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The System
Cover of The System
The System
Who Rigged It, How We Fix It
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From the bestselling author of Saving Capitalism and The Common Good, comes an urgent analysis of how the "rigged" systems of American politics and power operate, how this status quo came to be, and...
From the bestselling author of Saving Capitalism and The Common Good, comes an urgent analysis of how the "rigged" systems of American politics and power operate, how this status quo came to be, and...
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  • From the bestselling author of Saving Capitalism and The Common Good, comes an urgent analysis of how the "rigged" systems of American politics and power operate, how this status quo came to be, and how average citizens can enact change.
    There is a mounting sense that our political-economic system is no longer working, but what is the core problem and how do we remedy it? With the characteristic clarity and passion that have made him a central civil voice, bestselling author of Saving Capitalism and The Common Good Robert B. Reich shows how wealth and power have combined to install an oligarchy and undermine democracy. Reich exposes the myths of meritocracy, national competitiveness, corporate social responsibility, the “free market,” and the political “center,” all of which are used by those at the top to divert attention from their takeover of the system and to justify their accumulation of even more wealth and power. In demystifying the current system, Reich reveals where power actually lies and how it is wielded, and invites us to reclaim power and remake the system for all.

Excerpts-

  • From the book Millions of Americans, whether on the left or the right of the political spectrum, know something has gone profoundly wrong. “Right now, we have a system that favors those who can pay for access and outcomes. That’s how you explain an economy that is rigged to corporations and to the very wealthiest,” said Beto O’Rourke at the first Democratic presidential candidates’ debate in 2019.

     “When you’ve got a government, when you’ve got an economy that does great for those with money and isn’t doing great for everyone else, that is corruption, pure and simple,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren at the same forum.

    “Big business, elite media, and major donors are lining up behind the campaign of my opponent because they know she will keep our rigged system in place,” said Donald Trump in his acceptance speech at the Republican convention in 2016. 

    “If solutions within the system are so impossible to find, then maybe we should change the system itself,” said sixteen- year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg.

    As New York magazine’s Frank Rich put it: “Everything in the country is broken. Not just Washington, which failed to prevent the financial catastrophe and has done little to protect us from the next, but also race relations, health care, education, institutional religion, law enforcement, the physical infrastructure, the news media, the bedrock virtues of civility and com- munity. Nearly everything has turned to crap, it seems, except Peak TV (for those who can afford it).” He might have added the environment and our democracy. 

    The concentration of wealth in America has created an education system in which the super-rich can buy admission to college for their children, a political system in which they can buy Congress and the presidency, a health-care system in which they can buy care that others can’t, and a justice system in which they can buy their way out of jail. Almost everyone else has been hurled into a dystopia of bureaucratic arbitrari- ness, corporate indifference, and legal and financial sinkholes that have become the hallmarks of modern American life. 

    This mammoth, systemic dysfunction is generating a great deal of heat—anger, upset, frustration, and outrage. Heat in any system signals potential change. Like tectonic plates that cause earthquakes and volcanoes as they crash into each other, heat is a sign of underlying tumult. In today’s America, the status quo is unsustainable. Subterranean tensions are building. 

    If you want to understand where the system is now and what you might do to help move it in a more humane direction, you will need to look beneath its surface and reassess many of your assumptions. 

    First, forget politics as you’ve come to see it, as electoral contests between Democrats and Republicans. Think power. The underlying contest is between a small minority who have gained power over the system and the vast majority who have little or none. 

    Don’t assume that a U.S. president or any other head of state unilaterally makes big decisions. Look at the people who enable and encourage those decisions, and whose interests those decisions serve. 

    Forget what you may have learned about the choice between the “free market” and government. A market cannot exist without a government to organize and enforce it. The important question is whom the market has been organized to serve. 

    Forget the standard economic goals of higher growth and greater efficiency. The issue is who benefits from more...

About the Author-

  • ROBERT B. REICH is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations and has written fifteen books, including The Work of Nations, which has been translated into twenty-two languages, and the best sellers The Common Good, Saving Capitalism, Supercapitalism, and Locked in the Cabinet. His articles have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal, and he writes a weekly column for The Guardian and Newsweek. He is co-creator of the award-winning film Inequality for All, and the Netflix original Saving Capitalism, and co-founder of Inequality Media. He lives in Berkeley and blogs at robertreich.org.

