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Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class

4.02  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,279 Ratings  ·  152 Reviews
A groundbreaking work that identifies the real culprit behind one of the great economic crimes of our time— the growing inequality of incomes between the vast majority of Americans and the richest of the rich.

We all know that the very rich have gotten a lot richer these past few decades while most Americans haven’t. In fact, the exorbitantly paid have continued to thrive
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published September 14th 2010 by Simon & Schuster (first published September 3rd 2010)
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Aug 23, 2012 Christoph rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had read the academic paper Hacker and Pierson released containing the thesis of this book in the journal Politics and Society in 2010. The article makes the case for the political impact on income inequality through hard data analysis of the separate quintiles comprising the income distribution. For the first time, clearly laid out numbers were crunched sadly depicting the deep-seated unfairness in American society. Less of a narrative and basically a frumpy old research article, this paper c ...more
Jun 24, 2011 Book rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer And Turned its Back on the Middle Class by Jacob S. Hacker & Paul Pierson

"Winner-Take-All Politics" is the interesting and upsetting look at how the economic gap between the super rich and the rest of us came about over the past 30 years. This insightful book details the policies that molded the economy to favor the rich. This 288-page book is composed of the following ten chapters: 1. The Winner-Take Al Economy, 2. How the Winne
Ryan Melena
Aug 04, 2011 Ryan Melena rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-books
Winner-Take-All Politics explained clearly and convincingly the events, conditions, and motivations that have led the US to our current state of economic fragility and inequality. As a veracious reader of economic and political material I was impressed by the authors' ability to explain the many nagging questions I've had about when, why, and how the country's economic policy began to change. Additionally, the book provides a plethora of insight and statistics regarding how the current condition ...more
Feb 20, 2011 Aaron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
It's something I've been aware of for some time, both from personal experience and from picking up the data as a journalist covering this and that, but I don't think I've ever fully understood the reason why the middle-class in the U.S. has, as a part of our economy and political life, steadily fallen behind.
But here comes "Winner-Take-All Politics" by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, both political science professors, to bring it clear and painfully home for me.
The reason is Washington, D.C., whe
Aaron Arnold
In the ugly and dishonest football game that is American politics, all eyes converge on the two teams endlessly facemasking and clotheslining each other; few ever look to the skyboxes for their owners. Over the past few decades the US has become an immensely unequal nation, and both economists and laypeople wonder if the growing wealth gap isn't slowing economic growth and hurting global competitiveness. It certainly seems like the American economy isn't the perpetual fountain of prosperity it u ...more
Jul 07, 2011 Jeremy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is among the best books on politics I've ever read, and I've read far too many. What these authors do is simply make better sense of the last 30 years in American domestic politics than anyone else has, and do it in a way that is stunningly readable, immensely erudite, and remarkably forceful. I cannot recommend it enough. I'm not one to gush in a review, but I simply cannot think of a major flaw in this book. The core finding they make is that the vast new inequality in American life is NO ...more
Mark Tatge
One of the best books I have read in a long time. This is a very well-written, well-researched account explaining how our economic system has become so tilted toward the rich and big business. Hacker lays out how our political system (both Democrats and Republicans) have been corrupted by big business, special interests while ignoring the middle-class voter. He traces the problem back to the 1970s when Jimmy Carter was president. The book moves forward by decade, explaining how changes in politi ...more
May 06, 2013 Sonia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
So I didn't finish this because the end of the semester happened and I got entirely burnt out, but I will say that what I read was interesting, smart and incisive. Pierson and Hacker are currently kind of rock stars in the poli-sci world, partly because they make very complicated issues - in this case America's unprecedented spike in income inequality - understandable for those of us who don't have extensive background in econ or policy. The argument they make here for how the U.S. government ef ...more
Nov 01, 2010 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lefty
Hacker & Pierson combine two major liberal concerns here-- inequality in America and corporate money in politics. In effect, they argue, the latter caused the former. A major influx of corporate contributions to campaign funds, lobbying, and organization-building began hitting Washington in the late '70s, and national politics has been the effectual servant of wealth ever since. I condense and amplify their case, but not by much.

