From Publishers Weekly
Perhaps you haven't heard: over the last 30 years the middle class has shriveled while the wealthy enjoy the skewed economics of the gilded age. The authors do their best to blow the dust off of their subject by taking a close look at this political "30 year war" and carefully parsing its roots. Corporate coalitions, lobbying, tax policies geared to the wealthy, and the extreme use of the "rule of 60" filibuster have tipped the scales and ultimately heaped blame onto the majority party. While Government can affect the distribution of wealth, it doesn't catch up with economic realities in time, and a changing Washington blocks attempts at reform. Where moderates used to rule the swing vote, now radical conservatives have taken hold. Unions are powerless, public interest groups prevail, and Christian conservatives drag Republicans ever right. Meanwhile, voters remain poorly informed. Though they never shed the sheen of "old news," Hacker and Pierson end on a note of optimism: the middle class can take the majority again with a "politics of renewal" shepherded in on a wave of "mass engagement" and "elite leadership."
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How did the widening gap between haves and have-nots—even worse, the haves and have-mores—come about? In the past 30 years, the top 1 percent have enjoyed 36 percent of all the income growth generated in the U.S. economy. Treating the growing socioeconomic gap like a whodunit, Hacker and Pierson painstakingly detail the gap between the superrich and everyone else. They paint a portrait of a nation that has fallen behind other developed nations in the widening income gap among its citizens. Worse, the wealth gap cannot be explained away by a lack of education or skills. Even among the well educated, a chasm has developed between the middle class and the wealthy. Whodunit? The U.S. government, which details changes in taxation and public policy, particularly regarding the financial markets, which have favored the wealthy at the expense of others over the last 30 years. Finally, they consider the long-term implications of this troubling trend and offer some encouraging signs—health care and financial reform, however anemic—and a growing discontent with the status quo. --Vanessa Bush