on September 18, 2011
This book won't appeal to the doctrinaire conservatives who have a gut reaction to any criticism of trickle down economics, a tax-free society, and unfettered capitalism, but should appeal to anyone who has an open mind and wants to be able to make informed decisions about our country's future, and who should be allowed to lead us. Hearing [or reading] both sides is essential, and a dialogue more important that a constant monologue of the same old failed beliefs. [Note: If you're a Rush fan, as I once was, you don't want to think, so you can stop here]
As a lifelong fiscal conservative, I have a very different view of what passes for conservatism today - slogans and gut beliefs that pass for wisdom and knowledge. I believe that we conservatives [to the extent I want to place myself with those who currently claim to be conservatives] are ignoring evidence that these beliefs are not an answer to all of society's ills and are buying into hype and myths about economics and government with which we have been inundated for the last 3 decades. This book is one that gives us a broader look, so we understand why "capitalism" isn't working for the vast majority of our society.
I can recommend the book as an easy read that hopefully makes the reader realize that one simple value system doesn't serve well to solve our problems. Adam Smith, the darling of the free marketers, understood that unregulated capitalism has its own set of problems - the trick is to find balance. This book helps us understand why.
As a conservative, I want to protect the economic system that made the USA a powerful economic power leading to a large middle class, relatively stable economies, and the lack of recurring depressions that formerly plagued our economy. I don't believe that government and money for social problems solves every ill of society, but they both have their place in the balance. Just as liberals went overboard in throwing money at problems starting in the 60's, what currently pass for conservatism errs in strangling government so that no solutions are acceptable. This book, and those like it, are important to prevent the dysfunction caused by the polarization of debate that is driving the country over the edge. This book is one piece of the education effort to help us avoid making the mistakes of the past, mistakes that are destroying the wealth of the middle class and that of our children.
Author Joshua Holland comes out swinging against the rhetoric and arguments that conservatives and Republicans have been inundating media and blogs with, in the past several years about the future and stability of our economy.
Holland takes fifteen topics, topics on taxes, jobs, corporations, free trade, illegal immigration, unions, healthcare, the deficit, minorities, and socialism, to name a few, and demolishes their arguments and charges that Republicans misinform the public to instill fear in the electorate.
For years, Republicans and conservatives have turned their message into an art form of slogans and falsehoods that do not stand scrutiny when Holland gives you the analysis, the stats, or the historical reality behind each of them.
Holland's prose is somewhere between strident and measured, but lucid and factual. He offers percentages and charts that are easy to follow and do not bore. He demonstrates clearly how corporations and lobbyists control the message and determine everything from legislation to trade agreements.
This is for the avid observer of the political struggle that is currently raging in this country. This is especially informative for the person whose political awareness is just germinating. The very well informed may wish to read this to recall things momentarily forgotten.
It is an alarming story and a depressing one. It is the story of our country being owned by the entities just described, how legislators do the bidding of their contributors rather than citizens, how our government does more to protect business than consumers.
What was just as important is what Holland didn't say. He was describing the slow strangulation of the death of a republic that was bought through avarice and greed with a powerful message of fear, and the perversion of a dream that belonged to our Founding Fathers.
I can give you fifteen reason why you might want to read this.
I also recommend the following:
The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot
Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and StickYou with the Bill)
Over the Cliff: How Obama's Election Drove the American Right Insane
Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich--and Cheat Everybody Else
The Looting of America: How Wall Street's Game of Fantasy Finance Destroyed Our Jobs, Pensions, and Prosperity—and What We Can Do About It
"The Fifteen Biggest Lies About the Economy" provides a lot of good information about how Americans have been misled by our leaders about a wide variety of topics to suit their own political agenda. Whether it be the myth about how tax cuts for the wealthy increases jobs and/or spending (it doesn't--the wealthy spent the LEAST amount of their free capital and rarely do tax cuts for the wealthy or corporations lead to the creation of jobs); the health care debacle of last year (and how loaded PR terms like "Death Panels" were fed to the American public by insurance companies to discourage the option--note the word OPTION--of National Healthcare in addition to private insurance); how American politicans because of re-election funds have allowed jobs to be exported to other countries or the fact that, somehow, you and I casued the banking crisis (it was Wall Street pushing their own agenda and getting sloppy that caused the melt down of the economy) author Joshua Holland sheds light on a variety of lies that have been perpetuated in the media by politicians.
