The Submerged State: How Invisible Government Policies Undermine American Democracy

University of Chicago Press
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“Keep your government hands off my Medicare!” Such comments spotlight a central question animating Suzanne Mettler’s provocative and timely book: why are many Americans unaware of government social benefits and so hostile to them in principle, even though they receive them? The Obama administration has been roundly criticized for its inability to convey how much it has accomplished for ordinary citizens. Mettler argues that this difficulty is not merely a failure of communication; rather it is endemic to the formidable presence of the “submerged state.”

In recent decades, federal policymakers have increasingly shunned the outright disbursing of benefits to individuals and families and favored instead less visible and more indirect incentives and subsidies, from tax breaks to payments for services to private companies. These submerged policies, Mettler shows, obscure the role of government and exaggerate that of the market. As a result, citizens are unaware not only of the benefits they receive, but of the massive advantages given to powerful interests, such as insurance companies and the financial industry. Neither do they realize that the policies of the submerged state shower their largest benefits on the most affluent Americans, exacerbating inequality. Mettler analyzes three Obama reforms—student aid, tax relief, and health care—to reveal the submerged state and its consequences, demonstrating how structurally difficult it is to enact policy reforms and even to obtain public recognition for achieving them. She concludes with recommendations for reform to help make hidden policies more visible and governance more comprehensible to all Americans.

The sad truth is that many American citizens do not know how major social programs work—or even whether they benefit from them. Suzanne Mettler’s important new book will bring government policies back to the surface and encourage citizens to reclaim their voice in the political process.
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About the author

Suzanne Mettler is the Clinton Rossiter Professor of American Institutions at Cornell University. Her most recent book is Soldiers to Citizens: The G.I. Bill and the Making of the Greatest Generation.
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Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Aug 31, 2011
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Pages
176
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ISBN
9780226521664
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
Political Science / American Government / General
Political Science / American Government / National
Political Science / General
Political Science / Public Policy / Economic Policy
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Suzanne Mettler

America's higher education system is failing its students. In the space of a generation, we have gone from being the best-educated society in the world to one surpassed by eleven other nations in college graduation rates. Higher education is evolving into a caste system with separate and unequal tiers that take in students from different socio-economic backgrounds and leave them more unequal than when they first enrolled.

Until the 1970s, the United States had a proud history of promoting higher education for its citizens. The Morrill Act, the G.I. Bill and Pell Grants enabled Americans from across the income spectrum to attend college and the nation led the world in the percentage of young adults with baccalaureate degrees. Yet since 1980, progress has stalled. Young adults from low to middle income families are not much more likely to graduate from college than four decades ago. When less advantaged students do attend, they are largely sequestered into inferior and often profit-driven institutions, from which many emerge without degrees and shouldering crushing levels of debt.

In Degrees of Inequality, acclaimed political scientist Suzanne Mettler explains why the system has gone so horribly wrong and why the American Dream is increasingly out of reach for so many. In her eye-opening account, she illuminates how political partisanship has overshadowed America s commitment to equal access to higher education. As politicians capitulate to corporate interests, owners of for-profit colleges benefit, but for far too many students, higher education leaves them with little besides crippling student loan debt. Meanwhile, the nation s public universities have shifted the burden of rising costs onto students. In an era when a college degree is more linked than ever before to individual and societal well-being, these pressures conspire to make it increasingly difficult for students to stay in school long enough to graduate.

By abandoning their commitment to students, politicians are imperiling our highest ideals as a nation. Degrees of Inequality offers an impassioned call to reform a higher education system that has come to exacerbate, rather than mitigate, socioeconomic inequality in America.

Suzanne Mettler
"A hell of a gift, an opportunity." "Magnanimous." "One of the greatest advantages I ever experienced." These are the voices of World War II veterans, lavishing praise on their beloved G.I. Bill. Transcending boundaries of class and race, the Bill enabled a sizable portion of the hallowed "greatest generation" to gain vocational training or to attend college or graduate school at government expense. Its beneficiaries had grown up during the Depression, living in tenements and cold-water flats, on farms and in small towns across the nation, most of them expecting that they would one day work in the same kinds of jobs as their fathers. Then the G.I. Bill came along, and changed everything. They experienced its provisions as inclusive, fair, and tremendously effective in providing the deeply held American value of social opportunity, the chance to improve one's circumstances. They become chefs and custom builders, teachers and electricians, engineers and college professors. But the G.I. Bill fueled not only the development of the middle class: it also revitalized American democracy. Americans who came of age during World War II joined fraternal groups and neighborhood and community organizations and took part in politics at rates that made the postwar era the twentieth century's civic "golden age." Drawing on extensive interviews and surveys with hundreds of members of the "greatest generation," Suzanne Mettler finds that by treating veterans as first-class citizens and in granting advanced education, the Bill inspired them to become the active participants thanks to whom memberships in civic organizations soared and levels of political activity peaked. Mettler probes how this landmark law produced such a civic renaissance. Most fundamentally, she discovers, it communicated to veterans that government was for and about people like them, and they responded in turn. In our current age of rising inequality and declining civic engagement, Soldiers to Citizens offers critical lessons about how public programs can make a difference.
Dinesh D'Souza
"Of course, everything [D'Souza] says here is accurate... But it's not going to sit well with people on the American left who, of course, are portraying themselves as the exact opposite of all of this." —RUSH LIMBAUGH

The explosive new book from Dinesh D'Souza, author of the #1 New York Times bestsellers Hillary's America, America, and Obama's America.

