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The Rich Don't Always Win: The Forgotten Triumph over Plutocracy that Created the American Middle Class, 1900-1970

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The Occupy Wall Street protests have captured America's political imagination. Polls show that two-thirds of the nation now believe that America's enormous wealth ought to be "distributed more evenly." However, almost as many Americans — well over half — feel the protests will ultimately have "little impact" on inequality in America. What explains this disconnect? Most Americans have resigned themselves to believing that the rich simply always get their way.
Except they don't.
A century ago, the United States hosted a super-rich even more domineering than ours today. Yet fifty years later, that super-rich had almost entirely disappeared. Their majestic mansions and estates had become museums and college campuses, and America had become a vibrant, mass middle class nation, the first and finest the world had ever seen.
Americans today ought to be taking no small inspiration from this stunning change. After all, if our forbears successfully beat back grand fortune, why can't we? But this transformation is inspiring virtually no one. Why?  Because the story behind it has remained almost totally unknown, until now.
This lively popular history will speak directly to the political hopelessness so many Americans feel. By tracing how average Americans took down plutocracy over the first half of the 20th Century, and how plutocracy came back, The Rich Don't Always Win will outfit Occupy Wall Street America with a deeper understanding of what we need to do to get the United States back on track to the American dream.

384 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2012

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About the author

Sam Pizzigati

8 books17 followers
Sam Pizzigati, an Institute for Policy Studies associate fellow, has been writing about inequality in America since the early 1990s. A veteran labor journalist, Pizzigati has edited national publications for four different U.S. trade unions. He currently writes for the OtherWords media service and co-edits Inequality.org, the Institute for Policy Studies weekly on maldistributed income and wealth and its companion website. His articles and op-eds on inequality have appeared in publications ranging from the New York Times and USA Today to Le Monde Diplomatique and the Guardian.

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Displaying 1 - 10 of 10 reviews
Profile Image for David Jedeikin.
Author 1 book4 followers
August 30, 2013
Excellent analysis of how America went from a plutocracy to a more egalitarian society and back again. Definitely slanted, but nevertheless an important counterweight to all the free-market fundamentalism that's been de rigueur in this country for more than 30 years.
Profile Image for Corbin.
38 reviews
March 12, 2013
A must read: chronicles the (successful and doomed) fight of the 99% of Americans struggling against the tyranny of wealthy plutocrats controlling the country from 1900 to today.
2 reviews
January 28, 2022
Great historical account of how we moved from inequality to creation of the middle class and then back to plutocracy. It seems we have now been lulled to sleep for the past 50 years while the plutocrats gain back all the wealth and power. They are killing the middle class with slow strangulation. This book outlines what could be done, but there are no details as to strategy and tactics that need to be implemented now. The limit on CEO compensation is a good idea and could be tied to taxation once more. But we are dealing with plutocratic psychopaths.
The second problem is psychopathy in the workplace. Read and compare "Snakes in Suits" by Paul Babiak and Robert Hare, or visit hare.org The lack of character and outright psychopathy is undermining and demoralizing the country!
Profile Image for Justin Podur.
Author 9 books39 followers
July 12, 2013
Great and timely. This book focuses on two things: the right to organize in unions and taxation (specifically, the progressiveness of taxes). We can track the power of plutocracy based on the status of these two metrics. And based on these two metrics, plutocracy is doing better now than it has in a very long time. Which is why Pizzigati's book about how victories were won against plutocracy in the last century is so important. One thing that this book shares with Radicals in Power is the sense that radical ideas have to be congruent with the country's traditions. American progressive politics has plenty of room for egalitarian ideas, but not a lot of support if these ideas are phrased in the language of european marxism and philosophy - according to these books, anyway.

There are some gaps in explanation that were left in this book. For example, the socialist party lost ground during WWI, and in one section Pizzigati suggests it is because the party opposed the war; in another section, he argues that the socialist newspaper that was forced to accept the war, lost all credibility and became a shadow of its former self. If opposing the war was certain doom and supporting it was a loss of credibility, how might socialists have survived the war? I suppose history is about what was, and not what wasn't, but for today's egalitarians who might not want to be crushed like previous movements, it's an important question.

Regardless, these mostly invisible histories are incredibly important and inspiring. A great book. Also well written, nice narrative style.
Profile Image for Robert.
28 reviews6 followers
May 13, 2016
This book should be required reading for anyone who is confused and upset about why the United States today seems to be rigged against the middle class, and who feels like things used to be better.

Pizzigati documents how the US was in the exact same place in the early 20th century as it is today: corrupt politicians, massive inequality, stagnating wages. But by the 1950s, all of this had reversed, and the US had created the first mass middle class in the world. That didn't happen by magic: Pizzigati shows how it was the product of many years of political and labor organizing that culminated in government policies and institutions devoted to reducing inequality and benefiting working Americans. The two most important of these were the 90% marginal tax rate on the highest incomes, which reduced the incentive for executives to cut corners and cheat, and widespread union membership, which boosted wages even in non-unionized industries.

For people like me who are concerned about the US today, it's inspiring to know that we've been here before, and we've gotten ourselves out of this spot in the past.
7 reviews14 followers
March 13, 2013
My sister told me I'm trying too hard to save the world in too many different ways. She's probably right. But when you learn something is bad and you don't try to do something about it, at least share the information, you become an accomplice.

I finished reading "The Rich Don't Always Win" a few days ago. If you've followed my posts on G+ and FB you'll recognize my enthusiasm from the number of times I've posted about it as I was reading it.

This collection of historical records should be taught to every American citizen. I'd love to see this end up as a documentary.

If even a large minority of Americans were aware of how things really worked to create the socioeconomic climate we live with today, we wouldn't be living with it for more than a few more election cycles.
Profile Image for Mike.
75 reviews3 followers
January 4, 2015
Those of whom I would really like to see read this book would probably denounce every fact that Sam Pizzigati carefully references in the history of inequality and the labor forces that have tried to eliminate it and have imposed push backs over time. There is no denial of a link between inequality of wealth and economic peril, and Mr. Perrigati tells us why. Every conservative red herring is tossed aside as tax rates, organized labor, and plutocratic control are wrestled with and pinned to the floor with a full Nelson of collective effort. Just the journalism alone in this book that exposes the history of our US economy in an honest straightforward manner make this book worth a read.
Profile Image for John.
28 reviews5 followers
January 5, 2015
Read this book. Our American predecessors fought the same fights we are fighting today about banana-republic-style wealth trends and what should be done about it. Fascinating stuff, well told.
Displaying 1 - 10 of 10 reviews

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