Who stole the American dream?

This is a really excellent book and I highly recommend it. Ask your library if they have it!

In his sweeping, authoritative examination of the last four decades of the American economic experience, Smith describes the long, relentless decline of the middle class — a decline that was not by accident, but by design.


He dates it back to a private memo — in effect, a political call to arms — issued to the nation’s business leaders in 1971 by Lewis F. Powell, Jr., a corporate attorney soon to become a Supreme Court justice. From that point forward, Smith writes, corporate America threw off any sense of restraint or social obligation and instead unstintingly leveraged its money and political power to pursue its own interests.


The result was nothing less than a shift in gravity. Starting in the early 1970s, every major economic trend — increased productivity, globalization, tax law overhauls, and the phasing out of pensions in favor of 401(k)s — produced the same result: The benefits fell upward.


Smith, a 1970 Nieman Fellow, is at his very best as he examines, one by one, the key economic shifts of the last 40 years and shows that in each case the money flowed to the very richest Americans, particularly those on Wall Street, while impoverishing the middle class.

4 thoughts on “Who stole the American dream?

  1. How the trickle up theory gave 40% of America’s wealth to the 1% is always a good topic to write about. To acumulate that 40% of our wealth the 1% had to steal it from somewhere. It was owned by the middle class so it was the obvious victim. Talk about class warfare.

  2. The only problem with pinning it on Powell is that the wealthy, always and everywhere, have raken in everything they could reach.

    It looks to me, having drifted through those times, that what really changed was the middle classes decided that hippie punching was more important than voting their own interests.

    The game was never not rigged, but after Ronzo it became so rigged, and so increasingly rigged, that now it’s true the middle class can’t just vote its way out of the mess. The 1% really do hold 99% of the puppet strings.

    But there was that time, ages ago, when the middle class didn’t help themselves much in this process.

  3. …and in the process our country became a debtor nation. Funny (not really), but it reminds me of the late Tennessee Earnie Ford’s hit recording, “16 Tons”.

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