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Customer Review

293 of 364 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Insufficient explanation of political realities, May 21, 2012
This review is from: It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism (Hardcover)
In this only partially adequate examination of the state of national politics, the authors easily demonstrate that the Republican Party is so entirely consumed with maintaining power and ideological purity that it is willing to pursue an agenda harmful to the nation. One needs look no further than the so-called debt crisis of 2011 which the Republicans precipitated resulting in considerable financial distress to the nation. One has to look far in American history to find such irresponsibility and recklessness. As hard-hitting as this book most certainly is, the authors really do not get to the core of the problem.

This book is inadequate in understanding how the political system has become so dysfunctional. It is only mildly helpful to point to the polarizing tactics introduced by Newt Gingrich in the 1970s. American politics does not transpire in a vacuum; to greater or lesser extent, our politics does reflect the political sophistication of the public, as well as the distribution of power in American society. The public's alleged unhappiness with Washington is apparently trumped by more fundamental thinking and forces.

First, it has to be recognized that the American public has been so propagandized over the last four decades with so-called free-market ideology that big business and the rich are essentially given a free pass on their machinations, regardless of how harmful. In fact, the extent of the propaganda is seen in that the financial meltdown of 2008 is now seen in many quarters as an example of too much governmental intervention. As the authors note, Washington is awash in money, which essentially means that the rich control American politics. And that is the primary agenda of the Republican Party: do the will of the rich regardless of harm to average Americans. Unfortunately, the average Joe Blow buys into this simplistic market ideology, failing to recognize the immense harm that has been done to him under its tenets.

And then there are the so-called social conservatives, or fanatics in some quarters, who want to see their version of morality imposed on the entire nation. Such groups will cling to any party who so much as pays lip-service to their agenda. The Republican Party has become quite adept at pandering to social conservatives, while pursuing policies favorable to the rich. Much of the public is at best indifferent towards politics, or more likely simply ignorant, and is quite vulnerable to the misrepresentations and demonization that the political right excels in. The remainder of the public, knowledgeable and engaged, is simply swamped by these extremist forces.

Oddly enough, given the state of American political affairs, the authors seem fairly optimistic that their ideas for reform can work. Yet all of their changes require initiative from either the public or from within government, which contradicts the entire thrust of the book. In actuality, political and economic matters in the US are far worse than what the authors contend. Over the last few decades, to name only a couple of developments, the American economy has been hollowed out in the name of "free-trade," and the redistribution of wealth to the top one percent is unprecedented. Other than the quite small "Occupy" movement, there is scarcely any recognition that the US has entered an entirely new era. It is an era where powerful interests will control what develops in the US, and the obfuscating tactics of the Republican Party are a key part of that agenda.
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Showing 1-10 of 82 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 23, 2012 9:39:27 AM PDT
donS says:
We like your writing and there's so much you write that is what we believe. You write, "Yet all of their changes require initiative from either the public or from within government..." and we don't know what exactly you mean. To us, wife and I, we don't know of any other way to change the government. It sounds like you sorta-kinda think it's a good book, at best it seems to be mostly hidden in your words. Also, not germane to my feedback, I'd more like to read "the public AND from within government. It would help to know where are you coming from: Are you Republican or Democrat or ? It's a spendy book, even Kindle, and I don't really know if I should buy it or leave it for a while, hoping the price will drop. Is there a better book out there? We're ready to NOT vote this time around. IE. we don't like either one and that's scary.

In reply to an earlier post on May 23, 2012 12:12:25 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 23, 2012 3:11:36 PM PDT
J. Grattan says:
It does not make much sense to write a book about dysfunctional gov and then consider gov reforming itself to become effective - like rules in the Senate and the like. I don't like the book much; it tells of the obvious. One of the author's being of the AEI is going to prevent talk about our class-divided society.

Posted on May 23, 2012 1:16:48 PM PDT
Smart analysis, one of the best here. Thanks.

In reply to an earlier post on May 23, 2012 1:38:32 PM PDT
J. Grattan says:
Really do not like writing this stuff; America is not what it's supposed to be right now.

In reply to an earlier post on May 27, 2012 3:50:36 PM PDT
S. Prewitt says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

Posted on May 28, 2012 3:04:06 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 28, 2012 3:10:49 AM PDT
J. Grattan, I agree with much of your critique. I also rated the book three-stars because, while the "problems" were at least well-considered, I thought the proposed "solutions" were weak.

