Wall Street insiders. Given this historical context and Biden’s centrist credentials, his progressivism came as a surprise, and an expansive legislative agenda and revival of the New Deal coalition of labor, the poor, and racial minorities have resurrected values neglected by previous Democratic administrations. Kuttner sees “grounds for hope” that Biden’s presidency can reverse “the hyper-concentration of capital and…the steady weakening of labor” and enable progressivism to triumph. It will do so, however, only when Democrats occupy the White House, gain majorities in Congress, and tightly regulate finance capitalism. Some readers may wish for more discussion of progressivism from below: grassroots organizations, state and local governments, and democratic socialist political movements.

A cogent reminder of the importance of federal policy, presidential leadership, and the elusiveness of economic justice.

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-62097-727-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2022

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WHAT THIS COMEDIAN SAID WILL SHOCK YOU

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

The comedian argues that the arts of moderation and common sense must be reinvigorated.

Some people are born snarky, some become snarky, and some have snarkiness thrust upon them. Judging from this book, Maher—host of HBO’s Real Time program and author of The New New Rules and When You Ride Alone, You Ride With bin Laden—is all three. As a comedian, he has a great deal of leeway to make fun of people in politics, and he often delivers hilarious swipes with a deadpan face. The author describes himself as a traditional liberal, with a disdain for Republicans (especially the MAGA variety) and a belief in free speech and personal freedom. He claims that he has stayed much the same for more than 20 years, while the left, he argues, has marched toward intolerance. He sees an addiction to extremism on both sides of the aisle, which fosters the belief that anyone who disagrees with you must be an enemy to be destroyed. However, Maher has always displayed his own streaks of extremism, and his scorched-earth takedowns eventually become problematic. The author has something nasty to say about everyone, it seems, and the sarcastic tone starts after more than 300 pages. As has been the case throughout his career, Maher is best taken in small doses. The book is worth reading for the author’s often spot-on skewering of inept politicians and celebrities, but it might be advisable to occasionally dip into it rather than read the whole thing in one sitting. Some parts of the text are hilarious, but others are merely insulting. Maher is undeniably talented, but some restraint would have produced a better book.

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

Pub Date: May 21, 2024

ISBN: 9781668051351

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

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Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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