Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer—and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class
a book by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson
(our site's book review)
The real culprit behind one of the great economic crimes of our time – the growing inequality between the vast majority of Americans and the richest of the rich – isn’t any of the usual suspects like foreign trade, globalization, technological changes in the workplace or outsourcing. The guilty party is American politics. The winner-take-all economy is primarily a result of winner-take-all politics.
U.S. neocons' imperialism and warmongering is out of control yet the Congress tasked with stopping such abuses is mute—something smells rotten in Washington! The game is rigged. Bailouts? The biggest companies got help while the little guy got the finger. How could events and trends like the rich shaking down the poor and middle class evolve with so little response from democratically elected leaders? For the answer to that question, you have merely to follow the money.
Hacker and Pierson say that "until mass engagement of the middle-class becomes feasible and sustainable, it will be an impossible task to relevel the playing field of American politics. Overall, there are good grounds for optimism this renewal will happen. America has done this before and it will do so again in the future. This is one of the key distinctive features of the American Constitution. The founders deliberately sought to steer a course between the twin dangers of tyranny and incapacity. They rejected the concept of an absolute monarch but astutely realized squabbling, veto-ridden factions were little better. Therefore, they provided a robust mechanism of collective governance which is capable of periodic renewal from the inside out. They knew that political equality is not just an ideal but a necessity in a free and vibrant nation. They decreed definitively that democracy was the rule of the many, not just the fortunate few. It will have to be so again."
Trends in Family Wealth 1989 to 2013
Between 1979 and 2005, the Congressional Budget Office numbers show, the average after-tax income of households in the top 0.01 percent increased from just over $4 million to nearly $24.3 million—more than quintupling in a little more than 25 years. Folks, the game is rigged. Where did the money come from? From the middle class. We are being used for cash cows and that puts us in a very bad mooooooood! That was supposed to be our money, but by taxing us a bit more and the rich a bit less, they—the rich elites—got it.
We are being used for cash cows and that puts us in a very bad mooooooood! That was supposed to be our money, but by taxing us a bit more and the rich a bit less, they—the rich elites—got it
The statistical evidence shows that real household incomes for all groups but the very well-off have risen only modestly, and almost entirely because of increased family work hours such as working two jobs, longer hours, or women working. On average, the economic pie grew at essentially the same rate in the United States as it did in nations where the poor and middle class have continued to enjoy a much larger piece. Conclusion: the greedy rich oligarchs in the USA screwed the rest of us royally. See Working Families, The Two-Paycheck Marriage, and Sharing Caring: The Art of Raising Kids in Two-Career Families.
The gap between the rich and poor has grown into a huge canyon since the 1980s
Greedy rich oligarchs in the USA screw the rest of us royally
American Amnesia: How the War on Government Led Us to Forget What Made America Prosper is the follow-up (2016) to their Winner Take All Politics book (2012), which opines that the Right has turned the nation against their government and, in the process, dismantled the mixed economy which has been the engine of the nation’s prosperity. They argue passionately that Americans need more government, not less. However, since the elites will prevent a government revamping or increase, the book seems to be pushing dreams. The only kind of new legislation the elites allow to pass is reverse Robin Hood legislation like the kind the U.S. has been passing since the 1980s where Robin Hood (the radical elites, oligarchs, and neocons) robs the poor (and middle class) and gives the booty to the rich. The authors give unwarranted credit to social engineering, which except for the New Deal was mostly the scourge of the 20th century.