Reviews-

  • Kirkus

    March 15, 2020
    The bestselling author presents his case that severe income inequality is the leading factor eroding American democracy. After serving as the secretary of labor for Bill Clinton, Reich became a professor, frequent commentator on our ailing political system, and author of such bestsellers as Locked in the Cabinet, The Common Good, and Supercapitalism. In his latest, he urges all Americans outside the wealthiest 1% to stop thinking in terms of left vs. right or Democrat vs. Republican. Instead, writes the author, the crucial battle is Oligarchy vs. Democracy. The oligarchs, no matter what they say publicly about promoting democracy within a vigorous capitalistic economy, care almost exclusively about expanding their wealth. The accumulation of such wealth, writes Reich, has destroyed the middle class and offers nothing but misery to minimum wage workers. Throughout the narrative, the author relies heavily on the career of Jamie Dimon to illustrate his theories. Dimon, the CEO and chairman of JPMorgan Chase, presents himself as an enlightened supporter of the Democratic Party as well as a philanthropist actively seeking to reduce income inequality. Digging deeper, Reich argues that Dimon, while perhaps sincere in his own mind, is just another enabler of oligarchy. That enabling occurs not only via his too-big-to-fail bank, but also through Dimon's leadership of the Business Roundtable, a lobbying organization consisting of the most powerful chief executives in the U.S. By opposing government regulation of industry and pushing for corporate tax cuts, Dimon and his fellow BR board members demonstrate their disdain for any legislation that might increase income equality among all socio-economic levels. As the author incisively shows, while opposing a safety net for the needy, corporate leaders regularly accept socialism for the extremely wealthy through government bailouts, an unfair tax code, and other measures. In various passages, Reich explains how the oligarchs have helped create and then bolster Donald Trump and his supporters. Much-needed, readably concise political and economic analysis.

    COPYRIGHT(2020) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    Starred review from April 1, 2020

    In his latest book, former U.S. secretary of labor and best-selling author Reich (Carmel P. Friesen Professor of Public Policy, Univ. of California, Berkeley; Saving Capitalism) continues examining the American economy, and how its current structure is unfair to most. Similar to his previous works Beyond Outrage and The Common Good, Reich contends that there is a growing sentiment among Americans that the system is, indeed, rigged in favor of the wealthy and politically powerful--what is often called an oligarchy. Unlike his other works, here Reich takes aim at those who claim to support the middle-class, while at the same time accumulating vast amounts of wealth for themselves, such as JP Morgan Chase. Though Reich has made similar points in previous works, he is still an excellent writer skilled at addressing inequality in an accessible way. His writing style is engaging, and his arguments are supported by facts from his years studying and teaching courses in public policy and economics. VERDICT Another excellent book from Reich that all libraries will want to have in their collections.--Ed Goedeken, Iowa State Univ. Lib., Ames

    Copyright 2020 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    April 6, 2020
    In this incisive critique, former U.S. secretary of labor Reich (The Common Good) argues that America’s political and economic system has “become tilted ever more in the direction of moneyed interests that have exerted disproportionate influence over it, while average workers have steadily lost bargaining leverage.” He identifies three major developments over the past four decades: a shift from “stakeholder capitalism” to “shareholder capitalism,” in which business decisions are gauged only by the profits they generate; the transfer of bargaining power from unions to corporations; and financial deregulation that have allowed some to reap huge profits, while the weight of financial risk is borne by average people. These changes have empowered a small economic elite to translate massive wealth into political clout, securing policies that enable them to accumulate more money and power. Reich forcefully critiques J.P. Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon’s endorsement of “corporate social responsibility” as a vastly insufficient answer to the perils of crony capitalism, which he credits for widespread populist anger that has found its outlet in xenophobia and authoritarianism. The cure, Reich believes, is a multiethnic, multiracial coalition recommitted to the work of citizenship and a more equitable reallocation of power. Though Reich gives undue credit to the social virtues of mid-century corporate leaders, his critique of the current system is evidence-based and authoritative. This call-to-action will resonate with progressive readers.

  • Booklist

    March 15, 2020
    One can game the system or buck the system, but what, exactly, is this system that is, as Reich avers, so rigged? And who, exactly, is doing the rigging? When economic and political infrastructures intersect, those in power tend to be those with the most money. Since the onset of the Trump administration, the term oligarch has catapulted into the American lexicon. Most people associate the term with Russians of extraordinary wealth who run that country at Putin's bidding and to their own great benefit. Can't happen here, right? Wrong, says Reich, who uses JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon as the poster child for American oligarchy. These uber-rich moguls have an outsized influence on government influence which actually puts democracy at risk, as they advocate for corporate practices that promote profitability, while penalizing workers and undermine the economy by sending jobs overseas and profits offshore. A prolific author and expert in the field of public policy, Reich (The Common Good, 2018) is a passionate and profound advocate for the financial rights of all Americans.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2020, American Library Association.)

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