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The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Ruined Government, Enriched Themselves, and Beggared the Nation

3.95  ·  Rating Details ·  1,767 Ratings  ·  161 Reviews

From the most astute political scoffer since H. L. Mencken, the definitive account of the conservative reign of misrule and corruption

Hailed as a “hunk of dynamite†(Salon) and celebrated for its “satiric wit†(The New York Times Book Review) and “delighted outrage†(The New Republic), The Wrecking Crew supplies the first and—lacking future fact-finding commis

Paperback, 400 pages
Published August 18th 2009 by Holt Paperbacks (first published 2008)
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Bill  Kerwin
Aug 08, 2008 Bill Kerwin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this worthy follow-up to his What's the Matter with Kansas Thomas Frank show how modern conservatives demonstrate their contempt for government per se by systematically eviscerating and/or privatizing it when they are in power and sabotaging is operation when they are not.

And what is the result of such conduct? Government becomes even more inept and corrupt, giving the conservatives even clearer reasons to despise it.
Aug 19, 2008 Stewart rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thomas Frank's "What's the Matter With Kansas?" I consider to be the preeminent book about what has happened politically in the U.S. the past 35 years. "The Wrecking Crew" is a worthy successor. Full of statements by Far Right conservatives themselves, the book points out the Far Right's efforts to dismantle the federal government by cronyism, massive debt, and purposeful ineptitude. Which is to say, the FEMA response to Hurricane Katrina and other federal agencies' failures the past eight years ...more
Aug 28, 2008 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dynamic eye-opener. Conservatives rule by transforming government from problem-solver to self-perpetuating profit center for a nexus of lobbyist/politicians that has no central principle beyond profit-seeking. But you already knew that. It's the way Frank tells the story of the transformation of the College Republicans under Jack Abramoff and their profitable support of apartheid South Africa; the transformation of the D.C. environs into an ultra-rich enclave of political entrepreneurs; the holy ...more
Being a social liberal, I figured it was high time that I read some unabashedly liberal nonfiction. Thomas Frank's intelligent and well-researched excoriation of neoconservatives presumes to be a sweeping indictment of the greedy, cynical school of thought that has allowed unprecedented gaps between rich and poor, and it is largely successful. Frank's one failure, if you can call it that, is not keeping the tone relatively neutral and allowing the outrageous deeds of the book's antiheroes to spe ...more
William Ramsay
Jan 01, 2009 William Ramsay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the most disturbing book I read in 2008. It chronicles how the conservative Republicans set out to destroy the government. This sounds too crazy to believe, but this is a story I've read of elsewhere (ie. see The Right Nation by the man who writes Lexington for the Economist, for instance). Mr. Frank actually quotes from Grover Norquist's speeches and writings where he, along with many others, sets out the plan. The idea was to privatize where possible (Blackwater and FEMA) to cripple th ...more
Oct 21, 2012 Melki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
I love to read a good horror story in October, and this one made my hair stand on end more than any of the zombie/vampire novels I've read this month.
Ken Deshaies
Oct 20, 2012 Ken Deshaies rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the scariest books I've ever read. That is particularly because it is non-fiction, well researched, and based on interviews with the purveyors of this diabolical plot to take over the country.

The guilty are identified, with no particular surprise, as key members of the Republican Party. The guilty individuals themselves readily confess to their manipulations. And what is that? Nothing less than control of the government for their own means. We have been brought up to believe that
Jan 14, 2009 Geof rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"What makes a place a free-market paradise is not the absence of government; it is the capture of government by business interests."

This line by Thomas Frank effectively summarizes his latest missive, The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule, a scathing indictment of conservative ideology and the modern conservative movement. It is one of the most illuminating political books I've ever read.

Frank's research is exhaustive – from conservatism's birth in the cradle of industry to its modern makeo
Simon Wood
Jul 20, 2013 Simon Wood rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

This book is a historically informed, fantastically well written look at the U.S. political system with particular emphasis on the Conservative Republicans who have dominated it for so long.

Franks, who has obviously put a lot of effort into researching this book, digs deep into the activities and thinking of right wing conservatism which has given the U.S. such nefarious characters as Ollie North, Ronald Regan, Tom De Lay and the recently departed (well just the Oval office, but
Nov 07, 2008 Robert rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone who not in on the racket.
An entertaining history of how the right has been crippling our government in order to gain power and enrich itself and its corporate clients from the time of Richard Nixon, through their most productive years under Reagan and a pair of Bushes and no slack for Clinton. We are now reaping some more of the some the "benefits" of over thirty years of turning capable people out of government service and putting in appointed hacks who see business not the people as their client to enable the grand ri ...more
Oct 17, 2011 Sheehan rated it it was amazing
Received this book as a gift (thanks Terry!) and kind of sat on it for a while, I think I was in willful denial actually, trying to not look into this abyss that is modern American government under siege.

