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Book Review of: Screwed

he Undeclared War Against the Middle Class - And What We Can Do about It

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Review of Screwed, by Author (Hardcover, 2010)

(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you want a hardcopy)

Reviewer: Mark Lamendola, author of over 6,000 articles.

The middle class really is getting screwed. And in many ways, too. From my book collection, I could probably assemble three dozen titles to illustrate this. Check out the documentaries in your public library's video section, and this becomes even more evident.

Thus, I had high hopes for this book. Its title and subtitle held forth promises of insight and revelations on hot button issues that affect us all. Those hopes were quickly dashed, and those promises were quickly broken.

Unfortunately, this book is a weapon for "the other side." The author makes it look like anyone opposed to the looting, polluting, stealing, and other crimes done by the corporate elite to the "farm animal class" (everyone else) must be ignorant and unable to form a fact-based argument.

Our first clue is the Foreword, which made no sense. OK, sometimes an idiot endorses a book. So we go past that to the book itself, and it doesn't get better. The author sees everything through the "liberal" lens. The word "liberal" in this usage is one that has been co-opted by people who aren't liberal and who view the world as "Democrats are good, Republicans are bad and if we get rid of the Republicans all will be well."

Right off the bat, the author conveys the message that it's those evil Republicans who have enabled corporations to screw us. And, if I understand the author, Ronald Reagan single-handedly unleashed upon us the screwing of the middle class.

Now, I'm not saying Republicans are good. I am saying that, based on the $4 trillion of debt added by Clinton in 8 years, the $4 trillion of debt added by Bush in 8 years, and the $4 trillion of debt added by Obama in 10 months, you really have to be daft to assert there is a meaningful difference between either wing of The Party. And they've had alternating control of Legislative+Executive, but the plundering has continued unabated regardless.

So it's not a D versus R thing, because while the rhetoric may change--the reality does not. That kind of delusion obfuscates the issues and misdirects our attention from where it needs to be. The whole D v. R thing at "election" time reminds me of the joke about the soldiers who wanted a change of underwear (if you haven't heard it, sorry).

OK, so maybe the author can't agree that 4 = 4. Not everyone is good at math. However, he is profoundly ignorant in other areas, but that didn't stop him from making statements as if he's an expert in those areas.

He repeatedly calls our form of government a democracy (it's not) and says something that Jefferson said and supposedly Jefferson was talking about keeping democracy alive. Actually, Jefferson gave a strong warning about the danger of a democracy and admonished us to never let our republic degenerate into one. George Washington also warned against democracy.

The author uses the phrase "health care" to mean "medical care insurance" and thus he makes many statements that are false on their face due to this incorrect word choice. But even if we substitute what we might think he means for what he actually says, those statements are still left just hanging there to be accepted by faith.

I normally finish any book I start, but in this one the barrage of false statements was too intense for me to endure. I got so sick of this sloppy, poorly researched, unethical writing that I quit reading after the first few chapters. If the author, by some miracle, made a cogent argument, I didn't endure the torture long enough to come across it.I did skim ahead, looking for something of redeeming value.

What I found was revisionist history and glowing praise for FDR's bad public policies that turned a market trough into a sustained economic depression that lasted for almost an entire generation. If you'll go back and look at the actual numbers, you'll see the economy was actually beginning to recover just as FDR started destroying wealth via his spending sprees. That is what cause the economy to stay down for so long. (Hint: When you remove capital from a capitalist economy, you do not make it stronger).

FDR's pork barrel spending sucked away capital that businesses could have used to provide jobs. Government spending is, by definition, overhead. That isn't a bad thing in itself. But the more you increase overhead, the harder that overhead is to carry--instead of investing in new equipment and hiring people, you pay on government debt. This is why, for example, a small business with 100 employees doesn't run out and hire 20 HR people and 20 accountants. There isn't enough labor to carry that overhead.

The author claims Reagan didn't understand economics, yet he himself is ignorant of a fundamental economic principle.

I could not help but conclude that the position of the middle class was undermined by this book. The author if, considered speaking for all of us, makes our stance on our plight look baseless. The folks on "the other side" merely have to trot out this book and start tearing apart the various false statements the author made.

Fallacious logic and fiction presented as fact have no place in any kind of discourse on important issues. They are not valid substitutes for honest discussion. If we are to be taken seriously, if we want to stop being disenfranchised, if we are to stop the rampant plundering, we must clearly articulate the problems in an honest way. We have to get our facts right.

When people get fundamental facts wrong, as this author did, and publish a book on the topic, there is fallout on those who hold forth the basic premise of the book. "Guilt by association" is a powerful propaganda technique. This author has handed a propaganda bonanza to those who treat the middle class as mere farm animals.




About these reviews

You may be wondering why the reviews here are any different from the hundreds of "reviews" posted online. Notice the quotation marks?

I've been reviewing books for sites like Amazon for many years now, and it dismays me that Amazon found it necessary to post a minimum word count for reviews. It further dismays me that it's only 20 words. If that's all you have to say about a book, why bother?

And why waste everyone else's time with such drivel? As a reader of such reviews, I feel like I am being told that I do not matter. The flippancy of people who write these terse "reviews" is insulting to the authors also, I would suspect.

This sound bite blathering taking the place of any actual communication is increasingly a problem in our mindless, blog-posting Webosphere. Sadly, Google rewards such pointlessness as "content" so we just get more if this inanity.

My reviews, contrary to current (non) standards, actually tell you about the book. I always got an "A" on a book review I did as a kid (that's how I remember it anyhow, and it's my story so I'm sticking to it). A book review contains certain elements and has a logical structure. It informs the reader about the book.

A book review may also tell the reader whether the reviewer liked it, but revealing a reviewer's personal taste is not necessary for an informative book review.

About your reviewer

  • Books are a passion of mine. I read dozens of them each year, plus I listen to audio books.
  • Most of my "reading diet" consists of nonfiction. I think life is too short to use your limited reading time on material that has little or no substance. That leads into my next point...
  • In 1990, I stopped watching television. I have not missed it. At all.
  • I was first published as a preteen. I wrote an essay, and my teacher submitted it to the local paper.
  • For six years, I worked as an editor for a trade publication. I left that job in 2002, and still do freelance editing and authoring for that publication (and for other publications).
  • No book has emerged from my mind onto the best-seller list. So maybe I'm presumptuous in judging the work of others. Then again, I do more describing than judging in my reviews. And I have so many articles now published that I stopped counting them at 6,000. When did I stop? Probably 20,000 articles ago! (It's been a while).
  • I have an engineering degree and an MBA, among other "quant" degrees. That helps explain my methodical approach toward reviews.
  • You probably don't know anybody who has made a perfect or near perfect score on a test of Standard Written English. I have. So, a credential for whatever it's worth.

About reading style

No, I do not "speed read" through these. That said, I do read at a fast rate. But, in contrast to speed reading, I read everything when I read a book for review.

Speed reading is a specialized type of reading that requires skipping text as you go. Using this technique, I've been able to consistently "max out" a speed reading machine at 2080 words per minute with 80% comprehension. This method is great if you are out to show how fast you can read. But I didn't use it in graduate school and I don't use it now. I think it takes the joy out of reading, and that pleasure is a big part of why I read.

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