Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class

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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.
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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, DC, he is the author of The Great Risk Shift: The New Economic Insecurity and the Decline of the American Dream, The Divided Welfare State, and, with Paul Pierson, of American Amnesia: The Forgotten Roots of Our Prosperity; Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer—and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class; 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, Connecticut.

Paul Pierson is the John Gross Professor of Political Science at the University of California at Berkeley. He is the author of Politics in Time, Dismantling the Welfare State?, and (with Jacob S. Hacker), American Amnesia: The Forgotten Roots of Our Prosperity; Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer—and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class; Off Center: The Republican Revolution and the Erosion of American Democracy. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, and The New York Review of Books. He lives in Berkeley, California.
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4.5
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Additional Information

Publisher
Simon and Schuster
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Published on
Sep 14, 2010
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Pages
368
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ISBN
9781416593843
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Language
English
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Genres
Political Science / General
Political Science / Political Economy
Political Science / Political Process / General
Political Science / Public Policy / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Policy debates are often grounded within the conceptual confines of a state-market dichotomy, as though the two existed in complete isolation. In this innovative text, Marc Allen Eisner portrays the state and the market as inextricably linked, exploring the variety of institutions subsumed by the market and the role that the state plays in creating the institutional foundations of economic activity. Through a historical approach, Eisner situates the study of American political economy within a larger evolutionary-institutional framework that integrates perspectives in American political development and economic sociology.

This volume provides a rich understanding of the complexity of U.S. economic policy, explaining how public policies become embedded in bureaucracy and reinforced by organized beneficiaries and public expectations. This path-dependent layering process helps students better understand the underlying historical dynamics, which provide a clearer sense of the constraints faced by policymakers now and in the future.

The revisions to the second edition include:

Complete rewrite of the chapter on the recent financial crisis, adding in commentary on the debt ceiling, the fiscal cliff, and other recent events.

New material added and existing material updated in the chapter discussing the two welfare states.

Extensive updates to the coverage of the global economy

Expanded and updated discussion of Obama’s economic policies.

Updates to figures and data throughout the text.

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).
The rich have always been different from you and me, but this revealing and funny journey through “Richistan” entertainingly shows that they are more different than ever. Richistanis have 400-foot-yachts, 30,000-square-foot homes, house staffs of more than 100, and their own “arborists.” They’re also different from Old Money, and have torn down blue-blood institutions to build their own shining empire.
Richistan is like the best travel writing, full of colorful and interesting stories providing insights into exotic locales. Robert Frank has been loitering on the docks of yacht marinas, pestering his way into charity balls, and schmoozing with real estate agents selling mega-houses to capture the story of the twenty-first century’s nouveau riche:

House-training the rich. People with new wealth have to be taught how to act like, well, proper rich people. Just in the nick of time, there’s been a boom in the number of newly trained butlers—“household managers”—who will serve just the right cabernet when a Richistani’s new buddies from Palm Beach stop by.

“My boat is bigger than your boat.” Only in Richistan would a 100-foot-boat be considered a dinghy. Personal pleasure craft have started to rival navy destroyers in size and speed. Richistan is also a place where friends make fun of those misers who buy the new girlfriend a mere Mercedes SLK.

“You want my money? Prove that you’re helping the needy!” Richistanis are not only consuming like crazy, they’re also shaking up the establishment’s bureaucratic, slow-moving charity network, making lean, results-oriented philanthropy an important new driving force.

Move over, Christian Coalition. Richistanis are more Democratic than Republican, “fed up and not going to take it anymore,” and willing to spend millions to get progressive-oriented politicians elected.

“My name is Mike and I’m rich.” Think that money is the answer? Think again as Robert Frank explores the emotional complexities of wealth.

And, as Robert Frank reveals, there is not one Richistan but three: Lower, Middle, and Upper, each of which has its own levels and distinctions of wealth —the haves and the have-mores. The influence of Richistan and the Richistanis extends well beyond the almost ten million households that make up its population, as the nonstop quest for status and an insatiable demand for luxury goods reshapes the entire American economy.


From the Hardcover edition.
A powerful and original argument that traces the roots of our present crisis of authority to an unlikely source: the meritocracy.

Over the past decade, Americans watched in bafflement and rage as one institution after another –  from Wall Street to Congress, the Catholic Church to corporate America, even Major League Baseball – imploded under the weight of corruption and incompetence. In the wake of the Fail Decade, Americans have historically low levels of trust in their institutions; the social contract between ordinary citizens and elites lies in tatters.

How did we get here? With Twilight of the Elites, Christopher Hayes offers a radically novel answer. Since the 1960s, as the meritocracy elevated a more diverse group of men and women into power, they learned to embrace the accelerating inequality that had placed them near the very top. Their ascension heightened social distance and spawned a new American elite--one more prone to failure and corruption than any that came before it.

Mixing deft political analysis, timely social commentary, and deep historical understanding, Twilight of the Elites describes how the society we have come to inhabit – utterly forgiving at the top and relentlessly punitive at the bottom – produces leaders who are out of touch with the people they have been trusted to govern. Hayes argues that the public's failure to trust the federal government, corporate America, and the media has led to a crisis of authority that threatens to engulf not just our politics but our day-to-day lives.

Upending well-worn ideological and partisan categories, Hayes entirely reorients our perspective on our times. Twilight of the Elites is the defining work of social criticism for the post-bailout age.
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