Book picks similar to
The Rule of Nobody: Saving America from Dead Laws and Broken Government by Philip K. Howard
Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right
Jane Mayer - 2016
But as Jane Mayer shows in this powerful, meticulously reported history, a network of exceedingly wealthy people with extreme libertarian views bankrolled a systematic, step-by-step plan to fundamentally alter the American political system.The network has brought together some of the richest people on the planet. Their core beliefs—that taxes are a form of tyranny; that government oversight of business is an assault on freedom—are sincerely held. But these beliefs also advance their personal and corporate interests: Many of their companies have run afoul of federal pollution, worker safety, securities, and tax laws.The chief figures in the network are Charles and David Koch, whose father made his fortune in part by building oil refineries in Stalin’s Russia and Hitler’s Germany. The patriarch later was a founding member of the John Birch Society, whose politics were so radical it believed Dwight Eisenhower was a communist. The brothers were schooled in a political philosophy that asserted the only role of government is to provide security and to enforce property rights.When libertarian ideas proved decidedly unpopular with voters, the Koch brothers and their allies chose another path. If they pooled their vast resources, they could fund an interlocking array of organizations that could work in tandem to influence and ultimately control academic institutions, think tanks, the courts, statehouses, Congress, and, they hoped, the presidency. Richard Mellon Scaife, the mercurial heir to banking and oil fortunes, had the brilliant insight that most of their political activities could be written off as tax-deductible “philanthropy.”These organizations were given innocuous names such as Americans for Prosperity. Funding sources were hidden whenever possible. This process reached its apotheosis with the allegedly populist Tea Party movement, abetted mightily by the Citizens United decision—a case conceived of by legal advocates funded by the network.The political operatives the network employs are disciplined, smart, and at times ruthless. Mayer documents instances in which people affiliated with these groups hired private detectives to impugn whistle-blowers, journalists, and even government investigators. And their efforts have been remarkably successful. Libertarian views on taxes and regulation, once far outside the mainstream and still rejected by most Americans, are ascendant in the majority of state governments, the Supreme Court, and Congress. Meaningful environmental, labor, finance, and tax reforms have been stymied.Jane Mayer spent five years conducting hundreds of interviews-including with several sources within the network-and scoured public records, private papers, and court proceedings in reporting this book. In a taut and utterly convincing narrative, she traces the byzantine trail of the billions of dollars spent by the network and provides vivid portraits of the colorful figures behind the new American oligarchy.Dark Money is a book that must be read by anyone who cares about the future of American democracy.
Goliath: The 100-Year War Between Monopoly Power and Democracy
Matt Stoller - 2019
A concentration of power, whether in the hands of a military dictator or a JP Morgan, was understood as autocratic and dangerous to individual liberty and democracy. This idea stretched back to the country’s founding. In the 1930s, people observed that the Great Depression was caused by financial concentration in the hands of a few whose misuse of their power induced a financial collapse. They drew on this tradition to craft the New Deal. In Goliath, Matt Stoller explains how authoritarianism and populism have returned to American politics for the first time in eighty years, as the outcome of the 2016 election shook our faith in democratic institutions. It has brought to the fore dangerous forces that many modern Americans never even knew existed. Today’s bitter recriminations and panic represent more than just fear of the future, they reflect a basic confusion about what is happening and the historical backstory that brought us to this moment. The true effects of populism, a shrinking middle class, and concentrated financial wealth are only just beginning to manifest themselves under the current administrations. The lessons of Stoller’s study will only grow more relevant as time passes. Building upon his viral article in The Atlantic, “How the Democrats Killed Their Populist Soul,” Stoller illustrates in rich detail how we arrived at this tenuous moment, and the steps we must take to create a new democracy.
Act of Congress: How America's Essential Institution Works, and How It Doesn't
Robert G. Kaiser - 2013
When Congress is broken—as its justifiably dismal approval ratings suggest—so is our democracy. Here, Robert G. Kaiser, whose long and distinguished career at The Washington Post has made him as keen and knowledgeable an observer of Congress as we have, takes us behind the sound bites to expose the protocols, players, and politics of the House and Senate—revealing both the triumphs of the system and (more often) its fundamental flaws. Act of Congress tells the story of the Dodd-Frank Act, named for the two men who made it possible: Congressman Barney Frank, brilliant and sometimes abrasive, who mastered the details of financial reform, and Senator Chris Dodd, who worked patiently for months to fulfill his vision of a Senate that could still work on a bipartisan basis. Both Frank and Dodd collaborated with Kaiser throughout their legislative efforts and allowed their staffs to share every step of the drafting and deal making that produced the 1,500-page law that transformed America’s financial sector. Kaiser explains how lobbying affects a bill—or fails to. We follow staff members more influential than most senators and congressmen. We see how Congress members protect their own turf, often without regard for what might best serve the country—more eager to court television cameras than legislate on complicated issues about which many of them remain ignorant. Kaiser shows how ferocious partisanship regularly overwhelms all other considerations, though occasionally individual integrity prevails. Act of Congress, as entertaining as it is enlightening, is an indispensable guide to a vital piece of our political system desperately in need of reform.
