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The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  1,480 ratings  ·  150 reviews
From the author of the landmark bestseller What's the Matter with Kansas?, a jaw-dropping investigation of the decades of deliberate--and lucrative--conservative misrule

In his previous book, Thomas Frank explained why working America votes for politicians who reserve their favors for the rich. Now, in The Wrecking Crew, Frank examines the blundering and corrupt Washington
ebook, 384 pages
Published August 5th 2008 by Metropolitan Books (first published 2008)
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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
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
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
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.
"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
Oct 19, 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
Cliff Thompson
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
Nov 07, 2008 Robert rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
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 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
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.
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.
The Wrecking Crew provides further evidence that the oligarchs are winning in America and our middle class and democracy –as we know it—are completely doomed. This book was published on the eve of the financial meltdown in America which perfectly illustrates the author’s point of how conservatives dismantled the regulatory measures that may have prevented such wanton theft. One huge problem is that most of the people who should be reading this book, mainly the middle and lower-middle classes jus ...more
This is from the same author as "What's the Matter with Kansas," so you he is going to hit the Conservative movement hard.

It took a bit to start getting the pages to flow, as the book seemed a bit stilted at first. But after about page 40, it turned into a very readable book about the cynicism that is at the core of modern conservatism. Want to know why the party of so-called fiscal hawks adopts a "don't tax and spend" policy whenever it gains power? Frank has an answer, and it is wrapped in the
So many great reviews have been written that I have little to add. For people like me who looked around and asked "How did we get to this state?" this is the book. Our dysfunctional government has been a long time coming. The wrecking crew is an apt description of what has been taking place. Government that is functional for the people has been wrecked and replaced by one that only serves its customers - the wealthy. There is also an introduction to many of the players. For the longest time, I a ...more
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 ?
Sobering, depressing. After this, I need some light fiction, but glad I read it. From page 212: "The ones who read "Target America" [conservatives]and rode the paranoid wave have, for the last few decades, assembled in riotous celebration here in Washington.....
The rest of us have been left to mourn for another nation--that warm, middle-class world that I was born into: a place where blue-collar workers owned boats and suburban homes, where government seemed at least interested in fairness, and
This is a sobering and depressing book. It demonstrates how the new right (the political conservatives) have effectively sabotaged our government. It starts from the premise that Conservatives believe any government is bad for the country and the freer an economic market can get, the better it is for the country. This, of course, proves true for only those with money and the owners of businesses. Ah, but then it is also good for conservatives and their corporate lobbyist allies, who make it thei ...more
Simon Wood

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
Mr. Frank writes critically of the modern conservative movement, taking dead-aim at the various self-serving myths surrounding privatization. Above all else, this a tale of corruption, greed and ineptitude, with Mr. Frank focusing on the tactics and quirks of the miscellaneous Republican power-brokers who came to dominate the political scene for the past few decades. I liked reading the portrait he paints of Jack Abramoff in particular.

I enjoyed this book though it was at turns infuriating. At
Read the STOP SMILING interview with Thomas Frank:

We're Not in Kansas Anymore
By JC Gabel

Whether Thomas Frank has enough time to think about it or not, he is a hero to underground publishers. He's also an author, a lecturer and, on most afternoons, an outspoken social critic.

Fifteen years ago, Frank started The Baffler, a journal of cultural criticism, in his undergraduate dorm room at the University of Virginia. The Baffler's intelligent look at American culture immediately garnered a fervent r
Thomas Frank describes a.) Conservatives’ ideas toward government (their goal is to destroy it and transfer its responsibilities to the private sector), b.) their (mis) use of government power (they run up huge deficits in order to de-fund the government and make damaging cuts to government programs), and c.) how conservatism has become a profitable industry through acts of political entrepreneurship like lobbying. According to Frank, lobbyists (there were 91,000 of them in 1993) propose earmark ...more
Ted Child
I read “Commodify Your Dissent” when I was a twenty-year-old who thought he was a rebel because I wore Vans instead of Airwalks. Needless to say, that book was a kick to the head and I promised myself that I would remember to read more of Thomas Frank if he ever wrote anymore books. Ten years later and I’m finally getting around to reading some more Frank and after reading "Wrecking Crew" I’m sorry I forgot that promise. I think Frank might be one of the finest and most engaging writers on the ...more
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
Ken Deshaies
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
Paulo O'Brien
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
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
Todd Martin
The Wrecking Crew documents the sordid machinations of Jack Abramoff, Tom Delay, Grover Norquist and other prominent republicans during the Bush years with the intent of showing that corruption, scandal and poor governance are not the result of a few bad apples, they are in fact a natural outgrowth of the new conservative mindset. Why is the best public official the one least competent to perform their job duties in the eyes of conservatives? Because bungling and ineptitude prove their point tha ...more
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Thomas Frank is the author of What’s the Matter with Kansas? and One Market Under God. The founding editor of The Baffler and a contributing editor at Harper’s, he is also a Wall Street Journal weekly columnist. He has received a Lannan award and been a guest columnist for The New York Times. Frank lives in Washington, D.C.
More about Thomas Frank...
What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America Pity the Billionaire: The Hard-Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism Commodify Your Dissent: Salvos from The Baffler One Market Under God: Extreme Capitalism, Market Populism, and the End of Economic Democracy

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“Libertarianism is good because it helps conservatives pass off a patently probusiness 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 American these days is not because libertarianism suddenly 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.” 29 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. ” 13 likes
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