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Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age / Edition 1

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Overview

Using a vast swath of data spanning the past six decades, Unequal Democracy debunks many myths about politics in contemporary America, using the widening gap between the rich and the poor to shed disturbing light on the workings of American democracy. Larry Bartels shows the gap between the rich and poor has increased greatly under Republican administrations and decreased slightly under Democrats, leaving America grossly unequal. This is not simply the result of economic forces, but the product of broad-reaching policy choices in a political system dominated by partisan ideologies and the interests of the wealthy.

Bartels demonstrates that elected officials respond to the views of affluent constituents but ignore the views of poor people. He shows that Republican presidents in particular have consistently produced much less income growth for middle-class and working-poor families than for affluent families, greatly increasing inequality. He provides revealing case studies of key policy shifts contributing to inequality, including the massive Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 and the erosion of the minimum wage. Finally, he challenges conventional explanations for why many voters seem to vote against their own economic interests, contending that working-class voters have not been lured into the Republican camp by "values issues" like abortion and gay marriage, as commonly believed, but that Republican presidents have been remarkably successful in timing income growth to cater to short-sighted voters.

Unequal Democracy is social science at its very best. It provides a deep and searching analysis of the political causes and consequences of America's growing income gap, and a sobering assessment of the capacity of the American political system to live up to its democratic ideals.

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Editorial Reviews

The Huffington Post
Unequal Democracy makes the choice voters face clear: Democratic policies spread the wealth and Republican policies protect the wealthy.
— Julian E. Zelizer
Newark Star-Ledger
[E]xtraordinarily insightful.
— Bob Braun
Daily Beast - Bill Clinton
[I recommend] Larry M. Bartels's Unequal Democracy. Especially at this time every thoughtful American needs to learn as much as possible about the relationship of politics to economics.
CNN - James Carville
Obama can connect with voters on the economy by using history as a guideline. He should start by reading Unequal Democracy, by Princeton academic Larry Bartels. The non-partisan and non-political Bartels points out devastatingly after an exhaustive study of Democratic and Republican presidents that the Democrats built a better economy and a more just society.
New York Times - Alan Blinder
Many Americans know that there are characteristic policy differences between the [Republican and Democratic] parties. But few are aware of two important facts about the post-World War II era, both of which are brilliantly delineated in a new book, Unequal Democracy, by Larry M. Bartels, a professor of political science at Princeton. Understanding them might help voters see what could be at stake, economically speaking, in November.
New York Review of Books - Michael Tomasky
Bartels is the political scientist of the moment. Along with Obama, Bill Clinton also read and recommends Unequal Democracy. [M]ost people on the street could have told Bartels that the working poor fare better under Democrats . . . but the importance of these and some other findings in the book . . . is that they use scholarly methods to provide political explanations for economic problems.
Washington Post - Dan Balz
[A] provocative new book by Princeton professor Larry M. Bartels, one of the country's leading political scientists. One of Bartels's most intriguing conclusions is that the political timing of economic growth has influenced voters. Republican presidents...have often generated significant economic growth rates in presidential election years, while Democratic presidents have not.
Science - Robert Grafstein
A short review cannot convey the rich variety of arguments and data Bartels deploys in making his case. Some of his analysis focuses on broadly characterized partisan differences, some on high profile examples such as the politics of the minimum wage and the estate tax. He will have done a considerable service if the next time we start thinking about economics we also think about politics. Bartels shows that social issues do not create as strong a headwind against class-based voting as is often assumed and that lower income voters do tend to vote Democratic while upper-income voters do tend to vote Republican. Unequal Democracy offers an important case for why this might be.
Newark Star-Ledger - Bob Braun
[E]xtraordinarily insightful.
The Huffington Post - Julian E. Zelizer
Unequal Democracy makes the choice voters face clear: Democratic policies spread the wealth and Republican policies protect the wealthy.
Forum - Richard R. John
[Bartels] is correct in drawing attention to the tension between the egalitarian values that Americans hold and their apparent toleration for growing economic inequality. And at every step of the argument, he defines and analyzes interesting and relevant evidence.
Journal of Southern History - Blake A. Ellis
Prodigiously researched and cogently argued, Bartels's timely work should interest academics and lay readers alike.
Perspectives on Politics - Jennifer Hochschild
The book is exemplary throughout in its transparency with regard to the data and Bartels's analytic strategy for using them, in its attention to alternative explanations for a given outcome, and in its balance between not over-reaching and asserting a clear, controversial, and important thesis. . . . Full of evidence, insights, and surprises. . . . The book is never less than provocative and is often revelatory.
Public Opinion Quarterly - Nicholas J.G. Winter
For a book targeted at both academic and nonacademic audiences, Bartels strikes a nice balance between exhaustive empirical rigor and accessibility. . . . Bartels gives us a wide-ranging framework for thinking about the ways that citizens interact with the political system, and in so doing maps an agenda for the next generation of research on American democracy in action.
Perspectives on Politics - Benjamin I. Page
Larry Bartels's Unequal Democracy is a major landmark in political scientists' efforts to grapple with inequality. . . . Bartels has done so much, and has done it so well, that anyone who quibbles with his interpretations or suggests that he has left important questions unanswered is likely to seem ungenerous, even churlish. . . . Unequal Democracy should be taken as a major contribution and as a touchstone for further research.
Public Opinion Quarterly - Nicholas J. G. Winter
For a book targeted at both academic and nonacademic audiences, Bartels strikes a nice balance between exhaustive empirical rigor and accessibility. . . . Bartels gives us a wide-ranging framework for thinking about the ways that citizens interact with the political system, and in so doing maps an agenda for the next generation of research on American democracy in action.
From the Publisher
Winner of the 2009 Gladys M. Kammerer Award, American Political Science Association

