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Nation on the Take: How Big Money Corrupts Our Democracy and What We Can Do About It
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Nation on the Take: How Big Money Corrupts Our Democracy and What We Can Do About It

by Wendell Potter
 

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"A rallying cry to bring government back under the control of the people . . . Their argument is impassioned and accessible." --Library Journal

American democracy has become coin operated. Special interest groups increasingly control every level of government. The necessity of raising huge sums of campaign cash has completely changed the character

Overview

"A rallying cry to bring government back under the control of the people . . . Their argument is impassioned and accessible." --Library Journal

American democracy has become coin operated. Special interest groups increasingly control every level of government. The necessity of raising huge sums of campaign cash has completely changed the character of politics and policy making, determining what elected representatives stand for and how their time is spent. The marriage of great wealth and intense political influence has rendered our country unable to address our most pressing problems, from runaway government spending to climate change to the wealth gap. It also defines our daily lives: from the cars we drive to the air we breathe to the debt we owe.

In this powerful work of reportage, Wendell Potter and Nick Penniman, two vigilant watchdogs, expose legalized corruption and link it to the kitchen-table issues citizens face every day. Inciting our outrage, the authors then inspire us by introducing us to an army of reformers laying the groundwork for change, ready to be called into action. The battle plan for reform presented is practical, realistic, and concrete. No one--except some lobbyists and major political donors--likes business as usual, and this book aims to help forge a new army of reformers who are compelled by a patriotic duty to fight for a better democracy.

An impassioned, infuriating, yet ultimately hopeful call to arms, Nation on the Take lays bare the reach of moneyed interests and charts a way forward, toward the recovery of America's original promise.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
12/21/2015
Despite the authors’ impressive credentials––Potter is an analyst at the Center for Public Integrity and Penniman runs the group Issue One, which advocates for campaign finance reform––there’s little here that readers won’t have seen before, at least if they have any knowledge of the role of money in contemporary American politics. The basic facts are largely familiar: the millions the Koch brothers intend to spend to influence the 2016 presidential election, the damaging effect of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. Potter and Penniman hope to make this issue a subject of everyday conversation, by linking corruption to policy decisions that are made in opposition to the public interest. They do so in sections on how money influences federal legislation on energy, banking, medicine, and toxins, but again break no new ground. The final section delivers an exhortation to a disenfranchised electorate to reclaim its government, but the authors offer little grounds for hope; on the federal level, they note that President Barack Obama and the SEC could have taken unilateral action but haven’t yet, without explaining why there’s any likelihood that they might do so in the future. This is a good primer for someone completely new to the topic. (Mar.)
Library Journal
02/01/2016
Potter (analyst, Ctr. for Public Integrity; Deadly Spin) and Penniman (executive director, Issue One) deliver a call to action against the expanding role big money plays in U.S. politics. They begin by documenting the scale of the problem with facts and figures, then provide a brief history of events and decisions that have brought the country to this point. Next, they offer case studies of lobbying by banking, pharmaceutical (a subject in which Potter is especially knowledgeable and critical), energy, agriculture, and chemical industries, and conclude with a rallying cry to bring government back under the control of the people by rejecting cynicism, broadening participation, and building on successful state and local models. Their argument is impassioned and accessible, in contrast to a more thorough, balanced, and academically informed treatment as found in Kenneth Godwin and others' Lobbying and Policymaking. VERDICT This book will interest readers concerned about money in politics during the 2016 election cycle but may not have lasting appeal.—Jennifer M. Miller, Univ. of Southern California, Los Angeles
Kirkus Reviews
2015-11-04
An examination of how "the rapid proliferation of a system akin to oligarchy—within our own country—threatens to cripple our march forward." Center for Public Integrity senior analyst Potter (Obamacare? What's in It for Me, 2013, etc.) and Issue One executive director Penniman cite historical and current incidents of America's "coin-operated government" and its outsized influence on legislation. Money dominates the political system as it muzzles more Americans than it empowers. The authors especially point to the election of 1896, in which businessman Marcus Hanna bankrolled William McKinley's campaign "almost entirely with his own money." That election recorded, as a percentage of GDP, the largest spending levels ever, before or since. With a ray of hope, the authors point out that Theodore Roosevelt's administration turned the tables on corporate spending. Later, the Tillman Act of 1907 and the Hatch Act of 1939 tried to limit campaign activity and contributions. The Taft Hartley Act of 1943 banned direct spending by unions and corporations, which led to the creation of the first PACs. The authors pull no punches regarding the "corrupting influence" of the Citizens United decision, and they succinctly and clearly expose the direct influence of lobbyists for such industries as banking, mortgages, oil and other fossil fuels, pharmaceuticals, coal, and even food and beverages. Lobbyists demand self-regulation, threaten job losses if they have too many rules, and encourage delaying tactics in Congress. Thankfully, Potter and Penniman offer practical answers and point out that reform beginning at the local level is most effective and that "sunlight is the baseline for all reform." As they note, the underfunded and dysfunctional Federal Election Commission, the IRS, the president, and the Securities and Exchange Commission all have tools to help, but they have to use them. The authors are necessarily forceful, and they offer a well-written must-read for those ready to give up hope about politics and government in the United States.
From the Publisher

"There could be no more important or timely book than Nation on the Take. A stirring guide for how we can work together to reclaim our democracy and reunify our country." —Doris Kearns Goodwin

"A timely and inspired book about a uniquely American problem. Potter and Penniman expertly show how the crisis connects with our daily lives and offer a path forward that includes people from all walks of life and all political persuasions." —Arianna Huffington

"A fact-packed handbook for political reform: the nitty-gritty on how billionaires’ campaign contributions and corporate cash have captured both political parties and bought policies for the 1 percent; how each of us pays a price in our daily lives for the runaway political money game; and, most important, specific suggestions on how we can reform our broken system and get our democracy back on track." —Hedrick Smith, author of WHO STOLE THE AMERICAN DREAM?

"Eye-opening." —Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times

"[A] step-by-step guide for ordinary people to reclaim the political process." —St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781632861092
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
03/01/2016
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
250,820
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author

Wendell Potter is a senior analyst at the Center for Public Integrity, the senior fellow on health care at the Center for Media and Democracy, and a leading critic of the health insurance industry. His book Deadly Spin won the 2011 Ridenhour Book Prize.

Nick Penniman is executive director of the organization Issue One. He was previously publisher of the Washington Monthly and director of the Huffington Post Investigative Fund.

Both authors live in the D.C. area.

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