Joseph Bernt

Joseph Bernt

The Cannon Beach Library’s Northwest Authors Speaker Series will host award-winning author Paula Butterfield Live on Zoom, Saturday, September 19, at 2 p.m. She will discuss “La Luministe,” her debut historical novel about the life and work of French Impressionist Berthe Morisot. Butterfield’s discussion includes a stunning visual presentation of Morisot’s sketches and paintings.

Butterfield--who was born in New York City, grew up in Portland, earned a Master of fine arts in professional writing from the University of Southern California and worked as a story analyst for United Artists—now lives in Portland and on the North Oregon Coast. She is currently working on her next book about women in the Abstract Expressionist Movement.

The Zoom link for Butterfield’s presentation is: and the Zoom meeting ID is: 830 6498 4057. For more information or to access the link, visit the library website.

In August, the library added nine novels, eight mysteries and five nonfiction titles to its green-dot collection.

The new fiction titles include “La Luministe” by Paula Butterfield, “The Last Flight” by Julie Clark, “The Lions of Fifth Avenue” by Fiona Davis, “The Bourne Evolution” by Brian Freeman, “The End of Her” by Shari Lapena, “Her Quiet Revolution: A Novel of Martha Hughes Cannon, Frontier Doctor and First Female State Senator,” by Marianne Monson, “Chances Are” by Richard Russo, “The Lost and Found Bookshop” by Susan Wiggs and “The Orphan Collector: A Heroic Novel of Survival during the 1918 Influenza Pandemic” by Ellen Marie Wiseman.

New mysteries include “The Last Mrs. Summers” by Rhys Bowen, “A Private Cathedral” by James Lee Burke, “Deadlock” by Catherine Coulter, “Riviera Gold” by Laurie R. King, “Then She Vanished” by T. Jefferson Parker, “1st Case” by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts, “The Eighth Detective” by Alex Pavesi and “The Geometry of Holding Hands” by Alexander McCall Smith.

Among new nonfiction titles are “Rust: A Memoir of Steel and Grit” by Eliese Colette Goldbach, “His Truth Is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope” by John Meacham, “Mayday 1971: A White House at War, A Revolt in the Streets, and the Untold History of America’s Biggest Mass Arrest” by Lawrence Roberts, “Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Future” by Merlin Sheldrake and “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents” by Isabel Wilkerson.

For a couple of months, looking for a book to review from the green-dot shelf of recent library acquisitions, I’ve twice hovered over and once even fondled Robert Reich’s latest book on troublesome economic and political trends in the United States. Another option always caught my attention, though, and I left Reich behind in favor of some other shiny object.

On my last library foray, I again fondled Robert Reich’s “The System: Who Rigged It, and How We Fix It.” This time, no shiny objects separated Reich from me. I always enjoy his snarky analyses of the pundits, hypocrites, apologists, spinmeisters, bullies and what passes for the American ruling class. A veteran of the administrations of four presidents and professorships of government and policy at Harvard, Brandeis and UC, Berkeley, where he now teaches, Reich always provides the factoids, the statistics, that pop puffy myths pushed by mainstream media.

What’s not to like? I left the Cannon Beach Library with Robert Reich and quickly worked through his deconstruction of the cozy, yet necessarily precarious, relationship between wealth and power in 21st-century America—what Reich identifies as “The System,” rigged and really a con, which has undermined American faith in democracy.

The main argument of “The System” is simple: Since the 1960s, and especially since the 1980s, the top 10 percent have gained an increasing proportion of the country’s wealth relative to that shared by the bottom 90 percent.

This concentration of wealth brought two schools of sharks together, the exceedingly wealthy who seek to expand their wealth and politicians who write tax and regulatory legislation when not trolling for campaign donations.

This is Reich’s concern. Protests across the nation in the past decade and the success of President Trump in 2016 suggest many who shower at night rather than in the morning share his concern.

To frame his concern, Reich tosses his readers shocking statistics, data which stoked my anger and disgust. Several of these disturbing statistics follow below.

Between 1980 and 2019, the richest 1% more than doubled their slice of the US household economy, but the earnings of the bottom 90% barely rose at all (adjusted for inflation).

CEO pay rose 940 percent as income of typical workers rose only 12 percent. In the 1960s, a typical CEO of a large U.S. company earned about 20 times that of a typical employee. In 2019, the typical CEO earned three hundred times as much as the typical worker.

The total wealth held by the top 0.1 percent of U.S households (approximately 160,000) rose from under 10 percent in 1980 to 20 percent in 2019. This top 0.1 percent now holds as much of the nation’s total wealth as the bottom 90 percent of households.

In 2016, the contributions of the 0.01 percent of Americans (24,949 very comfortable Americans) represented 40 percent of all campaign contributions. In 1980, the top 0.01 percent contributed only 15 percent of all political contributions.

In the 2016 election, corporations donated $3.4 billion to presidential and congressional election campaigns, but labor unions contributed only $213 million.

About 40 percent of children of the richest 0.1 percent of American families attend an Ivy League or other elite university. At Dartmouth, Princeton, Yale, Penn and Brown, more students come from the richest 1 percent of families than from the bottom 60 percent combined.

In the 1950s, 35 percent of private-sector workers were unionized, only 6.4 percent are now.

In 1966, only 20 percent of mothers with young children worked outside the home. In the late 1990s, 60 percent did.

Americans now work an average of 1,780 hours a year—70 hours more than Japanese workers, 200 hours more than British, 266 hours more than French and 424 hours more than German workers.

From 1945 to 1975, Americans saved about 9 percent of after-tax income annually. By 2008, they saved 2.6 percent. Between 1945 and 1980, household debt averaged 50 to 55 percent of after-tax income annually. By 2007, American households averaged debt of 138 percent of after-tax income.

Walmart heirs now have more wealth than the bottom 42 percent of Americans combined. The Walmart family fortune grows $70,000 a minute, $4 million an hour and $100 million a day.

Shrinking income, expanded debt, more time working, less rest, fewer friends, fewer government services, crony capitalism, less economic security, two-earner families and employment insecurity.

The only more divisive aspect of American life in 2020 than national politics may well be wealth distribution.


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