It is also true as you say that the Republicans have convinced themselves that the Great Recession of 2008 was caused by too much government regulation, too high taxes, and too little free trade. Then again, that fits with their pro-business ideology. The statement in your review that interested me most was:

<<Over the last few decades, to name only a couple of developments, the American economy has been hollowed out in the name of "free-trade,">>

Bear in mind that the Democrats are also true believers in free trade. Free trade has been the core of their commercial policy going as far back as the early 1800s. In our own time Bill Clinton signed NAFTA and Barack Obama just the other day signed free trade with South Korea and Colombia. Democrats back free trade for pretty much the same reasons Republicans do, which is because they believe that it expands exports and creates more profits for business and jobs for working people, while lowering consumer prices by increasing competition with foreign suppliers. I'm dubious about this idea, as you are, but both parties buy into it.

Another curiosity is that the Democrats have been silent on other ideas that would directly help their traditional working-class constituencies, such as promoting job security by requiring companies to pay the full cost of the unemployment they create and by raising the minimum wage.

Why HAVE the Democrats been silent on these "workingman" issues of trade, job security, and wages? It is either because they do not believe that they are truly beneficial to working families, or else they have become as corrupted by the influence of business as have the Republicans. Let's face it: about the only thing the two parties do agree on is bailing out failed corporations and expanding free trade!

In reply to an earlier post on May 28, 2012 4:10:48 AM PDT
J. Grattan says:
Alan, my remarks are on the Repubs mostly because that is the focus of the authors. I could not agree more that the Democrats have lost touch with working people. However, I also do not see the working class activism that once was such a large part of the Am political scene. Non-college educated whites I believe favor Romney. Ridiculous.

Re: free trade. Actually tariffs were significant even in the 1830's. Recall the Tariff of Abominations. Some claim that the tariff issue was a cause of the Civil War. There really is no such thing as "free trade" and "free markets". Power dynamics are always at work. Some will gain, others will lose hidden by the word "free." Yes, Clinton bailed on free trade. That was where he became Republican Lite. There is no way that equalizing costs should not be imposed on those seeking to exploit the subtandard economies of the world to the detriment of American workers. I say, move your business overseas is you want, but expect to pay when attempting to bring in cheap, exploited goods. Cheap prices for Am consumers is only one consideration. What is cost of cheap goods?

I stand by my review that Am has become a very class-divided society with a massive propaganda appartus that conceals much of that from an ignorant public.

Posted on May 28, 2012 6:30:12 AM PDT
Just want to tell you that you have made an excellent comment here. I want to add that whatever the virtues or vices of Republican Party tactics one things stand out above all others: the main spokespeople and activists within the Republican Party have officially rejected science and the Enlightenment project along with the main elements of Western Civilization. Their policies may or may not have merit in themselves but this underlying fact, in my view, disqualifies everything they do. The authors have been instrumental in changing the argument in the press (this I think will be seen over time) that you have to blame "both sides" (as if there were only two sides). The American news-media by not emphasizing fact-checking enough have given the edge to those who simply fabricate reality in order to hoodwink a busy and a semi-literate public. The Republican Party is quite simple--they represent and serve the oligarchs by appealing to the lower-brains or relatively immature people who do not have any critical-thinking skills.

In reply to an earlier post on May 28, 2012 7:07:02 AM PDT
J. Grattan says:
A democracy/republic cannot work for the general good in an atmosphere of demonization and ignorance. There will be those who perpetuate the dysfunctional to their and their cronies benefit. What we have in America is a plutocracy that is committed to exploiting the average person in so many ways: stock market manipulation, sqeezing wages, bringing in replacement H1B visa workers, capturing Congress for their agenda, etc, etc.

In reply to an earlier post on May 28, 2012 8:10:45 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 28, 2012 8:11:32 AM PDT
J., my response to the issue of free trade is: "The American worker would rather have a job that enables him/her to purchase SOME goods and services, even if they are relatively expensive, than to be unemployed and therefore be unable to purchase ANY goods and services, even if they are relatively cheap."

As you say, both parties have considered only one aspect of a complex issue. I suppose the question now is whether it has become too late to reverse our commitment to free trade. Would backing away from it now that it has become so ingrained in our economy be beneficial or detrimental?

As many others have said, it would be nice to have a REAL choice between the parties on this issue. A Donald Trump on the right/center or a Ralph Nader on the left/center would be a very welcome candidate.
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