213 of 220 people found the following review helpful
on August 8, 2012
In "The Party Is Over" Mike Lofgren presents a very similar message to Joseph Stiglitz's "The Price of Inequality" and Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein's "It's Even Worse than It Looks." The difference is that Lofgren's perspective is from working as a Republican analyst on House and Senate budget committees for 28 years. Throughout the book he tells of some of his interactions with unnamed elected officials, but primarily he focuses on specific people in government who forgot about what was for the good of the people in return for the power -- Republicans like Bush, Cheney, Abramoff, Gingrich, Bachmann, the Koch Brothers and Democrats like Obama, Rubin and Geithner. (Hint - you don't want to be mentioned in this book.)
I've made it a point to read books that were written by people who have written from different vantage points -- columnists, think tankers, bloggers, former officials, news people. It's interesting to see how those authors attempt to balance their criticism to attempt to attract both liberal/Democratic and conservative/Republican readers and to avoid the shut-down response where one side jumps onboard enthusiastically and the other pans it without actually reading it. None of those books were as outspoken and specific as Lofgren's. The first 10 chapters focus on aspects of the Republican strategy or how the Republican Party has gotten to the point where they are now -- its history, tactics, selective use of the Constitution, the words it uses to fire up its base, its tax strategy (it's really all about reducing taxes for the rich ... all the rest is purposely used to distract from that main strategy), its alliance with the religious right, its media complicity, its anti-liberal fixation, and its continued dishonesty -- and all this from a Republican staffer! This focus on one aspect at a time helps to compartmentalize their positions. Chapter 11 is not friendly to the Democrats, stating that they are just as much in corporate pockets as the Republicans are and that Obama has done little more than extending many of the policies and affronts to our personal rights that Bush put in place. The main problem he has with the Democrats is that they don't focus on anything. Perhaps if the Democrats do focus in this campaign on the middle class as Carville & Greenberg propose in "It's the Middle Class, Stupid!" this issue might be addressed.
As was the case in Jeff Faux's "The Servant Economy" I got a sense of hopelessness when I got to that final chapter. If you believe the expression "it's always darkest before the dawn," the chapter starts with this quote--
"As we embark on the second decade of the 21st century, the commanding heights of corporate America--the banks, the military-industrial complex, corporate interests benefiting from huge subsidies like Big Pharma and Big Oil--largely have the government they want. They have the tax structure they desire. Under Bush appointee Chris Cox, the SEC's regulatory function was wrecked. The military has been so outsourced that the Army can no longer feed itself, while a policy of permanent war assures a perpetual cash flow to contractors. Federal law guarantees pharmaceutical companies the kind of collusive and monopolistic profiteering that antitrust laws were intended to prevent. Corporate America has posted record profits even amid the most protracted period of joblessness in post-World War II history. It is corporate nirvana. Under these circumstances, who needs an activist government? Now that the commanding heights have achieved their objectives, a gridlocked government will work just fine, regardless of who is in charge."
Pretty scary if this is even remotely the case. In that final chapter, though, Lofgren offers a glimmer of hope. If the money can be removed from politics, then a chain reaction of positive developments could take place. After all, Lofgren says, people put us into this unfair and unequal position and citizens if properly educated to the situation can fight our way out. Already there are positive developments like people cleaning up their debt, refusing to apply to colleges where the tuition keeps skyrocketing, and working their way out of mortgages with no help from the government.
It's pretty interesting, too, to see the early press reactions to Lofgren and how he emerged from a long, low-profile career in government to express such loud and outspoken opinions about people he experienced up close and personally. Few have branded him as a whistleblower or a troublemaker, though one reporter wondered why he sat still for so long if this bothered him so much. This may be a preview of what we may see in the upcoming 2012 election. How are the Republican moderates who are increasing pushed out of their party going to react to the extremism of the current party? Will they have had enough and vote Democratic as the better of two evils? Will there be a candidate with the resolve to do what is right rather than doing what they are lobbied or outright bribed to do? These are the questions that Lofgren focuses on that can help us as voters to think through what must happen in a long-term effort to reclaim our government.