The problem with Holland's book is that there are some factual errors (not huge ones but big enough for someone to discredit some of his rants)and the fact that Holland's tone in the book is unlikely to sway those who don't already believe that these are all myths or lies. If Holland is going to sway those who don't believe this and buy into the political agendas "sold" to them by their party of choice (and there are good guys and bad guys on both ends of the political spectrum that have been compromised by the lack of ethics in politics and corporate America).
Still, the fact that Holland sheds light on these "lies" calling out various politicians and companies for their greedy, unethical behavior IS important and he does a pretty good job with his facts and support arguments. The main problem is that this book will never reach beyond the core audience that already believes all of this and knows much of it already. I just wish that his book came off less as an extended rant and more as a well balanced, thoughtful argument for reform in our society.
The fact is that we've witnessed the gutting of our economy and American way of life by multinational corporations that have no ties beyond greed. I just wish that Holland's book would reach beyond the scope of those who already see problems in our country and provided some fair balanced observations about solutions.
These books seem to never be targeted at the readers that need them. As is the case for many liberal books, it does a good job of debunking the far Right's memetic gospel, but it's targeted mainly at us... and if we know anything at all about politics, we know pretty much everything in here already. It might shave off a few thoughtful moderates and disaffected evangelical Christians, but it fails miserably at speaking the right wing's quasi-Orwellian language of "free markets" and "liberties". (It won't do anything for the vast abyss of low-information voters of either party, but that's unavoidable.)
There are sincere conservatives who take terms like the above in their face value, non-Orwellian senses; trying to reach those people should be the job of a book like this, and to do that, it has to be couched in the philosophies of the conservative elite. With all the references to check the authors' work, this makes for an excellent starting point for researching a debate or political platform, but it's a waste of time to try to recommend it to the people who need most to read it. As a result, my star rating is probably inflated; it's only as high as it is because of the diligent research involved. But preaching to the choir continues to be a major problem on the Left, and the authors make no effort to create the subversive logic bomb that this book should be.
Joshua Holland is angry. Angry at misrepresentations of fact, distortions and cherry picking of statistics, angry at the right, angry at the left, and unhappy with the disfunctional system displayed at all levels of government. If one sentence sums it up, it would be "privatizing profits while socializing loss".
The Fifteen Biggest Lies about the Economy is billed as a book about economics, but it does not read like a text book. It is lively and informative while adjusting, correcting, and clarifying the information we are fed every day from "the media". Mr. Holland covers topics from socialism, free market, taxes, deficit spending, and social inequities.
The facts are, for the most part, well documented. The tone of writing is angry and at times derogatory. Early on in the book Mr. Holland establishes this tone with deriding commentary on the right wing mouth pieces that populate talk radio. If you are on the right, you may find these comments make YOU angry. I would advise you to ignore them, and read on. While Mr. Holland takes the Keith Olbermann tact of "someone on the left has to be angry to counter the right wing spin machine", it is not a continuous barrage and adds to the overall readability of what Mr. Holland is laying out.
The whole point of this book is to make you think about what you hear every day and not just let it wash over you, while repeating and spreading these same dubious ideas to others. Personally, when someone presents an idea or fact to me, I question its source. "Why do you think that?". "Where did you hear about this?". "What is the source of this statistic or fact?".
Language is a virus, and when ideology driven demagogues use expert marketers like Frank Luntz to craft a message, it is time to read his books and get a flavor for how this is done. Words That Work: It's Not What You Say, It's What People Hear Mr. Luntz could just as easily be employed by the "other side"; his interest is in language that influences opinion, not any particular ideology. Getting others to think about where facts and ideas come from is not putting any particular source down, only making others think a bit more. In short, The Fifteen Biggest Lies about the Economy is well worth the time and consideration of a wide range of audience, as long as you are not in bed with your right wing talk show host.