Winner of the 2009 Leon D. Epstein Outstanding Book Award, Political Organizations and Parties Section of the American Political Science Association

"[I recommend] Larry M. Bartels's Unequal Democracy. Especially at this time every thoughtful American needs to learn as much as possible about the relationship of politics to economics."—Bill Clinton, Daily Beast

"Obama can connect with voters on the economy by using history as a guideline. He should start by reading Unequal Democracy, by Princeton academic Larry Bartels. The non-partisan and non-political Bartels points out devastatingly after an exhaustive study of Democratic and Republican presidents that the Democrats built a better economy and a more just society."—James Carville, CNN

"Many Americans know that there are characteristic policy differences between the [Republican and Democratic] parties. But few are aware of two important facts about the post-World War II era, both of which are brilliantly delineated in a new book, Unequal Democracy, by Larry M. Bartels, a professor of political science at Princeton. Understanding them might help voters see what could be at stake, economically speaking, in November."—Alan Blinder, New York Times

"Bartels is the political scientist of the moment. Along with Obama, Bill Clinton also read and recommends Unequal Democracy. [M]ost people on the street could have told Bartels that the working poor fare better under Democrats . . . but the importance of these and some other findings in the book . . . is that they use scholarly methods to provide political explanations for economic problems."—Michael Tomasky, New York Review of Books

"A provocative new book by Princeton professor Larry M. Bartels, one of the country's leading political scientists."—Dan Balz, Washington Post

"A short review cannot convey the rich variety of arguments and data Bartels deploys in making his case. Some of his analysis focuses on broadly characterized partisan differences, some on high profile examples such as the politics of the minimum wage and the estate tax. He will have done a considerable service if the next time we start thinking about economics we also think about politics. Bartels shows that social issues do not create as strong a headwind against class-based voting as is often assumed and that lower income voters do tend to vote Democratic while upper-income voters do tend to vote Republican. Unequal Democracy offers an important case for why this might be."—Robert Grafstein, Science

"[A] provocative new book by Princeton professor Larry M. Bartels, one of the country's leading political scientists. One of Bartels's most intriguing conclusions is that the political timing of economic growth has influenced voters. Republican presidents...have often generated significant economic growth rates in presidential election years, while Democratic presidents have not."—Dan Balz, Washington Post

