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Showing 1-10 of 273 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 334 reviews
on August 24, 2016
It's a shame most Americans will not read it. "Who Stole the American Dream?" puts together many of the disruptive conditions which have occurred in the last forty years and clearly explains why there is an ever-widening gap between the rich and poor. The majority of Baby Boomers embraced unfettered capitalism with little or no government oversight and, as a result, drove the American Dream right into the ground for most citizens. The highly-respected historian Mr. Smith, who is the author of the impressive books 'The Russians' and 'The Power Game', writes in a straightforward manner. The work is heavily annotated and devoid of sarcasm, so this baby's supported by facts and is leagues above rants by such bomb-throwing authors as Ann Coulter and her ilk.

'Who Stole the American Dream?' covers such topics as soulless American corporations shifting U.S. white-collar and blue-collar jobs overseas and decimating countless communities; the paradigm shift of politicians pandering strictly to the rich over our nation's citizens; how this new paradigm of bending over for Wall Street destroyed the middle class, the obscene rise of CEO and executive compensation; both the Washington Democrats and Republicans were/are at fault; debunking the myth of the American skills gap; the toxic GOP strategy of "Starving the Beast"; the cost of perpetual war; the greedy malfeasance in the sub-prime debacle (also watch the movie 'The Big Short'); the loony gutting of American manufacturing; it compares our dismal downward trajectory unlike Germany's healthier system; and how the large majority of Americans are nowhere near prepared for retirement. Thankfully, despite the overabundance of depressing information presented by Mr. Smith, he also gives ten clear steps we should take as Americans if we are to avoid being thrown on history's ash heap of great states.

Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and the indifferent are all to blame. To return our country more to a democracy than the present quasi-plutocracy is the challenge from within. The threat to us is not foreign but domestic. Compromise is viewed, especially by the Far Right, as a weakness. It isn't. Compromise is ESSENTIAL for a democracy to not only function but survive. Mr. Smith's work is a healthy shot of reality and should get you upset. Our country and system of government is not indestructible. I'd like to leave this world knowing our kids didn't inherit a big turd because of us Baby Boomers.
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on May 5, 2017
This book is fascinating. It simply and clearly educates about why the country is in such a mess and gets the reader to deeply consider the whys and wherefores of our surprisingly integrated and interrelated economy. However, it was published in 2012 and while the final chapter aims to strike a constructive, positive path forward, current events since then have made it abundantly clear that all the issues highlighted and discussed are going to only grow worse. This can leave one more than a little embittered.
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on April 30, 2016
At one time I thought that the middle class was diminishing only because the baby boom generation were starting to retire. We all know that,in most cases, when someone retires their income will decrease. I felt that the dwindling of the middle class was simply a matter of attrition. Boy was I wrong. Hedrick Smith shows the reader that big business along with government is the cause for the diminishing middle class. He shows the reader how it happened and why the programs we have in place, (401K's, company health plans,etc.) are not working. In fact they are part of the problem.

This is a very hard book to read (emotionally) and one that is hard to put down because it's like watching a train wreck only the train is America and the middle class are the passengers.

Donald Trump may be saying that it is time for America to get tough with the rest of the world. After reading this book I say it is time for the middle class to get tough with our government officials.
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on March 5, 2013

