A summary of Sirota's book would point out that millions lack health care, and even more struggle to afford it. Politicians claim they care, then pass legislation that provides more profits for drug companies and insurers. At the same time, inflation-adjusted wages have been largely stagnant, while corporate profits have skyrocketed. In this instance, politicians "help out" by further depressing wages by continuing to allow millions of illegal and temporary legal immigrants into the U.S., and additional millions of jobs outsourced overseas. Despite an obvious need for energy conservation, our government takes its lead from V.P. Dick Cheney and does nothing. Welcome to today's world of lobbyists', lies, and legislation for sale.
The "really bad news" is that they're not satisfied. Possible future legislation includes a flat income tax (a huge tax cut for the wealthy, and a huge tax increase for everyone else - per Reagan's '82 Treasury Dept.), permanent elimination of the estate tax (only 2% were paying, and half the receipts came from the top .1% with estates over $5 million), and reducing corporate taxes from their 35% level - "fourth highest" in the industrialized world (a '04 GAO report concluded that 94% paid less than 5%, and that 60,000 government contractors owed $6 billion in unpaid taxes), more personal tax cuts (to justify further cuts in veterans' healthcare, inadequate/non-funding of Army armor and New Orleans' levees - the pre-Katrina official protesting the latter was immediately fired).
Not upset yet - read on. USA Today reported in late '05 that while the 60 worst performing companies in America lost 4769 billion in market value in the prior five years, their top five executives were paid an average of $8 million/year. Meanwhile, University of California researchers in '04 found that jobs in the bottom third of the pay scale were growing almost twice as fast as those in the middle.
"Hostile Takeover" also puts to rest the myth of "free" trade. Provisions include insuring U.S. access to potentially hepatitis-carrying Mexican vegetables and Canadian beef with mad-cow disease, while banning importation of cheaper drugs and limiting other nations' ability to produce generic medicines. In '01, economists estimated that three-fourths of U.S. workers lost about 12% of current wages because of trade deals. At least we still have some - the New York Times reported the loss of over 2 million manufacturing jobs between '01 - '04, while Gartner Research estimated over 30% of high-tech jobs could be shipped overseas by '15 and University of California researchers estimated up to 14 million jobs are now at risk of outsourcing.
There's more: Harvard researchers found that 90% of personal bankruptcies were due to illness, medical bills, job loss, death in the family, and/or divorce. Meanwhile, the Kauffman Foundation's '05 study concluded that 20% of recent bankrupts had been operating a small business. No matter - the myth of deadbeat debtors ruining credit card companies persists, and Congress recently made personal bankruptcy laws much tougher.
At least we can count on retirement - not! In '02 AP reported that 8 million workers saw their retirement plans converted to "cash balance" payouts only - a loss of up to $200 million, according to government sources. As for Social Security, a top University of Chicago economist estimates Wall St. would make $400 billion - $1 trillion in fees under the Bush privatization plan. No matter you say - Chile and Galveston, Texas have proven the concept's superiority. Unfortunately, the World Bank found that up to one-third of Chileans' retirement money went to fees (the public version went bankrupt - hence, no comparisons are available), and several government reports have concluded that many/most/all Galveston employees will receive LESS than they would have from Social Security.
Well, at least some of us have our health. Hopefully the growing number without health insurance will not get sick; as for universal governmental coverage - private insurance made over $10 billion in '03, with top executives raking in $85 million each. As for the innovative drugs many can't afford because of high prices "required for research" - the former New England Journal of Medicine's editor states that they "come almost entirely from publicly funded research done in government and university labs." Further evidence: Princeton's Uwe Reinhardt says that "R&D spending (as a % of drug industry revenues) is equal or higher in Europe (with price controls) as here" - specifically, 20% in Britain, vs. 14% in the U.S.
Finally, "fuel efficiency kills people," or so opponents say. On the other hand, University of Michigan, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researchers and a government panel all have concluded that cars can be made as safe/safer than most SUVs, and especially better than most pickups.
Truly an encyclopedic work documenting how business has stolen and perverted American democracy. While Sirota offers specific recommendations in each area, the biggest problem involves providing a means for voters to see through all the lies and mis-statements. Publicly-funded elections may be the answer.
I bought and read both this book, and John Stossel's Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity: Get Out the Shovel - Why Everything You Know is Wrong This is a serious book for serious people. Stossel's book is full of trivia and generally a waste of time.