The rich are shaking down the poor and middle class
The United States has had a higher share of citizens without coverage than any other rich nation, and that share has been growing. In 2006, more than 46 million Americans younger than sixty-five were uninsured—nearly 18% of the non-elderly population. But ObamaCare fixed us, right? Nope:
The ObamaDon'tCare program is a combination of continuing high health care costs for some, continuing to be left out of universal health care for others, but most importantly corporate welfare for Big Pharma. There was no way Big Pharma and Big Insurance were going to let the program pass until they got what they wanted from the deal, which is to be allowed to continue to screw the public with costs that are way higher than in other countries for the same drugs. This would have been the time for the Congress to rally for the American public and stop the conspiracy, corruption, and price inflation, but Congress rallied not for the people but for Big Pharma and Big Insurance, and Obama, after the obligatory pretentious moaning and wailing, supported Big Pharma and Big Insurance screwing us as well, so he could put his name on some sort of "accomplishment" in an administation characterized by failure, irresponsibility, frustration, and the continuation and expansion of the horrid Bush policies of neocon warmongering and empire building, murder by drone, oppression of patriotic whistleblowers, and spying on citizens while stomping on the Constitution and our rights.
Big Pharma spreading "good health via medicine" across the land
When pharmaceutical companies receive a trillion-dollar gift—through legislation prohibiting the government, the largest buyer of drugs, from bargaining over price—it should not come as a surprise. They invested a fortune in campaign donations and lobbying money (millions) in order to get a trillion. Now THAT's what we call R.O.I. (return on investment)!
Democracy may not be good at a lot of things. But one thing it is supposed to be good at is responding to problems that affect broad majorities. How could events and trends like the rich shaking down the poor and middle class evolve with so little response from democratically elected leaders? For the answer to that question, you have merely to follow the money.
How could events and trends like the rich shaking down the poor and middle class evolve with so little response from democratically elected leaders? Follow the money . . .
American income inequality is the highest in the advanced industrial world. The rise in the compensation of the highest earners (the 0.1% and 0.01%), especially corporate executives and financial managers, drives much of the outsized gains at the top in the United States. Companies in English-speaking nations compete for these workers, and thus have faced the most pressure to match the massive salaries on offer in the States.
Average USA before-tax income by quintile
"What matters, they argue, is not how the pie is divided but the size of the pie. That argument is fundamentally wrong. An economy in which most citizens are doing worse year after year—an economy like America’s—is not likely to do well over the long haul. There are several reasons for this. First, growing inequality is the flip side of something else: shrinking opportunity. Second, many of the distortions that lead to inequality—such as those associated with monopoly power and preferential tax treatment for special interests—undermine the efficiency of the economy. Third . . . , a modern economy requires 'collective action'—it needs government to invest in infrastructure, education, and technology." (Source: Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%, Joseph E. Stiglitz, Vanity Fair)
'What matters is not how the pie is divided but the size of the pie' is a wrong argument, says Vanity Fair
"The top 1 percent may complain about the kind of government we have in America, but in truth they like it just fine: too gridlocked to re-distribute, too divided to do anything but lower taxes. Virtually all U.S. senators, and most of the representatives in the House, are members of the top 1 percent when they arrive, are kept in office by money from the top 1 percent, and know that if they serve the top 1 percent well they will be rewarded by the top 1 percent when they leave office." Hence the revolving door between government and the corporatocracy. (Source: Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%, Joseph E. Stiglitz, Vanity Fair)
Virtually all U.S. senators, and most of the representatives in the House know that if they serve the top 1 percent well they will be rewarded by the top 1 percent when they leave office via the revolving door
The wealth of the elites keeps them secure and content, unconcerned about the "riffraff" 99%. But there is one thing that money doesn’t seem to have bought for them: an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99% live. Throughout history, this is something that the top 1 percent eventually do learn. Too late.
Throughout history, the rich realizing that their fate is bound up with how the other 99% live is something that the top 1 percent eventually do learn—usually too late
The U.S.'s elites are unique in the extent of their lack of compassion for the common man and their boundless greed, which relates to the amount of radical neocon empire builders in the ranks of the oligarchs in the shadow government
The top 1% of U.S. citizens get a bigger share of U.S. national income (16%) than any other country. The closest comparable countries are Canada (nearly 13%), U.K. (12.5%), New Zealand (nearly 11%), and Germany (a little over 10%). The U.S.'s elites are unique in the extent of their lack of compassion for the common man and their boundless greed. This seems to relate to the amount of radical neocon empire builders in the ranks of the oligarchs in the shadow government.
