Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Book review: Free Lunch

TitleFree Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You with the Bill)
AuthorDavid Cay Johnston
Tagsgovernment, politics, wealth, corruption
Your reviewThe most important book I've read since I started reviewing books on Library Thing is The Shock Doctrine, by Naomi Klein. Free Lunch may be the second most important book, and both of these are my top picks for books the next President should take to the White House (a concept stolen from the blog for the PBS show Bill Moyers' Journal).

Free Lunch is an expose by a reporter with over 30 years experience, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist named David Cay Johnston. He details many of the ways the government has, since 1980, given advantages to the wealthy, especially the super wealthy, at the expense of the rest of us. From the sports team investors and other businesses that get subsidies and tax breaks that destroy the ability of local governments to provide services, to the illegality of the government negotiating for the best drug prices, to the deregulation of electric power generation in a way that caused prices to soar while services grew worse, to the horrors of non-profit health care becoming profit-making centers, those with the power to regulate and appropriate have contributed to income inequality as great as it was before the Great Depression.

This book complements well Paul Krugman's Conscience of a Liberal, although that book was a history of the political economy of the U.S. since the Great Depression while this one is on abuses since 1980... yet they overlap in places. In particular, they both tell the same story of the health care industry. Johnston says, "Another study estimated that two-thirds of the administrative costs of for-profit insurers are spent on care denial...Americans spend nearly 6 times the average of what 13 other countries do on health care..." We spend so much on health care so that insurers can REFUSE to pay for health care for those they insure.

If you only read two books this year, my suggestion would be The Shock Doctrine and Free Lunch.
PublicationPortfolio Hardcover (2007), Hardcover, 352 pages

Publication date2007
ISBN1591841917 / 9781591841913

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