Lewis, Michael. The Fifth Risk. W.W. Norton, 2018

In The Fifth Risk, Michael Lewis documents the chaotic transition from the Obama administration to the Trump administration. The Trump administration did not think it was necessary to fill most of the government positions vacated by Obama appointees so the departments that had carefully prepared briefing books for the new staff waited for them to arrive. Those that arrived had no interest in the briefing books. Lewis explores three departments: the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Commerce, and the Department of Energy. He interviews people from the Obama administration who staffed these agencies to see what they were responsible for and then documented the lack of action and the lack of qualified appointees in these agencies under the Trump administration. Many Trump appointees didn’t even understand the work in the department they were to manage and were often quite surprised. Luckily there were civil servants in each department who continued to work, though in some cases there was no one to approve their work. Lewis ponders the possible budget cutting or elimination of programs such as food safety, school lunches, and food stamps in Agriculture, less information about the weather from NOAA, and issues related to nuclear waste and risk assessment in Energy. He also notes the cutting of funds for data collection. This is a very readable book, which I recommend to anyone interested in the Federal Government.—Kay Cassell, Lecturer, Rutgers University Department of Library and Information Science


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