From the best-selling author of Saving Capitalism and The Common Good, an urgent analysis of how the "rigged" systems of American politics and power operate, how this status quo came to be, and how average citizens can enact change.
Millions of Americans have lost confidence in our political and economic system. After years of stagnant wages, volatile job markets, and an unwillingness by those in power to deal with profound threats such as climate change, there is a mounting sense that the system is fixed, serving only those select few with enough money to secure a controlling stake. With the characteristic clarity and passion that has made him a central civil voice, Robert B. Reich shows how wealth and power have interacted to install an elite oligarchy, eviscerate the middle class, and undermine democracy. Using Jamie Dimon, the chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase as an example, Reich exposes how those at the top propagate myths about meritocracy, national competitiveness, corporate social responsibility, and the "free market" to distract most Americans from their accumulation of extraordinary wealth, and power over the system. Instead of answering the call to civic duty, they have chosen to uphold self-serving policies that line their own pockets and benefit their bottom line. Reich's objective is not to foster cynicism, but rather to demystify the system so that we might instill fundamental change and demand that democracy works for the majority once again.
In this incisive critique, former U.S. secretary of labor Reich (The Common Good) argues that America's political and economic system has "become tilted ever more in the direction of moneyed interests that have exerted disproportionate influence over it, while average workers have steadily lost bargaining leverage." He identifies three major developments over the past four decades: a shift from "stakeholder capitalism" to "shareholder capitalism," in which business decisions are gauged only by the profits they generate; the transfer of bargaining power from unions to corporations; and financial deregulation that have allowed some to reap huge profits, while the weight of financial risk is borne by average people. These changes have empowered a small economic elite to translate massive wealth into political clout, securing policies that enable them to accumulate more money and power. Reich forcefully critiques J.P. Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon's endorsement of "corporate social responsibility" as a vastly insufficient answer to the perils of crony capitalism, which he credits for widespread populist anger that has found its outlet in xenophobia and authoritarianism. The cure, Reich believes, is a multiethnic, multiracial coalition recommitted to the work of citizenship and a more equitable reallocation of power. Though Reich gives undue credit to the social virtues of mid-century corporate leaders, his critique of the current system is evidence-based and authoritative. This call-to-action will resonate with progressive readers.
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Should be made mandatory reading
Of all of the books I’ve read in the last year about inequality, this book is the most succinct and precise in detailing the interplay between wealth and political forces at play.
If I were able to mandate that all of my friends read only one book this year, I’d choose this one. This is an astonishing work of compassion, erudition, and clear thinking.