Though Reid’s topic may be anathema to many readers, he makes it relentlessly revelatory and simple to understand.

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A FINE MESS

A GLOBAL QUEST FOR A SIMPLER, FAIRER, AND MORE EFFICIENT TAX SYSTEM

An exploration of the absurd complexity of the American tax system and an astute comparison to many examples of simpler, effective tax collection by other governments around the world.

Throughout his well-reported, clearly written exposé of United States tax policy, Washington Post correspondent Reid (The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care, 2009, etc.) reveals the follies of the concept of American exceptionalism and the misguided pride of presidents, members of Congress, and Internal Revenue Service commissioners. Put simply, American legislators are unwilling to learn from successful tax policies of nations willing to share their wisdom. By traveling to other countries and interviewing policymakers there, Reid demonstrates how tax simplification has functioned smoothly while still providing adequate revenue to operate sound government. (One of the shining examples is New Zealand.) American taxpayers wrestling with the annual tax deadline in April might feel infuriated when learning that in many nations, calculating taxes takes no more than 30 minutes. Although most Americans likely blame the IRS for the complexity of income tax returns, Reid explains that for the most part, the agency is carrying out the orders of the Senate and the House of Representatives. Members of Congress hide behind a desire for tax simplification while creating new rules that usually benefit wealthy individuals and large corporations. Reid explores tax evasion as well as tax complexity, demonstrating how wealthy but unscrupulous individuals and business enterprises hide their earnings in offshore tax havens such as Panama and the Cayman Islands. Not every chapter in the book features Reid’s admirable controlled outrage. In some chapters, the author calmly explores alternatives to an income tax, most notably a value-added tax on purchases, a system that has worked well in other nations.

Though Reid’s topic may be anathema to many readers, he makes it relentlessly revelatory and simple to understand.

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-59420-551-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 31, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

CAPITAL AND IDEOLOGY

A massive investigation of economic history in the service of proposing a political order to overcome inequality.

Readers who like their political manifestoes in manageable sizes, à la Common Sense or The Communist Manifesto, may be overwhelmed by the latest from famed French economist Piketty (Top Incomes in France in the Twentieth Century: Inequality and Redistribution, 1901-1998, 2014, etc.), but it’s a significant work. The author interrogates the principal forms of economic organization over time, from slavery to “non-European trifunctional societies,” Chinese-style communism, and “hypercapitalist” orders, in order to examine relative levels of inequality and its evolution. Each system is founded on an ideology, and “every ideology, no matter how extreme it may seem in its defense of inequality, expresses a certain idea of social justice.” In the present era, at least in the U.S., that idea of social justice would seem to be only that the big ones eat the little ones, the principal justification being that the wealthiest people became rich because they are “the most enterprising, deserving, and useful.” In fact, as Piketty demonstrates, there’s more to inequality than the mere “size of the income gap.” Contrary to hypercapitalist ideology and its defenders, the playing field is not level, the market is not self-regulating, and access is not evenly distributed. Against this, Piketty arrives at a proposed system that, among other things, would redistribute wealth across societies by heavy taxation, especially of inheritances, to create a “participatory socialism” in which power is widely shared and trade across nations is truly free. The word “socialism,” he allows, is a kind of Pandora’s box that can scare people off—and, he further acknowledges, “the Russian and Czech oligarchs who buy athletic teams and newspapers may not be the most savory characters, but the Soviet system was a nightmare and had to go.” Yet so, too, writes the author, is a capitalism that rewards so few at the expense of so many.

A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-674-98082-2

Page Count: 976

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

THREE WOMEN

Based on eight years of reporting and thousands of hours of interaction, a journalist chronicles the inner worlds of three women’s erotic desires.

In her dramatic debut about “what longing in America looks like,” Taddeo, who has contributed to Esquire, Elle, and other publications, follows the sex lives of three American women. On the surface, each woman’s story could be a soap opera. There’s Maggie, a teenager engaged in a secret relationship with her high school teacher; Lina, a housewife consumed by a torrid affair with an old flame; and Sloane, a wealthy restaurateur encouraged by her husband to sleep with other people while he watches. Instead of sensationalizing, the author illuminates Maggie’s, Lina’s, and Sloane’s erotic experiences in the context of their human complexities and personal histories, revealing deeper wounds and emotional yearnings. Lina’s infidelity was driven by a decade of her husband’s romantic and sexual refusal despite marriage counseling and Lina's pleading. Sloane’s Fifty Shades of Grey–like lifestyle seems far less exotic when readers learn that she has felt pressured to perform for her husband's pleasure. Taddeo’s coverage is at its most nuanced when she chronicles Maggie’s decision to go to the authorities a few years after her traumatic tryst. Recounting the subsequent trial against Maggie’s abuser, the author honors the triumph of Maggie’s courageous vulnerability as well as the devastating ramifications of her community’s disbelief. Unfortunately, this book on “female desire” conspicuously omits any meaningful discussion of social identities beyond gender and class; only in the epilogue does Taddeo mention race and its impacts on women's experiences with sex and longing. Such oversight brings a palpable white gaze to the narrative. Compounded by the author’s occasionally lackluster prose, the book’s flaws compete with its meaningful contribution to #MeToo–era reporting.

Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4516-4229-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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