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Notes from a Crusty Seeker

PERSIST by Elizabeth Warren

I don't have kids and have never dealt with the difficulty of getting good, affordable childcare, but by the end of the first chapter of Persist, I cared so passionately about national childcare that, typing this sentence while eating a carrot, I got excited enough to swallow the wrong way and had to lurch from my desk to open my airway.


How is it possible to explain the tax code, tax deductions, and how business is constantly subsidized by all of us (aka socialized wealth distribution; what people are so afraid of is already going on, but the recipients are large corporations and billionaires!*) so clearly that the reader has an aha about the movement of money in the economy resulting in a feeling that she can articulate life itself: all life is movement and change, and Warren ties that to the economy so simply and coherently that you will never not understand this again, and hence, never not understand inequity of investment that is built into our system and an imbalance that will eventually topple us all if not corrected.


Simply put, Elizabeth Warren is a great teacher. I understand why Rep. Katie Porter changed her life while taking Warren's class (a wonderful anecdote). As I type this, I'm now in the middle of an explanation of a two-cent wealth tax and what that would mean and how it would work, and again, it's so exciting, I'm chewing my carrot extra carefully in order to stay at the computer.


One of my other favorite teachers, Bertice Berry, recently did a video about how being your authentic self brings light to all situations and people, so if another person who is not being authentic is illuminated in that light, it can expose them and make them really angry. I thought of this when Warren first talked about former Mayor Mike Bloomberg. I remembered her stunning exposure of his arrogance during the presidential debates (deliciously reported later in the book in a chapter called A Fighter). In that moment she exposed her authentic brilliance in a way that constantly flows through this well-made book.**


Yes, Elizabeth Warren is a plucky, feisty, people-loving homebody, but there is a relentless laser-like light that comes from her authentic commitment to service over personal gain, to truth over convenience, and to fearless defense of those values. Add to that, she is a good writer, eternally optimistic, and has created a book full of power that made me bawl with hope at the end.



I never got an in-person selfie, but this'll do.



* Lest anyone believe that any business becomes successful all on its own and that government could be eliminated and we'd all do just fine if we just have the gumption, I share this wonderful quotation about Amazon's trajectory. It follows a quote from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos crediting his success to the "heavy-lifting infrastructure" of telecommunications, credit card payment systems, and the US Postal Service, Royal Mail, and Deutsche Post:

That "heavy-lifting infrastructure" that Bezos relied on to build his business and his fortune made Amazon possible. And it wasn't only the communications network, the monetary system, and the postal system—he also relied on public roads and bridges that enabled his trucks to make deliveries, police and firefighter protection that kept his sprawling business safe, and a public education system that made it possible for him to hire employees who could read. Because of the enormous investments made by American tax payers, Bezos was able to take his shot at creating a trillion-dollar company. . . . [He] counted on our government to come up with plans that made it possible to expand opportunity. No matter who we are, we all need these plans. (107-108)

And because I can't resist editorializing: now just think about the fact that Amazon doesn't pay taxes to support the same infrastructure that enables its life.


** I like everything about the way this book is made—from the stark, serious, yet striking cover with type that sticks up from the paper (3-D? I'm sure there's a name for that in printer's lingo; anyone know?) to the writing to the organization. It is organized in such a way that Warren can easily jump around in time, going back to a time period she mentions earlier and, with a little repetition, using the second mention to tell a full story. In most books, this might come off as redundant, but the organization of this book makes it smooth and logical. Warren credits Alex Blenkinsopp as an organizer and John Sterling as editor. However this structure came about, kudos to the team!

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