Although I undoubtedly fall into the liberal target market of this book, I must admit a bit of hesitancy to read it when I first received it. The cover - with the huge red "LIES" screaming out at me, made it feel like I was just going to read another angry diatribe, albeit at least from the side I probably agreed with. I am more in the mood for intelligent conversation and discussion of the issues at this point, and a little less shouting.
However, from the minute you do start reading the book, two things become very apparent. First, Holland is a very good writer, not at all the angry blogger I had expected, so the book is a pleasure to read. And secondly, this book is very well-researched. Holland makes a lot of great points, and backs them up with extensive research and sources. I won't recap the fifteen points, as others have already covered that information quite well, but suffice to say that I enjoyed this book, and learned a few things that solidified my thinking on the current state of politics.
Unfortunately, books like this tend to be read by the converted instead of the people that could really benefit from the info.
A book about the economics is never what most of us look forward to reading, but yet nearly all political decisions are either influenced by the economy or influence what happens to the economy. The purpose of Joshua Holland's book, Lies About the Economy, is to show how rightwing conservatives distort and manipulate facts about the economy to perpetuate their elitist agenda.
His book covers contemporary issues and topics, from the education to free trade. His arguments and analysis are definitely about government policies and decisions geared to protecting the public's interests, over large corporate interests. He argues about the importance of a social safety net for the poor and the working class. He shows how government investment in education, health care, and jobs can help build a more equitable society--not one in which the sole interests of the economic elite are what drives the economy.
He mainly uses research studies to back up his arguments. Writers and analysts from a conservative point of view write similar books using and interpreting research to support their political views and agenda. So it does all come down to your particular political and economic world view.
Thus, I think it would have been useful for Holland to start off his book talking about in general the differences between the liberal/left and conservative/right world view of the economics and politics. This would help better situate his analysis for readers who may not have that prior understanding. It would help explain why your average conservative thinks that big business can solve the economic problems that we face today. Yet most of them don't understand that when 20 percent of Americans own 97% of the nation's wealth, that makes it extremely difficult for the other 80% to raise their kids, receive adequate health care, or in many cases keep a well paying job.
The right-wing ideology in this country is a mixture of greed, selfishness, racism and sexism, and overall lack of compassion for those at the bottom of the economic ladder. This world view helps support and make many in the elite class very rich and powerful.
Holland's book shows us what's wrong with this type of world view and what type of political economy we need to replace it.
The writing in the book is very accessible, and it focuses on current issues. It won't be read by many conservatives, but it's well worth reading if you want to arm yourself against the conservative rhetoric that help shape the economic issues that we face today.
on June 15, 2015
The full title of this book is "The Fifteen Biggest Lies about the Economy and Everything Else the Right Doesn't Want You to Know about Taxes, Jobs, and Corporate America," which, I'm sure you will agree, is something of a mouthful. Written by a senior writer-editor at Alternet, this is a solidly Leftist book.
Which is fine by me.
The lies, in order, each given a chapter, are:
...that limited government means anything would be better for you, personally.
...that America is still the land of opportunity.
...that modern markets exist without government.
...that tax cuts are a magic bullet for the economy.
...that there is a budget apocalypse just over the horizon.
...that women choose motherhood over work (or vice versa).
...that we have, or had (pre-Obamacare), the greatest health care in the world.
...that those poor oppressed corporations need saving from that socialist Obama.
...that environmental activist want to ruin the economy.
...that more progressive governments are always on the brink of bankruptcy.
...that a border-crossing Mexican stole your job.
...that the U.S. economy is a postracial meritocracy.
...that organized labor is corrupt, lazy, and an artifact of a different age.
...that corporations want fewer rules and everyone else is an isolationist Luddite.
This last one is fascinating; Holland shows in detail how "Free Trade" agreements are bad for both developed and developing economies. Actually, they're all fascinating, and together they debunk a lot of the crap the Right's noise machine puts out daily.
It's readable, fairly dense with examples and numbers, and thoroughly feetnoted. I recommend it to anyone with a "conservative" friend. (Note: this book is five years old; some of its facts need updating before use in argument.)
