Category Archives: Books

Rev. William Barber Is reviving Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s ‘Poor People’s Campaign’

The Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP and leader of the Moral Mondays movement that opposed North Carolina’s “most restrictive voting law in the nation,” recently scored a major victory against this TeaPublican tyranny. Strict North Carolina Voter ID Law Thwarted After Supreme Court Rejects Case:

The Supreme Court on Monday refused to revive a restrictive North Carolina voting law that a federal appeals court had struck down as an unconstitutional effort to “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.”

The court’s decision not to hear an appeal in the case effectively overturned one of the most far-reaching attempts by Republicans to counter what they contended, without evidence, was widespread voter fraud in North Carolina. The law rejected the forms of identification used disproportionately by blacks, including IDs issued to government employees, students and people receiving public assistance.

Fresh off this victory, Rev. Barber announced last week that he will step down as president of the North Carolina NAACP and lead a new national initiative that aims to end poverty and begin what Rev. Barber calls “a national moral revival.” The Nation reports, The Rev. William Barber Is Bringing MLK’s Poor People’s Campaign Back to Life:

This new Poor People’s Campaign will pick up where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. left off 50 years ago when he turned his focus to uniting poor people across lines of race and geography and pushing their priorities onto the federal agenda.

The campaign, which launches in partnership the Kairos Center at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, will bring together organizations with a longstanding commitment to confronting poverty and inequality—local and national groups such as Picture the Homeless in New York and the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization. Barber said a task force made up of poor people and economists, theologians, and other experts will in September release a report called “The Souls of Poor Folks” that will lay out the campaign’s agenda.

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Book Review: Killing the Host

I finally got around to reading Michael Hudson’s Killing the Host. I think it was released over a year ago. Hudson is a professor of economics at University of Missouri, Kansas City, which is where some of the most progressive work is being done, particularly in monetary theory.

This book is not especially well written. The editing was downright sloppy, in my opinion.

But it’s written well enough to follow and the content is valuable. Hudson’s central thesis is that economic policy has moved in the exact opposite direction of what economic philosophers of the 19th and early 20th century foresaw. They believed the world would become increasingly egalitarian, as economic and tax policy would favor industrialists and labor. Instead, it has favored rent seekers, particularly those in the finance sector.

Hudson likens the relationship of the finance sector to the economy to that of parasite to host. Eventually, the parasite drains the life out of the host.

For those interested in economic policy, Killing the Host is an important read. There are insights in this book I’ve not seen elsewhere. So, even though it could have been better written, I recommend it.

 

Taibbi on “Shattered”: A Book Review Perhaps More Important than the Book

I’ve been told by friends I should read Shattered, the devastating takedown of the Clinton 2016 campaign by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes. I may, but it’s not high on my priority list. That’s not to say it’s uninteresting or poorly written. From all I’ve read, it’s a really good work, and a page turner.

I’m just not sure I should spend hours on gory details that do nothing more than confirm what I already believe.

I did spend the few minutes required to read Matt Taibbi’s review of the book, and am glad I did. Taibbi’s intellect is as keen as any journalist out there. In this case, his takeaways from the book, not about the Clinton campaign, but about the Democratic Party, the Democratic establishment, and American political campaigns, have more long-lasting relevance than Shattered itself. Taibbi: Continue reading

A few interesting economic and other titbits

The ramifications of the wealth inequality problem so troubling to Western economists and policy makers is also affecting China. A new research paper by five authors, including Piketty and Saez, reveals that in 1978 the highest earning Chinese 10% took home about 25% of national income before taxes. By 2015, the take of the top 10% had risen to two-fifths of total income. The richest 10% now control about 70% of private wealth in China, up from 40% in 1995. The inequality issue was somewhat mitigated by China’s rapid economic growth. Between 1978 and 2015, the income level of the poorer half of the Chinese population quintupled. During the same time period in the United States, the income level of the bottom half of the population declined by 1%.

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Book Review: Born on Third Base

Full disclosure: Chuck Collins, the author of Born on Third Base, is a personal friend and a colleague at the Institute for Policy Studies. So, after he gave me a copy at the conclusion of a workshop on economic inequality to which I had been invited only at his urging, it was out of friendship that I cracked it open on the plane ride home the next day.

But that’s not what made me get choked up reading the preface. Out of the thousand odd books I’ve read in my life, I don’t recall that happening before.

Born on Third Base is an important book, and a throughly enjoyable one. Chuck’s perspective is not unique, but it is rare. As the great-grandson of Oscar Mayer, Chuck truly was born on third base. At a young age, he did something remarkable. He gave away his wealth. Since then, he’s spent the better part of his career working against economic injustice. Continue reading

Book Review: They Were Soldiers: How The Wounded Return from America’s Wars — The Untold Story

Tammy and I have a running joke about how easily she sobs during a movie or when reading a book and how I never do.

Not this time. Reading Ann Jones’ They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars: The Untold Story, I didn’t just sob, but broke down a few times. They were anger-fueled breakdowns, but breakdowns nonetheless.  Continue reading