The Fifth Risk
a book by Michael Lewis
(our site's book review)
The Amazon blurb says that The Fifth Risk is a New York Times Bestseller
What are the consequences if the people given control over our government have no idea how it works?
"The election happened," remembers Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, then deputy secretary of the Department of Energy. "And then there was radio silence." Across all departments, similar stories were playing out: Trump appointees were few and far between; those that did show up were shockingly uninformed about the functions of their new workplace. Some even threw away the briefing books that had been prepared for them.
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.
With one's head in the sand, one sees few problems
Willful ignorance plays a role in these looming disasters. If your ambition is to maximize short-term gains without regard to the long-term cost, you are better off not knowing those costs. If you want to preserve your personal immunity to the hard problems, it’s better never to really understand those problems. There is upside to ignorance, and downside to knowledge. Knowledge makes life messier. It makes it a bit more difficult for a person who wishes to shrink the world to a worldview.
If there are dangerous fools in this book, there are also heroes, unsung, of course. They are the linchpins of the system—those public servants whose knowledge, dedication, and proactivity keep the machinery running. Michael Lewis finds them, and he asks them what keeps them up at night.
Michael Lewis, in The Fifth Risk, finds the dedicated, knowledgeable public servants, the linchpins of the system, and he asks them what keeps them up at night
Lewis convincingly demonstrates how government protects us from some of the most alarming risks facing humanity. And by extension, Lewis explains the dangers we—and the world—currectly face as a direct result of inattention, greed, and misguided policy by the Trump Administration. Trump cares little for government, democracy, or civic society. According to his actions, Trump thinks government is a candy store where the store CEO can help himself to all the free candy he can carry. He likes to fire or lay off workers, but not because they are failing to do a good job. No, it's because in his child mind, the fewer workers there are to pilfer the goodies, the more he will get. Pure, unadulterated win-lose. I win, you lose. Simple. But a child-mind as President? Catastrophic.
According to his actions, Trump thinks government is a candy store where the store CEO can help himself to all the free candy he can carry—a simple child mind with a kid's fantasy diet
Lewis says the Trump Administration is intent on using government in a new, radically different way to promote personal agendas, extract vengeance and ignore services delivered to the population at large. (Of course, many presidents promoted personal agendas and extracted vengeance besides Trump, so it is disingenuous to say this was using government in a new, radically different way. See Obama's Enemies List: How Barack Obama Intimidated America and Stole the Election and Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama's Washington.)
When the transition team raised several million bucks, it was to pay the staff. The campaigns paid their people, by law. Steve Bannon, the chief executive of his campaign, and Chris Christie, presidential transition team leader, tried to explain that Trump couldn’t have both his money and a transition. Trump already had upwards of five billion bucks, and yet he figured he could just keep the transition money for himself and the hell with the transition, so he cursed and actually screamed about it. Government Trump style was going to be Trump getting money while transition team workers could go screw themselves.
This type of screwing over of workers had happened between Trump and his workers before, so Trump had a bad rep about not paying bills and screwing workers egregiously
This type of screwing over of workers had happened between Trump and his workers before, so Trump had a bad rep about not paying bills and screwing workers egregiously. Somehow his high-priced lawyers managed to keep him out of jail by keeping litigations and appeals going until the other side was bankrupt and keeping the complaints civil instead of criminal, in spite of the obvious thievery taking place. Trump agreed to dissolve The Trump Foundation due to all the scandals when Trump kept using its money for personal purposes—once again seeing money as candy and he keeps saying MINE, MINE, MINE!
If it was Trump in this store, he'd buy it all so the others got none—hey, it's not personal—it's just business (Trump's 'The Apprentice' got that expression from 'The Godfather')
"At least 60 lawsuits, along with hundreds of liens, judgments, and other government filings reviewed by the USA TODAY NETWORK, document people who have accused Trump and his businesses of failing to pay them for their work. Among them: a dishwasher in Florida. A glass company in New Jersey. A carpet company. A plumber. Painters. Forty-eight waiters. Dozens of bartenders and other hourly workers at his resorts and clubs, coast to coast. Real estate brokers who sold his properties. And, ironically, several law firms that once represented him in these suits and others." (Source: USA TODAY exclusive: Hundreds allege Donald Trump doesn’t pay his bills, Steve Reilly, USA TODAY) See also Why U.S. Law Makes It Easy for Donald Trump To Stiff Contractors
Trump is not simply failing. He is actively working to make people’s lives worse (helping corporations make bigger profits)
Is he continuing the stiffing of workers as President? "When it comes to supporting the jobs and living standards of many of the voters who helped elect him, Trump is not simply failing. He is actively working to make people’s lives worse." (Source: The Trump administration’s ongoing attack on workers, and Jared Bernstein and Ben Spielberg, the Washington Post )
Lewis tells us that by deeply investigating the day-to-day realities in a handful of little-recognized federal agencies, Lewis effectively demonstrates how our government protects us from some of the most alarming risks that are facing humanity. He then relates the dangers we (and the world as a whole) now face as the direct result of inattention, greed, and misguided policy by the Trump Administration, a.k.a. the wrecking-ball Republicans.