This author focuses on the substance of taxes, wages, jobs, debt, pensions, health care, prescription drugs, energy, unions, and legal rights, and he does it in an engaging methodical manner that discusses the issue, highlights in turn myths, lies, and half-truths, and then ends with proposed solutions, all of them sensible.
It merits comment that this book is endorsed on the back cover by many people I respect from Al Gore An Inconvenient Truth: The Crisis of Global Warming to Bill Greider Who Will Tell The People? : The Betrayal Of American Democracy and The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy to Jim Hightower Thieves in High Places: They've Stolen Our Country and It's Time to Take It Back.
The bottom line is clear: the U.S. government at the political level, whether Republican or Democratic, is completely corrupt. Every Congressman and every President, every Senator, have so many conflicts of interest as to be incapable of representing the people honestly. Congress no longer represents the people. Let me repeat that: Congress no longer represents the people. They are either bribed by special interests or forced to follow the party line. See, with reviews: Running on Empty: How the Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It;The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track (Institutions of American Democracy); and Breach of Trust: How Washington Turns Outsiders Into Insiders.
This author ends with a sensible bottom line: engage from the bottom up, and push for public financing of elections (I would include free television time from the PUBLIC airwaves), and until then, contribute to honest politicians who will forego campaign contributions.
The Unity '08 movement established by Hamilton Jordan proposes to field an Independent candidate fully funded by the people. As Joe Trippi and Howard Dean demonstrated, the people CAN out-spend and out-vote the corporations if they have a mind to. Jordon is half-way to the right answer--the rest of the answer is a Democratic President, a Republican Vice-President, two new Deputy Vice Presidents (John McCain for national security, overseeing Defense, State, and Justice, and Bill Bradley for everything else), and a COALITION cabinent. Separately a NON-RIVAL party has been created, the Citizens Party, to post a transparent national budget that is also balanced, and to engage voters from ALL parties in support of one single public interest issue: electoral reform in 2007, in time for an honest election the extremist Republicans cannot steal as they stole in 2000 via Florida and in 2004 via Ohio.
Lest anyone doubt the depth of this book's documented concerns, see my review of The Case for Impeachment: The Legal Argument for Removing President George W. Bush from Office by Dave Lindorf and Barbara Olshansky, and also How Would a Patriot Act? Defending American Values from a President Run Amok by constituional lawyer Gleen Greenwald.
For a list of 23 documented high crimes and misdemeanors by Dick Cheney,see my review of Vice: Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the American Presidency
on May 22, 2006
Sirota is a progressive populist -- not to be confused with a conventional liberal who eschews class-based politics -- and his book is a manual for waging a class-based political counterattack against the conservative populist movement that produced Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay, Bill Bennett and George W. Bush, along with a massive transfer of wealth from the bottom to the top.
Take it from someone who knows--I served in Congress for 18 years before retiring from politics--and after watching 25 years of mostly Robin hood in reverse, I find this book to be indispensable for progressives who are interested in not just winning elections but doing something about the country when they do win (failure to do this is one of the Democratic "centrists'" greatest sins.)
Sirota shows how concentrated wealth, corporate avarice and complicit federal politicians have skewered average American wage earners. Thus wages, in real terms, have hit the lowest level in 50 years while corporate profits reached their highest level in 50 years, and corporations and the very wealthy have used their ill-gotten wealth to buy the political system to squeeze the rest of us even further.
If you've ever found yourself sputtering for words in the presence of a conservative Big Lie, this book is for you. Sirota offers 50 pages of end notes to document the great Middle American sell-out in jobs, wages, pensions, taxes, health care, energy, credit, labor rights, and more--and to give you the ammunition you need to win converts to the progressive cause.
The minimum wage does no good? Sirota shows that it is nearing a 50-year low when adjusted for inflation, that a full-time worker at the minimum wage earns $5,000 below the official poverty line, and that jobs in the bottom third of the pay scale are growing almost twice as fast as those in the middle. In contrast, corporate CEOs make on average more than $9 million a year, even as corporate interests spend millions of dollars on members of Congress to keep the minimum wage low.
Until I read "Hostile Takeover," I didn't realize that in 2004 the credit card industry made $24 billion from penalty fees alone, often using deceptive practices that Congress refuses to outlaw. To increase late fees, for example, some companies hide in fine print that the due date on your bill may not be at the end of a particular day, but at 9 a.m., before that day's mail arrives.
