From Publishers Weekly
In this short, punchy polemic from urban affairs expert Malanga, the gloves come off right away. Malanga decries what he sees as the leftward tilt in the nation's cities, where, he says, the heirs of the original New Left, 1960s social and political activists, have retreated in the face of right-wing dominance on the national scene. This development, he contends, pits ordinary taxpayers against "tax eaters," an "increasingly cynical coalition" of public-employee unions and social service providers. In his view, these groups drag down city and state economies with expensive programs and onerous laws that serve only to boost their own ranks. He also argues that union-supported living wage legislation sends businesses elsewhere; university labor studies programs exist merely to provide foot soldiers for union organizers; and Wal-Mart opponents undermine America's consumer-driven economy. "Radical left wing" groups like ACORN, a community organization of low-and moderate-income families incur the author's particular scorn, as do journalists Barbara Ehrenreich and David Shipler, so-called "prophets of victimology." However, beyond delivering "bad news" in lively, op-ed style chapters, the author is silent on the problems faced by many low-wage workers. For Malanga, the antidote to the country's economic ills is entrepreneurship, a curious claim when one considers that independent businesses are the very ones threatened by the expansion of superstores like Wal-Mart. In a concluding paean to small business owners, Malanga says, "urban health results from city governments doing the basics well and then allowing the marketplace to work its magic for everyone." He neglects, however, to explore how communities should respond to the issues faced by people whom the magic never touches.
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Purporting to set aside Left and Right, red and blue, Malanga argues that the defining dynamic of divided America is actually animosity between those who pay taxes and those who tap public funds. Examining the sometimes conflicting interests--and hence political valences--of taxpayers and "tax eaters," this book claims that the cumulative power of multiple groups demanding public monies hamstrings municipalities and saps efficient government. Familiar to readers of the New York Post
and New York Sun
op-ed pages, Malanga's perspective is very much informed by his proximity to big-city politics; his most nuanced moments are devoted to the Bronx Democratic Party and modern-day echoes of Tammany Hall. Extrapolated to the national sphere, however, his editorial essays are less original, unsubtly amplifying right-wing criticism of labor unions, socialist university professors, and Barbara Ehrenreich. Though it may attract and please readers who would otherwise ignore a book about New York City Hall, this book's partisan bite ultimately overshadows its otherwise intriguing attempt to reassess traditional political dichotomies. Brendan DriscollCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved