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Who Stole the American Dream?by Hedrick Smith
Synopses & Reviews
Pulitzer Prize winner Hedrick Smith's new book is an extraordinary achievement, an eye-opening account of how, over the past four decades, the American Dream has been dismantled and we became two Americas.
In his bestselling The Russians, Smith took millions of readers inside the Soviet Union. In The Power Game, he took us inside Washington's corridors of power. Now Smith takes us across America to show how seismic changes, sparked by a sequence of landmark political and economic decisions, have transformed America. As only a veteran reporter can, Smith fits the puzzle together, starting with Lewis Powell's provocative memo that triggered a political rebellion that dramatically altered the landscape of power from then until today.
This is a book full of surprises and revelations — the accidental beginnings of the 401(k) plan, with disastrous economic consequences for many; the major policy changes that began under Jimmy Carter; how the New Economy disrupted America's engine of shared prosperity, the "virtuous circle" of growth, and how America lost the title of "Land of Opportunity." Smith documents the transfer of $6 trillion in middle-class wealth from homeowners to banks even before the housing boom went bust, and how the U.S. policy tilt favoring the rich is stunting America's economic growth.
This book is essential reading for all of us who want to understand America today, or why average Americans are struggling to keep afloat. Smith reveals how pivotal laws and policies were altered while the public wasn't looking, how Congress often ignores public opinion, why moderate politicians got shoved to the sidelines, and how Wall Street often wins politically by hiring over 1,400 former government officials as lobbyists.
Smith talks to a wide range of people, telling the stories of Americans high and low. From political leaders such as Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, and Martin Luther King, Jr., to CEOs such as Al Dunlap, Bob Galvin, and Andy Grove, to heartland Middle Americans such as airline mechanic Pat O'Neill, software systems manager Kristine Serrano, small businessman John Terboss, and subcontractor Eliseo Guardado, Smith puts a human face on how middle-class America and the American Dream have been undermined.
This magnificent work of history and reportage is filled with the penetrating insights, provocative discoveries, and the great empathy of a master journalist. Finally, Smith offers ideas for restoring America's great promise and reclaiming the American Dream.
"This depressing book details the recent wreckage of the American middle-class dream: the hope for decent comfort and security for oneself and one's family under fair rules set the same for everyone. Smith, a Pulitzer-winning former New York Times reporter and expert on Russia and the Pentagon Papers, is comprehensive and compelling in his coverage and blame laying. His principle villains are American corporations and politicians, his concerns such realities as the nation's huge wealth gap and excessive pay for corporate executives, even those who fail. But while the book performs an important service in bringing recent history and well-known problems together, there's little in it that's new. In calling for a 'populist renaissance,' a domestic Marshall Plan, and more citizens' involvement, Smith's on the side of liberal angels. But he doesn't deal adequately with structural and institutional barriers to reform, instead arguing principally that changes of heart and civic engagement will make things right. Unfortunately, the book is written in blaringly subtitled two-page chapterettes, as if readers won't stick with Smith long enough to learn what he has to say. But even if patronizing to some readers, the book is a strong, effective liberal indictment of things as they are. Agent: David Black, David Black Literary Agency. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Hedrick Smith has done it again! Who Stole the American Dream? provides a readable and comprehensive account of how Americans have been robbed of our dream of a broad middle class over the past forty years. It is essential reading." Jay W. Lorsch, the Louis E. Kirstein Professor of Human Relations, Harvard Business School
From Pulitzer Prize winner, New York Times bestselling author, and PBS Frontline reporter Hedrick Smith comes the remarkable, step-by-step story of how the American Dream was dismantled over the past forty years by forces left unchecked in Washington and on Wall Street, and by a series of landmark legislative, electoral, and corporate decisions. Through stories of everyday people, Smith also shows how Americans are faring today — and explores what we can do, together, to re-create the American Dream.
Fitting the pieces of a big puzzle together in the way only a veteran reporter can, Smith shows how events reported in many recent news stories — from the mortgage mess to 401(k) disasters, and including problems in housing, banks, pensions, legislation, jobs, and more — are the outcomes of the evolution of a political and economic dismantling that began in 1971 with Lewis Powell's provocative memo, and continued through the eras of Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and Bush, up to today. With a deep and sophisticated understanding of recent American history, Smith interweaves into the decades-long story of our country's reconfiguration powerful, vivid portraits, both of some of the people who caused this change, and some of those affected by it. This book tells a story about modern America that has never been told this way before. It is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand America now, and why he or she can't get ahead. Who Stole the American Dream? explores how we can recapture lost hope — it is a masterful work about America today by one of our leading print and television journalists.
When Patrick Buchanan took the stage at the Republican National Convention in 1992 and proclaimed, There is a religious war going on for the soul of our country,” his audience knew what he was talking about: the culture wars, which had raged throughout the previous decade and would continue until the centurys end, pitting conservative and religious Americans against their liberal, secular fellow citizens. It was an era marked by polarization and posturing fueled by deep-rooted anger and insecurity.
Buchanans fiery speech marked a high point in the culture wars, but as Andrew Hartman shows in this richly analytical history, their roots lay farther back, in the tumult of the 1960s—and their significance is much greater than generally assumed. Far more than a mere sideshow or shouting match, the culture wars, Hartman argues, were the very public face of Americas struggle over the unprecedented social changes of the period, as the cluster of social norms that had long governed American life began to give way to a new openness to different ideas, identities, and articulations of what it meant to be an American. The hot-button issues like abortion, affirmative action, art, censorship, feminism, and homosexuality that dominated politics in the period were symptoms of the larger struggle, as conservative Americans slowly began to acknowledge—if initially through rejection—many fundamental transformations of American life.
As an ever-more partisan but also an ever-more diverse and accepting America continues to find its way in a changing world, A War for the Soul of America reminds us of how we got here, and what all the shouting has really been about.
About the Author
Hedrick Smith is a bestselling author, Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter, and Emmy Award–winning producer. His books The Russians and The Power Game were critically acclaimed bestsellers and are widely used in college courses today. As a reporter at the New York Times, Smith shared a Pulitzer for the Pentagon Papers series and won a Pulitzer for his international reporting from Russia in 1971–1974. Smith's prime-time specials for PBS have won several awards for examining systemic problems in modern America and offering insightful, prescriptive solutions.
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