Winner-take-all Politics

Winner-take-all Politics

How Washington Made the Rich Richer-and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class

Book - 2010
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This acclaimed paradigm-shifting work identifies the real culprit behind one of the great economic crises of our time--the growing inequality of incomes between the vast majority of Americans and the richest of the rich.

A groundbreaking work that identifies the real culprit behind one of the great economic crimes of our time-- the growing inequality of incomes between the vast majority of Americans and the richest of the rich.

We all know that the very rich have gotten a lot richer these past few decades while most Americans haven't. In fact, the exorbitantly paid have continued to thrive during the current economic crisis, even as the rest of Americans have continued to fall behind. Why do the "haveit- alls" have so much more? And how have they managed to restructure the economy to reap the lion's share of the gains and shift the costs of their new economic playground downward, tearing new holes in the safety net and saddling all of us with increased debt and risk? Lots of so-called experts claim to have solved this great mystery, but no one has really gotten to the bottom of it--until now.

In their lively and provocative Winner-Take-All Politics, renowned political scientists Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson demonstrate convincingly that the usual suspects--foreign trade and financial globalization, technological changes in the workplace, increased education at the top--are largely innocent of the charges against them. Instead, they indict an unlikely suspect and take us on an entertaining tour of the mountain of evidence against the culprit. The guilty party is American politics. Runaway inequality and the present economic crisis reflect what government has done to aid the rich and what it has not done to safeguard the interests of the middle class. The winner-take-all economy is primarily a result of winner-take-all politics.

In an innovative historical departure, Hacker and Pierson trace the rise of the winner-take-all economy back to the late 1970s when, under a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress, a major transformation of American politics occurred. With big business and conservative ideologues organizing themselves to undo the regulations and progressive tax policies that had helped ensure a fair distribution of economic rewards, deregulation got under way, taxes were cut for the wealthiest, and business decisively defeated labor in Washington. And this transformation continued under Reagan and the Bushes as well as under Clinton, with both parties catering to the interests of those at the very top. Hacker and Pierson's gripping narration of the epic battles waged during President Obama's first two years in office reveals an unpleasant but catalyzing truth: winner-take-all politics, while under challenge, is still very much with us.

Winner-Take-All Politics --part revelatory history, part political analysis, part intellectual journey-- shows how a political system that traditionally has been responsive to the interests of the middle class has been hijacked by the superrich. In doing so, it not only changes how we think about American politics, but also points the way to rebuilding a democracy that serves the interests of the many rather than just those of the wealthy few.
Publisher: New York : Simon & Schustser, c2010.
Edition: 1st Simon & Schustser hardcover ed.
ISBN: 9781416588702
Branch Call Number: 306.3 Hacker 10/2010
Characteristics: 357 p. ;,25 cm.
Additional Contributors: Pierson, Paul


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Jul 13, 2016

[I originally wrote a version of this review on Facebook and edited it for this staff pick review. EA]
Hacker and Pierson do an outstanding job describing how during last 35 years the government altered the tax structure in ways that favor the wealthy and businesses. What I found surprising was that both parties often voted for tax code restructuring that has led to the most extreme wealth concentrations since the Great Depression.
Recent news stories inform us that sometimes hedge fund managers, earning a billion dollars, pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries and that despite hefty profits, General Electric paid no taxes this year. Winner Take All makes a compelling case that the tax breaks that made these situations possible were achieved over decades by lobbying, starting in the mid 1970's. Before the 1970's the Labor Movement represented the working and middle class Americans. In the mid 1970's, Labor's fortunes began to diminish and thus there was little organized lobbying for anyone except the business world and very wealthy. This has led to a lowering of taxes. Since the government normally reallocates wealth through taxation and redistribution and this has not been happening as much, gradually money has been pooling at the very top of the economic pyramid.
Since the book was written, several state governments have dealt significant setbacks to organized labor and recently the NY Times had an article about how Obama is mending bridges with Wall Street.
The book is worthwhile for anyone attempting to understand politics and the state of the economy today. It pairs well with Aftershock, by Robert Reich. Reich describes the effects of highly concentrated wealth whereas Hacker and Pierson explain how the wealth got to be so concentrated.

Mar 05, 2015

A terrific book, well researched. Helps to explain the beginnings (30 years ago) of the current political chasms in the U.S.

Feb 06, 2015

A paid-for professional liar? Well, he is on the Yale faculty, after all, so what would we expect? Don't blame the banksters, cries Hacker the Shill from Yale, blame their lackey politicians. [If there were even a micron of truth in this terribly contrived trash, there wouldn't be even the fraction of those exorbitantly paid lobbyists in Washington, D.C. and in every state capitol.]


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