Of course, this is somehow fitting given that the thrust of the book is an examination of how the conservative movement works both for and with (see "revolving door") industry and lobbyists to make government fail so badly no one minds/notices when it's gone; thereby letting the "free market" a
Cliff Thompson
Jul 24, 2011 Cliff Thompson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well, this book was a real bummer to read. Not because much of it came as a surprise (if you read this book, you're likely to know bits of most things it touches on) but because it portrays a problem so entrenched and so destructive that there seems little hope but surrender. It is well documented and annotated, and boils the strategy down nicely:

1 - Get into a position of power by demonizing everyone else, including the government,
2 - Once in power, stuff the government with your cronies to f
Oct 24, 2009 Kelly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The audio CD of “The Wrecking Crew” is handled by Oliver Wyman, who after a few hours begins to sound eerily similar to Casey Kasem. I’ve read a couple of books labored over by Thomas Frank (“Commodify Your Dissent” and “One Market Under God”), and find that he is erudite, crisply efficient, and relentlessly adversarial with respect to the fetishization of markets as moral instruments. For those who are familiar with the machinations of self-styled “free market capitalists,” there isn’t a great ...more
Oct 17, 2008 Eileen marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
"...theorizes that conservatives have been systematically dismantling government for years and spreading the myth that bureaucracy doesn't work. Frank is also the founding editor of The Baffler and a contributing editor at Harper's."

And from The Nation 10/8/08 (Thanks Rachel!):

Frank argues that the public failures of the Bush administration are the very essence of conservative government--the predictable outcome of the anti-Washington, free-market ideology that has triumphed within the Republica
So, if I have got this right, the Republicans, conservatives, neo-cons, right-wingers, whatever you want to call them get into elected office make government corrupt by helping all their cronies and destroying fedral programs by purposely appointing the wrong people to run them. They also cut taxes for their wealthy buddies and then spend government funds like crazy, racking up debt up to wazoo, then they turn around and make government the enemy saying that it should be eliminated and that ever ...more
Dec 15, 2008 David rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Miserable book I couldn't finish reading, and I actually agree with the author politically for the most part. Just a lot of lazy potshots at conservatives (aka "wingers" in the author's argot). I'd heard good things about What's the Matter with Kansas, so I had high hopes for this, but 25 zingers per page concerning his contempt for the right wing wore me out.

One among hundreds and hundreds of examples: on p. 72 "Working out of the suburbs of northern Virginia.....the New Right leaders" is acco
Aug 08, 2008 Erik rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is not about the neo-cons and recent history so much as the roots of the conservative movement in the shenannigans of people like Jack Abramoff and Grover Norquist among others. Frank's thesis, or rather what his subjects say themselves, is that conservatives unbeknownst to people who vote for them are engaged on a project of destruction of American government and entitlement programs like medicare and social security, the installment of corporate hacks and cronies in government agenci ...more
Rachel Garber
Apr 14, 2009 Rachel Garber rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who has a strong stomach
Recommended to Rachel by: No one, found on library shelf
This is a difficult book to read. It is about the dismantling of the many agencies that "Shrub" GW Bush wanted to eviscerate because he didn't agree with their philosophy. I took it out of the library a couple of weeks ago and have to put it down once in a while because it is so disturbing. What I have learned so far is a reinforcement of my belief that GWB was a pretty evil person. If it interfered with business, get rid of it, defund it, fill any open positions with people who were totally at ...more
Craig Munier
Nov 25, 2012 Craig Munier rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I never dreamed, before reading this book, that there could exist people who so abhor government that they would purposely sabotage it under their own rule! But I have experienced this in my professional career, in hindsight, and only did recognize it after reading this book. Excellent read and should be required reading by any who would defy Madisonians, Libertarians, Conservatives, and the Tea Party movement.
Dr. Lloyd E. Campbell
I just finished this book and watched George Carlin's video the truth about the American at about the same time. Watch Carlin's rant then read this book (or read the book first). The Wrecking Crew supports everything Carlin says except his claim that there are no differences between the two parties. This is one of the most dispiriting books I have ever read. The inmates have taken control of the asylum.
Nov 11, 2008 Mike rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sociology
I had high hopes for this book but it failed to deliver. It's largely a polemic anti-conservative rant more than a scholarly deconstruction of conservatism. It's unquestionably one of the worst books I've ever read, lacking in both structure and style. I have no clue how crappy books like this get published other than by catering to the political leanings of the publisher and editor. Truly a waste of good paper.
Feb 26, 2009 Thom rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: liberals looking for the dirt
The sheer tonage of Reagan-era efforts to dismantle, defund, disparage, and generally wreck the U. S. social contract established with the new deal will bring a sick feeling of recognition to liberals who felt all along in their bones : I KNEW the son-a-bitches were out to bring this country to its knees before the Leviathon of big business! I was right in the '60s and ever since----I"VE BEEN RIGHT ALL ALONG ! ....and I'm not alone.
Dec 01, 2008 Sus rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I couldn't make it more than 1/4 of the way into this book. While I consider myself to be a pretty staunch liberal, his over-the-top rhetoric was off-putting. I felt like he undercut his arguments by choosing to be so vitriolic in his tone. It made me wonder if his analysis was just as one-sided as the conservative machinations he was criticizing.
Wade Johannes
Jan 30, 2013 Wade Johannes rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I am not saying the information is not true, but if you want a completely one-sided view on why Conservatism is bad, this is the book for you. The author looks at conservatives as always being greedy and selfish and liberals as always being right and pure. If he had critiqued both sides with the same level of scrutiny, I would have a different rating. But the way it was written is nauseating...
Thom Dunn
I kinda wish Franks didn't seem so gleeful laying out this Checkmate scenario of neo-con monstrousness. He was the same way when he appeared on Bill Moyers. If everything he says is true--and I have no doubt it is, why is he smiling ?
Feb 18, 2017 Liz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Another horrifying political nonfiction book. I "liked" several other reviewers who did a good job of summarizing the theme of the book, but let me say- and this comes from the words of conservatives themselves: their moral compass always points to "free markets; the closer you get to that utopia, the more virtuous you become." Frank points out a few conservative 'bibles and one is "The Politics of Plunder" by Bandow that turns the liberal understanding of government on its head. Lakoff's books ...more
Dec 06, 2016 Conor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thomas Frank--you are the fustigator we need right now. I'm still on board with Stiglitz, but Frank is endowed with a much more gimlet eye and sharper tongue. And it's delightful to find someone whose playfulness of diction matches his playfulness with the subject matter (some great vocabulary here, though perhaps an over-reliance on the word "boodler" and really no need to use the word enragée more than once).