273 of 291 people found the following review helpful
on August 4, 2012
The Party Is Over is excellent. Mike Lofgren is a real historian and has filled his book with terrific insights and analyses. Nowhere is there a better assessment of the fundamental axiom of Republican politics than on page 35, "that relentless attack is its own Teflon." I suspect this book will itself be relentlessly attacked and Lofgren vilified as an apostate. But Lofgren is a genuine conservative in its traditional definition as respectful of tradition and cautious.
His analysis of "paleoconservatives" on page 23 is on point, "Scratch many a paleoconservative and you will find a neo-Confederate at heart." The Republican Southern Strategy of 1968 has born the bitter fruit of turning the clock back to secessionism. While a few, like Texas Governor Rick Perry, have treasonously advocated open secessionism, the contemporary version is secession by withdrawing financially from our nation either by endless tax cuts for the rich to hollow out our infrastructure and institutions or by corporate outsourcing.
While there are similar gems throughout the book, I want to outline just a few. On page 44: "Like the biblical literalist, Republicans assert that the Constitution is divinely inspired and inerrant. But also like biblical literalists, they are strangely selective about those portions of their favorite document that they care to heed, and they favor rewriting it when it stands in the way of their political agenda."
On page 149, there is a lyrical thumbnail sketch depicting William Jennings Bryant as a sad parallel to the descent of the Republican Party into anti-intellectualism. William F. Buckley Jr. is nostalgically contrasted with the crudity of rightwing mouthpieces on page 150. And the entire career of columnist George Will is encapsulated in a sentence and a footnote on the following page.
Speaking of footnotes, nowhere in contemporary political commentary is there a more pointed and damning critique of the blindness and herd mentality of current journalism than the footnote on page 153 regarding the portrayal of George W. Bush as a regular guy you want to have a beer with.
Lofgren's assessment of Democrats as enablers for Republicans' dementia is on point. It certainly appears that the Democrats have merely moved into the ruins of policies the Republicans have abandoned as the Republicans have become increasingly extremist.
Finally in his last chapter, Lofgren has solutions that would actually work to bring meaningful change and turn government back to finding solutions to problems as opposed to endlessly drumming hot button issues. This book is superb, both funny and wise with genuine concern about the our country and its place in history.
132 of 140 people found the following review helpful
on August 11, 2012
Caveat emptor: what follows is a biased book review. The author Mike Lofgren (bio - see ref  below) is a very close friend of mine. I have been flogging this important new book, since I first read it in draft copy.
Mike Lofgren, a native of Akron Ohio, is a conservative of the now forgotten Republican old school. He is more at home with the likes of Robert Taft, Dwight Eisenhower, and Abraham Lincoln than right wing ideologues like Newt Gingrich or plutocratic highway robbers like Mitt Romney.
Ideologically disposed readers of Lofgren's aptly titled book may be tempted conclude he has flipped and joined the Democrats. To be sure, Lofgren is harder on Republicans than Democrats. Having served on the Republican staffs of the House and Senate Budget Committees, he was in a much better position to observe and understand their hijinks than those of the Democrats. So, it is not at all surprising that his book has more detail describing how the ideological Republican crazies created a political economy that is poisoning our culture and wrecking what used to be the greatest job engine in economic history. It would be a great mistake, however, to conclude that Mike is arguing Republicans are THE culprits. The thesis of this book is about how the Republicans and Democrats worked together to sell out the middle class.
Lofgren is a modest, unassuming individual, who at first glance would appear quite unlikely to write such a book. He never sought the klieg lights. Nor did he ever pal around with the gucci shoe crowd to lubricate his way through the revolving door into a high paying lobbying job on K Street. Lunch for Lofgren was not at the Prime Rib or Capitol Hill Club, but a simple sandwich in a brown bag. This modesty of life style hides a principled intellectual with the character to go where his observations and reasoning take him. Moreover, a pen in Lofgren's deft hands, when combined with his deep understanding of political history and his acid sense of humor, becomes a sharp, deeply penetrating harpoon aimed at the heart of his subject. In addition to harpooning the ravenous Republican killer whale, Mike harpoons the tired Democratic whale by demonstrating subtly, yet persuasively, how the growing "uselessness" of the Democrats evolved out of an enervating sense of being entitled to power.