The Fifteen Biggest Lies about the Economy by Joshua Holland
"The Fifteen Biggest Lies about the Economy" is a very good book that debunks the most outrageous right-wing claims about the economy. This 304-page book is composed of the following fifteen chapters: 1. Conservatives Don't Want Good Government, 2. It's Not Your Fault There Aren't Enough Good Jobs, 3. There Is No Free Market, 4. How Could Anyone Believe The Big Banks Are Victims, 5. Tax Cuts Aren't A Solution To Every Problem, 6. Republicans Have Never Cared About The Deficit, 7. America Has No Respect For Family Values, 8. Our Health-Care System Is A Huge Rip-Off, 9. Obama Is Not A Socialist, 10. Green Jobs Are A Great Idea, 11. The Europeans Are All Right, 12. "Illegal" Immigration Isn't Hurting Your Prospects, 13. Blacks Still Kept Back, 14. Unions Still Matter, and 15. There's Nothing Free About Free Trade.
1. A very well-written book that covers the most important myths about our economy.
2. Very accessible book. The author does a wonderful job of conveying his thoughts in a lucid manner without being unintelligible.
3. A very good resource for progressives.
4. Mr. Holland does a wonderful job of debunking right-wing myths about the economy through the use of compelling data, sound arguments and at times even graphs.
5. The rise of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and his economical Roadmap.
6. The economical mobility of Americans explained.
7. Thought-provoking book, "Now, in the era of No Child Left Behind, most kids are being taught to take tests, rather than to think".
8. One of the biggest myths of conservative economics, the existence of an organic "free market".
9. The importance of regulation in the markets and some very good examples.
10. The truth behind the mortgage mess.
11. The truth behind what the rich pay in income taxes.
12. Interesting take on the federal budget.
13. The truth about Social Security and Medicare.
14. Taxes owed but not collected and why!!
15. The truth about the gender gap.
16. The healthcare debate.
17. The myth about the "death panels" arrggg!
18. The truth about lobbyists.
19. "Corporate personhood".
20. The importance of environmental protections. Some examples that will make you mad.
21. The true leaders of renewable energy.
22. The truth about the impact of immigrants to our economy.
23. The impact of NAFTA.
24. The impact of unions.
25. Who really controls trade policy? Find out.
26. Kindle links worked!
27. Great notes section.
1. This book is clearly one-sided and not even-handed.
2. The portrayal of Ann Rand portrayed as a serial killer groupie was unfortunate and unnecessary.
In summary, "The Fifteen Biggest Lies about the Economy" was an interesting read. Mr. Holland does a very good job of making his case by providing logical arguments. The book of course is completely biased to the left but since I'm in agreement with most of his positions it was agreeable to me. Ultimately, the book did meet my expectations. It was thought-provoking, interesting and educational.
on October 23, 2010
Like all highly ideologically books it only preaches to the choir while it ignores, denies, or distorts the vast amount of contradictory data that goes against its dogmas. Now does that everything the author says is incorrect - NO. But unlike other dogmatic ideologues it does mean that he makes some serious errors because his belief is that the left is always right while the right is always wrong. The reality is that both sides make mistakes and both sides get things that correct.
We will start by critiquing the chapters in order.
Chapter One - Just plain silly
First off both parties have different perspectives upon what the government is here to do. Conservatives want good government just as much as liberals, the difference being is that conservative want a small federal government while the liberals want a larger one. So when the author starts with a hyperbolic and inflammatory statement its hard to take him seriously.
The second point of this chapter is how confused the author is between libertarianism and conservatism, many times (pp 26-29) he uses the two terms interchangeably and this shows a gross misunderstanding of two different concepts.
The third point is his utter distortion of Ayn Rand (NOTE: I am not a libertarian and find many of their views frightening). To be honest after reading his critique of her I thought he had to be on some hard drugs, even the most ardent leftist has gotten much more correct than he did. Also the idea that to understand Rand you DONT have to read her instead you have to read someone who opines, with no firsthand knowledge just what she was thinking - Wow, just wow.