The important thing here: Hacker & Pierson are political sc
Nov 19, 2010 Aaron rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not a great book, but a book with extremely important ideas.* Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson look at how, over the last 30 years, the middle class in America has seen its influence over policymaking eclipsed by the super-wealthy and corporate interests. As a result, the book argues, federal policies have helped make the rich immensely richer, while ignoring the stagnation of the American middle-class.

(Whether federal policies caused the change in income distribution is a matter of debate, but the
Aug 08, 2012 Jack rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a great book. The right would describe it at an effort of class warfare, but as the authors claim, there is no war going on here: one side has won overwhelmingly and continues to keep on winning - big and ugly. A smaller number of people have acquired more and more money and the masses are falling further and further behind. A few particularly interesting aspects regarding the narrative:
1) This increasing chasm between the small number or really wealthy people and the rest started in the
Apr 29, 2013 Alan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bill Moyers raved about this book, and his interview with the authors was fascinating.

The book was pretty good, in my view, but not great.

While I agree with the thesis of the book (that the political henchmen of the wealthy have expropriated public policy and twisted it to serve the ends of their masters), too often I found myself scribbling "Can you back up this assertion?" into the margins.

Too often their numbered references take us to somebody else's allegation or published opinion, making
Jan 27, 2012 Sara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I listened to these guys on Bill Moyers and was very impressed. Their thesis is that Congress no longer listens to the middle class partly because campaigns now cost so much that only the wealthy and corporations can make donations large enough to matter and also those are the ones who can afford to hire the lobbyists who convince Congress to pass bills to help them make even more money---and which led to the 2008 Recession. In fact, nearly all of the bills these people want get passed while tho ...more
Ilya Gerner
Jun 26, 2011 Ilya Gerner rated it really liked it
Has its faults (reliance on much-criticized Piketty and Saez income data, too quick discounting of technological change) but it's the most articulate explanation I've read about why the United States has transformed from "Broadland," where the fruits of economic expansion are broadly shared, to "Richistan" with unimaginable wealth for a few and uncertain prospects for many.

Especially impressed with the concept of "policy drift:" instead of focusing exclusively on what policies were adopted, we h
Celeste De Bease
I had never really thought about how big a role government plays in helping business make the money they do in our country. By providing an infrastructure which makes possible the successes of business it is more of a business partner. The funds the government uses to build roads, to educate people, to provide for safe harbors, etc., is derived through taxation. It makes the question of whether government belongs in the business of business a moot point. In many cases, without government, there ...more
John Hopkins
Jul 25, 2016 John Hopkins rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Can there be any doubt today that American politics itself needs to be reformed? For me, there is no doubt -- especially at the national level -- but for those less sure I recommend this book. And, for those already looking for reform, there are these bracing lines from the final chapter:

"...In the long run, the politics of renewal cannot become deeply grounded without mass engagement as well as elite leadership. And as hard as it may be to direct public attention and enthusiasm toward procedur
Brian Morris
Mar 14, 2015 Brian Morris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Winner-Take-All Politics is a very thought provoking and sobering story of our political system's contribution to the economic inequality that is increasingly rampant today. I don't think anyone would be surprised to read about the GOP's strong support of Wall Street, business, and the wealthy; less well known is how the Democratic Party is slowly catching up.

