99 to 1: How Wealth Inequality is Wrecking the World and What We Can Do About It by Chuck Collins, 2012. This very readable short book shows how the rule-riggers created the current wealth inequality and how dysfunctional it is for the 99%, often even for the 1%. Collins was born into wealth but then renounced it, so he can show both the numbers and the inside story with a clear conscience. (RHB)
The Wealth Inequality Reader ed. Dollars & Sense and United for a Fair Economy, 2004. This reader has an excellent structure. After about 20 pages of statistics and graphics in Section 1 – Wealth Inequality by the Numbers, the book consists of about 25 essays in four following Sections – The Causes of Inequality, The Consequences of Inequality, Strategies for Change, and Looking Forward. Authors include such luminaries as Chuck Collins, Paul Krugman, Marjorie Kelly, Kevin Phillips, Gar Alperowitz, and Betsy Leondar-Wright. A drawback is that the statistics are out of date in this 2004 book. It would be a great companion with Divided: The Perils of Our Growing Inequality as the basis for a general study of economic inequality. (RLB)
Divided: The Perils of Our Growing Inequality ed. David Cay Johnston, 2014. This is another excellent collection of nearly 40 brief essays on contemporary inequality, organized in 7 sections of varying size – Overview, Income Inequality, Education, Health Care Inequality, Debt and Poverty, Policy, Family. Authors include Barack Obama, Elizabeth Warren, Joseph Stiglitz, Barbara Ehrenreich, Christopher Jencks, Chuck Collins, Studs Terkel, Paul Krugman, Linda Darling-Hammond, Richard Wilkinson, and editor David Cay Johnston. Along with The Wealth Inequality Reader, this would be an excellent main resource for a general or introductory course of study on the topic of economic inequality. (LHS, RLB)
Ill Fares the Land by Tony Judt. In a beautifully written book, modern historian Tony Judt shows how growing inequality is corroding our democratic values. It has led us not only to economic crisis, but to a deep failure of public discourse, eliminating from contemporary public debate the values of pre-1960s social democracy – equality, citizens’ trust of each other and of their government, and a belief in the public sphere as an effective way to solve problems. We need to regain the ability to speak about our society’s economic arrangements in moral terms and to revive a coherent narrative of social democracy. (RLB)
The Great Divergence—America’s Inequality Crisis and What We Can Do About It by Timothy Noah. This is a good introductory survey of the whole topic of the increase in economic inequality in America in the last 40 years since the late 1970s (a period in U.S. economic history dubbed “The Great Divergence” by economist Paul Krugman). Noah’s book examines our inequality in historical perspective, its most important ramifications in society, and the factors causing it. (RLB)
Prosperity Economics: Building an Economy for All by Jacob S. Hacker and Nate Loewentheil. This 60 page paper starts by debunking 5 myths of conventional “Austerity Economics,” but most of it — and its unique value — consists in its specific policy goals and recommendations for economic growth, security for working Americans, and reforming our democracy for inclusiveness and accountability. It makes clear an economic equality movement includes more than living wages for the working poor. (RLB)
Beyond Outrage: What Has Gone Wrong with Our Economy and Our Democracy, and How to Fix It by Robert Reich. This accessible book “connects the dots” in three parts: 1) explaining why the U.S. public justifiably feels that “the game is rigged” to favor the wealthy, 2) dissecting how the “regressive right” has nonetheless argued for cutting taxes even more on corporations and the rich while cutting public services, and 3) urging average people to move beyond outrage to take back our economy and democracy. The diagnosis is convincing; the prescrip-tion is more exhortation and policy outline than detailed program. (RLB)
Key Influential Works
Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer — and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson. The authors argue that our growing economic inequality is not the natural or inevitable result of changing demand for skills driven by technology, American educational deficits, or increased competition from foreign trade. Rather the sources of American economic inequality are largely political – the result of deliberate political decisions to shape markets and government policies to benefit those who are privileged already at the expense of an unaware public. What is new here is not the history, but the specific evidence. (RLB)
