10 Books That Matter: POGO's Winter Reading List



It's true that POGO staffers spend plenty of time reading government documents and wonky reports—but that doesn't mean they don't pick up a book now and again. Whether you're looking for a holiday gift, plane reading, or just trying to stay in formed, you'll want to check out the books listed below. POGO doesn't necessarily endorse all of the ideas put forth in these books—but we do think they advance the ball and offer important perspectives on the big issues of today.


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Republic, Lost | Lawrence Lessig 

"In an era when special interests funnel huge amounts of money into our government—driven by shifts in campaign-finance rules and brought to new levels by the Supreme Court in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission—trust in our government has reached an all-time low."

~Twelve (October 2011) 

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The Price of Civilization | Jeffrey D. Sachs

"In a forceful, impassioned, and personal voice, he offers not only a searing and incisive diagnosis of our country’s economic ills but also an urgent call for Americans to restore the virtues of fairness, honesty, and foresight as the foundations of national prosperity."

~ Random House (October 2011) 





Counterstrike | Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker

"In the years following the 9/11 attacks, the United States waged a "war on terror" that sought to defeat Al Qaeda through brute force. But it soon became clear that this strategy was not working, and by 2005 the Pentagon began looking for a new way."

~ Times Books (August 2011)

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Reckless Endangerment | Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner

"Gretchen Morgenson, The New York Times' Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist reveals how the financial meltdown emerged from the toxic interplay of Washington, Wall Street, and corrupt mortgage lenders."

~ Times Books (May 2011)

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 Top Secret America | Dana Priest, William M. Arkin

"The top-secret world that the government created in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks has become so enormous, so unwieldy, and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs or exactly how many agencies duplicate work being done elsewhere."

~ Hachette Book Group (September 2011)

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 Capitol Punishment | Jack Abramoff

"The name Jack Abramoff is synonymous with Washington scandal, but the fascinating facts of his case are either largely unknown or wildly misunderstood. His memoir will serve as a corrective an engrossing, informative work of political nonfiction that is also a gripping real-life thriller."

~ WND Books (November 2011)

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 Retirement Heist | Ellen E. Schultz

"Ellen E. Schultz, award-winning investigative reporter for The Wall Street Journal, reveals how large companies and the retirement industry-benefits consultants, insurance companies, and banks-have all played a huge and hidden role in the death spiral of American pensions and benefits."

~ Portfolio Hardcover (September 2011)

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 The Shadow World | Andrew Feinstein

"The harrowing behind-the-scenes tale of the global arms trade, revealing the deadly collusion that all too often exists among senior politicians, weapons manufacturers, felonious arms dealers, and the military—a situation that compromises our security and undermines our democracy."

~ Farrar, Straus and Giroux (November 2011)

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Prophets of War | William Hartung

"Enthralling and explosive, Prophets of War is an exposé of America's largest military contractor, Lockheed Martin. William Hartung's meticulously researched history follows the company's meteoric growth and explains how this arms industry giant has shaped US foreign policy for decades."

~ Nation Books

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 A Sea in Flames | Carl Safina

"Safina zeroes in on BP’s misstatements, evasions, and denials; reassesses his own reaction to the government’s handling of the crisis; and reviews the consequences of the leak—and what he considers the real problems, which the press largely overlooked."

~ Crown (April 2011)






POGO Senior Writer Beth Schulman recently caught up with Harvard Law School Professor Lawrence Lessig to talk about the Occupy Wall Street and Tea Party movements, campaign finance, and the nature of corruption. Click here to read the full interview.

POGO: It seems like Occupy and Tea Party demonstrators confirm your sense that there is trans-partisan outrage the influence of money in politics. Can these movements find common ground in this issue?

Lessig: I do think they will get it, if it is pressed in the right way. Not sure yet what way is that right way, but I am struggling with working it out. 

POGO: Between the influx of campaign cash to Super Committee members and renewed focus on the revolving door issue, a lot of people may have become cynical about the role of money in politics. Can we suspend this cynicism enough to actually solve the problem?







In a 2010 Daily Beast commentary Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig, identifying himself with the “Coffee Party,” and Mark McKinnon, prominent GOP strategist and co-founder of No Labels, assert there is “transpartisan” agreement that Congress is broken:

"[W]hat we do agree on is that the institutions of government in Washington have become corrupt, held hostage by well-funded special interests. It’s no wonder that only 17 [at this writing, more like 9 %] percent of the American public in a recent Gallup survey said they had a favorable opinion of Congress. American voters believe, and rightly so, that corporations, labor unions and moneyed special interests have a chokehold on politicians.”

Over the past two years, both have been stoking an effort to demand a constitutional convention with the goal of addressing the first amendment interpretations that treat campaign cash as a form of speech, most recently and conspicuously the Supreme Court Citizens United ruling. Their efforts culminated in a transpartisan turnout for a conference on the convention idea this past September. Participants covered the waterfront. Among the featured speakers were Tea Party Patriots Mark Meckler and Bill Norton, Emily Ekins of the Cato Institute, Reagan Administration veteran Bruce Fein, David Swanson of Progressive Democrats of America, and 2004 Green Party presidential candidate David Cobb.