This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral — plus plenty of valet parking! — in America’s Gilded Capital
Mark Leibovich - 2013
What keeps the permanent government spinning on its carousel is the freedom of shamelessness, and that mother's milk of politics, cash. In Mark Leibovich’s remarkable look at the way things really work in D.C., a funeral for a beloved television star becomes the perfect networking platform, a disgraced political aide can emerge with more power than his boss, campaign losers befriend their vanquishers (and make more money than ever!), "conflict of interest" is a term lost in translation, political reporters are fetishized and worshipped for their ability to get one's name in print, and, well - we're all really friends, aren't we? What Julia Phillips did for Hollywood, Timothy Crouse did for journalists, and Michael Lewis did for Wall Street, Mark Leibovich does for our nation's capital.'
Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America
Nancy MacLean - 2017
The capitalist radical right has been working not simply to change who rules, but to fundamentally alter the rules of democratic governance. But billionaires did not launch this movement; a white intellectual in the embattled Jim Crow South did. Democracy in Chains names its true architect—the Nobel Prize-winning political economist James McGill Buchanan—and dissects the operation he and his colleagues designed over six decades to alter every branch of government to disempower the majority.In a brilliant and engrossing narrative, Nancy MacLean shows how Buchanan forged his ideas about government in a last gasp attempt to preserve the white elite’s power in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education. In response to the widening of American democracy, he developed a brilliant, if diabolical, plan to undermine the ability of the majority to use its numbers to level the playing field between the rich and powerful and the rest of us. Corporate donors and their right-wing foundations were only too eager to support Buchanan’s work in teaching others how to divide America into “makers” and “takers.” And when a multibillionaire on a messianic mission to rewrite the social contract of the modern world, Charles Koch, discovered Buchanan, he created a vast, relentless, and multi-armed machine to carry out Buchanan’s strategy. Without Buchanan's ideas and Koch's money, the libertarian right would not have succeeded in its stealth takeover of the Republican Party as a delivery mechanism. Now, with Mike Pence as Vice President, the cause has a longtime loyalist in the White House, not to mention a phalanx of Republicans in the House, the Senate, a majority of state governments, and the courts, all carrying out the plan. That plan includes harsher laws to undermine unions, privatizing everything from schools to health care and Social Security, and keeping as many of us as possible from voting. Based on ten years of unique research, Democracy in Chains tells a chilling story of right-wing academics and big money run amok. This revelatory work of scholarship is also a call to arms to protect the achievements of twentieth-century American self-government.
The Fifth Risk: Undoing Democracy
Michael Lewis - 2018
Nobody appeared. Across all departments the stories were the same: Trump appointees were few and far between; those who did show up were shockingly uninformed about the functions of their new workplace.Michael Lewis’s brilliant narrative of the Trump administration’s botched presidential transition takes us into the engine rooms of a government under attack by its leaders through willful ignorance and greed. The government manages a vast array of critical services that keep us safe and underpin our lives, from ensuring the safety of our food and medications and predicting extreme weather events to tracking and locating black- market uranium before the terrorists do. The Fifth Risk masterfully and vividly unspools the consequences of what happens when the people given control over our government have no idea how it works.
The System: The American Way of Politics at the Breaking Point
Haynes Johnson - 1996
Taking as an example the Clinton health care reform initiative, the authors show how a policy that aimed to please everyone ended by satisfying no one due to pressure groups, political gamesmanship and the inertia of the American 'system'.
Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That Is Breaking America
Matt Taibbi - 2010
The stunning rise, fall, and rescue of Wall Street in the bubble-and-bailout era was the coming-out party for the network of looters who sit at the nexus of American political and economic power. The grifter class—made up of the largest players in the financial industry and the politicians who do their bidding—has been growing in power for a generation, transferring wealth upward through increasingly complex financial mechanisms and political maneuvers. The crisis was only one terrifying manifestation of how they’ve hijacked America’s political and economic life.Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi here unravels the whole fiendish story, digging beyond the headlines to get into the deeper roots and wider implications of the rise of the grifters. He traces the movement’s origins to the cult of Ayn Rand and her most influential—and possibly weirdest—acolyte, Alan Greenspan, and offers fresh reporting on the backroom deals that decided the winners and losers in the government bailouts. He uncovers the hidden commodities bubble that transferred billions of dollars to Wall Street while creating food shortages around the world, and he shows how finance dominates politics, from the story of investment bankers auctioning off America’s infrastructure to an inside account of the high-stakes battle for health-care reform—a battle the true reformers lost. Finally, he tells the story of Goldman Sachs, the “vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity.” Taibbi has combined deep sources, trailblazing reportage, and provocative analysis to create the most lucid, emotionally galvanizing, and scathingly funny account yet written of the ongoing political and financial crisis in America. This is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the labyrinthine inner workings of politics and finance in this country, and the profound consequences for us all.
