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THE OPPORTUNITY AGENDA

A BOLD DEMOCRATIC PLAN TO GROW THE MIDDLE CLASS

This intriguing but limited Democratic agenda focuses on a pro-business economic platform.

A political work offers a new vision for the Democratic Party centered on economic opportunities for the middle class.

“Had Democrats been successful in prioritizing and implementing” an economic agenda focused on middle-class Americans, Fisher and James contend, “the economic impact of COVID-19 would have been far less.” Fisher, a New York City real estate entrepreneur and co-chair of the governor’s Regional Economic Development Council, and James, the former mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, are not Donald Trump supporters, but they save their harshest critiques for their own party. Rather than developing a long-term plan to help middle-class Americans, today’s Democratic politicians too often lean on “the public’s revulsion to Trump” as the center of their electoral strategy. In place of the party’s vague, anti-Trump approach, the authors propose an “Opportunity Agenda” revolving around economic uplift for the middle class. Believing that Americans elected Trump out of “their frustration with a brain-dead government,” the authors contend that a new generation of “Opportunity Democrats” who prioritize the economic needs of the middle class has the potential to revitalize America. They note, for instance, that Crawfordsville, Indiana, a nearly all-White, blue-collar town that voted overwhelmingly for Trump, has a “glaring lack of affordable childcare.” Government-supported day care, paid family leave, and other policies geared toward working families would have an immediate economic impact on small towns like Crawfordsville. Other items listed in their innovative agenda include a “new paradigm” in public education that emphasizes skills-based training, infrastructure improvements, and portable benefits that provide a safety net in today’s gig economy. Though the authors’ ambitious and cogent ideas will appeal to independents and moderate Democrats, many liberals may be put off by the book’s use of phrases like “return on investment” and its embrace of businesses (one idea, for example, is corporate control over high school curriculums in order to produce skilled laborers that best serve industry needs). In addition, some Democrats and independents may be unhappy that the social injustices clearly highlighted by the Black Lives Matter movement—including systemic racism, police brutality, and mass incarceration—are left out of the authors’ plan.

This intriguing but limited Democratic agenda focuses on a pro-business economic platform. (acknowledgments, author bios, endnotes, index)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64543-081-0

Page Count: 232

Publisher: Amplify Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 10, 2020

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POVERTY, BY AMERICA

A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.

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A thoughtful program for eradicating poverty from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Evicted.

“America’s poverty is not for lack of resources,” writes Desmond. “We lack something else.” That something else is compassion, in part, but it’s also the lack of a social system that insists that everyone pull their weight—and that includes the corporations and wealthy individuals who, the IRS estimates, get away without paying upward of $1 trillion per year. Desmond, who grew up in modest circumstances and suffered poverty in young adulthood, points to the deleterious effects of being poor—among countless others, the precarity of health care and housing (with no meaningful controls on rent), lack of transportation, the constant threat of losing one’s job due to illness, and the need to care for dependent children. It does not help, Desmond adds, that so few working people are represented by unions or that Black Americans, even those who have followed the “three rules” (graduate from high school, get a full-time job, wait until marriage to have children), are far likelier to be poor than their White compatriots. Furthermore, so many full-time jobs are being recast as contracted, fire-at-will gigs, “not a break from the norm as much as an extension of it, a continuation of corporations finding new ways to limit their obligations to workers.” By Desmond’s reckoning, besides amending these conditions, it would not take a miracle to eliminate poverty: about $177 billion, which would help end hunger and homelessness and “make immense headway in driving down the many agonizing correlates of poverty, like violence, sickness, and despair.” These are matters requiring systemic reform, which will in turn require Americans to elect officials who will enact that reform. And all of us, the author urges, must become “poverty abolitionists…refusing to live as unwitting enemies of the poor.” Fortune 500 CEOs won’t like Desmond’s message for rewriting the social contract—which is precisely the point.

A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.

Pub Date: March 21, 2023

ISBN: 9780593239919

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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ELON MUSK

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

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A warts-and-all portrait of the famed techno-entrepreneur—and the warts are nearly beyond counting.

To call Elon Musk (b. 1971) “mercurial” is to undervalue the term; to call him a genius is incorrect. Instead, Musk has a gift for leveraging the genius of others in order to make things work. When they don’t, writes eminent biographer Isaacson, it’s because the notoriously headstrong Musk is so sure of himself that he charges ahead against the advice of others: “He does not like to share power.” In this sharp-edged biography, the author likens Musk to an earlier biographical subject, Steve Jobs. Given Musk’s recent political turn, born of the me-first libertarianism of the very rich, however, Henry Ford also comes to mind. What emerges clearly is that Musk, who may or may not have Asperger’s syndrome (“Empathy did not come naturally”), has nurtured several obsessions for years, apart from a passion for the letter X as both a brand and personal name. He firmly believes that “all requirements should be treated as recommendations”; that it is his destiny to make humankind a multi-planetary civilization through innovations in space travel; that government is generally an impediment and that “the thought police are gaining power”; and that “a maniacal sense of urgency” should guide his businesses. That need for speed has led to undeniable successes in beating schedules and competitors, but it has also wrought disaster: One of the most telling anecdotes in the book concerns Musk’s “demon mode” order to relocate thousands of Twitter servers from Sacramento to Portland at breakneck speed, which trashed big parts of the system for months. To judge by Isaacson’s account, that may have been by design, for Musk’s idea of creative destruction seems to mean mostly chaos.

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023

ISBN: 9781982181284

Page Count: 688

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023

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