A sensible and refreshingly restrained discussion of the nation’s deficiencies.

Reclaim American Democracy


A sober consideration of the decline of American democracy.

After a hotly disputed presidential election, there’s been much discussion about the fundamental health of the democratic process in the United States. Neff (Vision for America, 2014), an economist, argues that its legitimacy has been thoroughly compromised. The reason: economic inequality. He begins with an analysis of poverty, and he contends that the lack of a living minimum wage forces a considerable number of people into poverty and drives up taxes by compelling a vast number of government programs. He asserts that higher wages, combined with mandatory health insurance, a government-run pension plan, and some other innovations could alleviate these problems. Neff also criticizes the tax code, saying that the richest people and corporations don’t contribute nearly enough in taxes. He then assesses the United States’ malfunctioning political structures, concluding that a two-party system and the gerrymandering of congressional districts has all but ensured divisive partisanship. The result of such rigged political and economic systems, he says, is substantive oligarchy, thinly disguised as democratic opportunity: “For some, freedom means manipulating the system and creating opportunities in their favor, as a way to achieve success for themselves,” he notes. “The result will be an unbalanced society that is destroying the democratic system.” Neff’s prose is crystal-clear, even-tempered, and free of the ad hominem attacks that typically infect political tracts. That said, this is certainly a partisan book, although the author does candidly state his liberal point of view. It’s also a short book—less than 150 pages long—and Neff simply tries to pack too much into it, resulting in overly condensed arguments that flirt with oversimplification. For example, a section on private prisons seems possibly unnecessary, and another on the philosophical roots of libertarianism is, at best, a threadbare account. However, Neff does provide lucid, reasonable solutions to real problems, and that alone makes this book a worthwhile contribution.

A sensible and refreshingly restrained discussion of the nation’s deficiencies.

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4787-7795-3

Page Count: -

Publisher: Outskirts Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 1, 2016

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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