Tailspin: The People and Forces Behind America's Fifty-Year Fall–and Those Fighting to Reverse It
Steven Brill - 2018
He shows us how, over the last half-century, America's core values--meritocracy, innovation, due process, free speech, and even democracy itself--have somehow managed to power its decline into dysfunction. They have isolated our best and brightest, whose positions at the top have never been more secure or more remote. The result has been an erosion of responsibility and accountability, an epidemic of shortsightedness, an increasingly hollow economic and political center, and millions of Americans gripped by apathy and hopelessness. By examining the people and forces behind the rise of big-money lobbying, legal and financial engineering, the demise of private-sector unions, and a hamstrung bureaucracy, Brill answers the question on everyone's mind: How did we end up this way? Finally, he introduces us to those working quietly and effectively to repair the damages. At once a diagnosis of our national ills, a history of their development, and a prescription for a brighter future, Tailspin is a work of riveting journalism--and a welcome antidote to political despair.
It's Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration is Doing to America
David Cay Johnston - 2018
It's Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America tells readers exactly how it is making America worse again.Bestselling author and longtime Trump observer David Cay Johnston shines a light on the political termites who have infested our government under the Trump Administration, destroying it from within and compromising our jobs, safety, finances, and more.No journalist knows Donald Trump better than David Cay Johnston, who has been following him since 1988. It's Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America goes inside the administration to show how the federal agencies that touch the lives of all Americans are being undermined. Here is just some of what you will learn:The Wall. Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto told President Trump that Mexico will never pay for the border wall. So, Trump is proposing putting a tariff on Mexican imports. But a tariff will simply raise the price of Mexican goods in the US, meaning American consumers will end up paying for the wall—if it ever gets built.Climate Change. Welcome to the new EPA, run by Scott Pruitt, a lawyer who has spent much of his career trying to destroy the agency he now heads. Secrecy reigns at the new EPA because Pruitt meets with industry executives to find out which clean air and clean water provisions they most want to roll back, and keeps staffers in the dark to make sure these pro-pollution plans don’t leak prematurely.Stocking the Swamp. Contrary to his promise to “drain the swamp” in Washington, DC, Trump has filled his cabinet with millionaires and billionaires, from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, a Goldman Sachs and hedge fund veteran who made much of his fortune foreclosing on homeowners to billionaire heiress Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who has already put the interests of bankers ahead of debt-burdened students and their families.The Kleptocracy. Under Donald Trump conflict of interest is passé. When Trump isn’t in Washington, he stays at one of his properties, where the taxpayers pick up the tab for staffers, Secret Service, and so on, all at full price. And back in Washington, everyone now knows that the Trump International Hotel is the only place to stay if you want to do business with the administration. Meanwhile sons Donald Jr. and Eric run an eyes-wide-open blind trust of Trump holdings to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest—but not the reality.
Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth
Rachel Maddow - 2019
That same year, a trove of Michael Jackson memorabilia—including his iconic crystal-encrusted white glove—was sold at auction for over $1 million to a guy who was, officially, just the lowly forestry minister of the tiny nation of Equatorial Guinea. And in 2014, Ukrainian revolutionaries raided the palace of their ousted president and found a zoo of peacocks, gilded toilets, and a floating restaurant modeled after a Spanish galleon. Unlikely as it might seem, there is a thread connecting these events, and Rachel Maddow follows it to its crooked source: the unimaginably lucrative and equally corrupting oil and gas industry. With her trademark black humor, Maddow takes us on a switchback journey around the globe, revealing the greed and incompetence of Big Oil and Gas along the way, and drawing a surprising conclusion about why the Russian government hacked the 2016 U.S. election. She deftly shows how Russia’s rich reserves of crude have, paradoxically, stunted its growth, forcing Putin to maintain his power by spreading Russia’s rot into its rivals, its neighbors, the West’s most important alliances, and the United States. Chevron, BP, and a host of other industry players get their star turn, most notably ExxonMobil and the deceptively well-behaved Rex Tillerson. The oil and gas industry has weakened democracies in developed and developing countries, fouled oceans and rivers, and propped up authoritarian thieves and killers. But being outraged at it is, according to Maddow, “like being indignant when a lion takes down and eats a gazelle. You can’t really blame the lion. It’s in her nature.” Blowout is a call to contain the lion: to stop subsidizing the wealthiest businesses on earth, to fight for transparency, and to check the influence of the world’s most destructive industry and its enablers. The stakes have never been higher. As Maddow writes, “Democracy either wins this one or disappears.”