Over time, that sense of entitlement insensibly changed Democrats into what we in the Pentagon would call ENABLERS of Republicans. The Democratic enablers unwittingly played a crucial role in the demolition of the American dream, not unlike that played by infiltration troops in blitzkrieg. Infiltration troops soften up the front by slipping through defenses to find or create holes and weak areas for the tanks to roar thru to reap chaos and destruction deep in the enemy's rear area. Only in this case, the rear area being ruined is the American middle class, and the flood of tanks is taken up by the flood money supplied by the oligarchs who feather their nests by buying Democrats as well as Republicans in one seamless auction.
Put bluntly, to protect a sense of hereditary entitlement to the power that accompanied the coattails of FDR and the New Deal, Democrats abandoned their heritage and moved to Wall Street, Big Pharma, Defense, etc., and in so doing, insensibly mutated into faux Republicans. If you doubt this, look at the enervating, quasi-neoliberal bloviating by the self-inflating Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) or the cynical triangulations and warmongerings of Messrs. Clinton and Obama. The abdication of traditional Democratic principles gave Republican crazies more room to get even crazier, and together the faux Republicans and the real crazy Republicans reinforced each other to create a rightward shift in the American political dynamic that unleashed the emergence of a new gilded age, together with the emergence of a legalized plutocracy that criminal Russian oligarchs would envy. And this mutation came about in a remarkably short time of 30 to 40 years.
In so doing, the Democrats sold out their most important constituency, i.e., John Q. Average American, and colluded in the historic swindle that brought the great American middle class to the brink of impoverishment and debt peonage, a condition some times referred to chillingly in the tone-deaf salons of Versailles on the Potomac as the "new normal."
If you think collusion is too strong a term, I would urge you to think about Bill Clinton's (the DLC's choice for president in the 1992 election) collusion with Republicans in 1999 to nullify of the Depression era Glass-Steagle Act -- one of monuments of reform in the New Deal. This nullification was one of the main deregulatory "initiatives" that unleashed the greedy excesses that led to the 2007-8 financial meltdown. When he left office, Bill Clinton, by the way, did not pick up his grips and retire to a modest house in Independence Missouri like Harry Truman; he chose instead to join the plutocratic elite, where he is now well on his way to becoming a card-carrying member of the one-tenth of one-percent club of the mega rich. The bottom line: the Democrats' sense of entitlement and the consequent corruption of their principles have been a necessary, if not sufficient, condition in the emergence of the current political-economy that is destroying what is left of the middle class in our good ole USA. The reader would make a great mistake if he or she allowed the hilariously disgusting Republican hijinks described by Lofgren to brand his book as an anti-Republican polemic written by a convert, and miss his main message.
Mike, of course, states clearly in his title that his subject is how the madness of the Republicans and the uselessness of the Democrats reinforced each other over the last 30 to 40 years to hose the American People. It is the degenerate nature of their symbiotic relationship that is his thesis and should be the Left's call to arms.
I do not count on this happening, however. The faux Republicans are far more likely to try to exploit the embarrassment of riches in Mike's book for their narrow short-term political advantage, in yet another demonstration of the hypocrisy and opportunism that are central pillars propping up their losing mentality.
In closing, I ask you to read this favorable review of The Party Is Over . Note, it appeared in Pat Buchanan's American Conservative magazine, not some Democratic rag trying to gain leverage in the coming Presidential election. That should be an example for the Left to emulate. A real question in my mind is whether any left-leaning counterparts to the American Conservative will use Mike Lofgren's call to arms to summon the curiosity and the courage to explore the ramifications of his subtler analysis of the "enablers" of decline.
