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The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule [Hardcover]

Thomas Frank
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

Aug. 5 2008

From the author of the landmark bestseller What’s the Matter with Kansas?, a jaw-dropping investigation of the decades of deliberate—and lucrative—conservative misrule

In his previous book, Thomas Frank explained why working America votes for politicians who reserve their favors for the rich. Now, in The Wrecking Crew, Frank examines the blundering and corrupt Washington those politicians have given us.

Casting back to the early days of the conservative revolution, Frank describes the rise of a ruling coalition dedicated to dismantling government. But rather than cutting down the big government they claim to hate, conservatives have simply sold it off, deregulating some industries, defunding others, but always turning public policy into a private-sector bidding war. Washington itself has been remade into a golden landscape of super-wealthy suburbs and gleaming lobbyist headquarters—the wages of government-by-entrepreneurship practiced so outrageously by figures such as Jack Abramoff.

It is no coincidence, Frank argues, that the same politicians who guffaw at the idea of effective government have installed a regime in which incompetence is the rule. Nor will the country easily shake off the consequences of deliberate misgovernment through the usual election remedies. Obsessed with achieving a lasting victory, conservatives have taken pains to enshrine the free market as the permanent creed of state.

Stamped with Thomas Frank’s audacity, analytic brilliance, and wit, The Wrecking Crew is his most revelatory work yet—and his most important.



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Review

“A no-holds-barred exegesis on the naked cynicism of conservatism in America.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Written with barbed wit and finely controlled anger, he skewers such juicy targets as libertarian strategist Grover Norquist and Michelle Malkin.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

 
"Glorious… Often brilliant… Frank’s gloom is leavened by an eye for the unexpected and the absurd."—Los Angeles Times
 
“Well-researched and witty… Provides a powerful liberal antidote to the high-volume rantings of Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter and Fox News.”—Seattle Post-Intelligencer

"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.


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5.0 out of 5 stars liked this book April 27 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
finally a book that allowed me to understand the mentality behind the destruction that i have seen and experienced....at least gave me the comfort of the fact that no...I was not crazy...explains it all. Does not make it right but at least I understand the thoughts behind the brand. I will expect no great things just the same old same old...I am a liberal and will remain that way.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  108 reviews
305 of 327 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Depressingly Compelling Review of Conservatives' Philosophy of Government in Practice Aug. 15 2008
By Steve Koss - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Following up on his masterly examination of the paradox under which Red Staters consistently vote Republican against their own economic self-interest (WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH KANSAS?), Thomas Frank sets out to trace the present-day conservative Republican approach to government in THE WRECKING CREW. What he demonstrates is deeply disturbing even though it has remained on display virtually every day of the entire Bush II administration.

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.
157 of 180 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an important book, and right on the money Aug. 9 2008
By Christopher Locke - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Thomas Frank's latest book is bound to garner a wide spectrum of reviews here, and many of them will be skewed to the far poles of political ideology, both right and left. That said, readers of these reviews should understand that this is an important book and deserves to be taken seriously: whether or not various Amazon reviewers (such as myself) agree or disagree with the author's thesis and conclusions, The Wrecking Crew is going to substantially shape political debate in America. Personally, I found the book engaging, hugely informative, and fascinating -- the way a 40-car pile up or train derailment is fascinating. Frank makes a valiant attempt to end the book on an upbeat note, but on the whole, the picture he presents is like a case study in political despair. The really depressing part is that he seems to have correctly diagnosed the cancer. To paraphrase a remark by a lobbyist friend he quotes -- this at a tony restaurant in DC swarming with other lobbyists -- "You think this is going to change if Obama is elected?" The not so veiled implication: dream on. The Wrecking Crew makes me think we are living in a sort of flashback repeat of the Weimar Republic. Hey, baby, gonna party like it's 1939!
89 of 105 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Must-Read from Thomas Frank Aug. 14 2008
By Randy Buck - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
For those of us looking aghast at the endless flow of partisan venom that's become our national media, the feckless catastrophe that's become our national government, and wondered how so many self-proclaimed uberpatriots have managed to steer America from the country the world loved to a blowhard much-despised power in a few short decades, Frank provides interesting answers (and they're well-researched and excellently documented, unlike the spewings of some current conservative chart-topping bestsellers). This book's both horrifying and wickedly funny -- each page is a mixture of laughs and groans of disgust. Difficult to see how even the most rabid partisan could quarrel with many of his conclusions, as they're drawn from direct quotes; Frank's a master of giving pompous politicos enough rope to hang themselves. A page-turner par excellence, and essential reading for any thinking American in this most vital of election years.
49 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intentional Dismantling Government? Aug. 15 2008
By Ronald G. Defenbaugh - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
With the recent books by Jane Mayer, Naomi Klein, Scott McClellan and others I was looking for a composite of how the current administration accomplished their dismantling of government. Mr. Frank has come close to explaining how the conservative thinking came to pass and functioned. This may not be the one book to record the travesty of the last eight years and beyond but it comes close.

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.
27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Rosetta Stone of the George W. Bush Administration Oct. 1 2008
By R.G. Troxler MD,MPH - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a fascinating, extremely well referenced work about the neocon rule book. It explodes all the rumors that Bush is not smart. He has actually just been following this rule book.
Rule One: Government services are bad and business services are good. Attack big government.
Rule Two: Weaken government services so you can declare them incompetent and subcontract out the government services to private businesses.
Rule Three: Replace personnel in key government service positions with your friends, whether or not they are qualified to do the job.
Rule Four: Run up the debt, declare a crisis and cancel social services.
Rule Five: Demonize and demoralize the liberals. Blame them for whatever goes wrong.
Rule Six: Strengthen the ties between businesses and government by hiring only "business-friendly" people and by encouraging business to help write the bills to be passed by the congress.
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