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Fear City by Kim Phillips-Fein
September 20, 2018
This book is a doozy, a colorful history of a specific time and place, which continues to have major implications today. New York in the early 1970s was facing many of the same economic problems as the rest of urban America: simultaneous blows of recession, inflation, and suburban flight sucked revenue out of the city and provided an economic shock that provided the circumstances for the financial sector to impose its will on the political system. In order to ride out the immediate crisis, political choices eventually led to austerity in regards to public spending combined with subsidization of the financial and real estate sectors. These fateful, pressured decisions subsequently provided a blueprint for succeeding decades of neoliberal hegemony. Public good was sacrificed at the altar of the banking industry and economic stratification resulted. The hundred-year-plus practice of free college tuition was hurriedly discontinued and spending on the departments of parks, police, fire–and, famously, sanitation–were all drastically cut, as garbage piled high in the streets. Emblematic of this period was the rise of rich redlining heir, Donald Trump. His real estate projects were gifted with massive local tax abatements (and his subsequent misadventures have been buoyed by federal tax and bankruptcy law). In stark contrast was President Ford’s harsh response to the city’s request for federal public aid, which was summed up by the iconic ’70s newspaper headline, “FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD.” Phillips-Fien describes increasing institutional distrust in the wake of austerity measures with examples of major events of the time: garbage strikes, blue flu, and a particularly trenchant comparison of the contrasting political responses to the blackouts of ’65 and ’77.
–Will Peters, Annie Bloom’s Books, Portland, OR
Find great books– and historical perspective– at Annie Bloom’s Books and other independent bookstores.
Posted in Face Out | Tagged Annie Bloom's Books, economic history, Fear City, history, Kim Phillips-Fein, OR bookstores, political history, Portland bookstores, Pulitzer Prize finalist, social history, the other FEAR book, US History, Will Peters | Leave a response