A groundbreaking work that identifies the real culprit behind one of the great economic crimes of our time — the growing inequality of incomes between the vast majority of Americans and the richest of the rich.
We all know that the very rich have gotten a lot richer these past few decades while most Americans haven’t. In fact, the exorbitantly paid have continued to thrive during the current economic crisis, even as the rest of Americans have continued to fall behind. Why do the “have it- alls” have so much more? And how have they managed to restructure the economy to reap the lion’s share of the gains and shift the costs of their new economic playground downward, tearing new holes in the safety net and saddling all of us with increased debt and risk? Lots of so-called experts claim to have solved this great mystery, but no one has really gotten to the bottom of it — until now.
In their lively and provocative Winner-Take-All Politics, renowned political scientists Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson demonstrate convincingly that the usual suspects — foreign trade and financial globalization, technological changes in the workplace, increased education at the top — are largely innocent of the charges against them. Instead, they indict an unlikely suspect and take us on an entertaining tour of the mountain of evidence against the culprit. The guilty party is American politics. Runaway inequality and the present economic crisis reflect what government has done to aid the rich and what it has not done to safeguard the interests of the middle class. The winner-take-all economy is primarily a result of winner-take-all politics.
In an innovative historical departure, Hacker and Pierson trace the rise of the winner-take-all economy back to the late 1970s when, under a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress, a major transformation of American politics occurred. With 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. And this transformation continued under Reagan and the Bushes as well as under Clinton, with both parties catering to the interests of those at the very top. Hacker and Pierson’s gripping narration of the epic battles waged during President Obama’s first two years in office reveals an unpleasant but catalyzing truth: winner-take-all politics, while under challenge, is still very much with us.
Winner-Take-All Politics — part revelatory history, part political analysis, part intellectual journey — shows how a political system that traditionally has been responsive to the interests of the middle class has been hijacked by the superrich. In doing so, it not only changes how we think about American politics, but also points the way to rebuilding a democracy that serves the interests of the many rather than just those of the wealthy few.
The State of Liberalism — The New York Times
"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
"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
"Hacker and Pierson deftly pose and solve a political mystery: How could our democracy have turned away from a politics of broadly shared prosperity that served most citizens? Clue: take a close look at the elite capture of the Democratic Party. Winner-Take-All Politics — stylishly written and well documented with evidence — is a must-read for understanding the great political puzzle of our time."
— Robert Kuttner, author of A Presidency in Peril and co-editor of The American Prospect
"Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson brilliantly break the intellectual logjam over the causes of runaway inequality. Their findings put responsibility and control back into the hands of officeholders, elected and appointed. Winner-Take-All Politics is crucial reading for all those engaged in American politics."
— Thomas B. Edsall, political editor, Huffington Post, and correspondent, The New Republic
"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