Capital in the 21st Century by Thomas Piketty. Based on a survey of wealth and income inequality in Europe and the U.S. since the 18th century, this weighty best-seller argues that the trend toward in-equality is not an accident, but a feature of unchecked capitalism, only to be countered by systematic state intervention. The central thesis is that, when the rate of return on capital (r) is greater than the rate of economic growth (g) over the long term, the result is concentration of wealth, resulting in serious social and economic instability. The period from 1930 to 1975 saw a unique reversal of this trend in reaction to two World Wars and the Great Depression, which destroyed much wealth, including that of the elite. These catastrophes led governments to move towards income redistribution, especially after World War II. The fast economic growth of that time reduced the effect of inherited wealth. Since the late 70’s, however, the trend has returned to inequality and patrimonial capitalism, in which economics and politics are dominated by inherited wealth. Piketty proposes a global system of progressive wealth taxes to help reduce inequality and trends to oligarchy. (RLB)
Who Stole the American Dream by Hedrick Smith. Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Hedrick Smith provides a readable, comprehensible, though somewhat conspiratorial account of how the American Dream of broad middle-class prosperity has been betrayed over the past forty years by sweeping changes both in govern-ment policies and in the mind-set and practices of American business leaders. (RLB)
The Price of Inequality—How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future by Joseph Stiglitz. Nobel Prize winning economist Stiglitz refutes the conventional economic “wisdom” that incomes (and consequent wealth) are in proportion to productive contributions to society. Instead, the book shows that much of our extraordinary income concentration is due to “rent seeking” by the wealthy, and that this involves taking some kind of unearned advantage not just of customers, business partners, or competitors, but of taxpayers. We have a system that actively redistributes income and wealth (and political power) from huge numbers of people at the bottom of the pyramid to a tiny number at the very top through unfair and unproductive government policy. For each government policy that wealth has distorted in its favor, Stiglitz also lays out the correctives needed to create a more dynamic economy and a more equal society. (RLB)
The Spirit Level—Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett. The book demonstrates that, quite aside from absolute levels of poverty, relative inequality has pernicious effects on societies: eroding trust, increasing anxiety and illness, and encouraging excessive consumption. The common factor that links the healthiest and happiest societies – whether each society as a whole is rich or poor — is the degree of equality among its members. Further, more unequal societies are bad for all their members – the rich and middle-class as well as the poor. The Spirit Level examines the effect of greater inequality within a society on 11 different health and social problems: physical health, mental health, drug abuse, educational achievement, trust in community life, obesity, social mobility, imprisonment, violence, child welfare, teen-age pregnancies. Outcomes are clearly worse in more unequal societies. (RLB)
Other Helpful General Works
America Beyond Capitalism—Reclaiming our Wealth, our Liberty, and our Democracy by Gar Alperovitz, 2nd ed., 2009. First published in 2006, before the housing collapse, financial crisis, great recession, and Occupy movement, this book was ahead of its time in attending to systematic economic and political inequality. But its enduring value is in its rich detailing of “new economy” alternatives to the institutions and practices of the neoclassical capitalism. Unlike many authors who reserve a few concluding pages to outline tentative, general solutions, this political economist describes practical grass-roots efforts across the U.S.: worker-ownership, cooperatives, non-profit development, community land trusts — along with ideas for democratizing municipal, state and federal strategies. (RLB)
What Then Must We Do – Straight Talk About the Next American Revolution (Democratizing Wealth and Building A Community Sustaining Economy from the Ground Up) by Gar Alperovitz, 2013.This short book gives a good overview of Alperovitz’ take on how we can build on the long tradition of non-profits, cooperatives, and public enterprise in the United States. His goal is to retake ownership of our economy from the corporate pillagers, from Wall Street to pharmaceuticals. Steps to rebuild the power of the people. (RHB)
Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age by Larry Bartels. Using data from the past six decades, Bartels shows how the gap between rich and poor has decreased slightly under Democratic administrations and in-creased under Republicans, producing widening inequality in the long run. This is not simply the result of economic forces, but of far-reaching policy choices shaped by a political system susceptible to partisan ideologies and the influence of the rich. Elected officials respond to the interests of affluent constituents but ignore poor citizens. Bartels provides revealing case studies of key policy shifts, including the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 and the erosion of the minimum wage. (RLB)
Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy by Robert H. Frank, 2016. Annotation needed.