"[E]xtraordinarily insightful."—Bob Braun, Newark Star-Ledger

"Unequal Democracy makes the choice voters face clear: Democratic policies spread the wealth and Republican policies protect the wealthy."—Julian E. Zelizer, The Huffington Post

"[Bartels] is correct in drawing attention to the tension between the egalitarian values that Americans hold and their apparent toleration for growing economic inequality. And at every step of the argument, he defines and analyzes interesting and relevant evidence."—Richard R. John, Forum

"Prodigiously researched and cogently argued, Bartels's timely work should interest academics and lay readers alike."—Blake A. Ellis, Journal of Southern History

"The book is exemplary throughout in its transparency with regard to the data and Bartels's analytic strategy for using them, in its attention to alternative explanations for a given outcome, and in its balance between not over-reaching and asserting a clear, controversial, and important thesis. . . . Full of evidence, insights, and surprises. . . . The book is never less than provocative and is often revelatory."—Jennifer Hochschild, Perspectives on Politics

"For a book targeted at both academic and nonacademic audiences, Bartels strikes a nice balance between exhaustive empirical rigor and accessibility. . . . Bartels gives us a wide-ranging framework for thinking about the ways that citizens interact with the political system, and in so doing maps an agenda for the next generation of research on American democracy in action."—Nicholas J. G. Winter, Public Opinion Quarterly

"Larry Bartels's Unequal Democracy is a major landmark in political scientists' efforts to grapple with inequality. . . . Bartels has done so much, and has done it so well, that anyone who quibbles with his interpretations or suggests that he has left important questions unanswered is likely to seem ungenerous, even churlish. . . . Unequal Democracy should be taken as a major contribution and as a touchstone for further research."—Benjamin I. Page, Perspectives on Politics

Daily Beast
[I recommend] Larry M. Bartels's Unequal Democracy. Especially at this time every thoughtful American needs to learn as much as possible about the relationship of politics to economics.
— Bill Clinton
CNN
Obama can connect with voters on the economy by using history as a guideline. He should start by reading Unequal Democracy, by Princeton academic Larry Bartels. The non-partisan and non-political Bartels points out devastatingly after an exhaustive study of Democratic and Republican presidents that the Democrats built a better economy and a more just society.
— James Carville
New York Times
Many Americans know that there are characteristic policy differences between the [Republican and Democratic] parties. But few are aware of two important facts about the post-World War II era, both of which are brilliantly delineated in a new book, Unequal Democracy, by Larry M. Bartels, a professor of political science at Princeton. Understanding them might help voters see what could be at stake, economically speaking, in November.
— Alan Blinder
New York Review of Books
Bartels is the political scientist of the moment. Along with Obama, Bill Clinton also read and recommends Unequal Democracy. [M]ost people on the street could have told Bartels that the working poor fare better under Democrats . . . but the importance of these and some other findings in the book . . . is that they use scholarly methods to provide political explanations for economic problems.
— Michael Tomasky
Washington Post
[A] provocative new book by Princeton professor Larry M. Bartels, one of the country's leading political scientists. One of Bartels's most intriguing conclusions is that the political timing of economic growth has influenced voters. Republican presidents...have often generated significant economic growth rates in presidential election years, while Democratic presidents have not.
— Dan Balz
Science
A short review cannot convey the rich variety of arguments and data Bartels deploys in making his case. Some of his analysis focuses on broadly characterized partisan differences, some on high profile examples such as the politics of the minimum wage and the estate tax. He will have done a considerable service if the next time we start thinking about economics we also think about politics. Bartels shows that social issues do not create as strong a headwind against class-based voting as is often assumed and that lower income voters do tend to vote Democratic while upper-income voters do tend to vote Republican. Unequal Democracy offers an important case for why this might be.
— Robert Grafstein
Staff Forum
[Bartels] is correct in drawing attention to the tension between the egalitarian values that Americans hold and their apparent toleration for growing economic inequality. And at every step of the argument, he defines and analyzes interesting and relevant evidence.
— Richard R. John
Journal of Southern History
Prodigiously researched and cogently argued, Bartels's timely work should interest academics and lay readers alike.
— Blake A. Ellis
Perspectives on Politics
Larry Bartels's Unequal Democracy is a major landmark in political scientists' efforts to grapple with inequality. . . . Bartels has done so much, and has done it so well, that anyone who quibbles with his interpretations or suggests that he has left important questions unanswered is likely to seem ungenerous, even churlish. . . . Unequal Democracy should be taken as a major contribution and as a touchstone for further research.
— Benjamin I. Page
Public Opinion Quarterly
For a book targeted at both academic and nonacademic audiences, Bartels strikes a nice balance between exhaustive empirical rigor and accessibility. . . . Bartels gives us a wide-ranging framework for thinking about the ways that citizens interact with the political system, and in so doing maps an agenda for the next generation of research on American democracy in action.
— Nicholas J. G. Winter
The Huffington Post
Unequal Democracy makes the choice voters face clear: Democratic policies spread the wealth and Republican policies protect the wealthy.
— Julian E. Zelizer
Dan Balz
…a provocative new book by Princeton professor Larry M. Bartels, one of the country's leading political scientists.
—The Washington Post
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691136639
  • Publisher: Russell Sage Foundation
  • Publication date: 4/7/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 344
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author


