Booklist Reviews

Smith, Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter, explains how the middle-class prosperity after WWII (the 1950s, '60s, and '70s) was reversed in the 1980s, '90s, and 2000s because of a long period of sweeping transformations both in Washington's policies and in the mind-set and practices of American business leaders. American corporations paid high wages and good benefits after the war; millions of workers spent their money; and business investment increased, which led to growth, expansion, and higher living standards. The 1980s ushered in the era of job losses and a lid on average pay scales; hence, consumer spending declined, and the nation's economy was negatively affected. We learn the top 1 percent (3 million people) got two-thirds of the U.S. economic gain between 2002–7, and the 99 percent (310 million) got one-third. Smith concludes, We are at a defining moment for America. . . . We must come together and take action to rejuvenate our nation and to restore fairness and hope in our way of life. An informative account. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Publishers Weekly Reviews

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.)

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