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The Betrayal of the American Dream Hardcover – July 31, 2012

4.4 out of 5 stars 149 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Booklist, **starred** review
“Barlett and Steele address key elements of this betrayal [of the middle class] (globalization, outsourcing, taxes, pensions, financial-sector dominance), then offer suggestions for reversing it, including progressive tax reform, fair trade, infrastructure investment, focused retraining, and criminal prosecution of white-collar criminals. Expect demand.”

Columbia Journalism Review
“The dedication reveals the emotional heart of their enterprise: Not merely number-crunching chroniclers of middle-class decline, they are invested in the fate of the people who exemplify it. Barlett and Steele’s preeminent talent is their knack for combining the micro and the macro. They look systemically at issues and policies, from the US tax code to healthcare. The questions they ask are both pragmatic (Does the system work?) and ideological (Who is benefiting, and at whose expense?). Their conclusions are buttressed by details gleaned from public records. But they also use the paper trail to track down the system’s apparent victims…the laid-off, the discarded, the pensionless, and the uninsured.”

Publishers Weekly
“The ostensibly willful destruction of the American middle class is laid bare in this villains and underdogs story from the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting duo…for folks bowled over by the recent financial meltdown, Barlett and Steele's book will resonate.”

Leonard Downie, Philadelphia Inquirer
“Just in time for this year's election, Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele are continuing the crusade to save the American middle class that they began two decades ago as star investigative reporters at The Philadelphia Inquirer….At a time when the future of investigative reporting is at risk in the digital reconstruction of American news media, Barlett and Steele could once again pioneer new ways of doing it, as they did in part through this collaboration with the Investigative Reporting Workshop. In any event, the publication of The Betrayal of the American Dream during the home stretch of the national political campaign injects a provocative populist imperative into an increasingly intense and perhaps decisive partisan debate over the fate of the American middle class.”

Associated Press
“The avuncular pair, renowned for chillingly accurate, if uncomfortable, observations, have meticulously sharpened their analysis. Now, four decades of mistaken tax and trade policy, declining public and private investment and willing disregard of existing laws have crippled many American industries and sent thousands upon thousands of U.S. jobs overseas without cause, they say. Given the power of their past groundbreaking work on health care, the economy and other political hot potatoes that shape how all Americans live, ‘‘Betrayal’’ merits a careful read from anyone concerned about the nation’s economic future. It is almost haunting…They dissect one industry after another with the precision and narrative flair that have won them many awards, including two Pulitzers.…The writers conclude with a cogent plan for substantial, specific changes to rehabilitate the American dream and rescue the middle class."

Mary Sanchez, Kansas City Star  
"If ever there were a time to pitch a national read-in, this is it...The text we should all be reading is ‘The Betrayal of the American Dream,’ by the reporting team of Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele. Published this month, the book is a nuanced and well-researched report on the crisis of the American middle class.”

Shepherd Express
The Betrayal of the American Dream is an angry book, denouncing the lies of corporate America and the elected officials it keeps on a leash woven from money.”

DailyKos
“The team of Barlett and Steele have produced excellent journalism in the past, and they have done it again with The Betrayal of the American Dream, (2012) an analysis of the pain caused by the economic crisis for everyday people.  This is a well written, readable book on the economic crisis and the 30 years of looting by corporate America that led to the crisis… The authors, excellent investigative journalists, place human faces on the devastation being wrought in our economy, and the pain and suffering imposed on the many by the few. It is a book well worth reading.”

Dan Rodricks, Baltimore Sun
"Important reading in this election year.”

Washington Post
“A brawling, journalistic mix-it-up…The authors’ passion and anger are as clear in these pages as they are in the title.”

Irish Times
“Urgent reading for anyone interested in contemporary America, not least as [a] stark reminder… of what is barely being discussed in the presidential election.”

Creative Loafing Charlotte
Thank God for writers who are able to show the effects of political decisions on ordinary Americans. Two of the very best are Donald R. Barlett and James B. Steele, …They shine again in their new book, The Betrayal of the American Dream (PublicAffairs, 306 pages, $26.99), in which America's overarching economic and political trends of the past 30 years are laid out clearly in intensely researched detail.”

The Progressive

“Barlett and Steele cover a lot of ground in this relatively short, fast-paced new book. Their straightforward, impassioned prose is filled with real-life stories of people who are losing their grip on the American Dream. "

New York Times Book Review“Barlett and Steele… have some intelligent things to say about the unfairness and impenetrability of the American tax code, which favors the wealthy and llows dangerous accounting for corporate pension liabilities….The book is strongest, and most useful, when it recounts the poignant stories of workers left out in the cold, chilling examples of exactly how far members of the middle class have fallen.  The book will undoubtedly make you angry.” 

USA Today“Barlett and Steele are superb researchers and clear writers.”

HuntingtonNews.net“The Betrayal of the American Dream is an outstanding explanation of what we've done wrong, with suggestions on how we can stem the flow of our nation's life blood and bring back good paying jobs that are the foundation of a rapidly disappearing middle class.” 
USA Today “When James B. Steele and Donald L. Barlett met as young reporters at the Philadelphia Inquirer  during 1971, nobody, including themselves, would have predicted they would spend the next 41 years (and counting) exposing illegal and ethical misbehavior inside the corporate-government nexus… Especially poignant in the wake of the Great Recession that officially ended in June 2009 but has barely abated for countless millions of U.S. residents… Using memorable anecdotes gleaned from deep reporting, Barlett and Steele show how the ruling class has instituted policies that mean the near abandonment in the job market for returning military veterans who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

Seattle Times“rich in detail about how we got into this crisis and provide[s] roadmaps out.”
Charleston (WV) Gazette
“a primer that should be read by all Americans who really want to understand problems in our job market and our economy… fascinating and readable.”

