THE BIG CON by Jonathan Chait


The True Story of How Washington Got Hoodwinked and Hijacked by Crackpot Economics
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America has turned into a mean-spirited plutocracy, declares the New Republic’s senior editor, and mendacious political hacks’ universal panacea for the nation’s considerable problems is always the same—cut taxes.

In a generation, the conservative right has won its way, avers Chait, and to the victors, it seems, belong the spoils: The present political ideology is a conspiracy of self-perpetuating greed. The author demonstrates his thesis with apt, methodical and copious detail. Do not be misled by sporadic achievement on the left, he warns. There has been a seismic shift, a tectonic slide to the right that cannot be quickly reversed. Who has been stealing the government? Chait points to those whose know-nothing convictions yield to no expertise. They include the loony, laissez-faire-thee-well, Laffer Curve, trickle-down economists, but it’s about more than crackpot economics. It’s about the symbiosis of K Street and Capitol Hill, a merger of the lobbying industry with GOP politicians. It’s about well-disciplined neocons and woefully disorganized liberals. It’s about the collapse of independent media and the brainless partisan cult of personality. Even as the conservative party line may fluctuate, it always embraces personal attacks on the enemy. It’s about Jack Abramoff and Grover Norquist, Ann Coulter and Karl Rove. And it’s about egregious pork-barrel earmarks and no regard for the underclass or for the Earth itself. A political party, Chait shows, may enjoy a preponderance of public opinion on the issues and still lose elections. Forget bipartisanship: This is a conflict between red-state NRA gun fans and blue-state NPR listeners. This text is, of course, a jeremiad from the left, an act of active, aggressive partisanship. But it is also methodical and fact-based.

Agree or not with the author’s liberal beliefs, consider this a stimulating analysis of how public policy is formulated today.

Pub Date: Sept. 12th, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-618-68540-0
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2007