Sirota argues that such practices are the least of the industry's sins. In 2005, Congress passed a "bankruptcy reform bill," seeking to make it harder for people in debt to use bankruptcy to protect their assets. The bill destroyed most of those protections although, according to the book, 75 percent of personal bankruptcies involve not "deadbeats" but individuals who lost health insurance during illness, and that the industry -- far from being hurt by bankruptcy abuse -- recorded $30 billion in profits in 2004 alone.
As the bankruptcy bill moved through Congress, industry lobbyists and their congressional allies beat back protections for victims of identity theft, soldiers who ran into debt when they left better-paying jobs for service in Iraq and an attempt to cap credit card fees at 30 percent.
Eighteen Senate Democrats who voted against the 30 percent ceiling had supported a tougher 14 percent cap that failed in 1991. What happened between the two votes? Sirota shows that the industry donated $2.3 million to the vote-switchers. He also notes that the author of the bankruptcy bill, Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., owned nearly $250,000 of stock in bank and credit card companies that benefited from the bill, according to the nonpartisan watchdog group Public Campaign.
Had enough of faux Democratic and hardcore GOP treatment? Arm yourself with this manual and start kicking...ankles.
on June 11, 2006
I really liked the way Sirota handled each of the topics he covered, even though I didn't agree with all his recommendations or even all his interepretations of the issues. The health care and prescription drugs chapters where interesting to me in this way because I am in favor of universal health care, but don't necessarily see that what he's said will convince anyone who isnt'. On the other hand, in the areas of taxes, wages, jobs and unions, his comments and recommendations were on target and helpful. The legal rights and pensions chapters covered things I didn't know, so I was glad to learn about those. I went to a reading/Q&A with Sirota where I bought the book, and it was filled beyond capacity. He was quite insightful, dealt deftly and expertly with his subjects and the audience. He had the facts well in hand and exuded the confidence that comes with being prepared.
Since college 15 years ago, when I first became aware of the political power of corporations, I've been bothered by it. But it wasn't until about ten years ago that I started putting it all together. I became angry. Now, after having worked for the Man, voted for the Man and been ripped off by the Man in all sorts of ways, I've become motivated. I am a policy junkie and avid CSPAN watcher, but I haven't read many other books like this. I'm glad to have read "Hostile Takeover" and am looking forward to reading other books in this vein. I did see the documentary "The Corporation," which added fuel to my indignant, anti-corporate fire.
To reviewer B Struhl, I'd have to say that perhaps you've sat around reading a few too many of these books to realize that most people don't have the time to read all of them and compare/contrast in a personal academic exercise. Many people, myself included, ARE volunteering with clean-money campaigns and other things. And even if they aren't, if they're just talking about these topics, bringing them up in polite conversation, it's helpful.
"whenever a book suggests a solution for fixing major problem (sic) such as this one it usually only has academic value"
Come again? How does suggesting actual solutions, especially solutions that people could take part in and advocate for, amount to a purely academic exercise? And I've got to say that, even though I'm a registered Democrat, simply volunteering for the Democratic party or voting for every Democrat or Democratic position on a ticket is stupid. I'm angry at the Democrats and have been for a while because I want more populism in my politics. They are beholden to corporate interests just like the Republicans are. At least Sirota's recommendations for helping the country aren't as shallow and jaded B Struhl's.
on May 8, 2006
What sets apart David Sirota's Hostile Takeover: How Big Money & Corruption Conquered Our Government-and How We Take It Back from the panoply of books that capitalize on the current political angst is the strategy offered for action. Sirota does for his readers what Bush and his cohorts forgot to do for Iraq: plan not just for the assault but also for the aftermath.
Sirota's premise is that we have a silent majority whose day-to-day issues are being ignored by those in power. Why? Because our political system has been sold out to corporate interests. Sirota, a veteran political operative, makes a strong case. For each of the broad issues considered, he points to recent history, neatly laying out how government policies have been designed as a reverse Robin Hood. Included in each section are some of the "hacks" who have acted to ensure that corporate interests would be upheld and, importantly, some of the "heros" who have worked to oppose the destructive policies. Sirota forcefully exposes the "lies" and "myths" the public is spoon-fed to garner support for policies that are anything but in the interest of the average American. For each of the standard defenses of corporate enrichment at public expense, Sirota rips apart the rhetoric and exposes the hypocrisy. Though the zingers are aimed mostly at Republicans who have been the more numerous promoters of the nefarious policies, guilty Democrats are not left behind.
