Books I Recommend
This is a short list of informative, readable and not-too-long books on current affairs that I recommend.
THE DEEP STATE: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government by Mike Lofgren (2016)
The “deep state” is Mike Lofgren’s term for an interlocking directorate that includes the military-industrial complex, the NSA and CIA, Wall Street and key Silicon Valley corporations. What they have in common is that they break the law with impunity and set public policy without regard to public opinion or election results. Lofgren is a former Washington insider who has seen how the deep state operates. He was a Republican congressional staff member for 28 years, including 16 years as a senior analyst on the House and Senate budget committees. His book is a brief, but clear and broad survey of how the deep state operates, its abuses of power and how its different elements work together to mutually reinforce their power.
ONLY ONE THING CAN SAVE US: Why America Needs a New Kind of Labor Movement by Thomas Geoghegan (2014)
Thomas Geoghegan, with wit, wisdom and hard-won lessons from his experience as a labor lawyer in Chicago, argues that the only thing that can save the USA from decline is a strong labor union movement. Without unions to defend the interests of working people, employers will continue to drive down wages and the benefits of growth will continue to flow to a tiny economic elite. Owners of financial assets will find it more profitable to invest in debt than in production. Electing Democrats won’t necessarily save us, Geoghegan argues, nor will sending more people to college. He advocates new strategies, including members-only unions, making union membership a civil right and changing corporate law to give employees a voice.
THE DIVIDE: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap by Matt Taibbi (2014)
In a free society, nobody should be so rich and powerful that they are above obedience to the law, and nobody should be so poor and powerless that they are below the law’s production. In this book, Matt Taibbi tells how far the United States has drifted from this principle. He tells two kinds of stories. One is about how super-rich people can commit crimes with impunity. The other is about now poor and marginal people can be arrested and punished for trivialities or for other at all. Both kinds of stories are outrageous, but the combination is what should make your blood boil. Taibbi is a skilled and fearless investigator, a brilliant writer and a clear explainer of the complex, and all his talents on are display in this book.
GLOBAL WEIRDNESS: Severe Storms, Deadly Heat Waves, Relentless Drought, Rising Seas and the Weather of the Future by Climate Central (2012)
Despite the sensationalism of the title, this is an objective summary of the current state of climate science, written in matter-of-fact lay language in short Q&A format. The anonymous writers clearly explain how climate scientists reach their conclusions, the degrees of certainty and uncertainty and what they don’t know. The facts, however, justify the title. It is a certainty that the world is in for severe storms, deadly heat waves, relentless drought and rising seas. That would be true because of the present state of the atmosphere even if greenhouse gas emissions ceased immediately. But in fact the impact will be much worse as emissions of CO2, methane and other greenhouse gasses continue—although nobody knows for sure how much worse.
THE HEALING OF AMERICA: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper and Fairer Health Care by T.R. Reid (2009)
This is the best book I’ve read on health care reform. T.R. Reid traveled to Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Canada and other countries and compared their health care system to the U.S. system. All countries have their problems, he wrote, but other advanced countries provide universal health care, which the United States does not, while spending less on health care than the U.S. does. Part of the reason is that medical professionals are paid less in other advanced countries, part is that other countries regulate drug prices and part is that they don’t have for-profit insurance companies standing between the patient and the doctor. A lot of it is that their systems are simple while U.S. health insurance is a hodgepodge.