You Keep Thinking It Won’t Get Worse: The Fifth Risk

Originally published October 2018

Seriously, though — it can.

Michael Lewis, author of popular reads like Moneyball and The Blind Side takes his turn with President Trump’s administration in “The Fifth Risk.

Of course, given my addiction to MSNBC and having already exhausted “Fire and Fury ” and “Fear,” I wasn’t sure how much more we could learn about the ineptitude of the current administration. Turns out, a lot. And now, I am compelled to recommend this book but only if you have a case of wine or chocolate or both on hand.

Specifically, Lewis targets the transition, or complete lack thereof, between President Obama and Trump. To illustrate the current admin’s lack of interest in educating themselves about the responsibility they were about to incur, Lewis looks to three distinct agencies/departments within the government — the Department of Energy, the USDA and the National Weather Service. 

The news covers extensively the ins and outs of Betsy DeVos and the Department of Education, Scott Pruitt’s EPA follies and State and Defense business. But Lewis uncovers some really scary scenarios in places you wouldn’t normally expect to find things that terrifying. And really, all he had to do was ask.

Former agency heads share with Lewis their innermost fears about what could possibly happen if people are asleep at the switch — attacks the the energy grid, for example. Food-borne illnesses and viral epidemics. The privatization of taxpayer-funded data that’s only shared with those willing and able to pay for it — you know, data like tornado warnings knocking on your back door.

“The Fifth Risk” is a short, quick read and while immensely depressing in some respects, also enlightening and hopeful. Those interviewed are whip smart and dedicated to a larger cause. They answered a calling to serve our country in an often thankless fashion, and likely criminally underpaid at that. While they have left the ranks, you can hope the career civil servants left behind to carry the torch are keeping on keeping on in spite of their new leadership. And that change, hopefully, is coming.

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