Sirota appeals to readers to get on board and become part of the necessary changes. The checks and balances that used to be in place are no longer at play when big money drives policy and self-interest overrides common goals and empathy. It's an uphill battle and Sirota doesn't make pretenses about the difficulty. He understands, in fact anticipates, some of the responses that will be made to his cry for action and provides some context for preempting the criticism. The next step is up to the audience. Unlike those attending a theatrical performance, they have to participate even after the lights have gone down and the "show" is over. Sirota's style is breezy and chatty, as if you were having a cocktail conversation with someone who happened to bring up the topic. Even if you don't intend to become an activist, this book will arm you with the facts you need to effectively argue your case.
on July 10, 2006
Most liberals out there can successfully nail an economic libertarian ideology for all its evils but David Sirota is one unique liberal, or shall I say populist progressive, who knows how to nail Libertarians for violating much of their own libertarian ideology or for that matter "conservatives" going too radical. Case in point, "free trade". For all the bashing against protectionists, "conservatives" and libertarians knowingly abuse it to protect their big business cronies from competition but at the same time force everyone else to be picked apart by cheap and illegal labor ! Thank god, as David Sirota pointed out in one of his articles, that even in the deep red south, union membership is growing. For far too long, the south has gotten a bad rap for slavery and racism but Sirota's book exposes the real slavery and racism misused by corporate profiteers just to maximize their own bottom line while giving everyone else the shaft. It's time to put down our differences on hot-button issues, unite like the ARMY, and fight the takeover and Sirota's book has plenty of ammo to help you out. Thank you, David !
P.S.: I look forward to Senators Jon Tester, Sherrod Brown, Bernard Sanders, and Bob Casey leading the fight in the Senate to reign in the business terrorists especially from Wall Street!
on May 15, 2006
If you're sick and tired of sound bites and personal smearing campaigns, read this book and help take back the media, the government, and most importantly, America before it's too late ! Sirota makes no bones about the corrupt system that has been sinking the country for the long haul. In addition to giving the real picture about the problems, he gives us non-monied folks powerful tips and solutions to withstand the brainwashing and fight for our rights and justice rather than standing powerless and voting against our own economic interests. And to prove that he's non-partisan, he gives plenty of examples of Democrats and Republicans who've been uber-corrupt but he also praises Democrats and yes, even Republicans who stood up and did what's right no matter how unpopular it looked on the surface. True, there are fewer Republicans and even Democrats to praise given the seductivity of the uber-corrupt system that has purposely made it extremely difficult if not impossible to act on principle and take bold stands in the right direction. Still, this book proves that there is hope and with the right amount of courage and principles, we can TEAR DOWN the rigid WALL OF INEQUALITY !
on May 21, 2006
If you ever wondered why even your local media outlets don't take real news seriously but instead go overboard with petty stories like abortion, OJ Simpson, Chandra Levy, Laci Peterson, etc ... , this book unravels the hostile takeover of America and any trace of democracy. The divide and conquer approach used by elitists has always helped them steal 99% of the time and no doubt it's happening all the time here in South Dakota even if Rapid City Journal's Mount Blogmore tries to treat these events as just a "compromise". And yes, if you mention this book on their blog, they BAN you because they know that they're part of the growing elitists benefitting from this Hostile Takever that Sirota accurately describes even though it's not as pronounced on the state level as it is on the federal level. Unlike what the soapy media tries to tell you, the abortion ban in SD is only a minor wound compared to other egregious actions against us working class folk. For example, even as the NRA supposedly stands for the hunters, they won't talk about stopping commercial interests from taking over our lands needed to enjoy hunting because somehow it'll hurt the "economy". Or let's take property rights. Every day, us South Dakotans are always under attack from business interests, especially credit card companies thanks to the 2005 bankruptcy "reform" bill, and no amount of firearms we have will stop these scoundrels unless of course we want to face the death penalty ! After reading this book and giving some greater thought about all this twiddle-dee twiddle-dum, I now look at Mount Blogmore differently and am fully convinced that those people have no interest in sharing anything worthwhile for discussion. As a Montanan, Sirota not only speaks for us Midwesterners but also for the rest of the country fed up with elitists ignoring the plight of the American people and I agree that it's time to put ignorance to rest, learn from Sirota, and help take back America with his non-hostile lessons and strategies.
