Book. I finished the audiobook “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right” by Jane Mayer. From Goodreads (here):
Why is America living in an age of profound economic inequality? Why, despite the desperate need to address climate change, have even modest environmental efforts been defeated again and again? Why have protections for employees been decimated? Why do hedge-fund billionaires pay a far lower tax rate than middle-class workers?
The conventional answer is that a popular uprising against “big government” led to the ascendancy of a broad-based conservative movement. But as Jane Mayer shows in this powerful, meticulously reported history, a network of exceedingly wealthy people with extreme libertarian views bankrolled a systematic, step-by-step plan to fundamentally alter the American political system.
The network has brought together some of the richest people on the planet. Their core beliefs—that taxes are a form of tyranny; that government oversight of business is an assault on freedom—are sincerely held. But these beliefs also advance their personal and corporate interests: Many of their companies have run afoul of federal pollution, worker safety, securities, and tax laws…..
From the NY Times review (here):
…. One is tempted to say that since plutocrats have been pulling political levers since the start of the American Republic, the current concentration of ideology, money and power is not a uniquely dangerous development. But that may be to dismiss Mayer’s warnings too quickly. Hanna bought the votes of politicians, but he didn’t have a collection of think tanks, a nationwide network of pressure groups or a collection of subsidized university programs to propagandize on his behalf. The business lobbies of the postwar years knew what they wanted and generally got it, but theirs was a limited agenda that stuck to a relatively narrow set of demands. And for parts of the past century, wealthy players were restrained, however imperfectly, by campaign finance laws aimed at keeping the process open and aboveboard. Sinister as much of the system was, one could entertain the idea that a new regulatory regime might someday bring it under greater public scrutiny and control. In the aftermath of the Citizens United decision, that no longer seems a realistic prospect. This alone may make the indignities that Mayer writes about a departure from the ones that have gone before.