Book Recommendation: The Fine Print


THE FINE PRINT: How Big Companies Use “Plain English” to Rob You Blind,  by David Cay Johnston, published by PORTFOLIO/PENGUIN 2012

FinePrintIf our elected representatives still need evidence of abuse of consumers by corporations, David Cay Johnston’s latest work might do the trick. Johnston has won a Pulitzer for his past reporting for The New York Times. (His earlier books are Free Lunch and Perfectly Legal.)

Each of the first 23 chapters details how a large industry–like railroads, pharmas, banks, insurers, utilities–can surreptitiously arrange laws, regulations and judicial outcomes to game the system to protect and reward a corporation at the hidden expense of consumers. Chapters are stand-alones that need not be read in sequence to get the point of the book: We consumers are victimized more than we know. Johnston shows an out-of-balance environment imposed on consumers by corporate tax breaks, judicial cooperation and regulatory indifference. Corporations have the best government we can pay for.

His last chapter offers proposed solutions. Compared to the rest of the book, it is a let down. Before any significant change will move this president and congress to take the side of consumers against corporate abusers, consumer anger needs to be transformed into a real threat by real voters of real action at election time. How that could happen might be the perfect next book by Johnston.

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