The Fifth Risk – bottom line? I appreciated it quite a lot, it was informative about the workings of the Trump agencies and it’s well written. I love Michael Lewis’ books because he explains stuff very well, usually focusing a bit on statistics, but not always. Read it! As usual, there is a slightly different focus than the other Trump-associated books.
The Fifth Risk
by Michael Lewis
2018/ 221 pages
read by Victor Bevine
rating: 8 / current events (lower score because it’s too short)
From W.W. Norton & Company http://books.wwnorton.com/books/The-Fifth-Risk/
Michael Lewis’s brilliant narrative takes us into the engine rooms of a government under attack by its own leaders. In Agriculture the funding of vital programs like food stamps and school lunches is being slashed. The Commerce Department may not have enough staff to conduct the 2020 Census properly. Over at Energy, where international nuclear risk is managed, it’s not clear there will be enough inspectors to track and locate black market uranium before terrorists do.
(I’m trying something a little different here. At the top I’m telling you VERY briefly what I think of a book and then do the publisher’s summary (or a bit of it) to tell you what it’s generally “about.” Finally, I’ll give a more complete response – so… to continue…)
This is a startling book and although all of Lewis’ books are startling to a degree, this one borders on terrifying. I’ve been reading quite a lot of contemporary political books so I kind of knew what to expect but this one is specific about what has gone on and what is continuing to go on.
Trump is doing a LOT of damage with his insistence that political and business expediency takes priority over citizen welfare in places like the Department of Energy and Department of Agriculture. Ha! He and his cronies dons’t know what these departments even do! They work (or have worked and should work) on protecting the US from bomb threats and forest fires and health epidemics, etc. They take care of the National Parks and other natural resources. They provide weather information. It’s amazing. And the departments being gutted for money and power and the science behind their activities is only the first victim because we’re all going to be the victims as a result.
This is the stuff which has happened and is happening behind the splashy scenes of the current crises – (not to make light of the Supreme Court nominations!). We watch the circus in the media while our agencies, which are to actually meant to serve the US as a whole and are tax-payer funded, are turned into profit-making enterprises. There’s also a good deal of hiding and/or destroying tons of valuable information, including on climate change and epidemic data, which should be available to everyone, but … but Accuweather and others, sell information as well as insurance. We live in a capitalist world.
There are heroes here as well – Kathy Sullivan, “DJ” Patil, Tim Schmidt and many others who are mostly gone from government now, but told Lewis what was going on and what scares them most. (lost or decaying nukes?)
The last part, about NOAA and the weather (Department of Commerce), including the experiences of the female chief under Obama who went from the astronaut program to the head of NOAA, is at least partially included in the Audible version excerpt (I think) called- “The Coming Storm” (link to my review on this site). It was worth rereading (and I did get it for free), but just to let you know. This large section also includes some info on Wilbur Ross who is now the US Secretary of Commerce. Be warned, this is a sad and scary book. Omg. ( Fwiw I use the National Weather Service website for my info – https://www.weather.gov
Review at: https://www.npr.org/2018/10/02/652563904/the-fifth-risk-paints-a-portrait-of-a-government-led-by-the-uninterested
I like your new format. It’s always better for me to know going in whether the reviewer mostly liked or disliked something. That said, this sounds like a frightening book that I need to read soon.
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Thank you, Aymee. Yes, when I thought about it I need to say right up front how the book struck me – the publisher’s summary will do fine and then more about what I think later. That’s the way reviews I enjoy reading seem to be organized. 🙂
And yes, I really enjoy Michael Lewis – he’s been writing books about various things for many years.
I agree, it’s very organized and you get a feel for how the review’s going to be before you start.
Good to know! My library has a bunch of his books, I’ll have to look into them. Already recommended they buy this one. 🙂
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