23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism by Ha-Joon Chang. A leading heterodox institutional economist specializing in development debunks free-market orthodoxy in 23 entertaining, but thought-provoking essays. Chapter titles include: “There is no such thing as a free market,” “Companies should not be run in the interest of their owners,” “The washing machine has changed the world more than the internet has,” “Greater macro-economic stability has not made the world economy more stable,” “The U.S. does not have the highest living standard in the world,” “Making rich people richer doesn’t make the rest of us richer,” “More education in itself is not going to make a country richer,” “Equality of opportunity may not be fair,” “Good economic policy does not require good economists.” (RLB)
Affluence and Influence: Economic Inequality and Political Power in America by Martin Gilens. Democracy is based on the ideal that every citizen has an equal potential to influence what government does. But this book provides the cold, hard data and the rigorous analysis to show that U.S. government policy responds almost exclusively to the preferences of the affluent, and usually ignores the preferences and interests of the poor and the middle class. Gilens shows that this inequality holds across different policy domains and time periods. (RLB)
Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy by Christopher Hayes. Our post-civil-rights-era meritocratic professional and managerial elite, though pro-fessing equality of opportunity and more open to minorities and women, has yet contributed to widened income inequality and to lower general social mobility since the mid-seventies. By design, meritocracy aims for inequality of outcome. Quite aside from questions about the reality of true merit or how we can recognize it, Hayes sees meritocracy tending toward oligarchy over time. Those who climb the ladder of success based on skills then rig the game by pulling the ladder up after them. They pass their wealth, cultural advantages, and power on to their heirs. As these meritocratic elites solidify their economic and political positions, they become complacent and out of touch with the real life problems of other citizens. Though short on details of a remedy, this intellectually ambitious but readable book advocates redistributive taxes to reduce inequality; the resulting narrowed inequality will then make the elite more socially responsive. (RLB)
Agenda for a New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth (Why Wall Street Can’t Be Fixed and How to Replace It) by David Korten, 2009. An energizing and hard hitting response to the Wall Street swindles, grounded in 7 principles for healthy living systems. Korten’s 12 point agenda call’s us to regain control of our financial system, to include “an equitable distribution of wealth and income”. He shows how Wall Street’s phantom wealth is used to rob us our real wealth. (RHB)
The Trouble with Diversity: How We Learned To Love Identity and Ignore Inequality by Walter Benn Michaels. In this bitingly provocative 2007 book, Michaels made the prescient argument that America’s growing economic inequality is connected to a deeply ingrained class structure — which our focus on identity diversity and multiculturalism helps us ignore. Not only does our love of racial and ethnic identity reinforce the very ideas of racial essentialism that it claims to repudiate; it obscures the gap between rich and poor and sometimes even misrepresents poverty itself in ways that reduce progressive politics to symbolic etiquette and cultural flattery. Instead of this false version of social justice, one that too conveniently costs us nothing, Michaels calls for a radical commitment to economic and social equality. Michaels doesn’t really want to do away with identity issues, but he wants political priority for economic inequality — and also to distinguish between arguments suited to identity and to economics. (RLB)
The Power Elite by C. Wright Mills. This 1956 classic of American social criticism posits that the history of U.S. elites resulted since the beginning of the cold-war era in a unified “power elite.” Our major national decisions are made not by a multiplicity of competing groups or citizens, but by this elite through its leadership of our dominant corporate, political, and military institutions. The members of the power elite tend to share common outlooks and values as a result of similar privileged upbringing, educational backgrounds, and economic status. Rather than men of ideas, they tend to be practical and conservative, with a shared sense of the “sound judgment” necessary to run society. The leaders of our three major institutions now form an interlocking, contiguous whole, moving easily between command posts in the three areas. It’s this kind of mobility, along with the shared outlook of the elite leaders, that creates the military-industrial-political complex — not an intentional conspiracy. (RLB)