The Benefit and The Burden: Tax Reform-Why We Need It and What It Will Take
Bruce Bartlett - 2012
The United States Tax Code has undergone no serious reform since 1986. Since then, loopholes, exemptions, credits, and deductions have distorted its clarity, increased its inequity, and frustrated our ability to govern ourselves. At its core, any tax system is in place to raise the revenue needed to pay the government’s bills. But where that revenue should come from raises crucial questions: Should our tax code be progressive, with the wealthier paying more than the poor, and if so, to what extent? Should we tax income or consumption or both? Of the various ideas proposed by economists and politicians—from tax increases to tax cuts, from a VAT to a Fair Tax—what will work and won’t? By tracing the history of our own tax system and by assessing the way other countries have solved similar problems, Bartlett explores the surprising answers to all of these questions, giving a sense of the tax code’s many benefits—and its inevitable burdens. Tax reform will be a major issue debated in the years ahead. Growing budget deficits and the expiration of various tax cuts loom. Reform, once a philosophical dilemma, is turning into a practical crisis. By framing the various tax philosophies that dominate the debate, Bartlett explores the distributional, technical, and political advantages and costs of the various proposals and ideas that will come to dominate America’s political conversation in the years to come.
Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy
Christopher L. Hayes - 2012
In the wake of the Fail Decade, Americans have historically low levels of trust in their institutions; the social contract between ordinary citizens and elites lies in tatters.How did we get here? With Twilight of the Elites, Christopher Hayes offers a radically novel answer. Since the 1960s, as the meritocracy elevated a more diverse group of men and women into power, they learned to embrace the accelerating inequality that had placed them near the very top. Their ascension heightened social distance and spawned a new American elite--one more prone to failure and corruption than any that came before it.Mixing deft political analysis, timely social commentary, and deep historical understanding, Twilight of the Elites describes how the society we have come to inhabit – utterly forgiving at the top and relentlessly punitive at the bottom – produces leaders who are out of touch with the people they have been trusted to govern. Hayes argues that the public's failure to trust the federal government, corporate America, and the media has led to a crisis of authority that threatens to engulf not just our politics but our day-to-day lives.Upending well-worn ideological and partisan categories, Hayes entirely reorients our perspective on our times. Twilight of the Elites is the defining work of social criticism for the post-bailout age.
Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress--and a Plan to Stop It
Lawrence Lessig - 2011
Federal Election Commission trust in our government has reached an all-time low. More than ever before, Americans believe that money buys results in Congress, and that business interests wield control over our legislature.With heartfelt urgency and a keen desire for righting wrongs, Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig takes a clear-eyed look at how we arrived at this crisis: how fundamentally good people, with good intentions, have allowed our democracy to be co-opted by outside interests, and how this exploitation has become entrenched in the system. Rejecting simple labels and reductive logic-and instead using examples that resonate as powerfully on the Right as on the Left-Lessig seeks out the root causes of our situation. He plumbs the issues of campaign financing and corporate lobbying, revealing the human faces and follies that have allowed corruption to take such a foothold in our system. He puts the issues in terms that nonwonks can understand, using real-world analogies and real human stories. And ultimately he calls for widespread mobilization and a new Constitutional Convention, presenting achievable solutions for regaining control of our corrupted-but redeemable-representational system. In this way, Lessig plots a roadmap for returning our republic to its intended greatness. While America may be divided, Lessig vividly champions the idea that we can succeed if we accept that corruption is our common enemy and that we must find a way to fight against it. In REPUBLIC, LOST, he not only makes this need palpable and clear-he gives us the practical and intellectual tools to do something about it.
Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market
Eric Schlosser - 2003
In Reefer Madness the best-selling author of Fast Food Nation turns his exacting eye on the underbelly of the American marketplace and its far-reaching influence on our society. Exposing three American mainstays — pot, porn, and illegal immigrants — Eric Schlosser shows how the black market has burgeoned over the past several decades. He also draws compelling parallels between underground and overground: how tycoons and gangsters rise and fall, how new technology shapes a market, how government intervention can reinvigorate black markets as well as mainstream ones, and how big business learns — and profits — from the underground. Reefer Madness is a powerful investigation that illuminates the shadow economy and the culture that casts that shadow.(back cover)