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America: What Went Wrong? Paperback – January 1, 1992


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 252 pages
  • Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing; 7th Printing edition (January 1, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0836270010
  • ISBN-13: 978-0836270013
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #811,797 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

This should be required reading in every high school and college.
R. D. Hoag
What distinguishes this book's original telling are the vivid personal profiles amidst the welter of relevant statistics.
Douglas Doepke
This book will make you angry with what is allowed to happen to the average American.
Larry Lively

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

54 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Douglas Doepke on September 8, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is a book that really helps ordinary Americans understand what is happening to the economy. Though somewhat dated by being written before our so-called period of prosperity, the trends emphasized in the book not only continue, but in some instances have accelerated. In that important sense, B's & S's work remains as topical today as it was yesterday. It's also an excellent companion to Kevin Phillip's more recent *Politics of the Rich and Poor*, though the former aims at a more popular audience. Many of the statistical comparisons of Phillip's book were originated here: the junk bond plunder of healthy companies, the massive export of high-wage jobs, the decline of pension funds and health care, et.al. And a sorry, sorry tale it is.
Several pressing topics not included in Phillip's book are discussed here. "Net operating loss" is perhaps the most egregious method of transferring wealth upward. This highly biased tax allowance allows struggling companies to write off last year's net operating loss on this year's tax bill, forcing taxpayers to pay for operating losses incurred by private sector firms. Similarly, Chapter 11 bankruptcies allow indigent firms to continue operating with present management but immune from creditors. The net effect of both measures is to lessen risk and encourage reckless speculation, thereby undermining long-term market health. Included in the book are other degenerate measures deriving largely from the 1980's: Deduction of interest from corporate borrowing, Tax-free government bonds (deriving from early 1900's), Untaxed stock transactions, et.al. The overall result is to transfer the tax burden from wealthy categories to middle-cass brackets.
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27 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Larry Lively on January 22, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book was bought as one of the text books I needed for my college civics class. Of all the text books I have bought, this is the only one that I read from cover to cover. This book will make you angry with what is allowed to happen to the average American. Most of the incidents that are talked about are not general public knowledge. I don't feel that it is a fatalistic book as other reviewers have indicated. It does bring out some disturbing issues that should not have happened or allowed to happen.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Garreth Heidt on January 18, 2011
Format: Paperback
Interesting that there are no one star reviews after the economic downturn of 2008--present day. We see only what we want to see, t'would seem. Thus, when Bartlett and Steele's "doomsday" arguments bore fruit in 2008, we ought to note that they were on to something. I read this book when it was first published as a serial piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer, and then later in the book form. I've been citing their work for just as long.

Can't wait to see Bartlett and Steele's latest work: What Went Wrong: The Betrayal of the American Dream. They're working with the Investigative Reporting Workshop of the American University School of Communications. Bartlett and Steele are true examples of what used to sell papers--smart, in-depth reporting that never flinched.
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20 of 27 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 2, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book is really an eye opener. It cuts through all the bull that we normally get in the press or from politicians. It suddenly puts everything in focus and you realize why things are the way they are now, especially if you were around in the 50's as a pre-baby boomer or a baby-boomer. I think it's even more important that people born in the 70's read it so they can get a grasp on where this country is headed. Intelligent, clear, well documented writing, it should be included in every school curriculum as required reading.
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13 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Craig Duncan on December 7, 1998
Format: Paperback
I recall, when Regan's "simplified" 3-tier federal income tax code took effect, conducting a simple experiment: I calculated the tax on several incomes, from poverty level to over $200000, both before and after the change. Although the gross tax dropped, the percentage paid by the lower incomes increased, while the upper decreased. This, I remember thinking, does not look good.
Barlet and Steele's book gave substance to my suspicion, and helped to form my current understanding of US government, which is, I believe, increasingly under the sway of a wealthy elite.
Particularly interesting were the parallel the book drew between the early '1920s and the '80s.
While the book does well in illuminating the problems faced by our republic, it does less well in suggesting a cure, though, in its defense, this is a less easy task.
I recommend this book to every serious, thinking person I meet.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ray Stephanson on October 16, 2013
Format: Paperback
America: What Went Wrong? Bartlett & Steele

David L. Bartlett and James B. Steele are Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporters for the `Philadelphia Inquirer' who documented this war on America's middle class [those who are salaried and work year round]. This book is the expanded version of articles printed in October 1991 (`Acknowledgments'). This 227 page paperback has ten chapters, an `Epilogue', `Notes on Sources', a list of House and Senate members, and an `Index'. The wage and salary structure of business and Federal tax policies are leading to a two-class society (`Prologue'). The top 4% earn as much as the bottom half of US workers in 1989. [Is it any better today?] This was due to the tax policies of the 1980s (p.xii). The authors use income to define the "middle class" (p.xiiii). Their standard of living is falling due to "structural problems". Interest payments on the national debt transfers parts of your paycheck to the wealthy (p.xvi).

Chapter 1 tells how the earnings of the rich greatly increased during the 1980s while the wages of the middle class barely kept up with inflation. Corporations are closing plants and discharging workers in the USA sending jobs out of the county (Chapter 2). Laws allow US corporations to deduct interest payments on borrowed money so they pay less in taxes. Ordinary people have to pay more (Chapter 3). The changed bankruptcy law in 1978 allowed corporate borrowing and leveraged buyouts (Chapter 4). Mismanagement lead to bankruptcy and a loss of jobs and pensions for their workers. Chapter 5 tells how outsourcing a business leads to lower taxes, a benefit for corporate owners. Deregulation was followed by failures of over-extended businesses, such as trucking, airlines, and savings and loans banks (Chapter 6).
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