To know Scott Galloway is to love to hear him speak. One can do so in myriad ways: through his online courses, multiple podcasts, and various talking-head guest appearances. (CNN’s stellar Saturday morning host Michael Smerconish wears his Galloway man-crush on his sleeve.) The NYU Stern School of Business professor’s latest is the coffee-table worthy Adrift: America in 100 Charts and his fans will hear his droll, unique delivery in the book’s best line: “In the future, stimulus packages should be limited to supporting people who are food and housing insecure – not Delta Air Lines or your neighbor who owns seven dry cleaners.” The comment is tied to Chart #95, arguably the most important one among the dozens portrayed and yet the most basic. Through it, the case is made that rather than giving tax breaks and other handouts to the wealthy (a group that likely includes you), our treasury could’ve earmarked that $3T toward one-time payments of $30K to the 100M Americans who reported pandemic-related wage loses in 2020.
Galloway’s belief is that this approach would’ve steered funds away from the markets and into the economy to, you know, stimulate a more meaningful recovery. Prof G, as he is known, is a stupidly wealthy serial entrepreneur and quite a rare one at that, calling to tax his ilk more heavily. He bemoans that as a society we’ve “lost the plot” when it comes to recalling that one “of the principal reasons for government… [is] to provide a safety net for those who slip through the cracks of the capitalist marketplace.” Corporations are held to account as well, best captured in Chart #34: whereas in 1965, when the heads of the country’s largest 350 companies made a not-too-shabby 21X the average compensation of their industries’ workers, in 2020 that ratio had ballooned to 351:1, a nearly 17-fold increase over the past half-century. As my friend Eddie might say, that’s just redonkulous.
A running theme throughout is consumer culture and its predictable contribution to climate change. When we hop in a Hummer and suck down on a single-use plastic water bottle as we speed to the mall to load up on unsustainable fashion-ware, it’s no small wonder an environmental crisis results. And on whom does one rely for mineral extraction and the processing of essential materials that lie at the core of the hoped-for green revolution that is clean tech? China. Great. If that sounds political, so does the majority of this book; if Galloway hadn’t recently moved to London, the reader might get the sense he’s gearing up to run for public office as he ruminates on privatized R&D, global trade, population growth, and perhaps our most shameful reality: the prison system. Maybe one day he’ll return to put his brilliant, beautiful mind to the task of helping our government chart a new course in these not-particularly United States. He’d get my vote.
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