Rogue Columnist
“essential reading if you want to understand how we got into this mess and how we can move out of it”

Daily Kos“The book is packed with important information and examples of the damage wrought by policies that allow companies to, for instance, avoid taxes, profit from sending jobs overseas, and strip workers of their pensions. And it does the important work of making clear just how badly the deck is stacked against the 99 percent. … If getting mad primes you to fight, by all means, read this.” 

About the Author

Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele are the nation’s most honored investigative reporting team, and authors of the New York Times bestseller America: What Went Wrong? They have worked together for more than forty years, first at the Philadelphia Inquirer (1971–1997), then at Time magazine (1997–2006), and now at Vanity Fair since 2006. They have also written seven books. They are the only reporting team ever to have received two Pulitzer Prizes for newspaper reporting and two National Magazine Awards for magazine work. They live in Philadelphia.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; 1 edition (July 31, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586489690
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586489694
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (149 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #597,061 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The Betrayal of the American Dream does a good job of cataloging the assault on the American middle class. The book is easy to read and includes lots of personal narratives about real people and how their lives have been affected by policies that diminish the economic prospects for average people.

The book's basic argument is that the economic elite (the wealthy few) have pushed through policies that benefit themselves at the expense of the vast majority of working Americans. The main areas covered by the book are: The campaign to lower taxes on the rich: (The top rate on the super-wealthy was 92% in the 1950's, but only 35% today). The assault on middle class retirement. (85,000 pension plans have been eliminated since 1985). And, especially, free trade and deregulation, which have allowed companies to ship millions of jobs to low wage countries.

Much of the book is really about unbridled free trade and offshoring and how it has resulted in huge job losses (especially good middle class jobs). The book does a really good job of showing that globalization is not just affecting unskilled and manufacturing jobs, but it is now hitting hard at good jobs in technical areas that require lots of education. For example, in 1990 there were 565,000 computer programming jobs in the U.S, and everyone expected that number to grow. Computers, after all, were the future. However, by 2006 the number of jobs had FALLEN to 435,000, largely because the jobs were being shipped to low wage countries. If today's college graduates, even in technical fields like computer science, are seeing less opportunity, then it seems very hard to be optimistic about the prospects for the next generation. And it seems clear that more education (and more student debt) is not necessarily going to be a solution.
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Format: Hardcover
The authors have received two Pulitzer Prizes and two National Magazine Awards, as well as attaining NYTimes best-selling status for the prior 'America: What Went Wrong.' 'The Betrayal of the American Dream' is their latest of seven books.

The last forty years of public policy and Wall Street practices have relegated millions of Americans to the scrap heap - reduced 'real' earnings and health benefits, chronic job insecurity, and retirement with fewer and fewer benefits. Since 1985 almost 85,000 pension plans have been killed. Millions more have also lost their jobs and or their homes; over $19 trillion of household wealth was lost in the Great Recession, mostly in the housing market. Many had purchased fearing they would be priced out of the market. The difference between what individuals and corporations pay in taxes has increased from 22% in the 1950s to 62%. Astonishingly, this has all occurred in a democratic nations where the will of the people is supposed to prevail.

Factory jobs have declined by nearly half since 1979 when 21 million workers were employed in that sector. Last year there were only 11.7 million manufacturing jobs; this year has brought Harley-Davidson back into crisis, this time 'resolved' by cutting the work force in half. And now, we're losing service jobs in professional and technical fields. Concerns about jobs lost to other nations were originally minimized by economists as representing nothing more than an economy moving into new areas - turns out those new areas were primarily low-pay service jobs, often taken by illegals.

Middle Americans' options are shrinking. Twenty years ago you could move to find another job if you'd lost one. Now it may take a year to sell one's home (if at all), and the equity in your house may have vanished.
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Format: Hardcover
Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele deliver a heartfelt, astonishing story about the Fall of the Middle Class, along with the American Dream. Investigative reports are presented on the betrayal of the American Dream, along with the crumbling of the Middle Class. A Class that once provided the workforce, educated skills, and the demand that gave life to the world's Greatest consumer economy. A Dynamic class, innovative, giving rise to a beautiful dream once upon a time. A Golden Promise was made many moons ago, work hard and simply follow the rules, then prosper in America. Part of that dream was also to make sure our children would live a better life than us, do we still feel the same way? What happened to the Middle Class, and the American Dream, can we really fix it? The reports revealed are sad and extremely thought-provoking in this powerful, extraordinary book that will make every American Ponder long after we close it. Highly Recommended!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I consider myself a middle class American even though I only have a high school diploma. My husband and I were able to accomplish all the things our parents wished for us. We bought our first home shortly after we were married with just 5% down on an FHA loan. Because of a steady job with union benefits we raised our family, saved for retirement and now, in our retirement years, we feel pretty secure. We live modestly but comfortably on a combination of pensions and Social Security. But the rules have changed drastically for the younger generation. It saddens me more than I can say.

Anyone who wonders what the heck happened SHOULD READ THIS BOOK. I especially wish the leaders of our country would read it, although I think they know in their heart how they have all betrayed us. They have allowed the huge corporations of this country to decimate the middle class, and leave hopelessness in its wake.
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