Book Bits | 4.20.13

Down the Up Escalator: How the 99 Percent Live in the Great Recession
By Barbara Garson
Interview with author via The Leonard Lopate Show (WNYC)
Barbara Garson talks about the human costs of our economic recession and slow recovery. In Down the Up Escalator: How the 99 Percent Live in the Great Recession Garson interviewed an economically and geographically wide variety of Americans to show how loss and insecurity is affecting their lives. She looks at the consequences of the stag­nation of wages and our growing reliance on credit.

The Undeserving Rich: American Beliefs about Inequality, Opportunity, and Redistribution
By Leslie McCall
Summary via publisher, Cambridge University Press
It is widely assumed that Americans care little about income inequality, believe opportunities abound, admire the rich, and dislike redistributive policies. Leslie McCall contends that such assumptions are based on both incomplete survey data and economic conditions of the past and not present. In fact, Americans have desired less inequality for decades, and McCall’s book explains why. Americans become most concerned about inequality in times of inequitable growth, when they view the rich as prospering while opportunities for good jobs, fair pay, and high quality education are restricted for everyone else. As a result, they favor policies to expand opportunity and redistribute earnings in the workplace, reducing inequality in the market rather than redistributing income after the fact with tax and spending policies. This book resolves the paradox of how Americans can express little enthusiasm for welfare state policies and still yearn for a more equitable society and forwards a new model of preferences about income inequality rooted in labor market opportunities rather than welfare state policies.
What Then Must We Do?: Straight Talk About the Next American Revolution
By Gar Alperovitz
Review via Publishers Weekly
Alperovitz (America Beyond Capitalism), a University of Maryland political economist and cofounder of the Democracy Collaborative, transcends simple political disenchantment to examine the intertwining of political and economic power and the need to develop new institutions that help the 99% obtain more of both. The atypical conditions that made possible the postwar boom fostered the development of institutions that now are losing strength. With a nod to Tolstoy, Alperovitz encourages the reader to ponder how to redress the staggeringly unequal distribution of wealth. His survey of the American landscape highlights co-ops, employee stock ownership plans, publicly owned utilities and hospitals, and other already-successful alternatives to the for-profit corporate model. By so doing, he persuasively argues, new constituencies tied to these alternative models will emerge.
The Ultimate Obama Survival Guide: How to Survive, Thrive, and Prosper During Obamageddon
By Wayne Allyn Root
Q&A with author via
Q: You know, Wayne Allyn, while he was alive, the late, great Murray Rothbard said — this was when we were dealing with a debt of a measly $2 or $3 trillion. Rothbard said: There’s no way to pay this debt back. The only thing we can do or hope for is a declaration of insolvency of some sort and to inform our European “investors” that you made a bad investment and you’re not getting your money back; let’s call it even. That’s when it was between $2 and $3 trillion. How bad is it now?
A: Everyone thought the Murray Rothbards of the world were crazy. They thought the Ross Perots of the world were a little bit off their rockers and they shouldn’t be so hysterical. Now, I think, it’s time to get hysterical. It’s not just about debt. I wish that this was just about debt. If I could have written a book about debt, then you’d say: Okay, Ross Perot and Murray Rothbard were right. I really think the tragedy is jobs. We’ve had debt all these years. There was terrible debt under one of my heroes, Ronald Reagan, who I think was the best president in modern history. We still have terrible debt and he helped increase it by still spending a lot of money, especially on national defense. Having said that, there were lots of jobs. As a matter of fact, while the debt was terrible, we created 20 million jobs under Reagan and 40 million in the next 20 years after Reagan. Jobs were plentiful at the same time as debt.
Bankers, Bureaucrats, and Central Bank Politics: The Myth of Neutrality
By Christopher Adolph
Summary via publisher, Cambridge University Press
Most studies of the political economy of money focus on the laws protecting central banks from government interference; this book turns to the overlooked people who actually make monetary policy decisions. Using formal theory and statistical evidence from dozens of central banks across the developed and developing worlds, this book shows that monetary policy agents are not all the same. Molded by specific professional and sectoral backgrounds and driven by career concerns, central bankers with different career trajectories choose predictably different monetary policies. These differences undermine the widespread belief that central bank independence is a neutral solution for macroeconomic management. Instead, through careful selection and retention of central bankers, partisan governments can and do influence monetary policy – preserving a political trade-off between inflation and real economic performance even in an age of legally independent central banks.
Political Arithmetic: Simon Kuznets and the Empirical Tradition in Economics
By Robert William Fogel, et al.
Review via Publishers Weekly
Nobel laureate Simon Kuznets revolutionized the academic disciplines of econometrics and development economics, and was instrumental in the founding of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); perhaps more than anyone else in the 20th century, he shaped the way governments collect and analyze economic data and how quantitative methods are used to create strategies for growth. This brief volume, a collaboration of four pre-eminent economists, including Nobel laureate Fogel, puts Kuznets’s work in historical context and highlights the ways in which theory and research have influenced public policy. Written for specialists, the dense prose contains little expository information to guide the general reader, but presents a wealth of data useful to those with sufficient background.
A World Without Wall Street?
By François Morin
Summary via US distributor, University of Chicago Press
As the aftershocks of the latest economic meltdown reverberate throughout the world, and people organize to physically occupy the major financial centers of the West, few experts and even fewer governments have dared to consider a world without the powerful markets that brought on the crash. Yet, as François Morin explains in A World Without Wall Street?, this is the very step that needs to be taken as quickly as possible to avoid a perpetual future of dehumanizing working conditions, devastated ecosystems, and the submission of public policies to private interests.