Chapter Two - Major Falsehoods
First off he decries that displaced American workers "will get half of his or her wages replaced by unemployment, one of the lowest rates in the developed world." That is true but only half of the story, while most countries give the workers close to their wages in benefits and NOTHING else, the US took a different approach. Here the worker gets about half his wages in cash and then he gets food stamps, reduced utility bills, income tax credits, free child care, free food for his kids, etc. So when you add up all of the extras the American worker is actually finds himself in the middle of the developed world in benefits. This is the sort of distortions and manipulation that you find throughout the book.
The next area of contention is upward mobility in the US. The author cherry picks the only study out there that agrees with his notion that is less in the US than in other industrialized countries. (NOTE: He actually shows that this is not true with a set of different statistics later in the book when he was trying to argue something else, this sort of cherry picking of data makes many of his conclusions highly suspicious).
Although I can point to several studies that dispute the author [...] I can also tell you anecdotally, since I grew up in Europe and work there 4 months out the year that upward mobility in America is a given and almost everyone here knows someone who has 'made it' but those sorts of people are much harder to find in Europe. Also another point that the disputes the authors claim is that he shows that if you are in the born into the top quintile in the US you have a 61% of moving down, in Europe that number is closer to 15%, showing that money in the US and wealth is constantly trading hands while in Europe once rich always rich.
Chapter Three - Nothing notable
The only really thing wrong with this chapter is that the author builds a strawman and tears it down. I know of no conservative or libertarian that believes we have truly free markets.
Chapter Four - And now the rest of the story
In trying to explain the housing crash in America the author completely ignored the reasons WHY this was allowed to happen and instead explained how it happened after the rules and laws were changed. To get a real understanding of the problems the author would have to talked about the 4 different legislative changes that were made that ALLOWED all of the skullduggery to happen. Instead he only talked about the last one - WHY because the first three were partisan bills pushed forth by the Democrats and signed by Democratic presidents. Don't really want to get political but that are the facts and without a truthful telling of why the laws were changed that allowed this happen you really are only getting partisan spin.
Also, unlike the author claims that no one knew this was going to happen we have both President Bush and Senator McCain raising alarms on several occasions only to be shot down by the likes of Senator Frank and Senator Dodd, two of the masterminds of the legislation that caused this whole mess. Then ironically the author is championing Dodd as the rescuer of the country completely ignoring his pivotal role in creating this whole debacle.
Chapter Five - Nothing majorly wrong here
Just one note on pg 83 the author is very confused over federal and state tax receipts. He believes that if federal tax receipts falls because of a reduction in FEDERAL income tax than state income taxes must also fall. This is patently false, state income tax rates are set by the states and in most cases you pay more state tax if you federal income tax goes down.
Chapter Six - WOW, just wow.
Two major problems in this chapter. #1 Presidents cannot spend money only congress can, therefore if we want to know who is more fiscally conservative you need to look at spending done by congress when the Democrats control it vs the Republicans. For the last 35 years the numbers break this way (and to be fair I took out the last years of Democratic control due to the unusual nature of the economy)
Democratic controlled congress average increase in Deficit per year 414 Billion
Republican controlled congress average increase in Deficit per year 164 Billion
Neither party controlled congress average increase in Deficit per year 221 Billion
I think the facts are pretty clear Republicans spend much less than Democrats do.
The second major, no HUGE problem with this chapter is the BS that "there is no entitlement crisis" Seriously now anyone with a IQ higher than a turnip can read the Social Security report, the Medicare report and the CBO report and they are all screaming about the looming crisis. Many estimates see 70 - 100 Trillion in unfunded liability over the next 40 years. The Social Security administration has projected the will go negative in2014 now due the downturn of the economy. Make no mistake about it entitlements are huge, they take up 60% of our federal budget and the scary part is that we don't show any of the unfunded liability on the books. There is no private insurance company that would be allowed to operate in this manner but the federal government does it and ding-dongs like this writer keep trying to pull the wool over the public eyes - pathetic.
Chapter Seven - Grasping at straws
The bottom line is this while European countries have better laws on the books many (73% by last study) American companies give equal or more generous benefits to women.
