Tailspin
From the award-winning journalist and best-selling author of America's Bitter Pill: a tour de force examination of 1) how and why major American institutions no longer serve us as they should, causing a deep rift between the vulnerable majority and the protected few, and 2) how some individuals and organizations are laying the foundation for real, lasting change.In this revelatory narrative covering the years 1967 to 2017, Steven Brill gives us a stunningly cogent picture of the broken system at the heart of our society. He shows us how, over the last half-century, America's core values--meritocracy, innovation, due process, free speech, and even democracy itself--have somehow managed to power its decline into dysfunction. They have isolated our best and brightest, whose positions at the top have never been more secure or more remote. The result has been an erosion of responsibility and accountability, an epidemic of shortsightedness, an increasingly hollow economic and political center, and millions of Americans gripped by apathy and hopelessness. By examining the people and forces behind the rise of big-money lobbying, legal and financial engineering, the demise of private-sector unions, and a hamstrung bureaucracy, Brill answers the question on everyone's mind: How did we end up this way? Finally, he introduces us to those working quietly and effectively to repair the damages. At once a diagnosis of our national ills, a history of their development, and a prescription for a brighter future, Tailspin is a work of riveting journalism--and a welcome antidote to political despair.

Tailspin Details

TitleTailspin
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseMay 29th, 2018
PublisherKnopf
Rating
GenrePolitics, Nonfiction, History, Economics

