The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule Hardcover – Aug 5 2008
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“A no-holds-barred exegesis on the naked cynicism of conservatism in America.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"Frank’s gifts as a social observer are on display… His analysis of why there are so many libertarian think tanks in a country with so few libertarians is dead on. In Thomas Frank, the American left has found its own Juvenal."—The New York Times Book Review
"Frank offers one damning anecdote after another. The Wrecking Crew explains how cynical conservatives have wrested control of the government by railing against its very existence, all while using federal perches to funnel billions into the pockets of lobbyists and the corporations they represent."—Time
"Thomas Frank is back with another hunk of dynamite. The Wrecking Crew should monopolize political conversation this year. It’s the first book to effectively tie the ruin and corruption of conservative governance to the conservative "movement building" of the 1970s, and, before that, the business crusade against good government going back at least to the 1890s."—Salon.com
"Tom Frank has hold of something real. The Wrecking Crew can be good, spirited fun. Frank captures a quality of exuberant bullying in those of his conservative subjects he knows well enough to identify individually, rather than categorically."—The New Yorker
"Frank’s sentences inhale and unfurl with a wit and verve…"—The New York Observer
"Conservatives in office have made their share of blunders and mistakes, and Frank is at his finest in depicting some of the stunning instances of hypocrisy and idiocy in the period of Republican rule."—The New York Post
"Smart, thoroughly researched, and written with wit and panache."—The Wichita Eagle
"A welcome read. There is no doubt that Frank is helping to restore the journalistic and literary standards to political books. Elegant… The Wrecking Crew has the rhetorical power to illustrate the dire consequences of a government sold off piece by piece to the highest bidder. One finishes the book feeling as if one’s political vision has been brought into focus."—The Courier-Journal
"A superb follow-up to What’s The Matter with Kansas?... Thorough reporting and incisive historical analysis. With genuine outrange and blasts of polemic, but Frank never allows The Wrecking Crew to become just another seething right- or left-wing political tract preaching to the choir."—The Oregonian
"Frank brings invaluable insider perceptions, ardor, and precision to his lancing inquiry into the erosion of democracy and the enshrinement of the mighty dollar… An electrifying, well-researched analysis of ‘conservatism-as-profiteering.’ This staggering history of systematic greed with inject new energy into public discourse as a historical election looms."—Booklist (starred review)
About the Author
Thomas Frank is the author of Pity the Billionaire, The Wrecking Crew, What's the Matter with Kansas?, and One Market Under God. A former opinion columnist for The Wall Street Journal, Frank is the founding editor of The Baffler and a monthly columnist for Harper's. He lives outside Washington, D.C.See all Product Description
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According to Frank, the conservative worldview is totally committed to "the ideal of laissez faire, meaning minimal government interference in the marketplace, along with hostility to taxation, regulation, organized labor, state ownership, and all the business community's other enemies. "The conservative movement promotes the interests of business exclusively over all else in accordance with the motto, "More business in government, less government in business." So-called "big government," also tagged as the liberal state, is the enemy; in fact, virtually all government is the enemy, other than the national defense.
Mr. Frank follows the conservative movement from the turn of the Twentieth Century through the Depression and New Deal, focusing most heavily on the movement's rebirth under Ronald Reagan and on into the new millennium. Along the way, he discusses the growth of lobbying as a major force in converting the nation's capital into a massive feeding ground for corporate special interests. Frank also highlights the manner in which conservatives have repeatedly run the country into huge spending deficits in order to "defund the left" while simultaneously politicizing government management positions by favoring ideology over competence. The end result under Republican conservative stewardship is government that demonstrates itself as ineffectual and incompetent, offering but further proof that big government is inherently incapable of working and needs to be outsourced to private, professional concerns who can do the job correctly (and then inevitably failing to do so).
