Of graft, fictional math, and the American way: an urgent look at the “political assault weapon” that is transforming the country—for the better if you’re rich, for the worse if you’re not.
That the 1 percent is now wholly in charge and the United States has become the world’s largest plutocracy are facts that would seem indisputable, much like climate change—which isn’t to say that they won’t be disputed. How we got there is another matter. Katz (Our Lot: How Real Estate Came to Own Us, 2009), an investigative journalist and member of the editorial board of the New York Daily News, does invaluable work in tracing how the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been a relentless engine for pressing a “business of enterprise unfettered by government.” It accomplishes its ends by taking the millions of dollars channeled into the chamber by its member organizations and pouring them into the coffers of powerful lobbyists to battle such nefarious things as the requirement that long-haul truckers take a certain number of hours off for every number of hours that they drive. As Katz argues, the amount of money that this enforced break costs industry is negligible compared to the additional safety achieved, but that’s not the point. The chamber, it seems, wants no rules, and certainly no taxes, and it’s prepared to go to battle any time to achieve that end—even against supposed allies such as the Bush administration, one of whose Cabinet members dared suggest that these rules have a socially beneficial purpose. It was not always that way, however. As Katz writes, documenting her every assertion, the chamber began as a “careful and not especially vocal presence in Washington” that was transformed by hard rightists into an organization whose purpose is to change the argument from “how much more to tax, spend, and regulate” to “how much less to tax, spend, and regulate.”
An eye-opening, maddening read that is not likely to make the Heritage Foundation’s best-books list.