Two Authors View America From Above and Below, and Are Not Happy With What They See – The New York Times

Posted: October 1, 2021 at 7:32 am

In Clarksburg, we meet some of the victims, longtime employees who lose their health coverage and pensions. Poverty and diminishing opportunity in West Virginia also make it prime recruiting country for our all-volunteer military, and we meet badly damaged veterans. Recruitment from such communities enhances Washingtons ability to wage war and to keep America safe, including the speculators in Greenwich and the politicians in the nations capital, who are also kept safe from having their sons and daughters serve in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Perhaps local legislators should do better than Congress. Not so in West Virginia, where the legislature is allied with industry, and does little to protect its citizens, even when Freedom Industries, co-founded by a former cocaine dealer and tax evader, spills toxic chemicals into the Charleston water supply.

In Chicago, Osnos shows us the continuing struggle of African American children to get an education, and to avoid a largely hostile police force in an underfunded city. Many of them have never seen the lake, nor Michigan Avenue and its magnificent mile. What would either mean to them? Such exclusion from the best that the country has to offer is a running theme and, as Osnos notes, many of the Capitol rioters were visiting D.C. for the first time.

Some will find Osnoss picture too dark, too one-sided. American capitalism still permits many to flourish, and it supplies us with an immense range of goods and services. Yet it is true that Washington is largely hobbled by the needs of campaign finance and the clamor of lobbyists. And as corporations and the rich avoid taxes, and as health care devours one in every five dollars without delivering good health, federal and local governments are increasingly struggling to fund the police, teachers, roads and public health. For those without a four-year college degree, life is getting worse; their lives have become more painful and, since 2010, their life spans have shortened, even before the Covid pandemic. It is also true that our country has been polarized and paralyzed before, most recently in the 1960s, and we have not descended into another civil war.

In The Raging 2020s, Alec Ross similarly argues that our social contract is broken, that the roles of business, labor, government and foreign countries need to be rethought, and he supplies several of his favorite templates. Osnoss view is from the ground, Rosss view, that of the policy wonk, is from above, not the view of the people nor even the politicians. The best chapter (by far) is an immensely (and unusually) readable account of how tax havens and the competition between countries have allowed multinational companies, especially the big tech companies, to avoid paying taxes in any of the many jurisdictions in which they operate.

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Two Authors View America From Above and Below, and Are Not Happy With What They See - The New York Times

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