52 of 60 people found the following review helpful
on August 31, 2012
This is a good jeremiad about the sorry state of our politics. However, his final chapter on the solution--limited and publicly-financed elections--ignores the severe obstacles. First, constitutional guarantees of free speech can be used by many partisans to overcome whatever system is set up. Second, all of our branches of government have been corrupted to the point that they will fight the changes. Most important, the oligarchy is now so powerful that it might be too late.
Larwrence Lessig's "Republic Lost" covers much of the same ground but offers a much more sophisticated set of ideas for achieving public financing: tax earmarks and constitutional conventions.
But before any constructive solutions can be tried a lot of people will have to be woken up and get really angry, and this book will contribute to that.
BTW: It's great the Bill Moyers is back!
78 of 94 people found the following review helpful
on August 3, 2012
There have been many great insider books about the death of the American democracy, but this one might be the most insider'ish perspective yet. "Mike Lofgren spent twenty-eight years working in Congress, the last sixteen as a senior analyst on the House and Senate Budget committees." As such, he was a Republican operative working for the powers that be in that corrupt party's upper echelon. He had a ring-side seat for the idiocy and cynical manipulations of our country's worst people.
Personally, instead of stupid "voter ID" laws like that being proposed in Minnesota and other states of stupidity, I think reading and understanding this book should be required for voter registration. Unfortunately, with 21% to 23% of adult Americans unable "to locate information in text" I suspect we're screwed. That is most likely exactly the percentage of Teabaggers and we all know that they will vote however the Koch Brothers tell them to vote. They don't need to read, they just follow the visual "guide" they've been handed and hope the ballot hasn't changed.
As depressing as this book is and indicative of the collapse of one more of history's long chain of failed empires, Lofgren is an optimist. "We must let our hopes be greater than our fears." [...] We can only hope that a significant group of citizens (not "consumers" as the media likes to call us) read this book and acts on that knowledge. For years, I'm going to assume that if you haven't read "The Party Is Over" you don't know enough about government and the problems this nation is facing to be worth talking to.
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on August 9, 2012
Yes the author is angry, but the anger is fact based. If you are a political junkie with research tendencies you may have seen much of this info. However, it gives you hope to hear it from a once ultra conservative from Ohio. Additionally, there is no shortage of new shocking insights. My own personal background is; I trained on Wall Street in the mid 70's and I am retired from almost 30 years in the Institutional Securities Business (and yes we are even worse than you have heard). I strongly believe that if Corporate money was removed from political campaigns, both government and corporate management would benefit. CEO's would have to be more concerned with their business operation, and less with manipulating political advantage and gaining government funds, subsidies, etc. So clearly I agree with the author's assessment that we are threatened with a growing domination of the legislative process by corporate money.
32 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on August 5, 2012
This book is a good description of the problem with two party duopolies like we have now, they inevitably evolve away from policy issues and merely become aligned along the most obvious divides in society: rich and poor, educated and uneducated, etc. Now we have the shameful spectacle of the party of the rich blatantly working to legislate against the party of the poor even being able to vote. I wished the author discussed more alternatives to the problems of this two party system, such as ranked choice voting. We could use more influence of other ideas like those of Ron Paul and Ralph Nader. Now they only serve as spoilers, ranked choice voting would give them legitimate power and influence to move the discussion off the stuck on stupid mode.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Mike Lofgren presents a concise, informative and comprehensive analysis of current political problems, affecting our country. The issues presented are thought-provoking and everything in this book should be read, prior to Voting. The author portrays a clear picture of meaningful changes that need to take place, the importance of how these issues affected our nation, and Solutions that will work to change it for the Better. This feedback with careful thoughts and political opinions is information that's essential to professional assessment for the entry into solutions, the building blocks for America's future in a major concern about our country and the place it should be in history. "THE PARTY IS OVER" is powerfully moving and thought-provoking throughout. A book that's essential to read, prior to Voting. Highly Recommended!