What is "the big lie" of the Democratic Party? That conservatives—and President Donald Trump in particular—are fascists. Nazis, even. In a typical comment, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow says the Trump era is reminiscent of "what it was like when Hitler first became chancellor."

But in fact, this audacious lie is a complete inversion of the truth. Yes, there is a fascist threat in America—but that threat is from the Left and the Democratic Party. The Democratic left has an ideology virtually identical with fascism and routinely borrows tactics of intimidation and political terror from the Nazi Brownshirts.

To cover up their insidious fascist agenda, Democrats loudly accuse President Trump and other Republicans of being Nazis—an obvious lie, considering the GOP has been fighting the Democrats over slavery, genocide, racism and fascism from the beginning.

Now, finally, Dinesh D'Souza explodes the Left's big lie. He expertly exonerates President Trump and his supporters, then uncovers the Democratic Left's long, cozy relationship with Nazism: how the racist and genocidal acts of early Democrats inspired Adolf Hitler's campaign of death; how fascist philosophers influenced the great 20th century lions of the American Left; and how today's anti-free speech, anti-capitalist, anti-religious liberty, pro-violence Democratic Party is a frightening simulacrum of the Nazi Party.

Hitler coined the term "the big lie" to describe a lie that "the great masses of the people" will fall for precisely because of how bold and monstrous the lie is. In The Big Lie, D'Souza shows that the Democratic Left's orchestrated campaign to paint President Trump and conservatives as Nazis to cover up its own fascism is, in fact, the biggest lie of all.
Richard M. Valelly
Scholars working in or sympathetic to American political development (APD) share a commitment to accurately understanding the history of American politics - and thus they question stylized facts about America's political evolution. Like other approaches to American politics, APD prizes analytical rigor, data collection, the development and testing of theory, and the generation of provocative hypotheses. Much APD scholarship indeed overlaps with the American politics subfield and its many well developed literatures on specific institutions or processes (for example Congress, judicial politics, or party competition), specific policy domains (welfare policy, immigration), the foundations of (in)equality in American politics (the distribution of wealth and income, race, ethnicity, gender, class, and sexual and gender orientation), public law, and governance and representation. What distinguishes APD is careful, systematic thought about the ways that political processes, civic ideals, the political construction of social divisions, patterns of identity formation, the making and implementation of public policies, contestation over (and via) the Constitution, and other formal and informal institutions and processes evolve over time - and whether (and how) they alter, compromise, or sustain the American liberal democratic regime. APD scholars identify, in short, the histories that constitute American politics. They ask: what familiar or unfamiliar elements of the American past illuminate the present? Are contemporary phenomena that appear new or surprising prefigured in ways that an APD approach can bring to the fore? If a contemporary phenomenon is unprecedented then how might an accurate understanding of the evolution of American politics unlock its significance? Featuring contributions from leading academics in the field, The Oxford Handbook of American Political Development provides an authoritative and accessible analysis of the study of American political development.
Richard M. Valelly
Scholars working in or sympathetic to American political development (APD) share a commitment to accurately understanding the history of American politics - and thus they question stylized facts about America's political evolution. Like other approaches to American politics, APD prizes analytical rigor, data collection, the development and testing of theory, and the generation of provocative hypotheses. Much APD scholarship indeed overlaps with the American politics subfield and its many well developed literatures on specific institutions or processes (for example Congress, judicial politics, or party competition), specific policy domains (welfare policy, immigration), the foundations of (in)equality in American politics (the distribution of wealth and income, race, ethnicity, gender, class, and sexual and gender orientation), public law, and governance and representation. What distinguishes APD is careful, systematic thought about the ways that political processes, civic ideals, the political construction of social divisions, patterns of identity formation, the making and implementation of public policies, contestation over (and via) the Constitution, and other formal and informal institutions and processes evolve over time - and whether (and how) they alter, compromise, or sustain the American liberal democratic regime. APD scholars identify, in short, the histories that constitute American politics. They ask: what familiar or unfamiliar elements of the American past illuminate the present? Are contemporary phenomena that appear new or surprising prefigured in ways that an APD approach can bring to the fore? If a contemporary phenomenon is unprecedented then how might an accurate understanding of the evolution of American politics unlock its significance? Featuring contributions from leading academics in the field, The Oxford Handbook of American Political Development provides an authoritative and accessible analysis of the study of American political development.
Suzanne Mettler
"A hell of a gift, an opportunity." "Magnanimous." "One of the greatest advantages I ever experienced." These are the voices of World War II veterans, lavishing praise on their beloved G.I. Bill. Transcending boundaries of class and race, the Bill enabled a sizable portion of the hallowed "greatest generation" to gain vocational training or to attend college or graduate school at government expense. Its beneficiaries had grown up during the Depression, living in tenements and cold-water flats, on farms and in small towns across the nation, most of them expecting that they would one day work in the same kinds of jobs as their fathers. Then the G.I. Bill came along, and changed everything. They experienced its provisions as inclusive, fair, and tremendously effective in providing the deeply held American value of social opportunity, the chance to improve one's circumstances. They become chefs and custom builders, teachers and electricians, engineers and college professors. But the G.I. Bill fueled not only the development of the middle class: it also revitalized American democracy. Americans who came of age during World War II joined fraternal groups and neighborhood and community organizations and took part in politics at rates that made the postwar era the twentieth century's civic "golden age." Drawing on extensive interviews and surveys with hundreds of members of the "greatest generation," Suzanne Mettler finds that by treating veterans as first-class citizens and in granting advanced education, the Bill inspired them to become the active participants thanks to whom memberships in civic organizations soared and levels of political activity peaked. Mettler probes how this landmark law produced such a civic renaissance. Most fundamentally, she discovers, it communicated to veterans that government was for and about people like them, and they responded in turn. In our current age of rising inequality and declining civic engagement, Soldiers to Citizens offers critical lessons about how public programs can make a difference.
Suzanne Mettler

