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

Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer–and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class, by Paul Pierson & Jacob Hacker (368 pages, $16.20)

From Amazon: How did the widening gap between haves and have-nots—even worse, the haves and have-mores—come about? In the past 30 years, the top 1 percent have enjoyed 36 percent of all the income growth generated in the U.S. economy. Treating the growing socioeconomic gap like a whodunit, Hacker and Pierson painstakingly detail the gap between the superrich and everyone else. They paint a portrait of a nation that has fallen behind other developed nations in the widening income gap among its citizens. Worse, the wealth gap cannot be explained away by a lack of education or skills. Even among the well educated, a chasm has developed between the middle class and the wealthy. Whodunit? The U.S. government, which details changes in taxation and public policy, particularly regarding the financial markets, which have favored the wealthy at the expense of others over the last 30 years. Finally, they consider the long-term implications of this troubling trend and offer some encouraging signs—health care and financial reform, however anemic—and a growing discontent with the status quo. –Vanessa Bush

“Engrossing. . . . Hacker and Pierson . . . deliver the goods. . . . Their description of the organizational dynamics that have tilted economic policymaking in favor of the wealthy is convincing.”

–Justin Fox, Harvard Business Review

“How the U.S. economic system has also moved ‘off center’ toward an extreme concentration of wealth, and how progressive efforts to reverse that trend have run aground. . . . A very valuable book.”

–Ed Kilgore, Washington Monthly

“Hacker and Pierson argue strongly that the concentration of income at the top is not just the work of deep economic forces. It is aided and abetted by politicians who favor the very rich or allow policies that once favored the rest of us to erode. Hacker and Pierson look closely, sharply, and entertainingly at the way that interest-group politics and the political power of money have allowed this travesty of democracy to happen. This book is a wake-up call. Read it and wake up.”

–Robert Solow, winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize for Economics in 1987

“Buy a copy of Hacker and Pierson’s book and read it. Seriously. . . . This is the most complete and sustained explanation I’ve ever read of why, over the past 30 years, America has gone the direction it has even while most other countries haven’t. . . . For me, it was a 300-page ‘Aha!’ moment.”

–Kevin Drum, Mother Jones blog

“The worst social change in America during my lifetime has been its shift from the land of middle-class opportunity to the land of super-rich privilege. The economic polarization of America is a familiar problem, but Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson approach it in an original way, using detective-story procedure to identify an unsuspected culprit — one that has little to do with ‘globalization’ or ‘technological revolution’ or China or the like. Their case is convincing, and it builds to a recommendation of how Americans could organize to save their country’s promise. I hope people read the book and follow its advice.”

–James Fallows, National Correspondent, The Atlantic

“Over the past generation, the middle class has been repeatedly battered, and its once-solid foundations have begun to tremble. Uncovering the hidden political story behind this great economic challenge, Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson shed light on what has gone wrong—and why. Their book is must-reading for anyone who wants to understand how Washington stopped working for the middle class.”

–Elizabeth Warren, Harvard Law School, Chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel on the U.S. banking bailout, and author of The Two-Income Trap

“Hacker and Pierson make a compelling case. If Marie Antoinette were alive, she might aver of today’s great economically challenged masses, ‘Let them nibble on passbook-savings-account interest’ – if they can manage to save anything, that is.”

–David Holahan, The Christian Science Monitor

“This is a transformative book. It’s the best book on American politics that I’ve read since Before the Storm. . . . If it has the impact it deserves, it will transform American public arguments about politics and policymaking.”

–Henry Farrell, Crookedtimber.org

“Two top political scientists tell us when America turned terribly wrong—and how the rich and powerful organized to do the turning. . . . Fascinating.”

–Sam Pizzigagi, “Too Much,” an online newsletter of the Institute for Policy Studies

“Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson combine enormous learning about how our political system actually works with a spritely facility for getting their ideas across—rare gifts in American political debate. Winner-Take-All Politics carries forward the argument from their path-breaking book Off-Center. It explains why the 2006 and 2008 elections only began a reform process that still has a ways to go. Hacker and Pierson have always stayed ahead of the conventional arguments and Winner-Take-All Politics keeps them in the lead.”

— E.J. Dionne, Jr., author of Why Americans Hate Politics and Souled Out

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