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The Betrayal of the American Dream

3.83  ·  Rating Details  ·  258 Ratings  ·  52 Reviews
America’s unique prosperity is based on its creation of a middle class. In the twentieth century, that middle class provided the workforce, the educated skills, and the demand that gave life to the world’s greatest consumer economy. It was innovative and dynamic; it eclipsed old imperial systems and colonial archetypes. It gave rise to a dream: that if you worked hard and ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published July 31st 2012 by PublicAffairs (first published June 26th 2012)
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Sep 18, 2012 Earl rated it liked it
Evils of capitalism unchecked. This is not your American capitalists - the pirate barons, John Jacob Astor, Bill Gates, who build an empire by bulldozing all opponents and become obscenely rich. No, this is the new capitalism - multinational corporations + Wall St. + US Congress, the Unholy Trio (my name for them). Author recounts many horror stories of ruined lives and towns due to outsourcing of American jobs and the creation of a 'ruling class' in the US by tax changes since 1950. He does not ...more
Sheryl Sorrentino
Oct 27, 2012 Sheryl Sorrentino rated it really liked it
This was one of the most depressing books I have read in a long time. Even if only half of what Barlett and Steele have to say is true, we are seriously screwed.

Being 50 years old, I have seen firsthand what has been happening to the middle class in this country. Barlett and Steele lay out the myriad reasons for this: Tax inequity, job outsourcing, trade imbalances, deregulation, and failure to enforce the laws against the very wealthy and the multinational corporations they control. Rather than
Debbie Evancic
Sep 23, 2012 Debbie Evancic rated it it was amazing
Reading this book was both inspiring and depressing. It gives example after example of how our government is not on the side of the middle class and that the American Dream is not what it once was in a previous generation.

In reading this book, you come to realize that our parents have it best, having both Social Security and their pensions. Our generation (those born in the 50s), are in danger of having the pension we worked so hard on taken away from us. Our children have possibly a worse fate.
Nov 03, 2012 Aaron rated it it was amazing
Shelves: economics
Absorbing, enraging, clear-eyed, aggressive, eye-opening, tremendous -- everything you want in a book that takes on perhaps the biggest economic catastrophe of our times ... yes, the Great Recession qualifies as that catastrophe, but the systematic evisceration of the American middle class that Barlett and Steele document here was decades in the making and continues apace ... so, frankly, it truly is the long-running (Long Emergency? as JHK might describe it) cataclysmic economic event, with the ...more
David Stephens
Nov 14, 2012 David Stephens rated it liked it
Shelves: politics
In Betrayal of the American Dream, two-time Pulitzer Prize winning journalists Donald L. Bartlett and James B. Steele contend that the middle class has been, and continues to be, hollowed out by a corporate ruling class that is able to buy politicians. They go as far as to say that "We are no longer the democracy we once were. We have become a plutocracy in which the few enact programs that promote their narrow interest at the expense of the many." To back up these assertions, they go through pl ...more
Samantha Hughes
Jan 05, 2015 Samantha Hughes rated it it was amazing
I've not read this book in a couple of years, but thought I'd add my commentary now: What really stood out for me in this book was the effect of downsizing and outsourcing on the American people. The disappearance of family-wage jobs, particularly those surrounding manufacturing, is leading to the destruction of the middle class in America.
William Schram
Feb 20, 2016 William Schram rated it really liked it
This book is quite aggravating and rage inducing. I enjoyed it quite a bit, but it shows how powerless the "Middle Class" of America is to define it's own fate. With most of Congress in the palm of the rich and other interests what hope does the little guy have for anything? With many jobs going over to China and India where they can pay a fraction of what they do over here so they can cut costs and rake in massive profits... it just sickened me. Especially with the conditions over in China and ...more
Jan 17, 2015 Andrew rated it did not like it
To kick off the year, I pulled this book off the "recommended" shelf of my local library, hoping to find a good economic review of the U.S. housing and labor markets, along with some new ideas about the future of the global economy. On all counts, I was sorely, sorely disappointed. This whiny, navel-gazing screed is so devoid of substance and coherent arguments that I nearly mistook if for a conservative parody of liberal positions. Its only redeeming quality was several passages so comical in t ...more
Aug 19, 2012 Irus rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012
This is one of the most depressing books I have ever read. Truly the "dream," which existed for our grandparents ended with our parents, and only now are we realizing we have been sold a bill of goods. The path the US is on is not sustainable. Eventually the country will collapse upon itself. The president claims the entire world envies us. Really? I'm looking for a way out.
Jouni Valkonen
Jan 14, 2014 Jouni Valkonen rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: For those who already share Occupy WallSt. ideology
Book is not very well written and rather than being constructive, it is overly political and polarizing. It does not even try to reason with the Enemy. This kind of political rant is not very good approach, because not all in the Enemy camp are thomasfriedmans who are absolutists and often religiously motivated to drive their free market agenda. Most of the people in the Enemy camp are simply ignorant and for those less polarizing and less demonizing and more fact driven approach would be more e ...more
Aug 07, 2012 Erin marked it as to-read
Heard authors interviewed on NPR's Morning Edition. Sounds like an interesting read.
Dec 01, 2013 Daniel rated it it was amazing
A very depressing book. The middle class seems to be doomed in this book. Globalisation, deregulation, congress, the rich, all other countries that have a trade surplus with America and even misguided economists are all going to destroy the middle class in America. The author seems to suggest that the good old days are indeed good. They suggest that we should tax the rich more, and retaliate against countries that have free trade agreements with America but actually restrict their products' sale ...more
Oct 18, 2012 Joanna rated it it was amazing
It took me a long time to finish this book, because every time I picked it up I became so depressed I had to put it down again. A simple and easy-to-read overview of what we all know to be true: wages stagnated, good jobs evaporated, and the financial crisis was initiated by the actions of the mega rich, whether they be corporate raiders like our current presidential candidate, unscrupulous hedge fund managers or multinational corporations with their collective eyes only on the bottom line.

