The Confiscation of American Prosperity: From Right-Wing Extremism and Economic Ideology to the Next Great Depression
By Seth Sandronsky
Can a recent history of the U.S. economy read a bit like a crime story? Yes, in the hands of Michael Perelman, an author and economics professor at CSU Chico.
His new book, The Confiscation of American Prosperity, is a timely arrival this fall. The housing bubble is shrinking and harming many, and the author’s analysis puts such current affairs into a sane context. Perelman writes that the early 1970s was the end of the “Golden Age” of post-World War II prosperity. Corporate America’s rate of profits slumped in the late 1960s due to German and Japanese rivals grabbing market shares and profits. How to try and get it back? Politicians and think tanks united to weaken corporate regulation and taxation. And the two political parties targeted New Deal and Great Society policies, which protected the American people from the market economy.
What followed was a sea change for the nation’s majority. Perelman focuses on how this happened, who led the charge and to what ends.
The author details how a small but strong minority of Americans hoarded the bulk of growth from the sweat of a diverse labor force. As the nation’s gross domestic product tripled from 1970 to 2003, the “top 13,000 tax-paying households ... saw its wages and salaries increase fifteen-fold.” Meanwhile, for the bottom 99 percent of Americans, average income remained basically unchanged between 1970 ($36,008) and 2004 ($37,295). Perelman surveys a wide variety of sources, defining his and their concepts and terms. The author’s prose is jargon-free. That may startle some readers used to opaque English from economists such as Alan Greenspan, former head of the nation’s central bank.