THE WRECKING CREW is filled with fascinating side observations, such as its note that the movement has always lionized bullies, from Joe McCarthy to Bill O'Reilly, from Jack Abramoff and Tom DeLay to George Allen and Michelle Malkin (whom Frank describes hilariously as "a pundit with the appearance of a Bratz doll but the soul of Chucky"). The book's most effective and outrage-generating section has to be its chapter on the Marianas Island of Saipan. Frank casts Saipan, with all its corruption, nepotism, income inequity, slave labor sweatshops, and local political control exercised in the name of big business as the perfect and ultimate model of the conservative movement ideal, a truly horrific prospect. He also notes, properly, that the morass that is today's Iraq is equally a product of the attempt to force fit these same free market ideals to a foreign country, implemented (so the Bush Administration hoped) by inexperienced, wet-behind-the-ears young idealogues, home-schooled ultra-Christians with college degrees from the likes of Patrick Henry College, Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, and Pat Robertson's Regent University. Saipan and Iraq constituted "laboratories of liberty," modern-day "capitalists' dreams" whose realizations are (or at least should be) shameful American nightmares.
There is little good news in THE WRECKING CREW. Author Frank shows that our national government has been hollowed out under Republican conservative control, savaged into an ineffectual husk. Furthermore, he illustrates clearly that this was no mistake, that it is part of a deliberate process not just to privatize government and eradicate government regulation but to make these changes permanent by destroying the liberal left (and with it, of course, the Democratic Party). Frank demonstrates well that present day politics has truly become, to invert von Clausiwitz's famous maxim, "a continuation of war by other means." Regrettably, one side of the battle continues to play the game as politics, as elections won or lost and citizens swayed or not, while the other side approaches it as an act of war, a no-holds-barred contest in which the only goal is the complete and utter destruction of the other side.
THE WRECKING CREW is compelling and informative even as it paints a bleak picture of an America being driven rightward and increasingly toward the excesses and inequities of the pre-New Deal era. We all know how that era ended in October, 1929.
Mr. Frank contends the dismantling of government was premeditated by the Bush-Cheney administration and like-minded supporters. Frank contends the appointments to regulatory agencies and other governing bureaus were intentionally incompetent or non-supporters of their assigned agencies. They either incompetently or deliberately neutered these agencies. He states the department of labor was intentionally made impotent in 2 and a half months. We all are privy to the Gonzales incompetence, the "Brownie is doing a great job" incompetence and John Bolton's hate for the United Nations. Frank implies these appointments were intentional to prove that government doesn't work.
Frank's book can be summarized as stating the Bush-Cheney and supporters set out to prove government doesn't work and implies they also had intent to line the pockets of their supporters.
Mr. Frank hits upon the Jack Abramoff - Grover Norquist group pretty hard. He explains how Mr. Abramoff's antics played in the group and how he appearred to be above the law.
Thomas Frank's The Wrecking Crew may not be the final history book I was looking for, as it is slanted to the left, but then maybe the true history of this time may be that the right is nothing but a bunch of thugs. Only history can judge.
In this new book, Frank takes his battle with conservatives to the Beltway. He examines what government becomes when it is run by those who think government is the problem. The fact that there have been so many corruption cases - Delay, Abramoff, etc. - during the Republican years was no accident, rather it is a direct result of the conservative attitude towards public service. Conservatives, in Frank's view, see the liberal state as obstructive and public service as a joke. It was their goal to downsize and outsource public agencies to the point were they became ineffective and incompetent, thereby validating the conservative philosophy of government. FEMA's response to Hurricane Katrina under the leadership of Bush's political crony, "Brownie," was a classic example.
The generation of conservative idealists that came to Washington during the Reagan administration, Frank concedes, came with goods intention. They came to reform a system that was by the late 1970's dysfunctional. But after they achieved power they proceeded, not to reform, but to neuter government agencies. They did this by opening the door to the so-called market forces. Government was now for sale to the highest bidder, and corporations and their ubiquitous lobbyists became the key movers and shakers. Robert Reich in Supercapitalism: The Transformation of Business, Democracy, and Everyday Life (Vintage) estimated that there are now around 37,000 registered lobbyists in Washington engaged in an "arms race of spending". This lavish spending by corporations to influence policy has transformed not only the politics but also the economy of the Beltway. It is no surprise that Loudoun County, a suburb of DC, is now the richest county in America. The second richest is Fairfax, right next to Loudoun. The third, sixth, and seventh richest are also in the greater DC area. The wages of lobbying have been good and show no sign of decline. It is the preferred career path of retired politicians.
The shortcomings of this book should be obvious: it is a liberal diatribe in which the liberals can do no wrong and the conservatives no right. But as far as these kinds of diatribes go, Thomas Frank's is of the highest caliber.
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