Jan 25, 2013 Jeremiah rated it really liked it
This book made me both extremely angry and quite sad (like my ex-wife). It's an easy read, it isn't very complex or even organized that well, but let me briefly summarize. Multinational corporations and the 99% own America. You don't think so Mr. Smartypants? Well, in 1955 the effective tax rate for the top 400 families was 51.2%. In 2007 it was a jaw dropping 16.6%. Isn't it funny how someone making $400,000 dollars can pay the same tax as someone making $40 million dollars? And isn't it funny ...more
Todd Janko
Mar 09, 2013 Todd Janko rated it really liked it
This gives quite the depressing and realistic view of the state of the American economy and the current workforce. Face it people, we are all f&&krd, as the continual decline of what use to make up the true meat and potatoes of this country-the middle class turns into the poor class. Eventually, if this continues, there are two things that can or will happen 1) do nothing about and watch the greedy one percent rule the earth as the government puts continual sanctions on are individual ri ...more
Michael Duane  Robbins
This devastates every argument our failed leaders have imposed on us for the last 40 years when it comes to 'free trade'. it demolishes the free-trade arguments and shows that our tax-cut obsessions have created a class of elites and corporations virtually above the law. we are now at the point where we began during the American Revolution, except that now the enemy is self-made and may take generations to un-fuck-up-asize wht we've done to ourselves.
Michael Laflamme
Mar 03, 2016 Michael Laflamme rated it really liked it
Excellent! Barlett and Steele speak for the experiences of an entire generation of American workers representing tens of millions. And, as they predicted years ago, even the most secure jobs based on the best educations are no longer stable. Even a PhD is no longer enough to compete. They meticulously dissect the American business paradigm and its endless euphemisms and tired lines of propaganda. These writers make it clear that with a will we, ourselves, can unmake this disaster and save our co ...more
Nov 03, 2012 Katie rated it liked it
This is another one that makes for better speech or pamphlet/sound-bite material than a full book for me. It just doesn't have the in-depth analysis that I desire from deciding to read a whole book on a political topic. In hindsight, I feel like I should have realized what to expect, especially given that it has no real bibliographic resources, just a short end chapter about sources. Now, I am not accusing the authors of misrepresenting their facts. There are sections addressing items I've recen ...more
Chuck Thomas
Mar 09, 2013 Chuck Thomas rated it really liked it
Barlett and Steele offer a detailed examination of American politics of the last 40 years as it relates to the ever growing gap in wealth between the elite and the middle class. The authors dive into multiple areas that they deem the most influential in the weakening of the middle class and the rise of the ultra rich. Those areas are: U.S. trade imbalance, tax policies favoring the wealthy, and the investment in corporations that outsource American jobs to cheap labor areas around the world. At ...more
Dave Kalach
Sep 19, 2012 Dave Kalach rated it it was amazing
I thought this book gave a good solid explanation of what has been going on in the economy for the last 30 years. The destruction of manufacturing in this country over that time is appalling. Both political parties contributed to the demise. It seems large multinational corporations call the shots in this country. They have been steadfast in promoting free trade. The authors show who has suffered from free trade policies and who has benefited. Millions of jobs have left the U.S.A. to China, Indi ...more
Nov 29, 2012 Meepspeeps rated it did not like it
This was a mostly depressing and shallow book. Given the stature of the authors, I was surprised. One graph could often have substituted for their words, which would have allowed the words to provide analysis and perhaps address why peeps often act against their own best interests. For example, if there were popular support for infrastructure investment, there would be many, many more jobs right now. The last chapter offered either political nonstarters or anecdotes to "restore the American drea ...more
Sep 30, 2012 Jeffrey rated it really liked it
Strident and not a little angry, some of the examples in this scathing screed by Barlett and Steele - multiple Pulitzer Prize winning reporters - feel a bit cherry picked, but its thrust is poignant and - for many of us - entirely congruent with our own experiences. It's saved from being a polemic by the final section "Restoring the American Dream", which offers reasonable, clear and pragmatic recommendations to counter the malaise so painfully described throughout the rest of the book.
Jul 22, 2014 Patrick rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-politics
Another brilliantly written, scrupulously researched and absolutely thoroughly depressing book by Bartlett and Steele of the Philadelphia Inquirer. A review of how big business has captured the government and now uses them to destroy the American economy, industry by industry, in the name of short term profit. Plenty of good evidence on the scam of "free trade," where the US plays by rules that other countries flout with impunity. Read it and get angry, then do something about it.
Gordon Gauss
Aug 17, 2012 Gordon Gauss rated it really liked it
Before you read this book try to put your politics aside. Republican or Democrat it doesn't really matter who you tend to side with. The truth that comes out in this book is that it is Washington that is our biggest problem. Both parties are guilty of steering our country in the wrong direction. I had to agree with one of the people affected by what's happening now. She said, "The last time something like this was happening there was a revolution." Read it and draw your own opinions.
Aug 16, 2012 David rated it really liked it
There is something about books in the genre of political activism that stirs the deepest part of our beings. It does not matter if it comes from the extreme right or far left or from a more moderate position, some of us feel compelled to read them. Donald Barlett and James Steele’s newest entry, The Betrayal of the American Dream, is one of those must-read books.