Big Picture Economics and History
Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson. This book applies insights from institutional economics, development economics, and economic history to explain why nations develop differently, with some succeeding in the accumulation of coherence, power, and prosperity, while others fail. It claims that the main causative variable is the inclusiveness of a country’s political, economic, and social institutions in their make-up and behavior. The book is packed with historical examples. Though Jared Diamond and Jeffrey Sachs have criticized the book for not giving enough weight to geographic or environmental factors, they grant its substantial historical validity. (RLB)
Debt – The First 5000 Years by David Graeber, 2011. This is a thick book, but a real classic, a fascinating read, and an eye-opener on the origins of economic inequality. Graeber is a noted anthropologist who covers a vast territory ignored by economists. He’s also an activist who advised the Wall Street Occupiers. This book is an invaluable guide to the origins of money and debt and how tribal and agrarian societies, including ancient Israelite, Chinese & Islamic regimes, sought to prevent debt servitude. (RHB)
Demand Side Economics – Demand Side Minds (From John Maynard Keynes to Nouriel Roubini and Beyond) by Alan Harvey, 2012. This short, readable book gives an excellent introduction to eminent economic thinkers who have challenged the supply side orthodoxy that has left so many without jobs or with depressed wages. Their basic axiom is that “output is determined by effective demand” and that the proper role of government in a recession is to stimulate demand toward full employment while clamping down on speculation in a bubble. (RHB)
The End of Growth – Adapting to Our New Economic Reality by Richard Heinberg, 2011. The foremost popularizer in the Limits-to-Growth tradition shows the current stagnation of global economic growth, which has baffled economists, is easily explained when you study energy resources and costs, especially oil. Is modern civilization itself a giant bubble, slated for collapse as it overruns its resource base? Heinberg gives great overviews of the financial bubble, the debt trap, the Chinese bubble, limits-to-resources, limits-to-technology, and the failure of economics. Read in conjunction with the works of Turchin and Piketty, the underlying cause of escalating economic inequality becomes obvious, along with a sober view toward the tough times ahead. (RHB)
Debunking Economics – The Naked Emperor Dethroned? by Steve Keen, 2011. A celebrated expose’ by the world’s top renegade economist, the only one to develop a mathematical theory of money that predicted the financial crash of 2008. This substantial book is for those with a scientific or mathematical bent who’ve always wondered about the disconnect between microeconomics and real world economics. Keen systematically demolishes microeconomics, from its bad reasoning to it ludicrous hypotheses. Yet he also exposes a culture where top researchers often knew of these faults but kept them hidden from students. Why? Because neo-classical economic theory had become the ideological foundation, not just for Alan Greenspan’s bubble, but also for all the other “neo-liberal” policies that led directly to today’s extreme economic inequality. (RHB)
The Economics of Good and Evil—The Quest for Economic Meaning from Gilgamesh to Wall Street by Tomas Sedlacek, 2011. As a public intellectual, Sedlacek dares to question the morality of current economics by examining the roots of religion in the economics of greed. First he takes the Bible seriously as a moral document, deeply rooted in the economics of the era. Then it’s Sumerian literature, Greek philosophy, medieval theology, all the way to the Enlightenment, where he exposes the primal myth of modern economics – “homo economicus”. Now the biblical morality of the “Jubilee Year”(= debt forgiveness) benefits mostly Wall Street speculators (the bail outs) instead of working people with their predatory loans, underwater mortgages, or monstrous student debts. (RHB)