Chapter Eight - He's right but argues in a false way
If the politicians would be honest with the American people about Single payer I think most would want it. Instead we have one side singing BS praises that it will save us money or be revenue neutral - It won't it will cost us huge dollars but they can be made up when the people see the benefits. However the main hurdle in all of this will be the AMA and nurses unions, since in order to have health care be competitive with the world we will have to pay our doctors and health care providers similar wages as other industrialized nations and this will cause a major revolt.
The facts are clear we cannot pay the same wages that the health care workers earn right now and go to a single payer.
Chapter Nine - A lot of twisted thinking
I won't go through them all but just highlight a few.
"You'll never see a corporate mouthpiece arguing on a cable news how that increasing the minimum wage will hurt fast-food companies bottom lines'; it's always about the jobs that will be destroyed."
Well duh- labor costs are pass through costs to the consumer so an increase does not affect the bottom line, they affect prices consumers pay. Also almost every study I have read has shown a correlation in the food industries to lower working hours with every minimum wage increase. In this case the author just doesn't get it.
"You'll never hear a speaker at a Tea Party event discussing campaign finance or lobbying reforms"
LOL - I was walking at our local downtown park when a tea party meeting was being held so I stopped by to listen in and they were discussing the importance of campaign finance reform. Oh well more hyperbole from the author.
"But historian Thom Hartmann"
He mentions Thom Hartmann several times in the book as a historian, sorry Mr. Holland Mr. Hartmann is a far left political pundit that has a degree from a correspondence course in homeopathic medicine or he also has a degree in herbology (I'm not kidding). Wow this makes a historian on the far left huh- I guess than the right can claim that Rush Limbaugh is a nuclear physicist and Glenn Beck is a philosopher.
I can go on and on but I think you get the point, it's just written for the choir so if you are on the far left you will love it.
Racism - The author seems either racist or hyperactive in mention race at every chance he can - it starts on page 2 and never ends to the end of the book and it gets tiring after a while. It would be nice if the extreme left actually embraced MLK's teaching of a colorblind society rather than trying to stoke racial tensions.
European Exceptionalism - If the author thinks Europe is so great (I'm European remember) why not follow some of the programs that are working really well, such as lowering corporate taxes. American has the second highest corporate tax rate in the world and soon, if Obama gets his way, we will be number one. Europe realized many decades ago that to have a vibrant middle class businesses must be able to compete and tax rates and regulatory loopholes are a major burden (along with health care costs in the US). So I suggest we follow the European model and lower corporate taxes and reduce regulations (I say this from a business owners standpoint that has both American and European Businesses - it's actually easier, quicker and cheaper to open and operate a business in western Europe than in America, hence why so many American companies are fleeing.
Unions - Once again we need to examine how unions operate in the US vs the rest of the world and we will see a huge differances. In America unions are anti-management and their goal is extort the highest wages and benefits possible, there is no competition and unions protect the bad apples rather than wishing them to be removed from their ranks. In Europe unions have a seat at the table and work with management to help increase productivity and profits, there is competition between competing unions and it is the unions that fire bad apples because it is bad for them and the business THEY represent. Ironically unions in Europe work on a free market concept, while those in America are almost fascistic. Also just to bring some facts to the table not all European countries have high union rates, France which the author extols as a great place for labor has about 10% of its workforce in a union.
Another point about Europe is tax rates, true they have higher personal taxes but get more services, what the author and the left conveniently fail to mention is that all but the very bottom of the economic ladder (the bottom 7% in the avg western European country pay no income taxes) In America that number is a staggering 44% of the population pays no income tax. In order to pay for all of these social ALL of society, even the working poor must pay 25-35% of their paychecks to taxes, this is anathema to the left in America.
If you are a leftists this will be an automatic 5 star book since it parrots everything you want to hear.
If you are a right-winger it will be an automatic 1 star book since it goes against all of your talking points.
If you are a centrist/independent type person you will find some meat in the book but too many generalizations and ignoring of data that disputes the foregone conclusion to make it worth much.