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
I read this book is in original incarnation, "Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult," (truthout, 3 Sep 2011), and have to give the author high marks for fleshing out his original litany of Republican felonies against the public. For that he gets a 6 -- beyond five stars and long overdue. He is especially strong on showing how hypocritical, unintelligent, and generally unethical my former party has become. He barely earns a 3 on the Democrats, and this is a pity because his success on the Republicans really calls for a similar indictment for the Democrats by an insider.
Where I was most dismayed by the book is in the author's complete failure to grasp that the REASON the Republican and Democratic parties are so corrupt is precisely because they have excluded the Independents, Constitutionals, Greens, Libertarians, and Reforms from ballot access, while also disenfranchising them through gerrymandering--our corrupt Congress chooses its voters, not the other way around, which is why Peggy Noonan was able to supply Ronald Reagan with the killer saying, "there is less turnover in the US Congress than in the Soviet politburo."
I've read the other reviews and decided the best thing I can do to encourage the general direction of this book (corrupt parties, corrupt government, time to flush) is list other books I have reviewed that strongly support this one but with more coherence in their chosen area of focus.
I begin with the two party tyranny. My own book I cannot link to but Amazon allows me to list it under my signature.
Running on Empty: How the Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It
Grand Illusion: The Myth of Voter Choice in a Two-Party Tyranny
On the corruption of Congress:
The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track (Institutions of American Democracy)
Breach of Trust: How Washington Turns Outsiders Into Insiders
On the corruption of the White House:
Vice: Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the American Presidency
Obama: The Postmodern Coup - Making of a Manchurian Candidate
On the military-industrial complex that broke the bank over the long term:
War is a Racket: The Antiwar Classic by America's Most Decorated Soldier
Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex
On the financial terrorism cabal led by Goldman Sachs that broke the global bank over the short term:
Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History
The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism
What this all boils down to is the complete loss of integrity across all sectors of the no-longer-a-Republic. I have reviewed many books, almost all non-fiction, that bear on the current state of the world and the union dismembered by the two-party tyranny and all it has made possible against the public interest, my two lists, one negative (an assessment of the situation) and one positive (what we could do if I--who ran for President as a Reform Party candidate long enough to understand the corruption in person--could get one patron to sponsor an Electoral Reform Summit in September of this year.
Worth a Look: Book Review Lists (Positive)
Worth a Look: Book Review Lists (Negative)
There is absolutely no question in my mind but that if we could get 50 million US voters to understand the specific policies of We the People Reform Coalition and demand the Electoral Reform Act of 2012 IN TIME FOR NOVEMBER 2012, that we could execute a non-violent legal abolishment of the corrupt two-party system and the restoration of a government Of, By, and For We the People.
Mike Lofgren's book may be the ultimate insider look at the naked Emperor, but it is not a precipitant for revolution. For that we need at least one soccer mom torching herself on the steps of Capitol Hill after giving an exclusive interview to CNN. It has come to that.
Robert David Steele
ELECTION 2008: Lipstick on the Pig
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on August 28, 2012
There has been a thread of recent books decrying the Republicans in Congress and Mike Lofgren's "The Party is Over" is one of the best. Because he served in Congress (at a time when Congress actually got things done and was much more civil) Lofgren is a key person to tell the story. While the book is mostly concerned with his own party, Democrats hardly come across unscathed.
Arranged in terrific chapters, Lofgren begins the unraveling. It's good that he initially reminds of what the Republican party USED to be, because it's a perfect jumping off point for what follows. GOP tactics gives way to what Lofgren calls a "Devil's Dictionary"....phrases that Republicans use to get their message across. Things really get going in a chapter on taxes and the rich and I particularly liked his assessment of the role religion plays within the party. In my estimation, one of the many problems with the evolution of the Republican party (if one can even use the word "evolution" when talking about them!) is that it went south, turned right and found religion. Bingo.
There's quite a lot to digest in "The Party is Over" but it is great to hear about it from one of their own. If Romney wins in November, the party will be over for all of us. I highly recommend this book.