Book Bits | 15 August 2020

The Riches of This Land: The Untold, True Story of America’s Middle Class
Jim Tankersley
Summary via publisher (Public Affairs)
For over a decade, Jim Tankersley has been on a journey to understand what the hell happened to the world’s greatest middle-class success story — the post-World-War-II boom that faded into decades of stagnation and frustration for American workers. In The Riches of This Land, Tankersley fuses the story of forgotten Americans– struggling women and men who he met on his journey into the travails of the middle class– with important new economic and political research, providing fresh understanding how to create a more widespread prosperity. He begins by unraveling the real mystery of the American economy since the 1970s – not where did the jobs go, but why haven’t new and better ones been created to replace them.

Evil Geniuses: The Unmaking of America: A Recent History
Kurt Andersen
Review via Vanity Fair
In his new book, Evil Geniuses: The Unmaking of America: A Recent History, writer and public intellectual Kurt Andersen describes a kind of secret history that happened in broad daylight: Starting in the early ’70s, he writes, a band of conservative economists and pro-business groups, terrified of the progressive movements of the 1960s, drew up plans and blueprints for a version of America in which big corporations and Wall Street would be liberated from regulation and labor unions and antitrust laws, allowing the free market to sort out the winners from the losers. Their ideas powered the Reagan Revolution of the ’80s and over the next three decades reengineered the American economy to favor Wall Street and fatten the wealthy, resulting in a wildly inequitable society and the violent convulsions of the Trump presidency.

Risk Is An Asset: Turning Commodity Price Uncertainty Into A Strategic Advantage
Wayne Penello and Andrew P. Furman
Interview with co-author via WGN radio
Rollye James speaks with Wayne Penello, who is the president and founder of Risked Revenue Energy Associates and a ForbesBooks co-author of Risk Is an Asset: Turning Commodity Price Uncertainty into a Strategic Advantage. He explains how companies and individual investors can successfully invest and manage risk during the economic uncertainty brought by the COVID-19 pandemic and social unrest.

Iron Empires: Robber Barons, Railroads, and the Making of Modern America
Michael Hiltzik
Review via The Wall Street Journal
The public image of the robber barons has always been a barometer of how America thinks about wealth. Were they financiers or swindlers? Builders or monopolists? In the Progressive Era, the muckraker Ida Tarbell cast John D. Rockefeller as a ruthless monopolist, and Matthew Josephson’s compelling but one-sided Depression-era tome, “The Robber Barons,” scorched the lot of them. In recent decades serious biographers have reappraised the turn-of-the-century moguls and found more to like. Could the wheel be poised to turn again? With inequality considered a public enemy, a reappraisal might be ripe.

Electoral Capitalism: The Party System in New York’s Gilded Age
Jeffrey D. Broxmeyer
Summary via publisher (U. of Pennsylvania Press)
Vast fortunes grew out of the party system during the Gilded Age. In New York, party leaders experimented with novel ways to accumulate capital for political competition and personal business. Partisans established banks. They drove a speculative frenzy in finance, real estate, and railroads. And they built empires that stretched from mining to steamboats, and from liquor distilleries to newspapers. Control over political property—party organizations, public charters, taxpayer subsidies, and political offices—served to form governing coalitions, and to mobilize voting blocs. In Electoral Capitalism, Jeffrey D. Broxmeyer reappraises the controversy over wealth inequality, and why this period was so combustible.

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