The main thesis of this book, as I take it, is to point out how well made the GOP has
Jan 20, 2017 Betsy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was a little more difficult to get through than the two others I read by Thomas Frank - "What's the Matter With Kansas" and "Listen, Liberal" - because trying to follow the machinations of various conservatives profiles can be kind-numbing. The chapter on people like Abramoff's forays into South Africa were especially hard to read. But, the book is just as eye-opening and important a read as the other two. I was particularly changed by Frank's account of conservative ideology and it's ...more
Feb 16, 2017 ChadBroChill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this as I flew to D.C to protest Trump's inauguration. As we descended over the McMansion dotted suburbs of northern Virginia (the richest in America), I was gripped by fantasies of aerial warfare. Thomas Frank argues that modern conservative ideology makes corruption inevitable once they gain power. I'm sure Donald's senile rantings will be perfect cover for the continued cannibalization of the Federal government by the Republican Party.
Paulo O'Brien
Sep 10, 2009 Paulo O'Brien rated it really liked it
Pathways Interview: For my Pathways radio show (, I had the pleasure of having lunch and taping an interview of this author, Thomas Frank, soon after the book was released by his publisher. As we dined at Portland's Aquariva waterfront restaurant, I was impressed by his down-to-earth personality and sense of humor.

But I was even more impressed by the book. In fact, I can't understand why this book is not required reading for everyone who seeks to understand how the U.S. g
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Thomas Frank is the author of Pity the Billionaire, The Wrecking Crew, and What's the Matter with Kansas? A former columnist for The Wall Street Journal and Harper's, Frank is the founding editor of The Baffler and writes regularly for Salon. He lives outside Washington, D.C.
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“And libertarianism is good because it helps conservatives pass off a patently pro-business political agenda as a noble bid for human freedom. Whatever we may think of libertarianism as a set of ideas, practically speaking, it is a doctrine that owes its visibility to the obvious charms it holds for the wealthy and the powerful. The reason we have so many well-funded libertarians in America these days is not because libertarianism has acquired an enormous grassroots following, but because it appeals to those who are able to fund ideas. Like social Darwinism and Christian Science before it, libertarianism flatters the successful and rationalizes their core beliefs about the world. They warm to the libertarian idea that taxation is theft because they themselves don’t like to pay taxes. They fancy the libertarian notion that regulation is communist because they themselves find regulation intrusive and annoying. Libertarianism is a politics born to be subsidized. In the “free market of ideas,” it is a sure winner.” 35 likes
“Corruption is uniquely reprehensible in a democracy because it violates the system's first principle, which we all learned back in the sunshiny days of elementary school: that the government exist to serve the public, not particular companies or individuals or even elected officials. ” 16 likes
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