Boiling Point: Democrats, Republicans, and the Decline of Middle-Class Prosperity

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In the election of 1992, support for George Bush plunged to a level below Herbert Hoover's in 1932 as many middle-class suburbs voted Democratic and Ross Perot surged. In this book, Kevin Phillips shows how this populist explosion revealed a powerful new political force: widespread frustration over the decline of middle-class prosperity and the threat to the American dream. Teenage homelessness in the Chicago suburbs ... crumpled home values in Southern California ... the worst job market for college graduates in...
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Overview

In the election of 1992, support for George Bush plunged to a level below Herbert Hoover's in 1932 as many middle-class suburbs voted Democratic and Ross Perot surged. In this book, Kevin Phillips shows how this populist explosion revealed a powerful new political force: widespread frustration over the decline of middle-class prosperity and the threat to the American dream. Teenage homelessness in the Chicago suburbs ... crumpled home values in Southern California ... the worst job market for college graduates in New York City since the Great Depression: It all added up to the sharpest economic decline in decades, provoking political unrest unequaled in sixty years. There had been declines before, but no previous postwar downturn so damaged the white middle class as a whole or raised such fears that Americans might lose the unique economic privileges that they have enjoyed since World War II. Boiling Point shows in dismaying detail what has happened to the middle class since the 1970s in disposable income, earnings, home values, job prospects, public services, assets and net worth, pension safety and health insurance, and the next generation's prospects of enjoying the same rising living standards and upward mobility as its parents had. And it was not a natural result of adverse global trends but of deliberate political choices. In the Reagan-Bush years American leaders who had once spoken up for the average family were celebrating investors, speculators, and the rich, shifting the burden of taxes from the wealthy to the middle class while starving public services and disregarding the growing debt that would punish future generations. The populist anger so vivid in 1992 is not a onetime phenomenon. It will persist, Phillips says, until the middle class resumes the road to prosperity under government policies that it considers fair. It is on this that the politics of the 1990s now depends.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Phillips's hard-hitting analysis of the middle-class decline in the U.S. is a worthy sequel to The Politics of Rich and Poor , in which he predicted a populist revolt against Reagan-Bush policies that favored the rich. Here the onetime Republican campaign strategist spells out in painstaking detail how the Reagan-Bush agenda benefited the nation's wealthiest 1% at the expense of a middle class battered by inequitable taxes, deteriorating public services, increasingly unaffordable health care and education, shrinking employee benefits, job cutbacks and declining household net worth. Clinton tapped middle-class frustration using populist rhetoric, but unless his administration delivers on its promises to the eroding middle class while revitalizing the economy, the Democrats will be voted out of office in 1996, suggests Phillips. He stresses that the Democrats must replace yesteryear's internationalism with greater emphasis on domestic issues and must curb the abuses sponsored by financial elites and welfare statists alike. An urgently important book. Author tour. (Feb.)
Library Journal
Phillips's first book, The Emerging Republican Majority (1969. o.p.), was called ``the political bible of the Nixon era,'' and The Politics of Rich and Poor: Wealth and the American Electorate in the Reagan Af termath ( LJ 5/15/90) documented the economic consequences of the so-called ``Reagan revolution.'' With comparative data and unrelenting force, his latest book demonstrates how ``voodoo economics'' shafted the middle class and put America's future at risk. The frustration of middle America resulted in the Clinton presidency. This latest book establishes Phillips as America's Aristotle, the first advocate of a strong middle class to assure a stable society. Boiling Point may become the political bible of the 1990s. It deserves the widest possible audience. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/92.-- William D. Pederson, Louisiana State Univ., Shreveport
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060975821
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/28/1994
  • Edition description: 1st HarperPerennial ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 336

Table of Contents

Preface
Introduction
Pt. 1 The Middle Class in Peril
Ch. 1 America's Crisis - the Decline of the Middle Class 3
Ch. 2 The New Political Economics of the 1980s: "Soaking the Middle Class" 32
Ch. 3 The Middle-Class Political Response of the 1990s: Populism or Stalemate? 58
Pt. 2 The Middle-Class Squeeze: A Portrait
Ch. 4 Middle America and the "Unfairness" of Conservative-Capitalist Boom Periods 85
Ch. 5 The Great Tax Misrepresentation of the 1980s 103
Ch. 6 Services, Quality of Life and the Middle-Class Squeeze 129
Pt. 3 The Politics of Economic Frustration
Ch. 7 Economic Polarization, Shrinking Assets and the Threat to the American Dream 167
Ch. 8 The Late-Twentieth-Century United States and the Historical Symptoms of Middle-Class Decline 193
Ch. 9 The Politics of Middle-Class Frustration 223
Ch. 10 The Election of 1992 and the Prospect of Middle-Class Renewal 245
Notes 261
Appendix A: The Converging Income Shares of the Middle Quintile and the Top 1 Percent of the U.S. Population 279
Appendix B: Important Changes in the Tax Burden 281
Appendix C: The Soaring Cost of Services and the Weakening Health and Pension Safety Net 285
Index 293
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