In the U.S., the 1% people get 99% and the 99% people (us) get 1%. Is it fair we get leftover scraps and they pig out?
The fall of Rome
The Crusades were just another in a long bloody list of empire building actions
Other countries have their share of greedy oligarchs, but even if they also have a few neoconservatives, they're not obsessed empire builders that want to run the world and they're not warmongers. These distinguish U.S. elites as fairly unique, since other countries besides the U.S. are not pursuing empire building presently, to any significant extent. The Roman Empire lasted 500 years, then morphed into the Eastern Empire, which lasted nearly 1000 years, and then it fell apart in 1452. The British Empire lasted from 1497 to 1997—500 years. The definition of an empire is: when a single entity has supreme rule and power over a vast area of territory. Besides Rome and Britian, other empires were Ottoman, Umayyad Caliphate, Persian, Byzantine, Han Dynasty, Russian and Mongol. All the empires fizzled out before the 21st century arrived except one: the American Empire. The British Empire was at least honest about empire: Here are our territories and possessions and conquests and if you don't approve, kiss our arses. The American Empire, however, has rarely been honest about much of anything in the 20th and 21st centuries—including empire.
Dubya the Crusader Tried to Start the American Empire
The U.S. became a nation and conquered or purchased territories westward of its colonies until it existed coast to coast in America. It bought Alaska and twisted Hawaii's arm until it joined the U.S. as well. And during or between several wars, the U.S. grabbed Puerto Rico, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa, as well as Palmyra Atoll, Baker Island, Howland Island, Jarvis Island, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, and Midway Islands. Bajo Nuevo Bank, Navassa Island, Serranilla Bank, and Wake Island. But it is the 700-1000 military bases the U.S. has that are the important strategic posts to further the cause of empire building. No other country has hundreds of military bases strategically placed worldwide, and no other country is positioned to play the empire game. Now for the dishonesty issue:
The U.S. has done several types of dishonest and even treacherous things, but in every case the mainstream media in the U.S. was given CIA talking point memos to report from so the public would hear lies, misinformation and coverups, but never the truth which got reported in other countries whose press the U.S. cannot control. One of our main deceptions was to overthrow other countries' leadership and lie about it—pretending to be stopping the communist scourge or democratizing or supporting free elections or supporting freedom or freedom fighters (e.g., Iran, Iraq and Latin America). In most of such cases, what the U.S. was doing is coups to install dictators friendly to the U.S. corporatocracy, or in the case of Iraq, install a friendly dictator who'd let us buy oil cheap which worked until 1979. In 2003, the game was to install a friendly government that would let us get more control of oil but also—since we just wrecked the place—allow us to use Halliburton and others to rebuild the place which was arranged so that U.S. taxpayers would pay for both the wrecking and the rebuilding and neocons like Halliburton's Cheney would get even richer. Same story in Afghanistan except—like in many African countries we were previously or are currently exploiting—it's mostly precious minerals or getting a piece of illegal drug profits we seek. See Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance, All the Presidents' Bankers: The Hidden Alliances that Drive American Power, and The Secret History of the American Empire: Economic Hit Men, Jackals, and the Truth about Global Corruption.
The plan: Bush's bombing wrecks Iraq, then Cheney's Halliburton rebuilds the place and then send the bill for both to the U.S. taxpayer, and call it "democratizing"
Latin America—in the 20th century it was a target to exploit by corrupt leaders representing the ruthless U.S. corporatocracy
We examine these issues to see the main good example currently of how U.S. middle class wealth ends up in the pockets of the elites in this country (besides unprogressive taxing, tax shelters and loopholes for the rich as well as using foundations as tax shelters). This book is about how winner-take-all politics robs the middle class to enrich the greedy elites, and no political actions seem capable of addressing the issue currently. The main strategy for robbing the middle class is simple: make us feel so insecure and threatened that we let warmongering neocon nut cases start preemptive wars to "get those damn terrorists" or "find those damn WMDs." When the public doesn't buy the lies, the shadow government ramps up a huge P.R. campaign of lies and scaremongering until the public is so brainwashed they support whatever. (Example: the "WMDs in Iraq" that made us invade them—which turned out to be lies and more lies.) Anyway, the wars enrich the rich in many devious ways too numerous to dwell upon.