Read the entire review at
Melvin Pedersen
Feb 15, 2013 Melvin Pedersen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: finished-reading
A wonderful book with an opinionated, but honest.
I'm reading "Al Gore, The Future, Six Drivers of Global Change".
Al Gore seems to takes things like, the outsourcing of jobs to other countries, a little more in stride, like a transition into a different way, that's going to be transitioned again.
The author, Donald L. Barlett, certainly opens up a political can of worms.
Any one interested in what's going on in Washington would like this book.
Nov 03, 2013 Alicia rated it liked it
I could only get to chapter 2 of this depressing book. Only reading it for book discussion. Okay. I finished it. Read it on the kindle checked out of the library. About 78% of the book was story after story of people losing jobs to outsourcing. Then they got into what could be done to turn things around. It was a depressing read. I'm not real sure that the changes they suggested would be realistic or ever get implemented.
Diane S ☔
Sep 04, 2012 Diane S ☔ rated it really liked it
I don't read many books dealing with politics as a subject, but feel that since this election is an important one I need to be better informed. I also believe that when dealing with any such subject the truth usually lies somewhere in the middle. Found this book to be very informative and even if it is only half true it is still very frightening to the growth and strength of our country.
Rachel Jacobs
Sep 09, 2013 Rachel Jacobs rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
A great read on the failed economic and trade policies over the last few decades that has led to our current economic crisis. Points are well made and based in fact. Some things will leave you angered but you will come out with a better understanding of where we are and how we got here.
Georgianne Potts
Feb 27, 2013 Georgianne Potts rated it really liked it
Regardless of political preferences, this should be mandatory reading for every American. It does a great job of explaining the events that have eaten away at the middle class for the last 30 plus years! And it's not going to get any better unless policies are changed!!
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