Once again Hedrick Smith has produced a winner. Outstanding reporting. Quality writing. It's not hard to see why this man has risen so high in the publishing world and why he has earned a Pulitzer.
Smith chronicles the demise of what he calls the "American Dream" from its glory days immediately post World War II (1950 to 1970) when we enjoyed a thriving economy to the economic stress of today. Wages and benefits were decent and income was distributed fairly among all classes of the American public.
The reversal came in the 1980s and has grown steadily worse, according to Smith.
Biased Federal policies, partisan gridlock and the rampant power of the lobbying industry have consistently eroded the stability and economic strength of the Middle Class, while the rich have grown richer. Using those riches, they have become political power houses playing a major role in the destiny of this country.
Smith has opened his book with two quotations both of which deserve to be repeated here. These both capture the essence of his outstanding book. Former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis warned, "We may have democracy or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."
Centuries before, the philosopher Aristotle stated, "It is manifest that the best political community is formed by the citizens of the middle class, and that those states are likely to be well-administered in which the middle class is large and stronger if possible than both other classes."
The process of deterioration began in the mid-1970s. Former President Jimmy Carter campaigned against the loopholes that substantially reduced the tax burdens of the rich. He sent legislation to the Congress that would close the loopholes and reduce taxes for lower income families. Already under the sway of the lobbying industry, Congress quickly reversed Carter's proposals. Instead of increasing taxes on the rich by eliminating the loopholes, the legislators rewrote the law to offer $18.7 billion in tax cuts and in capital gains, a huge boon for the wealthy. More important, it made the business community recognize the power it held and launched it as a major player on the Beltway.
At the same time the power of the once mighty American unions began to diminish. Congress repeatedly refused to act on proposed legislation to empower shareholders. Combined, this meant there was little control on management, and top executives were able to make decisions that benefitted themselves at the expense of workers and investors. That led to a dramatic rise in executive compensation and eventually to the enormous salaries that exist today. The sense of corporate social responsibility soon gave way to the goal of lining the pockets of executives and stockpiling huge corporate profits.
Even as the economy began to falter in 2001, Wall Street, led by the infamous "Gang of Six," fought for larger tax cuts as a stimulus. The new President George Bush was happy to accommodate and passed his controversial tax cuts with little negative reaction from the media, which of course is generally owned by members of the plutocracy who reaped the benefit.
When Smith traces the corrosion of the political world, he cites 1975 as the year major changes in campaign funding began. The Federal Election Commission approved the use of PACs (political action committees) and allowed management to utilize company funds to manage their PACs. Bundling and soft money became key funding techniques for election campaigns. The steady erosion of campaign finance laws accelerated, culminating in the current decisions by what I consider a reckless and biased Supreme Court that have destroyed the essence of our democracy. I, of course, am referring to decision like Citizens United and McCutcheon.
Smith also explains how Walmart changed the face of retailing. In addition to destroying the independently owned, family stores that were the backbone of downtown USA, they launched the massive trend to offshoring that has destroyed America's manufacturing sector. He states that an estimated 3.5 million jobs have been lost to offshoring.
In the same vein, America's dominance in research and development of high tech products and high-end service industries were undermined by offshoring. From 2000 to 2010, offshoring of back office and other support services accounted for a loss of 2.8 million jobs in finance and IT. In just computer manufacturing alone from 2001 to 2008, job losses reached 627,000.
Factor all of this into a national scene in which government has been stalled dramatically by partisan decision-making in which political maneuvering supersedes legislative action and in which rancor and dishonesty have become the hallmark of the ultra-conservative wing of the Republican Party. You can then easily see why Smith believes the American dream has been stolen.
I worry, however, that his prescription for a return to a healthy and thriving USA--although right on target--may be pipe dreaming. Yes, we desperately need a "new direction and a new agenda--a new political and economic response." Think of the percentage of the public that actually votes, the general apathy of the American public and the mediocrity of so many of our news sources that should be informing the public. Faced with that picture, can we rely on Smith's prescription for the cure "a populist surge...a grassroots peaceful political revolution?"
I hope so.
This is a marvelous must-read. Don't skip it.
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on June 7, 2013
Throughout the entire reading of this fine book, I had two overwhelming emotions: sadness and anger. I am sad about what has happened and is happening to this country, and angry because as Smith points out time and time again, the dismantling of the middle class for the last 30 years did not have to happen. In what Smith calls "wedge economics", companies, unlike the past, have seperated their well being and profitablity from that of their workers. As a result, workers are left vulnerable and their value is seen only through the lens of a company's bottom line. Another sad but indisputable fact is that the recent major tax breaks have benefitted the rich and hurt the middle class. The Republicans refuse to raise taxes on the wealthy to help the economy. The Republicans ignore the fact that the U.S. has the third lowest overall tax rates of the 28 most advanced economies in the world. Only Mexico and Chile tax less than the U.S. (Smith, p.347). I highly recommend this book, but be prepared; some facts are hard to believe about the state of our counrty.
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on January 31, 2017
Home ownership and jobs are at the crux of the problem and they should be our focus in fixing what is wrong with America. In the process, we cannot ignore the long-term consequences of climate change. I read the Power Game when it was first released and I appreciated the author's objective perspective and command of the facts back then. Remembering that, I confidently chose to read American Dream. It is another great literary work that every American, rich or poor, should read.
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on January 19, 2016
I purchased this book after seeing a video of a Hedrick Smith lecture that he gave at Williams College. What struck me most about the book, is that Mr. Smith is not some far-out liberal, and his arguments are grounded in fact, and what each of us can observe on a daily basis. As a Union labor lawyer, I too, see the decline of the middle-class first hand, and am never fazed that the power and process continues to consolidate wealth into the hand of the few elites as our nation crumbles.

As a side note, I read this book on my kindle, and was disappointed that this format did not include footnotes.
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on March 12, 2017
An excellent book. It should be in every classroom especially in mid-america where those who lost so many jobs can see what actually took place under their very noses. "Make American Great Again"? No. What was really said was "Make America White Again" - White corporate.
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on December 4, 2012
Mr. Smith did an excellent analysis of the historical political & economic manipulations that have transpired over the last 30 - 40 years. He very effectively reveals the human consequences of a sustained effort to transfer wealth from the lower & mid-levels of the U.S. population through the personal experiences of those who are suffering through this endgame. His book is also filled with an abundant & persuasive amount of factual underpinning (numbers & examples of the schemes involved). If anyone wants to understand how we have found ourselves inured in a virtual plutocracy, then you need to read the book. It truly provides the historical & factual basis for understanding how we got here--& offers a cogent argument & plan for reversing the outright fraud, deception, greed, thievery & lust for power that has stolen The American Dream from the other 99% of the rest of us.
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on July 29, 2015
What happens to your company retirement plan when your company goes out of business? Is it even possible to save enough in your 401K to give you a weekly paycheck when you retire? If you have an adjustable rate mortgage, what happens to your
monthly payment when the rate suddenly shoots up? Teaser rates will suddenly balloon. Can you afford the new monthly payment?
If you refinance your loan to get a lower rate, will you face a large pre-payment penalty on your first loan? Many more questions are
addressed in this book.
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