Off Center: The Republican Revolution and the Erosion of American Democracy

Yale University Press
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The Republicans who run American government today have defied the normal laws of political gravity. They have ruled with the slimmest of majorities and yet have transformed the nation’s governing priorities. They have strayed dramatically from the moderate middle of public opinion and yet have faced little public backlash. Again and again, they have sided with the affluent and ideologically extreme while paying little heed to the broad majority of Americans. And much more often than not, they have come out on top. This book shows why—and why this troubling state of affairs can and must be changed.Written in a highly accessible style by two professional political scientists, Off Center tells the story of a deliberative process restricted and distorted by party chieftains, of unresponsive power brokers subverting the popular will, and of legislation written by and for powerful interests and deliberately designed to mute popular discontent. In the best tradition of engaged social science, Off Center is a powerful and informed critique that points the way toward a stronger foundation for American democracy.
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About the author

Jacob S. Hacker is the Stanley B. Resor Professor of Political Science at Yale University. A Fellow at the New America Foundation in Washington, D.C., he is the author of "The Great Risk Shift: The New Economic Insecurity and the Decline of the American Dream "(a "New York Times "'editors' choice), "The Divided Welfare State, "and, with Paul Pierson, of "Off Center: The Republican Revolution and the Erosion of American Democracy." He has appeared recently on "The NewsHour, MSNBC, All Things Considered, "and "Marketplace." He lives in New Haven, CT.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Yale University Press
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Published on
Oct 1, 2008
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Pages
272
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ISBN
9780300130669
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Language
English
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Genres
Political Science / Comparative Politics
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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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.
One of the Best Books of the Year as chosen by The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Economist, Time, USA TODAY, Christian Science Monitor, and more. “A tale so gripping that one questions the need for fiction when real life is so plump with drama and intrigue” (Associated Press).

Doris Kearns Goodwin’s The Bully Pulpit is a dynamic history of the first decade of the Progressive era, that tumultuous time when the nation was coming unseamed and reform was in the air.

The story is told through the intense friendship of Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft—a close relationship that strengthens both men before it ruptures in 1912, when they engage in a brutal fight for the presidential nomination that divides their wives, their children, and their closest friends, while crippling the progressive wing of the Republican Party, causing Democrat Woodrow Wilson to be elected, and changing the country’s history.

The Bully Pulpit is also the story of the muckraking press, which arouses the spirit of reform that helps Roosevelt push the government to shed its laissez-faire attitude toward robber barons, corrupt politicians, and corporate exploiters of our natural resources. The muckrakers are portrayed through the greatest group of journalists ever assembled at one magazine—Ida Tarbell, Ray Stannard Baker, Lincoln Steffens, and William Allen White—teamed under the mercurial genius of publisher S.S. McClure.

Goodwin’s narrative is founded upon a wealth of primary materials. The correspondence of more than four hundred letters between Roosevelt and Taft begins in their early thirties and ends only months before Roosevelt’s death. Edith Roosevelt and Nellie Taft kept diaries. The muckrakers wrote hundreds of letters to one another, kept journals, and wrote their memoirs. The letters of Captain Archie Butt, who served as a personal aide to both Roosevelt and Taft, provide an intimate view of both men.

The Bully Pulpit, like Goodwin’s brilliant chronicles of the Civil War and World War II, exquisitely demonstrates her distinctive ability to combine scholarly rigor with accessibility. It is a major work of history—an examination of leadership in a rare moment of activism and reform that brought the country closer to its founding ideals.
The collapse of the financial markets in 2008 and the resulting 'Great Recession' merely accelerated an already worrisome trend: the shift away from an employer-based social welfare system in the United States. Since the end of World War II, a substantial percentage of the costs of social provision--most notably, unemployment insurance and health insurance--has been borne by employers rather than the state. The US has long been unique among advanced economies in this regard, but in recent years, its social contract has become so frayed that is fast becoming unrecognizable. Despite Obama's election, the burdens of social provision are falling increasingly upon individual families, and the situation is worsening because of the unemployment crisis. How can we repair the American social welfare system so that workers and families receive adequate protection and, if necessary, provision from the ravages of the market? In Shared Responsibility, Shared Risk, Jacob Hacker and Ann O'Leary have gathered a distinguished group of scholars on American social policy to address this most fundamental of problems. Collectively, they analyze how the 'privatization of risk' has increased hardships for American families and increased inequality. They also propose a series of solutions that would distribute the burdens of risks more broadly and expand the social safety net. The range of issues covered is broad: health care, homeownership, social security and aging, unemployment, wealth (as opposed to income) creation, education, and family-friendly policies. The book is also comparative, measuring US social policy against the policies of other advanced nations. Given the current crisis in America social policy and the concomitant paralysis within government, the book has the potential to make an important intervention in the current debate.
A “provocative” (Kirkus Reviews), timely, and topical work that examines what’s good for American business and what’s good for Americans—and why those interests are misaligned.

In American Amnesia, bestselling political scientists Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson trace the economic and political history of the United States over the last century and show how a viable mixed economy has long been the dominant engine of America’s prosperity. We have largely forgotten this reliance, as many political circles and corporate actors have come to mistakenly see government as a hindrance rather than the propeller it once was. “American Amnesia” is more than a rhetorical phrase; elites have literally forgotten, or at least forgotten to talk about, the essential role of public authority in achieving big positive-sum bargains in advanced societies.

The mixed economy was the most important social innovation of the twentieth century. It spread a previously unimaginable level of broad prosperity. It enabled steep increases in education, health, longevity, and economic security. And yet, extraordinarily, it is anathema to many current economic and political elites. Looking at this record of remarkable accomplishment, they recoil in horror. And as the advocates of anti-government free market fundamentalist have gained power, they are hell-bent on scrapping the instrument of nearly a century of unprecedented economic and social progress. In the American Amnesia, Hacker and Pierson explain the full “story of how government helped make America great, how the enthusiasm for bashing government is behind its current malaise, and how a return to effective government is the answer the nation is looking for” (The New York Times).
Andrei Lankov has gone where few outsiders have ever been. A native of the former Soviet Union, he lived as an exchange student in North Korea in the 1980s. He has studied it for his entire career, using his fluency in Korean and personal contacts to build a rich, nuanced understanding. In The Real North Korea, Lankov substitutes cold, clear analysis for the overheated rhetoric surrounding this opaque police state. After providing an accessible history of the nation, he turns his focus to what North Korea is, what its leadership thinks, and how its people cope with living in such an oppressive and poor place. He argues that North Korea is not irrational, and nothing shows this better than its continuing survival against all odds. A living political fossil, it clings to existence in the face of limited resources and a zombie economy, manipulating great powers despite its weakness. Its leaders are not ideological zealots or madmen, but perhaps the best practitioners of Machiavellian politics that can be found in the modern world. Even though they preside over a failed state, they have successfully used diplomacy-including nuclear threats-to extract support from other nations. But while the people in charge have been ruthless and successful in holding on to power, Lankov goes on to argue that this cannot continue forever, since the old system is slowly falling apart. In the long run, with or without reform, the regime is unsustainable. Lankov contends that reforms, if attempted, will trigger a dramatic implosion of the regime. They will not prolong its existence. Based on vast expertise, this book reveals how average North Koreans live, how their leaders rule, and how both survive.
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