Neocons do not care what happens to our young or to Mideast citizens—they care about their own power and wealth, and see citizens as mere cannon fodder—a means to an end
It turns out that U.S. interventions abroad are by far the biggest factor in creating terrorism in this world—there are hundreds of times more terrorists now than when we first invaded Iraq to "stop terrorism." And yet the warmongering neocons continue to plunge the U.S. into deeper and deeper debt to support "antiterrorism" adventures. In what universe is it "antiterrorism" to do things that keep increasing the number of terrorists and terrorist attacks in our world???!!! All this makes more sense when one sees how much money Cheney's pet—Halliburton—is making with the wreck-and-rebuild scam and how much money the big banks are making when the U.S. gets plunged into war debt.
Warmongering makes more sense when one sees how much money Cheney's pet—Halliburton—is making with the wreck-and-rebuild scam and how much money the big banks are making when the U.S. gets plunged into war debt
Neocons start wars, attract terrorism, get public shaking in fear so they let NSA spy on them 'for their safety'—eliminating privacy, and other rights vanish as well; the shadow government has us serfs under their boots
Like the authors say, the winner-take-all economy is primarily a result of winner-take-all politics, and these politics are dedicated to transferring wealth from hardworking middle class citizens to the overstuffed wallets of the rich elites. As seen above, the neocons use many elements in their strategy. They exploit fear, war, terrorism, ignorance, naivete, misinformation, and the fact that they've manipulated politicians and parties so that BOTH parties support the rich elites and neither supports any middle class or lower class people, but in their political speeches both sides claim to be champions for the middle class, which is not just disingenuous but an outright lie. Note what Obama promised. Now note what he delivered—basically the opposite of what he promised. See what we mean?
Letting neocons run the decisions in Washington is like letting a fox guard a henhouse
In the 70s, big business and conservative ideologues organizing themselves to undo the regulations and progressive tax policies that had helped ensure a fair distribution of economic rewards, deregulation got under way, taxes were cut for the wealthiest, and business decisively defeated labor in Washington. Why did they do this, why did they stomp on the American Dream? Why did they screw the non-elite citizens? Why did they abandon morals and principles and become mercenary money worshippers? In a word: greed. Why are they happy to have the nonrich fight wars of exploitation for them so they can reap all the profits regardless of all the misery and maiming and death this entails? Greed.
The elites are pushing us toward aristocracy as well as pushing us toward feudalism
The authors are worried—as are we—about just how much demagogeury and authoritarianism our democracy can take. But this is closing the barn door after the horse escapes. Democracy? What democracy?
But if we want to avoid becoming a Latin American economy where the rich get richer and the rest suffer, we need to change government policies, says one reviewer. However, we believe this is closing the barn door after the horse escapes. Latin America, like the USA, has political corruption, the masses suffering, the rich versus poor context, the elites acting as aristocracy and pushing us hastily toward feudalism or whatever you'd like to call when they take our rights, or land, our property, our privacy, and our freedoms while they accumulate obscene wealth and use various political and legal and economic and fearmongering tactics to speed up the enormous wealth transfer from nonrich to elites. We, as well as the authors, hope everyone doesn't take all this lying down.
Once the enormous wealth transfer from nonrich to elites is mostly complete, the rich will want to create aristocracy to give their oligarchy more panache
If you are thinking "where is FDR when we need him?" you are not alone. He was the only president that did not just claim to be for the people, he proved it over and over. Unfortunately, such a fellow would be—like Bernie Sanders—unelectable today and if he was elected he would suffer the fate of JFK when he got too uppity with the elites: assassination.