Tailspin Review

  • Gary Moreau
    January 1, 1970
    Brill’s is one of a gazillion recent books that addresses the question, what happened to America? That it’s broken, we all know, even if we don’t always admit it to ourselves.This book, however, really is different. Brill is one of the few authors who has the legal and financial expertise to really get it right. And that he does. The problem is not social, political, racial, or patriarchal (although the latter two are real problems that must be addressed). The problem is economic. In short, the Brill’s is one of a gazillion recent books that addresses the question, what happened to America? That it’s broken, we all know, even if we don’t always admit it to ourselves.This book, however, really is different. Brill is one of the few authors who has the legal and financial expertise to really get it right. And that he does. The problem is not social, political, racial, or patriarchal (although the latter two are real problems that must be addressed). The problem is economic. In short, the new American aristocracy are the wealthy who continue to elevate themselves above the rest of society financially and who have successfully dug moats around themselves and their children to protect their elite status.It is, in my own words, the commercialization of America. The wealthy in America have successfully constructed a false meritocracy where ‘merit without means’ has grown increasingly difficult. Class mobility, as a result, has declined and fewer and fewer of our youth can expect to live better than their parents.It’s the universal law of unintended consequences. We replaced the old-boy, inherited wealth aristocracy with a true meritocracy. The meritorious among us, however, used their newfound mobility to create a world where class mobility has been commercialized. The children of the already wealthy, as a result, who have access to private schools, tutors, SAT prep classes, violin lessons, and the latest technology, have a material advantage in climbing their own ladder of merit.What distinguishes Brill’s book is that he works harder than most authors on providing solutions, or at least finding and revealing people and institutions who have already made a difference (no, not Trump) and who offer a template for moving forward.Brill is informed across a wide spectrum of topics. He is, first and foremost, however, a journalist and it shows. The prose is easy to read but always backed up with plenty of data. At times, perhaps, just a tad too much. But that’s okay. He, more than most, makes it clear why we are all so disillusioned.This book will make you mad. And it should. Our politicians are dialing for dollars while Washington burns. And Brill has the connections and the writing skills to bring the heat into your living room.A very good book that no one will want to pick up a second time. But that’s okay. Sometimes we need a good whack to make sure we’re still awake.
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  • David Wineberg
    January 1, 1970
    Medieval moats updatedFor Steven Brill, “America has increasingly become a Moat Nation, producing a parade of unfair advantages for those with the resources to deploy the knowledge workers to build and fortify their moats while contributing to the overall decline of the country.” The protected classes – the rich, the corporations and the lobbyists – keep building their moats wider and deeper, at the very real expense of the rest of us. They are untouchable, while we become untouchable castes. Th Medieval moats updatedFor Steven Brill, “America has increasingly become a Moat Nation, producing a parade of unfair advantages for those with the resources to deploy the knowledge workers to build and fortify their moats while contributing to the overall decline of the country.” The protected classes – the rich, the corporations and the lobbyists – keep building their moats wider and deeper, at the very real expense of the rest of us. They are untouchable, while we become untouchable castes. That is the essence of Tailspin.Justice has failed us, as companies are too big to fail, too big to jail, and now, even too big to manage. Managers are no longer on the hook for crimes committed under them. Results-based executive bonuses do not take into account fines and settlements, so their compensation can be higher. Supposedly gigantic fines are just the cost doing business, and are well worth paying to keep breaking the law. And besides, companies don’t even have to admit guilt. There are now 20 lobbyists per lawmaker in The Swamp, and President Trump has been picking among them for prominent posts in government so they can directly favor their clients over voters. Companies can prevent anyone suing by mandating arbitration – and they pick and pay the arbitrators. The Supreme Court has chosen a president by itself, and freed the wealthy corporations to outspend and overwhelm the public with their politics.The government says it is not its job to retrain Americans as the world economy changes. So millions of jobs go unfilled while millions of people (42%) are in dead-end minimum wage jobs that force them onto food stamps and Obamacare to survive. The savings go to the rich in tax cuts. Meanwhile the US leads in almost no categories with comparable countries, and is near the bottom when it comes to the education, health and welfare of its citizens.Corporations are claiming anything they say in their labels or advertising or commercials is their “opinion” and not necessarily provable or factual. So they can’t be sued for fraud. (All those fraudulent ratings of mortgage-backed securities that Moody’s and S&P gave five star ratings to? Just opinions.) This is “freedom of speech” taken to absurd reaches. It cancels out all regulation and all protection. Corporations are not people and were not covered by the constitution – but that’s what lawyers and judges now rely on. This is yet another further moat around the protected classes.Lawmakers spend 4-5 hours every day dialing for dollars, because they have to. Another third of the day is spent with lobbyists at useless receptions, mostly fundraisers. Voters have no voice and no role in Washington’s Swamp. They just get in the way.The list is endless, and despite Brill’s counterexamples of unknown heroes laboring against the tide, it continues to worsen by the day.There are so many books like this. They all seem to have the same structure. They bemoan the wrong turns since the Depression that had set us on the right path. They pack in horrid stats to show how far we’ve fallen. They profile individual heroes – usually lawyers – who are fighting the good fight with their small counter-lobbies. The books express hope that Americans will protest the takeover of the country by the corporations and the special interests. As I read, I kept hoping Brill of all people would take it in a new direction with some new insight or conclusion. But no such luck. To that extent, it was a disappointment.David Wineberg
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  • Peter Mcloughlin
    January 1, 1970
    Although Brill starts talking about the virtues of the meritocracy he spends a great deal of time giving a fine-grained analysis of how they screwed over the country in the past four or five decades to the point where for most people we are not a viable republic while the elites of meritocratic order (and I emphasize that the merit part should be viewed with suspicion and irony) enriched themselves and gated themselves off from the rest of us to the greater populations detriment. Brill describes Although Brill starts talking about the virtues of the meritocracy he spends a great deal of time giving a fine-grained analysis of how they screwed over the country in the past four or five decades to the point where for most people we are not a viable republic while the elites of meritocratic order (and I emphasize that the merit part should be viewed with suspicion and irony) enriched themselves and gated themselves off from the rest of us to the greater populations detriment. Brill describes in excruciating detail how f--ked things have become for ordinary people and how people from good schools and fine homes did it to us and built a moat around themselves to shield themselves from the consequences of their actions. Very eye-opening,
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  • Bettie☯
    January 1, 1970
    Stunner from Court TV founder: Giuliani is admitting Trump’s guilt. Jared Kushner has interviewed with Special Counsel Mueller’s team for a second time, as Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani touts a new defense, comparing illegal opposition research from a foreign country to a gift. Founder of the Yale Journalism initiative Steven Brill notes that Giuliani has “basically admitted” the Trump campaign accepted something of value from a foreign entity, which is a crime and former DNC Chair Donna Brazile te Stunner from Court TV founder: Giuliani is admitting Trump’s guilt. Jared Kushner has interviewed with Special Counsel Mueller’s team for a second time, as Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani touts a new defense, comparing illegal opposition research from a foreign country to a gift. Founder of the Yale Journalism initiative Steven Brill notes that Giuliani has “basically admitted” the Trump campaign accepted something of value from a foreign entity, which is a crime and former DNC Chair Donna Brazile tells Ari Melber she believes Jared Kushner was “more than just a witness” to the events of 2016.May.24.2018
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