War and Peace and War – the Rise and Fall of Empires (A Radical New Theory of World History with Implications for Nations Today) by Peter Turchin, 2007. A compelling read – a grand theory of world history – in which inequality plays a powerful role. Think of Rome and the history of Europe. An empire begins with strong social cohesion (the “asabiya” of Ibn Khaldun) characterized by relative social and economic equality. As it develops, gains in wealth flow increasingly to the elites, whose unchecked exploitation of natural and human resources eventually destroys the asabiya and damages the economy. Then calamities like civil war, invasions, or pandemics kill both elites and commoners alike in a great leveling, setting the stage for the next empire. (RHB)
The Bankers’ New Clothes: What’s Wrong with Banking and What to Do about It by Anat Admati and Martin Hellwig, 2014. In this highly acclaimed book, Ms. Admati and Mr. Hellwig expertly translate the arcane jargon of banking and financial regulation into plain English in order to demolish the self-serving falsehoods deployed by overpaid Wall Street and bank executives to forestall meaningful financial reform. With arresting clarity, this book argues that as long as implicit taxpayer guarantees incentivize banks to raise funds through issuing debt, the global financial system will be plagued by risky behavior and periodic crises. Admati and Hellwig offer a simple but powerful solution for reform: raise banks’ required equity capital ratios. Banks should become more responsible by risking more of their own money, thus reducing their tendency to take excessive risks when using other people’s money. (RLB)
Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants by David Bacon. Bacon, an award-winning photojournalist, labor organizer, and immigrant-rights activist, ties interviews and personal histories to hard data and political analysis to provide a vivid picture of what life is like for undocumented workers with minimal rights or protections in an increasingly globalized economy. Bacon makes clear the connections between “illegal” worker immigration and issues like free trade, unionization, and the widening disparities between rich and poor. (RLB)
Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War by Joe Bageant, 2007. Annotation needed.
What Do Unions Do?: A Twenty-Year Perspective, edited by James Bennet and Bruce E. Kaufman. Annotation needed.
Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism by Ha-Joon Chang. Very stimulating book by a heterodox Cambridge economist on the disadvantages of “free trade” enterprises and the advantages of State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) or hybrid enterprises, especially for “natural monopolies”-– utilities, railroads, communication networks. Also good discussions of regulations, subsidies, protective tariffs, and intellectual property. (RLB)
Marriage Markets: How Inequality is Remaking the American Family by June Carbone and Naomi Cahn, 2014. The educated and prosperous have the most stable families, while working class families show increasing relationship instability. According to this book, the cause is not just that economic problems press harder on the less advantaged. More profoundly, increased inequality has changed our “marriage markets” — how the numbers of men and women match up when they search for life partners. It has produced an oversupply of high-income men; it has written off large numbers of men at the bottom because of chronic unemployment, incarceration, and substance abuse; and it has left middle-income women with fewer comparable men. Only policies providing broad access to education, stable employment, and opportunities for social mobility can redress the balance between men and women and encourage commitment to family life across society. (RLB)
The Student Loan Scam: The Most Oppressive Debt in U.S. History—and How We Can Fight Back by Alan Michael Collinge, 2010. With college tuition rising at double the inflation rate for the past 25 years, today’s average undergraduate borrower leaves college with over $30,000 in student debt, and graduate students average well over $50,000. According to Collinge, private student loans are the most profitable, uncompetitive, oppressive type of debt in our history. This is mainly because U.S. legislation since the 1990s has removed consumer protections for student loans, allowing huge delinquency and default penalties, with total interest rates as high as 29.5%, and draconian collection practices. Under federal rules, student loans cannot be discharged by bankruptcy. Student loan lenders or collection agencies can garnish tax refunds, Social Security benefits, and disability payments. This shocking situation is enabled by industry influence in Congress and questionable “preferred lender” arrangements with colleges and universities. (RLB)
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond, 2016. Annotation needed.
