A century ago, just like today, the rich dominated American economic and political life. But by the mid 20th century a mass middle class — the world’s first — had shrunk this rich down to democratic size. How did that ever happen?
Sam Pizzigati, The Rich Don’t Always Win: The Forgotten Triumph over Plutocracy that Created the American Middle Class, 1900-1970. New York: Seven Stories Press, 2012. 372pp.
Polls now show that two-thirds of Americans believe that the nation’s enormous wealth ought to be “distributed more evenly.” But almost as many Americans—well over half—feel that protests against inequality will ultimately have “little impact.” The rich, millions of us believe, always get their way.
Except they don’t.
A century ago, the United States hosted a super-rich even more domineering than ours today. Yet fifty years later, that super-rich had almost entirely disappeared. Their majestic mansions and estates had become museums and college campuses, and America had become a vibrant, mass middle class nation, the first and finest the world had ever seen.
Americans today ought to be taking no small inspiration from this stunning change. After all, if our forbears successfully beat back grand fortune, why can’t we? But this transformation is inspiring virtually no one. Why? Because the story behind it has remained almost totally unknown, until now.
This lively popular history speaks directly to the political hopelessness so many Americans feel. By tracing how average Americans took down plutocracy over the first half of the 20th Century—and how plutocracy came back—The Rich Don’t Always Win outfits the 99 percent with a deeper understanding of what we need to do to get the United States back on track to the American dream.
Too Much editor Sam Pizzigati’s introductory chapter to The Rich Don’t Always Win now appears online here.
Commentary on The Rich Don’t Always Win . . .
“Make room for The Rich Don’t Always Win on your bookshelf right next to Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. In his lively, engrossing new book, Sam Pizzigati tells the story of class inequality in America, from the robber barons to today’s 1 %. The title alone is a refreshing reminder that there have been times when the middle class pushed back against the growth of plutocracy—and won. We can do that again and, as Pizzigati makes clear, we have to.”
Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed
“This inspiring history offers a bold blueprint for today’s equality movements. We beat back the powerful rule of the wealthy to end the first Gilded Age. We can beat back our current Gilded Age, too, and reverse the extreme inequalities of wealth and power that undermine all that we care about.”
Chuck Collins, Institute for Policy Studies, author of 99 to 1: How Wealth Inequality is Wrecking the World and What We Can Do About It
“Only 50 years ago, America ‘soaked’ the rich with a 91 percent income tax. And guess what? America prospered! Not just the rich, but ordinary families. With colorful detail, Sam Pizzigati tells us why we should revisit that policy of prosperity for ALL, rather that for the plutocratic few.”
Jim Hightower, national radio commentator and New York Times best-selling author
“Bold, thorough, and above all inspiring—an energizing and spirited reminder of what it took, and what it will take, to once again make ours a nation of equals.”
Gar Alperovitz, author of America Beyond Capitalism, and the Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland
For more information about The Rich Don’t Always Win, check this publisher’s page.