by Steven Rattner ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 20, 2010
A fine inside-baseball account of how things can get done when people agree to get them done, even in Washington.
Obama auto czar Rattner delivers a vigorous account of the bailout of the automobile industry—a success, though one fraught with controversy.
“For someone like myself who believes in public service,” writes the author, “an assignment like Team Auto can be a dream come true—the chance to make a meaningful difference on a huge issue that requires only minimal interaction with Congress.” The last part is key, for Rattner clearly has little use for many of the elected representatives with whom he had to deal, particularly those who lobbied him continually to keep auto jobs within their districts. (He knew better than to alienate them, though, listening politely while answering e-mail.) His glimpse of the inner workings of the auto bailout opens with a nod to the previous administration, during whose tenure the current economic mess began. Approached by the big automakers with a plea for a taste of the TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) billions, Henry Paulson replied, “This is complete bullshit!” Yet the political implications of letting the automakers fail were so grave that he had to cave. The program expanded under Rattner’s direction to include not just dollars handed out but also structural reforms that, though difficult to effect, proved essential—allowing Chrysler, for instance, to emerge from bankruptcy with relative lightning speed. In that, the author gives credit to Obama administration economic guru Lawrence Summers, who was rightly leery of anything that resembled a takeover: “Any kind of government ownership was bad enough, but owning a majority interest was worse.” Rattner writes carefully and clearly about the politicking and back-of-envelope calculating that went into the hard decisions of the bailout: Who qualifies? Does an American firm most of whose jobs are in Mexico get a piece of the action? And perhaps most important, how do we get Congress to get its act together?A fine inside-baseball account of how things can get done when people agree to get them done, even in Washington.
Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2010
Page Count: 320
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2010
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2010
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by Paul Kalanithi ‧ RELEASE DATE: Jan. 19, 2016
A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...
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A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.
Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.
Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016
Page Count: 248
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2015
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015
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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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