Over the years, I have enjoyed reading Matt Taibbi’s current events articles in Rolling Stone, although I did feel at times that his over the top, (but funny) vitriolic name calling cut into his credibility. He is undeniably intelligent and is excellent at explaining complex issues in easy to understand and entertaining prose.
For the first time, I delved into one of his books, The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap. Here Taibbi investigates the banking/housing financial crisis of 2008, where clearly fraudulent business practices led to the loss of 40% of the world’s wealth, but almost no one went to jail, alongside the proactive policing of the poor that is filling our jails even though crime is declining.
One thing he uncovers is that government agencies are reluctant to go after wealthy corporations because it would cost so much to bring those cases to trial and would be harder to win, because of the top notch lawyers these corporations can employ. On the other hand, the poor are vulnerable and easy to convict; low hanging fruit.
I ask myself if this is anything new. Hasn’t this divide always existed? Taibbi argues that the divide is growing and threatens our country’s foundational values.
I picked up this book expecting something completely different than what it actually is. The quick blurb I read about the book said something about how the author had moved from Finland to the United States, and was reflecting on how Nordic attitudes could improve life in the US. I was expecting a light-hearted look at cultural differences, such as food and traditions. What I got was an in-depth look at the how the political policies of the Nordic countries reduce income inequality, provide universal healthcare to all citizens, provide free education through college, and guarantee medical and parental leave. This allows people to live relatively free from the constant fear of doing into debt for medical or higher education. As she says, the American dream is alive and well in Finland.
Another great thing about this book was the effort she took to seriously consider all of the concerns that Americans have about adopting these types of social programs. For instance, she addresses the concern over higher taxes by comparing real tax rates for people in all income levels.
If you’ve ever looked at taxes, health insurance, college loans, or child care and thought “There has to be a better way”, this book might be for you.