Who Rules America? The Triumph of the Corporate Rich (7th ed., 2013) by William Domhoff. Americans have been reluctant to recognize an economic class system in the U.S. This classic text, first published in 1967 but updated through 7 editions, argues from extensive empirical evidence and analysis that the owners and top-level managers of large income-producing properties constitute the top-most American ruling class. Domhoff relates how the corporate rich connect and propagate through business organizations, elite non-profits, expensive private schools, and exclusive clubs. He also lays out the business associations, think tanks, law firms, foundations, consultancies, political organizations, and media that this highest elite uses to influence public policy and opinion. (RLB)
Save Our Unions by Steve Early. Annotation needed.
Fear of Falling: The Inner Life of the Middle Class by Barbara Ehrenreich, 1990. Ehrenreich traces the social and political attitudes of the professional and managerial middle class (comprising almost half of the U.S. population just below the top 2 or 3 %) through thirty years. After the 60s, she sees this class losing what social conscience it had and participating in a reversal of the movement toward equality. To explain this turn to a meaner, more self-absorbed, and elitist outlook during the 70’s and 80’s, this book examines the insecurities of the middle class. On one hand, it “is too driven by its own ambitions, too compromised by its own elite status, and too removed from those whose sufferings cry out most loudly for redress.” On the other, it is haunted by a “fear of falling” into that lower class existence. Ehrenreich exposes the illusions of this mindset, urging the middle class to join the working-class majority in a political movement to redistribute wealth and power. Though jolted by the economic crisis starting in 2008, much of the middle-class mindset critiqued in this 1990 book remains today. (RLB)
Global Woman: Nannies, Maids, and Sex Workers in the New Economy edited by Barbara Ehrenreich and Arlie Russell Hochschild. Annotation needed.
Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich. When 1990s welfare reform pushed 12 million women into low-end employment, Barbara Ehrenreich did some old-fashioned journalism to see if she could sustain herself as an unskilled worker a month at a time. Over two years, she worked as a waitress, hotel maid, cleaning woman, nursing-home aide, and Wal-Mart sales clerk. She found that even the lowest-paying “unskilled” job demanded huge physical and mental effort. She also learned that one job did not provide a living wage; she needed two to scrape by. This is an easy read, but a scathing revelation of life at the bottom of our economy, even in prosperous times. (RLB)
The Global Class War by Jeff Faux, 2006. Global free trade has been promoted with expectations of widespread benefits, raising all economic boats. However, big businesses have found cheaper labor and lower environmental rules abroad, sapping their home countries’ prosperity. With NAFTA as his main exhibit, Jeff Faux shows how government and business elites, of both right and left, have advanced global free trade without needed safeguards. Big businesses have become nationless, detached from any single country’s well-being, to the detriment of workers in all, but to the benefit of a transnational elite, what Faux calls “the Party of Davos.” Faux presses for a “global social contract” (starting with NAFTA) to broaden globalization’s benefits to working families.
The Wal-Mart Effect: How the World’s Most Powerful Company Really Works and How It’s Transforming the American Economy by Charles Fishman. Annotation needed.
Book. “They’re Bankrupting Us!” and 20 Other Myths about Unions by Bill Fletcher, Jr., 2012. Across our country, in good times and bad, there is a war of ideas in which partisans of regressive neoliberalism blame unions for budget problems and depict their members as inefficient, overpaid and unaccountable. Labor leader Bill Fletcher Jr. repels this attack by unpacking the 21 most common anti-union myths. He traces their history and provides an honest assessment of the hard-won achieve-ments and unhappy missteps of the labor movement. He argues that unions are necessary not only to the humanity and economic equity of all workers, but to the health of our democracy. (RLB)
Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy by Robert H. Frank. Annotation needed.
Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People by Thomas Frank, 2016. Annotation needed.
Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else by Chrystia Freeland. Annotation needed.