Larry M. Bartels is the Donald E. Stokes Professor of Public and International Affairs and director of the Center for the Study of Democratic Politics at Princeton University.
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Table of Contents

Preface ix

Chapter 1. The New Gilded Age 1
Escalating Economic Inequality 6
Interpreting Inequality 13
Economic Inequality as a Po litical Issue 19
Inequality and American Democracy 23

Chapter 2. The Partisan Political Economy 29
Partisan Patterns of Income Growth 31
A Partisan Coincidence? 34
Partisan Differences in Macroeconomic Policy 42
Macroeconomic Per for mance and Income Growth 47
Partisan Policies and Post- Tax Income Growth 54
Democrats, Republicans, and the Rise of In equality 61

Chapter 3. Class Politics and Partisan Change 64
In Search of the Working Class 66
Has the White Working Class Abandoned the Democratic Party? 72
Have Working- Class Whites Become More Conservative? 78
Do "Moral Values" Trump Economics? 83
Are Religious Voters Distracted from Economic Issues? 90
Class Politics, Alive and Well 93

Chapter 4. Partisan Biases in Economic Accountability 98
Myopic Voters 99
The Political Timing of Income Growth 104
Class Biases in Economic Voting 110
The Wealthy Give Something Back: Partisan Biases in Campaign Spending 116
Political Consequences of Biased Accountability 120

Chapter 5. Do Americans Care about In equality? 127
Egalitarian Values 130
Rich and Poor 136
Perceptions of Inequality 143
Facts and Values in the Realm of In equality 148

Chapter 6. Homer Gets a Tax Cut 162
The Bush Tax Cuts 164
Public Support for the Tax Cuts 170
Unenlightened Self- Interest 176
The Impact of Political Information 181
Chump Change 186
Into the Sunset 193

Chapter 7. The Strange Appeal of Estate Tax Repeal 197
Public Support for Estate Tax Repeal 198
Is Public Support for Repeal a Product of Misinformation? 205
Did Interest Groups Manufacture Public Antipathy to the Estate Tax? 214
Elite Ideology and the Politics of Estate Tax Repeal 217

Chapter 8. The Eroding Minimum Wage 223
The Economic Effects of the Minimum Wage 227
Public Support for the Minimum Wage 229
The Politics of Inaction 232
Democrats, Unions, and the Eroding Minimum Wage 239
The Earned Income Tax Credit 246
Reversing the Tide 247

Chapter 9. Economic Inequality and Po litical Representation 252
Ideological Representation 254
Unequal Responsiveness 257
Unequal Responsiveness on Social Issues: The Case of Abortion 265
Partisan Differences in Repre sen ta tion 267
Why Are the Poor Unrepresented? 275

10. Unequal Democracy 283
Who Governs? 285
Partisan Politics and the "Have- Nots" 288
Political Obstacles to Economic Equality 294
The City of Utmost Necessity 298

Selected References 305
Index 317

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