Listen Liberal by Thomas Frank

book jacket bright yellow with cartoon pointing index fingerListen Liberal or Whatever happened to the Party of the People? by Thomas Frank, (2016) [apologies in advance for such length without breaking out headers and subheads]

AWESOME BOOK! Nails it! Perfectly captures why Bernie Sanders supporters are baffled by the non-democracy of the Democratic Party. It USED TO BE the Party of the People, but it turned it’s back years ago, and did so deliberately, as one of my now favorite authors describes in this book.

I thought I had posted about his books before but cannot find now; he is most famous for “What’s the matter with Kansas” and I will post later. (It is also a good video – I especially was horrified at the power of too much money in the hands of some people, like the guy who built a “museum” on Creationism; especially the part with the dinosaur grazing peacefully next to a small boy.)

I have been saying similar things about WTF has happened to the democratic party I have voted for all my life. Yes sometimes the lesser of two evils, but I always thought fundamentally the commitment to workers and social justice were the values of the party. So I was truly shocked, but kind of not surprised to learn that Hillary had been a Goldwater supporter back in the day. Yeah, yeah, don’t get in my face, people can change. But I’m not sure she did or if she just calculated the odds of  achieving her ambition to become the first woman president was absolutely more likely in a democratic party, never the republicans.  It has never been more obvious than this 2016 election that the process of presidential nominees has been a queue of people who tow the line of the real power behind the politicians, financial and corporate donors.

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Pity the Billionaire by Thomas Frank

book jacket with cartoon figure of rich guyPity the Billionaire: The hard-times swindle and the unlikely comeback of the right,  by Thomas Frank, (2012). Author of several great books including new release MUST READ Listen Liberals and most famously his What’s the Matter with Kansas. [also on video]

Once again it is fun to see the title of the concluding chapter, in this case:
Trample the Weak. We who are living in this fake “free market” know that there can never be a free market because free markets are ruthless killers of all things, people, land, water, animals, and more, all for PROFIT. In fact, the religion of capitalism has now even shucked any pretense of their original charters with the obligation to serve the people by claiming “fiduciary” responsibility to their shareholders. How they can do that while taking $53 million a year in salary plus bonuses and stock options that cause them to waste capital on stock buybacks to jack the price up and contribute literally nothing in terms of goods and services, just shuffling paper money around, is beyond me. The shareholders aren’t even allowed a vote on the pay of the CEO but just their boards that are well-compensated people with next to no responsibilities except to rubber stamp whatever grand scheme the current CEO has to rape and pillage the people.

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Dumb Money by Daniel Gross

book jacket with cartoon of dollar sign and cone dummies hatDumb Money: How Our Greatest Financial Minds Bankrupted the Nation by Daniel Gross, (2009)
The author writes for Newsweek and other column on money and economic subjects. This is a slim (101 pages) volume that has a great deal of detail on aspects of the 2008 financial meltdown without too much talk about LIBOR and tranches.

You can tell the author has a sense of humor by the name of the first chapter title: WTF. The utter disregard for the average person for the banksters is revealed in a quote the author cites of the still not-ashamed-enough to keep his mouth shut, Henry [Hank] Paulson (“former Goldman Sachs CEO running the financial system, quickly shifted to a clueless groper in the dark”) and the pathetic excuse for a human Alan Greenspan (BTW, married to Andrea Mitchell, broadcaster). He is, however, an undeniably interesting man when you read his Wikipedia entry. For example, he attended Juilliard, no small feat to get in, and played in a band. Music and match do often go together. But I guess it was too hard to make a living, so he moved on to economics (NYU summa cum laude). A note in the Wiki entry is that he specifically asked that his 1977 PhD dissertation be removed from NYU after he became Chairman of the Fed. Barron’s supposedly got a copy of it anyway (should be PUBLIC, especially now retired) and

notes that it includes “a discussion of soaring housing prices and their effect on consumer spending; it even anticipates a bursting housing bubble”.[17]

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Protecting America’s Health by Philip J. Hilts

book jacket of capsule pillProtecting America’s Health: The FDA, Business and a 100 Years of Regulation by Philip J. Hilts (2003)

Wow! What an eyeopening book! Well written and full of very specific circumstances, like why a bad drug is allowed to keep being prescribed when EVERYONE knows it actually kills people and fails as an antibiotic as well. Highly recommend reading this book so that if enough people know about the evils of Big Pharma, maybe we can change things!

p. 130 –  Blair [FTC chair] was not sure it [drugs] was a good topic.The economics of it were complex, the industry was new and no one had studied it, no good industry numbers were available, and the industry was riding a popular high because of the success of antibiotics. And, of course, the drug industry had enormous cash reserves, COULD RETALIATE  FORCEFULLY and effectively if they did not like the bent of the hearings. But through the years, Till and others had been saving documents and accumulating data, because they knew the day of reckoning for the drug industry would come.

Blair was not convinced until one afternoon when he was looking at FTC reports on about two dozen different industries. Until that time, drug companies had been listed under the CHEMICAL industry. But now, someone at the FTC had broken them out separate.y, and IT STOOD OUT. The pharmaceutical industry was not only the biggest profit maker, but the levels of profits were DOUBLE the industry average, 19% of investment after taxes. Blair called Till [FTC economist serving with Blair] and together they looked at the numbers. “My God, just look at those profits!” he said to her. She allowed that she had never seen any numbers like it in her years as an economist. The decision to go ahead with the investigation of the drug business was taken that day.

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Inequality by Anthony B. Atkinson

inequality what can be done title with math symbol for no equalInequality: What can be done? by Anthony B. Atkinson (2015)

This is a FABULOUS book. Well written, very understandable language given that there is some economics and statistics and such covered. Actually a darn good read, a page turner, so well organized and fluid were the transitions.

I have been reading a lot of material on this subject for some time now, and this book presented about as complex of range as one might imagine with the variables involved. There was only one lack I perceived, and that is the failure to address gender inequality of pay, both in exact same jobs, and in the apparently forgotten comparable worth sense that I vigorously supported back in the 1970s. For example, since private sector refuses to cooperate making up such lame excuses as mommy tracks or leadership skills, or whatever makes it seem like they aren’t discriminating, it is time for the government to do some equalizing. The IRS has the data and they could make some determinations and proceed by either taxing non-compliant companies and refunding pay discrepancies directly to the employed women, or some other scheme to force equity. Such as only tax women at a rate 70% of that of men. Ever so briefly the author touches on universal basic income but principally in relation to child poverty and making a child payment. Again, just briefly discusses, maybe one sentence, the fact that paying women to have children is inherently discriminatory against women who cannot or choose not to bear children, but who would be taxed to pay for OTHER PEOPLE’s children.

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