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

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  1,845 ratings  ·  182 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
ebook, 368 pages
Published September 14th 2010 by Simon Schuster (first published September 3rd 2010)
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Aug 23, 2012 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
Feb 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 Winner-Ta
Ryan Melena
Aug 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Aaron Arnold
Apr 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 29, 2013 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
Mark Tatge
Jan 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is a must read for those involved in politics. Basically, it shows how policy (and not markets) have created inequality. It's a survey of different policies (tax, banking, etc). There is so much more: housing, schools, etc. But this book shows exactly why and how this happened--basically money by business pushing legislators (both dems and republicans) to favor business over people. This is the tragedy of American democracy. It's been an ongoing disaster. ...more
Jarin Jove
Jul 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most eye-opening books about modern political policy, political history of how the Super-rich took so much of the control from Washington DC, and why it is difficult to make meaningful change.

Due to the fact it covers the history of the rise of the top 1% through political maneuvering from Presidents Reagan to Obama, it would be too much to unpack in just this simple blog post. If you truly care about the economic inequality that has shattered the middle and lower class of th
Susan Bazzett-Griffith
Probably the most comprehensive and absolutely readable book about the widening income inequality and how it has happened over the last 40 years or so I've come across yet- Hacker is less Keynesian than Reich, and uses data and studies from a variety of economic points of views to back up his information, as well as rich and detailed historical data regarding tax policies, social issues, inflation, education, influx of lobbyists and PAC monies, and other human societal impacts for all the years ...more
Sean Owen
Jun 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
"Winner-Take-All Politics" is a great single-volume explanation of why the United States has gotten so screwed up over the past 40 years. Hacker and Pierson point to a vicious circle of economic inequality, declining labor unions, the role of money in politics and political polarization. They point out that policies that poll as hugely popular amongst lower-income groups are almost never put into place. While policies popular amongst higher-income groups are very likely to be point into place de ...more
Daniel Roberts
Jul 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
WTF I hate "the outsized influence of capitalists on American democracy" now ...more
Oct 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: inequality
For anyone looking to track the history of our political disfunction and to get a crash course on political science should keep this book in mind. Even though it's about 8 years old, it's look at political history is as relivent now as it was when the book was published, as is it's analysis of why popular programs often have difficulty getting passed in Washington.

It's also depressing how true the text was: things after it's publication basically reinforced it's narrative. Things just got worse.
Sep 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
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 scientists
Nick Klagge
Nov 17, 2017 rated it liked it
The content and message of this book are worth reading and understanding: the sharp increases in economic inequality over the past several decades in the U.S. are driven in large part by political decisions, not simply by globalization and/or technological change; furthermore, this is not merely the doing of Republicans, but has been propagated by Democratic politicians as well. So far so good, although I already basically believed this before reading the book.

I was somewhat disappointed in the
Aug 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book perfectly captures the main problem facing the United States today: the capture of the political system through by the very wealthy, and their use of the system to extract an ever-increasing portion of the economy for their personal use. Then it outlines how this problem came to exist, describing the successful, long-term organization of the business lobby in response to legislative defeats in the 1970s that has fully transformed how both parties do politics. The only way to fix this i ...more
Ilya Gerner
Dec 16, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
C. Scott
Sep 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
A truly excellent examination of how American politics became skewed to favor the rich. It certainly appears that winner-take-all politics have midwifed the winner-take-all economy that we have today. Addressing income and wealth inequality will require addressing political inequality first.

This book makes a really nice companion read with "Fixing Elections." Each compliments the other in understanding how we might go about changing our broken political edifice.
Nov 23, 2018 marked it as to-keep-reference
Political forces played an important role too. In their study “Winner-Take-All Politics,” Hacker and Pierson document the way in which organised interest groups in the US have lobbied to secure changes in the regulatory framework, in accounting standards, and in tax rules.

Inequality Pág.108
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. ...more
Louise Leetch
Publishers Weekly Review
Nov 04, 2020 added it
Shelves: society-politics
Finalist for the 2011 Hillman Prize for Book Journalism.

The central concept of the book is that the political shift toward the rich / conservatives began in the 1970's (and later accelerated.) Before that, it says businesses generally lobbied / supported candidates as individual companies or industries. After the growth of progressive interest groups, businesses organized more on a broader, bigger and more powerful basis. Hacker says this was powerful enough by the time Pres. Carter took office
Chuck Kollars
Jul 14, 2019 rated it it was ok
A thorough broad-brush descripition of U.S national politics, with full detail going back as far as Reagan, and some references to FDR and even further back. Its basic point is that Washington D.C. has been captured by the 0.01%. The situation really is as bad as the cynics say, in fact possibly even worse. The clearly written book manages to be fairly objective and upbeat while delivering a devastating message.

It's organized somewhat as an "investigation", the way a PI would do it. The usual s
Aug 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a scholarly book written by two political science professors, one at Yale University, the other at the University of California at Berkeley. They quote 30 pages of footnotes substantiating their findings.
The authors demonstrate how the growing income inequality between the 1% or the 0.01% and the rest of America was caused by deliberate policy decisions from Washington.
The authors show how US politics is more influenced by what they call "organized combat" than by the results of what the
Apr 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: politics
This book was written during the Obama administration, but I am reading it under Trump, who has done us all the favor of laying bare just what makes the Republican party tick these days. Which is to say, the book is a bit dated, but prescient, political science analysis of why the rich keep getting richer, with D.C.'s help.

The main takeaways are this:
-- Corporate interests and the wealthy are very, very, very, very well organized when it comes to advocating for their bottom line in DC.
-- The ris
Nov 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I hate that I can't bring myself to read more than one-third of this book, but frankly the state of US politics makes me too depressed and angry to go any further. This book is ten years old, but still relevant and accurate. Policy and tax code are structured to benefit those at the very, very, very top. I think we all knew this already (or maybe not, given the results of the recent presidential election?), but the authors give loads of proof in an accessible and non-academic way--I appreciate t ...more
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