Wealth and Our Commonwealth: Why America Should Tax Accumulated Fortunes by William Gates and Chuck Collins, 2004. Gates, father of the billionaire founder of Microsoft, and Collins, cofounder of United for a Fair Economy, argued in this 2004 book against the Bush administration’s proposed repeal of the estate tax, but their arguments on this perennially controversial tax remain valid. Though an individual may gain wealth through hard work and smart (or fortunate) choices, society provides the necessary environment for that individual’s success through its investments in infrastructure, education, economic development, health care, and property rights. A reasonable estate tax is a valid return on such social investing. Estate taxes also address the Founding Fathers’ concern with maintaining conditions of equitability that enable enterprising Americans to make a fortunes within their lifetimes without creating a new aristocracy. (RLB)
Restoring the Power of Our Unions: It Takes a Movement by Julius G. Getman. Annotation needed.
The Big Squeeze: Tough Times for the American Worker by Steven Greenhouse, 2009. In this exposé by NY Times reporter Steven Greenhouse, the big picture since the 70s is familiar if grim: lagging worker pay and frequent down-sizing under the pressure of lower cost global labor — as productivity, “shareholder value,” and CEO pay soar. But where this book excels is in showing how good, hard workers — white-collar and blue-collar, high-tech and low-tech, middle-class and low-income — are abused by a callous business culture that views employees only as production factors. They may be forced to work off the clock, have time sheets altered, or be forced to work as “independent contractors“ without benefits. They are subject to arbitrary firings and demotions, often for such ”reasons” as going to the bathroom during work shifts. We hear of workers locked in during a hurricane and others dismissed after disabling on-the-job injuries. Even child labor and forced slave labor practices traditionally set in other countries or times occur here and now in America. This book will shock anyone committed to fairness, a healthy economy, or a stable future for our democracy. (RLB)
The Great Risk Shift: The New Economic Insecurity and the Decline of the American Dream by Jacob Hacker, 2006. Annotation needed.
Elite: Uncovering Classism in Unitarian Universalist History by Mark Harris. Needs annotation.
Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild, 2016. Annotation needed.
White Trash: The 400 Year Untold Story by Nancy Isenberg. Needs annotation.
The Transition Companion—Making Your Community More Resilient in Uncertain Times by Rob Hopkins. Needs annotation.
Women, Work, and Politics: The Political Economy of Gender Inequality by Torben Iversen and Frances Rosenbluth, 2011. Looking at women’s power in the home, the workplace, and politics, Iversen and Rosenbluth see gender equality related to demand for women’s labor outside the home, which is a function of a society’s political economy. With this perspective, they explain some oddities of modern gender politics: why women vote differently from men; why U.S. women are better represented in the workforce than in other countries but less well represented in politics; why men share the household work more in some countries than in others; and why some countries have such low fertility rates. (RLB)
Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You with the Bill by David Cay Johnston, 2008. Needs annotation.
Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign To Rig Our Tax System To Benefit the Super Rich – and Cheat Everybody Else by David Cay Johnston, 2005. Needs annotation.
Billionaire’s Ball: Gluttony and Hubris in an Age of Epic Inequality by Linda McQuaig and Neil Brooks. Needs annotation.
Degrees of Inequality: How the Politics of Higher Education Sabotaged the American Dream by Suzanne Mettler. Needs annotation.
Degrees of Inequality: Culture, Class, and Gender in American Higher Education. (Yale vs. Southern Connecticut University) Needs annotation.
House of Debt: How They (and You) Caused the Great Recession, and How We Can Prevent It from Happening Again by Atif Mian and Amir Sufi. Needs annotation.
Big-Box Swindle: The True Cost of Mega Retailers and the Fight for America’s Independent Businesses by Stacy Mitchell. Needs annotation.
(Not) Keeping Up With Our Parents: The Decline of the Professional Middle Class by Nan Mooney. Needs annotation.
The Missing Class: Portraits of the Near Poor in America by Katherine Newman and Victor Tan Chen. Needs annotation.