The radical rightwing neoliberal insurgency sponsored by the G.O.P., a.k.a. the wrecking-ball Republicans, are dismantling democracy as they dismantle effective government—all in the name of corporate profits
Our government employs two million people, and of these 70% work directly or indirectly in national security keeping us safe from a litany of dangers. You need to know if a tsunami is on the way to your town, and our government and the National Weather Service (along with our local and national news networks) are sure to be on the job, but if a child-mind president cuts National Weather Service funding, much more loss of life and property will occur.
You need to know if a tsunami is on the way to your town, and our government and the National Weather Service (along with our local and national news networks) are sure to be on the job
It's common knowledge that Donald Trump came to the Oval Office totally unprepared for the job and—amazingly enough—unwilling to learn what it might entail. In truth, he hadn't expected to win the election at all. He and Hillary both believed the polls that gave the Establishment Queen an easy win. Lewis says that a "bungled transition" is the root cause of much of the trouble this presidency has experienced. Nothing could be dumber than new appointees throwing away information carefully assembled by the last administration so the new people would understand their jobs. But that is what often happened as new appointees came in full of partisan fervor, hating everything Democratic or Obamaesque. Next came the shock of their lives as they found out that they had no idea what their jobs entailed and they desperately needed the dumped info!
In the crazy clown show that is the Trump presidency, the insane, self-defeating, destructive actions taken by his administration made Trump-sense
The transition team came up with a list of qualified people to fill many of the 4,000 top government jobs. But rather than Trump and Bannon filling empty positions, Christie and his entire team were fired, and the team's report disappeared. Trump apparently had a brain fart and he fantasized he was running an episode of The Apprentice, so Trump did what Trump does best: "You're fired!" A new Transition Team dominated by Steve Bannon and Trump personally began work from scratch in December, barely a month before the new Administration would assume power. None of this makes sense to us logical, normal people. But in the crazy clown show that is the Trump presidency, it made Trump-sense. Our guess: all applicants had to go through an interview from Steve Bannon and if they didn't believe in Brietbart-level conspiracy theory, they were shown the door.
In the Fifth Risk, long term problems are being ignored in favor of short term solutions, and if it continues the very security of the American people is at risk
Trumpsters believed that Washington was a do-nothing swamp, so programs would be slashed and transition teams would be neglected because the Trumpers didn’t think the federal government’s work was all that important. Because of this we’re entering a situation Lewis calls the Fifth Risk. Long term problems are being ignored in favor of short term solutions. If it continues the very security of the American people is at risk. Lewis' frightening book demonstrates that the Trump administration is busily and ignorantly tearing the federal government to pieces for ideological reasons (e.g., Obama hate), and giving patronage jobs to people with no expertise, heedless of the risk they are creating for us Americans.
Changing the country's leadership from mission driven to money driven will have long lasting consequences we all will be regretting. If we continue to allow the descent into the New Dark Ages where belief tops science, we may not recover our place in the world. The War on Science: Who's Waging It, Why It Matters, What We Can Do About It.
The repression of science by the Religious Right and the greedy corporations and oligarchs is sending this nation into a nosedive
Lately, it has become obvious that society is headed for regression, not just because they elected Trump who is proud to be taking society backwards as fast and thoroughly as possible, but because truth and science and knowledge and wisdom are on the way out while religious beliefs and ignorance—"alternative truths"—are in.
Evolution seems to be going in reverse lately, with billions of brains that have dumped science, embraced religion, and stopped thinking completely since they believe religions will tell them all they need to know; but, unfortunately, all this disuse of human brains can have only one eventual effect on human evolution
Evolution seems to be going in reverse lately, with billions of brains that have dumped science, embraced religion, and stopped thinking completely since they believe religions will tell them all they need to know; but, unfortunately, all this disuse of human brains can have only one eventual effect on human evolution. Or as Shawn Lawrence Otto says, a vast war on science is underway, and the winners will chart the future of power, democracy, and freedom itself.
A megachurch—a metaphor for the billions of brains that have dumped science, embraced religion, and stopped thinking completely, putting their trust in God's hands and forgetting entirely that God helps he who helps himself
"The Fifth Risk raises the most important question of the moment: Have we grown too lazy and silly and poorly educated to sustain a working democracy? We live in a moment when tribal bumper stickers — both left and right — pass for politics, when ignorance and grievance drive policy. The federal government exists at a level of complexity most people just can’t be bothered to understand. We have little idea what it does, only the vague sense that it doesn’t do anything very well. Michael Lewis has taken on the task of rectifying that misconception, and he has done so with refreshing clarity — and a measured sense of outrage — which makes this his most ambitious and important book." (Source: Michael Lewis Wonders Who’s Really Running the Government, Joe Klein, the NY Times) Also see The Despot's Apprentice: Donald Trump's Attack on Democracy.
Lewis defines The Fifth Risk this way: “The risk a society runs when it falls into the habit of responding to long-term risks with short-term solutions. … ‘Program management’ is the existential threat that you never really even imagine as a risk. … It is the innovation that never occurs and the knowledge that is never created, because you have ceased to lay the groundwork for it. It is what you never learned that might have saved you.”
Scientists say there are cliffs to look out for, but Trumpsters don't believe in them—so we're being led by the blind, and we choose not to notice that he's demolishing our government, so we too are blind
The Fifth Risk makes some good points and sounds the needed alarm about Trump's government demolition machine—his administration. However, the book is muddled and disorganized and fails to make a point at the end. It feels unfinished.