America's higher education system is failing its students. In the space of a generation, we have gone from being the best-educated society in the world to one surpassed by eleven other nations in college graduation rates. Higher education is evolving into a caste system with separate and unequal tiers that take in students from different socio-economic backgrounds and leave them more unequal than when they first enrolled.

Until the 1970s, the United States had a proud history of promoting higher education for its citizens. The Morrill Act, the G.I. Bill and Pell Grants enabled Americans from across the income spectrum to attend college and the nation led the world in the percentage of young adults with baccalaureate degrees. Yet since 1980, progress has stalled. Young adults from low to middle income families are not much more likely to graduate from college than four decades ago. When less advantaged students do attend, they are largely sequestered into inferior and often profit-driven institutions, from which many emerge without degrees and shouldering crushing levels of debt.

In Degrees of Inequality, acclaimed political scientist Suzanne Mettler explains why the system has gone so horribly wrong and why the American Dream is increasingly out of reach for so many. In her eye-opening account, she illuminates how political partisanship has overshadowed America s commitment to equal access to higher education. As politicians capitulate to corporate interests, owners of for-profit colleges benefit, but for far too many students, higher education leaves them with little besides crippling student loan debt. Meanwhile, the nation s public universities have shifted the burden of rising costs onto students. In an era when a college degree is more linked than ever before to individual and societal well-being, these pressures conspire to make it increasingly difficult for students to stay in school long enough to graduate.

By abandoning their commitment to students, politicians are imperiling our highest ideals as a nation. Degrees of Inequality offers an impassioned call to reform a higher education system that has come to exacerbate, rather than mitigate, socioeconomic inequality in America.

Suzanne Mettler
"A hell of a gift, an opportunity." "Magnanimous." "One of the greatest advantages I ever experienced." These are the voices of World War II veterans, lavishing praise on their beloved G.I. Bill. Transcending boundaries of class and race, the Bill enabled a sizable portion of the hallowed "greatest generation" to gain vocational training or to attend college or graduate school at government expense. Its beneficiaries had grown up during the Depression, living in tenements and cold-water flats, on farms and in small towns across the nation, most of them expecting that they would one day work in the same kinds of jobs as their fathers. Then the G.I. Bill came along, and changed everything. They experienced its provisions as inclusive, fair, and tremendously effective in providing the deeply held American value of social opportunity, the chance to improve one's circumstances. They become chefs and custom builders, teachers and electricians, engineers and college professors. But the G.I. Bill fueled not only the development of the middle class: it also revitalized American democracy. Americans who came of age during World War II joined fraternal groups and neighborhood and community organizations and took part in politics at rates that made the postwar era the twentieth century's civic "golden age." Drawing on extensive interviews and surveys with hundreds of members of the "greatest generation," Suzanne Mettler finds that by treating veterans as first-class citizens and in granting advanced education, the Bill inspired them to become the active participants thanks to whom memberships in civic organizations soared and levels of political activity peaked. Mettler probes how this landmark law produced such a civic renaissance. Most fundamentally, she discovers, it communicated to veterans that government was for and about people like them, and they responded in turn. In our current age of rising inequality and declining civic engagement, Soldiers to Citizens offers critical lessons about how public programs can make a difference.
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