I thought the discussion of policy "drift" and gridlock was especially enlightening. With polarized political parties, extremely organize
Stacey Rea
Apr 17, 2016 Stacey Rea rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: didn-t-finish
EVERYONE SHOULD READ THIS BOOK! This book was so good but made me so angry that I had to stop reading it for my health. The way our political system has been hijacked by the super wealthy in this country is horrifying and it is getting progressively worse. For example, on page 62, "In 1965 the average CEO of a large US corp made around 24 times the earnings of a typical worker. By 2007, average CEO pay was accelerating toward 300 times typical earnings. In that year, the average CEO of the 350 l ...more
Scott Lupo
Jan 09, 2015 Scott Lupo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
The old saying always goes "The rich get richer and the poor get poorer". This book takes a critical look at that aphorism and how Washington politics has not only aided and abetted but led the way to what the authors pithily label 'Winner Take All Economy'. Economic inequality doesn't just happen naturally, it is made, constructed, brutally fabricated by those in the stratospheric top of the economic ladder and the politicians that are at their beckon call and do their bidding. The middle class ...more
Jeffrey Cavanaugh
Mar 26, 2014 Jeffrey Cavanaugh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A rather impressive discussion of the intertwined growth political paralysis in the nation's capital alongside staggering increases in economic inequality in the nation at large. While I have some quibbles with the authors' primary thesis that changes in the organizational balance of power between financial and big business on the one hand and middle and working-class interests on the other is largely responsible for our current predicament, it is nonetheless an excellent, nuanced discussion tha ...more
Hard to read this book in that now it will be an overlay on my thinking. I knew about the party of no but hadn't really understood about the party of delay and drift. I will dedicate myself to long term organization to push back the greedy business forces.
Louise Leetch
Sep 26, 2010 Louise Leetch rated it liked it
Publishers Weekly Review
Brian Stout
Jun 21, 2016 Brian Stout rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I picked this up seeking a more thorough chronology on how we got to where we are, but not expecting to find much new. After all, the dimensions of the problem to the politically engaged are well understood: the shift of the GOP to the right; ascendancy of money in politics; decline of labor; coupled with globalization and the tech revolution, etc.

I was wrong: I learned a lot. Not that I was fundamentally wrong about the major pieces of the puzzle, but wrong in the degree to which I attributed
Jun 23, 2015 Jason rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: brain-food
The authors laid out many helpful insights into how Washington political power is based on organization and money - and how that has affected policy over the last 30 years. I found the concept of "Drift" enlightening as well.

I appreciated the authors' minor effort to appear non-partisan by throwing Sen. Chuck Schumer under the bus. Unfortunately, the book also makes constant comments which assume that all Republican politicians have been in bed with Big Corporations since the New Deal.

I do have
Dec 03, 2011 Kevin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: the-us
With Occupy Wall Street movement gathering headlines, there couldn't be a more timely read. By now, even the most marginally aware will be familiar with the thesis of the book. From the New Deal until the late 1970s, prosperity in the United States was broadly shared. Since that period economic growth has largely benefited the top -- and a narrow slice of the top at that. The rest, call them the 99%, have seen their income growth only by working more hours (particularly women through spending mo ...more
Feb 10, 2012 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook, ibooks
An in-depth look at US society with a particular focus on our political system to try to understand why the rich are getting richer, everyone else is getting poorer and our elected officials are doing nothing about it. From the end of WW II until Carter became President everyone's income increased with the lower tiers actually increasing more than the upper. Under Carter things began to unravel until, by today, we have a wealthy elite and everyone else. Republicans, reeling from Nixon's defeat, ...more
Jan 06, 2011 Alexander rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While Winner-Take-All Politics doesn't really break any new ground, it does offer an excellent, comprehensive checklist: first of all the ways in which Washington drastically favors the uber-rich and then second how and when that favoritism came about.

The narrative of when it happened does stray slightly from common perception, as the authors place the seeds of accelerating inequality somewhere in the Carter years -- the four years of a Democratic White House in a long string of GOP Presidents
Todd Martin
Dec 05, 2011 Todd Martin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you’ve ever felt that the economic system is rigged against the little guy … guess what? It is. Big money interests have been striving diligently for decades to ensure that they control the political agenda, despite your own personal desires, the needs of the people, or what may be good for the country.
Corporate interests use their increased financial power to elect individuals who, in turn, serve their corporate masters by enacting legislation that benefits the rich, who grow ever richer an
Nov 30, 2011 Liz rated it really liked it
Recommended to Liz by: Bill Moyers
The authors approach the current political deadlock from the position of detectives- following clues to a mystery about how "the normally happy interplay of American Democracy and American capitalism" ended up murdering the middle class. It is very thorough and heavily documented.(so a bit academic) I know that gambling with taxpayer money and equity by 'too big to fail' investment banks caused the immediate crash and loss of trillions of middle class wealth in 2008, but here, following the clue ...more
Brian Katz
Politics is the cause for the extreme wealth of the rich, and the hollowing out of the middle class. Unions were busted and the politically elite rose to power through an organized ground game - lobbying - to fight for and win inside the belt way. The book presents a good history of the problem from the 70's to the present day; through various white houses and the red and blue teams being complicit in the problem. The author argues for more government intervention to save the middle class and to ...more
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