1. The Price of Inequality
Subtitle: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future
Author: Joseph E. Stiglitz
Summary: Explains how well-heeled interests have compounded their wealth at the expense of the rest of the country, favoring huge companies and inherited wealth and creating a hostile environment for entrepreneurs and small business.
Best Quote: “Remarkably, in the heyday of unbridled capitalism, the early years of the century, a period in which inequality at the top increased at historic rates, there was no private sector job creation. And if we exclude construction–based on a real estate bubble–the record looks even worse. Not only doesn’t the money given to the top not necessarily go into ‘job creation’ and innovation; some of it goes into distorting our politics, especially in this new era of unbridled campaign contributions ushered in by Citizens United. What we have seen quite clearly is that a common use of wealth is to gain advantage in rent seeking, perpetuating inequalities through the political process.”
2. Clinton Cash
Subtitle: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich
Author: Peter Schweizer
Summary: A meticulously researched, well-sourced exposé of the highly questionable financial dealings of an ethically-challenged political family. It amply illustrates that Hillary Clinton is too compromised by (and beholden to) moneyed interests to drive meaningful financial reform.
Best Quote: “The global dealings of this political couple deserve bipartisan citizen attention as much as congressional insider training and campaign contribution extortion did. No one has even come close in recent years to enriching themselves on the scale of the Clintons while they or a spouse continued to serve in public office. The ability of any other ex-politician, whether a former president, senator, or congressman, Republican or Democrat, to accumulate such large amounts of money in such a short period of time is unmatched. It’s not even close.”
3. Dark Money
Subtitle: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right
Author: Jane Mayer
Summary: Explains how a network of exceedingly wealthy people with extreme libertarian views have bankrolled a systematic, step-by-step plan to further enrich themselves by tearing down environmental regulations, public education, labor protections, and meaningful tax and electoral reform.
Best Quote: “Of course, rich patrons on both sides of the ideological spectrum have long wielded disproportionate power in American politics. George Soros, a billionaire investor who underwrote liberal organizations and candidates, was often singled out for criticism by conservatives. But the Kochs in particular set a new standard. As Charles Lewis, the founder of the Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan watchdog group, put it, ‘The Kochs are on a whole different level. There’s no one else who has spent this much money. The sheer dimension of it is what sets them apart. They have a pattern of lawbreaking, political manipulation, and obfuscation. I’ve been in Washington since Watergate, and I’ve never seen anything like it. They are the Standard Oil of our times.'”
4. Bonded Labor
Subtitle: Tackling the System of Slavery in South Asia
Author: Siddharth Kara
Summary: Describes the violent enslavement of millions of impoverished men, women, and children who toil in the production of numerous products at minimal cost to the global market, especially to consumers in the United States. It thus reveals that the “free trade” agreements sold by both parties to the American public involve the wholesale replacement of domestic unionized jobs with foreign-based slave labor.
Best Quote: “Bonded labor is the most extensive form of slavery in the world today. There were approximately 18 to 20.5 million bonded laborers in the world at the end of 2011, roughly 84 percent to 88 percent of whom are in South Asia. This means that approximately half the slaves in the world are bonded laborers in South Asia and that approximately 1.1 percent of the total population of South Asia is ensnared in bonded labor.”
5. Saving Capitalism
Subtitle: For the Many, Not the Few
Author: Robert B. Reich
Summary: Huge corporations and their political allies have created a distorted form of capitalism that redistributes wealth upwards, gutting the middle class and creating widespread poverty, thus impoverishing the potential local markets for startups and small businesses.
Best Quote: “The debate over the merits of the ‘free market’ versus an activist government has diverted attention from several critical issues: how the market has come to be organized differently from the way it was a half century ago, why its current organization is failing to deliver the widely shared prosperity it delivered then, and what the basic rules of the market should be. I have come to think that the diversion of attention away from these issues is not entirely accidental. Many of the most vocal proponents of the ‘free market’–including executives of large corporations and their ubiquitous lawyers and lobbyists, denizens of Wall Street and their political lackeys, and numerous multimillionaires and billionaires–have for many years been actively reorganizing the market for their own benefit and would prefer these issues not be examined.”
These in-depth books explain how huge companies and the recipients of inherited wealth have used politics to create an environment hostile to small business.