From the prizewinning journalist and internationally recognized expert on corruption in government networks throughout the world comes a major work that looks homeward to America, exploring the insidious, dangerous networks of corruption of our past, present, and precarious future.
“If you want to save America, this might just be the most important book to read now." —Nancy MacLean, author of Democracy in Chains
Sarah Chayes writes in her new book, that the United States is showing signs similar to some of the most corrupt countries in the world. Corruption, she argues, is an operating system of sophisticated networks in which government officials, key private-sector interests, and out-and-out criminals interweave. Their main objective: not to serve the public but to maximize returns for network members.
In this unflinching exploration of corruption in America, Chayes exposes how corruption has thrived within our borders, from the titans of America's Gilded Age (Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, J. P. Morgan, et al.) to the collapse of the stock market in 1929, the Great Depression, and FDR's New Deal; from Joe Kennedy's years of banking, bootlegging, machine politics, and pursuit of infinite wealth to the deregulation of the Reagan Revolution--undermining this nation's proud middle class and union members. She then brings us up to the present as she shines a light on the Clinton policies of political favors and personal enrichment and documents Trump's hydra-headed network of corruption, which aimed to systematically undo the Constitution and our laws.
Ultimately and most importantly, Chayes reveals how corrupt systems are organized, how they enable bad actors to bend the rules so their crimes are covered legally, how they overtly determine the shape of our government, and how they affect all levels of society, especially when the corruption is overlooked and downplayed by the rich and well-educated.
In this sweeping and remarkably clear-eyed account, journalist Chayes (Thieves of State) explains how unethical behavior by high-ranking government officials and their associates has resulted in tremendous income inequality and the proliferation of radical policies that fail to serve average Americans. Chayes explains how Gilded Age robber barons including Andrew Carnegie, Jay Cooke, and J.P. Morgan established a reciprocal system of bribery, fraud, and wealth hoarding that still exists today, and details how the networks of contemporary "high rollers" such as the Koch Brothers and Jeffrey Epstein permeate the worlds of government, finance, and fine art. She demonstrates how these networks have changed the outcome of elections and tanked the economy, and how the individuals involved have consistently traded favors and bailed each other out of trouble. Citing the examples of Gilded Age anarchists, farmers, and laborers who fought back against economic and social inequities, Chayes urges readers to focus on local actions, including investigating corruption in their own communities, and to band together across political party lines to hold the powerful to account. Though tangents and florid metaphors occasionally disrupt the narrative, Chayes's research dazzles. This intricate and impressive expos will galvanize readers to take action.