In this revelatory narrative covering the years 1967 to 2017, Steven Brill gives us a stunningly cogent picture of the broken system at the heart of our society. He shows us how, over the last half century, America’s core values—meritocracy, innovation, due process, free speech, and even democracy itself—have somehow managed to power its decline into dysfunction. They have isolated our best and brightest, whose positions at the top have never been more secure or more remote.
The result has been an erosion of responsibility and accountability, an epidemic of shortsightedness, an increasingly hollow economic and political center, and millions of Americans gripped by apathy and hopelessness. By examining the people and forces behind the rise of big-money lobbying, legal and financial engineering, the demise of private-sector unions, and a hamstrung bureaucracy, Brill answers the question on everyone’s mind: How did we end up this way? Finally, he introduces us to those working quietly and effectively to repair the damages. At once a diagnosis of our national ills, a history of their development, and a prescription for a brighter future, Tailspin is a work of riveting journalism—and a welcome antidote to political despair.
A dysfunctional system serving an unaccountable ruling class is wrecking America, according to this searing sociopolitical jeremiad. Journalist and Court TV founder Brill (America's Bitter Pill) traces a downward spiral of inequality, stagnating wages, expensive and substandard health care and schools, crumbling infrastructure, a "hollow economy" that jettisoned manufacturing in favor of low-paid services and high-paid finance, polarized politics, and a gridlocked Congress that panders to plutocrats and leaves everyone else unprotected. His intelligent, intricate analysis traces these problems to well-intentioned reforms that were turned into institutional "moats" that safeguard elite privilege: universities intending to level inequality ended up entrenching it; "due process" provisions to make federal rule-making fairer were gamed by special interests, from bankers to community groups, to block needed and reasonable government action; First Amendment absolutism regarding campaign finance gave pharmaceutical companies license to defy FDA regulations restricting the marketing of drugs for off-label uses; civil service reform ended corrupt patronage, but made incompetent bureaucrats untouchable; primary elections liberated candidates from party bosses, but enslaved them to zealots and rich donors. Despite his stinging indictment of lawyers, money men, and politicians, Brill still finds worthwhile possibilities everywhere, from innovative job training programs to campaign finance crusades. He brings both detailed reporting and wide-ranging perspective to this insightful account of how America reached its current state. Photos.