on May 28, 2006
Last year and the year before, a native from Kansas, Thomas Frank, exposed the conservatives in Kansas and all across the country for exploiting the powerless sentiment in the minds of voters by distracting them with hot button issues such as god, guns, gays, abortion, flag burning, patriotism, war, terrorism, etc ... in his best-selling book "What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America." By keeping voters angry about the culture mess and framing that as the culprit for their economic losses, these same cons opened the door to allowing corporate evildoers to mug lower and middle class workers and even small businesses which explains why retail giants like Walmart and McDonalds wiped out most of the local restaurants and nearly all the mom-and-pop stores. And for all this, the typical blue collar worker will be spending time at work and at home listening to hate America rightwing terrorists like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Faux News, etc ... or watching vulgar sitcoms like Seinfeld where being ignorant is somehow rewarding. And even if that blue collar worker loses his or her job, instead of getting back at the employer for being robbed, they'll feel too powerless to the point of letting anti-Christs like Pat Robertson lure them over to protesting "abortion" clinics even while sinking further into poverty.
But one thing Frank doesn't answer which Sirota picks up at and answers is how the heck social conservative fundies and business elitists economically made the unacceptable practices of wiping out income from lower and middle class workers and transferring it to those at the top acceptable. Distracting voters with hot-button issues, right or left, wasn't the only culprit. Enter David Sirota, a Montana native who's not your typical "liberal" unlike the idiots in D.C. . Known for being a campaigner for Brian Schweitzer's senatorial race in 2000 and Schweitzer's run for governor in 2004, Sirota picks up on Frank's theory and Schweitzer's 2004 victory in an otherwise solid red state that went for Bush and proves that it's not just changing the party that needs to be done. While Sirota would like to see Democrats in power, he realizes that in addition to nearly all Republicans, a quarter to half the Democrats are also accessories to allowing big business to carry out their hostile takeover of government and turn it into government by the people for the special interests. It's the ideology that needs to be replaced first and foremost. In this book, Sirota picks up on Frank's final advice of economic populism by reframing the debates and offering populist-like strategies to put progressive ideology to work. Read this book and don't be afraid to fight back !
P.S.: Thank you Mr. Sirota for exposing the CAFTA 15 in the Democratic Party including the idiot Dennis Moore of KS for allowing the corporate socialism trade to pass. Just one vote in the House could have stopped this mugger from passing ! From this book in addition to Lakoff's "Moral Politics", it is now clear that 10 years from now when even more illegal immigrants come from Central America, like NAFTA forcing the abandoned working class Mexican to be illegal immigrants, CAFTA will force even more of it from Central America. Before the media and the politicians make another mess out of it, America needs to snap out of its ignorance and attack the real culprits and like Thomas Frank and George Lakoff, David Sirota is one of the few genuine liberals out in the red midwest not afraid to give us the power to fight back !
on June 17, 2006
If you're sick and tired of bastardized "conservatives" lying about cleaning up the culture mess or "limousine liberals" giving their "We'll help the poor" but pandering to the cons and also backstabbing the voters, this book is for you. And this need not apply to politics alone. If you're surrounded by rightwing ideologues at work and want to give them a piece of your mind and turn the tables on their idiocity, this book is a great source of thinking power to help kick down economic bullies !
Back here in LA, it's no secret already that both parties are corrupt but like all other states, the author exposes the extreme noteriety of these otherwise billed "moderates" such as David Vitter, Mary Landreiu(in), John Breaux, William Jefferson, etc ...
The same "conservatives" who keep preaching the need for education but make sure that tax breaks for college tuition expire quickly are the same phoney hacks who preach the need to crackdown on porn but still keep giving Paris Hilton and porn industries massive tax breaks and even extending them while doing nothing to hold them accountable for their cultural corruption !
If you're sick and tired of "limousine liberals" and want genuine working class liberals for a change, read this book. If you want independent candidates that don't rely on massive corporate funding ala Ross Perot, read this book. If you're a conservative but can't stand the unholy alliance of Grover Norquist, Ann Coulter, and Pat Robertson, read this book.
It's time to TEAR DOWN THE CORRUPT WALL in the Beltway that has kept these politicians and their business cronies insulated from the fed up public for so long and Mr. Sirota has shown us the way !