Steven Brill, an American lawyer and journalist has compiled an impressive history of the direction our country has taken in the last fifty years. He speaks from his own experiences, as well as from recent interviews he conducted with lawyers, politicians, scholars, businessmen, and others in positions of influence.
Brill sees a nation that has become a meritocracy with money the ruling factor in Washington. The poor who are most in need of government help are no longer a priority in political battles. Those in power have built what Brill calls “moats” to hang on to their power and wealth. Income inequality has worsened and those in the middle or at the bottom, who are the vast majority of citizens, have no effective way to influence public policy.
The book is not entirely pessimistic, however, as Brill points to people and organizations that have been working to reverse the trends. For example, OpenSecrets, Issue One, the Partisan Policy Center and Better Markets. He sees hope for our country but the American people will need to work together “to overcome the forces that have broken their country: a meritocracy that has become the new aristocracy; the financialization of the economy and the resulting dominance of short-termism; the hijacking of the First Amendment that allowed money to take over Washington; the marginalization of the middle class that would have to rise up and support any resurgence; the polarization, entrenched incompetence, and cronyism that have soured most outsiders on the prospect of trying to get Washington to do anything productive; the moats that the winners have built to protect their winnings; and the success of political leaders serving those at the top in splitting the middle class from the poor, even as the middle class becomes poorer.” (page 336)
Alfred A. Knopf, 2018. 441 pages