The Rich Don’t Always Win: The Forgotten Triumph over Plutocracy That Created the American Middle Class, 1900-1970 by Sam Pizzigati. Needs annotation.
Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to American Public Schools by Diane Ravitch, 2013. U.S. education expert Diane Ravitch follows her best-selling The Death and Life of the Great American School System (2010) with this thoroughly researched, methodical, and insightful expose of the anti-union corporate privatization agenda behind the current education reform movement. The book skewers common “reform” myths -– both of public school failure and of “market reform” successes, revealing the shocking lack of evidence behind charter schools, teacher and school ratings by poorly conceived student tests, and the narrowed focus on reading and math. To gain broad equality and higher quality education for all children, Ravitch advocates truly progressive public school solutions — widely available and rigorous preschools, lower class sizes, better teacher training, and comprehensive social services for the families of students to reduce the effects of economic inequality and poverty. (RLB)
What Unions No Longer Do by Jake Rosenfield, 2014. Well researched and convincingly argued, this book details what unions used to do as core institutions for lessening inequality and empowering workers (even non-union workers in substantially unionized industries) – and what our nation has lost as union strength has waned. Rosenfeld demonstrates that the dwindling of organized labor in the U.S. is one major cause of our soaring economic inequality and the decline of the middle class. This is an important book for all those concerned about economic justice for future generations. (RLB)
Social Insecurity: 401(k)s and the Retirement Crisis by James W. Russell. Needs annotation.
Environmental Justice and Environmentalism: The Social Justice Challenge to the Environmental Movement ed. by Ronald Sandler and Phaedra C. Pezzullo. . Needs annotation
Black Wealth/White Wealth by Thomas M. Shapiro, 20??.
The Hidden Cost of Being African American: How Wealth Perpetuates Inequality by Thomas M. Shapiro, 2005. Since the 70’s, racial prejudice in America has declined. Yet, even when employment and income parity is achieved, racial inequality persists in asset accumulation –- family inheritances or gifts, savings accounts, home equity, etc. Shapiro uses in-depth interviews and national surveys to show how racial inequality passes across generations. With some private assets, families can move up, relocating to safer neighborhoods with better schools, and handing down related advantages to their children. Those without assets stay trapped in communities that hinder any rise, no matter how hard they work. White middle class people should realize how even modest disparity in assets improve their own chances and work against people who don’t have them. (RLB)
The Working Poor: Invisible in America by David K. Shipler, 2005. Needs annotation
Bridging the Class Divide: And Other Lessons for Grassroots Organizing by Linda Stout and Howard Zinn. Needs annotation.
Good White People: The Problem with Middle-Class White Anti-Racism by Shannon Sullivan, 2014. Needs annotation.
The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap by Matt Taibbi and Molly Crabapple. Needs annotation.
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance. Needs annotation.
Traveling Light: On the Road with America’s Poor by Kath Weston. Needs annotation.
More than Just Race: Being Black and Poor in the Inner City by William Julius Wilson, 2010. Explanations of urban racial inequality and poverty often fall into two perspectives – conservative explanations based on a black “culture of poverty” and liberal explanations emphasizing structural or institutional racism. In this brief 155 page monograph, Wilson, an eminent Harvard sociologist of race, advances a more detailed and dynamic framework that shows not only how social structure and culture each contribute but also how they interact to the disadvantage of urban blacks under the economic pressures felt by all middle-class and poor Americans. Wilson applies this framework to detailed accounts of three politically fraught issues: the persistence of the inner-city ghetto, the plight of low-skilled black males, and the fragmentation of the African-American family. Wilson argues that his framework is needed to shape not only effective policies to reduce racial inequality but also the political framing needed to gain public support for them.
The XX Factor: How the Rise of Working Women Has Created a Far Less Equal World by Alison Wolf. Needs annotation.
Why Unions Matter, by Michael D. Yates. Needs annotation.