By Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele. Public Affairs, 292 pages. Hardback, $26.99.CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- For more than a generation, federal government policies have played a central role in millions of Americans losing their jobs.
Both assembly-line and technical and engineering experts continue to watch their jobs move to Mexico, China, India and an array of Third World countries.
Democratic and Republican leaders played a central role in allowing this to happen, with some exceptions, notably the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd.
Yet most political discussions, such as those during the past election campaign, routinely ignore the real causes and real solutions.
"The Betrayal of the American Dream" is a primer that should be read by all Americans who really want to understand problems in our job market and our economy.
Authors Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele, formerly reporters for "The Philadelphia Inquirer" and "Time," currently write for "Vanity Fair." They have won two Pulitzer Prizes.
The future of middle-class America
Several years ago, Apple, America's most profitable corporation, seemed to offer the promise of well-paid and long-term jobs. But Apple "left most of its American workers behind. ... Apple decided to take the money and run."
Today, thousands of Chinese workers toiling in sweatshops under "deplorable working conditions" make Apple products.
"Unlike in the past when companies manufactured in the United States for decades," Barlett and Steele write, "Apple shipped its jobs overseas in less than a generation."
Growing numbers of college graduates struggle to find jobs today, while American executives profit handsomely.
In 1980, the average CEO made 42 times the pay of an average factory worker. Today, the average CEO makes 325 times as much.
As CEOs saw their salaries explode, their taxes began shrinking. In 1980, the richest 1 percent of all Americans paid 47.9 percent of their incomes in taxes. In 2007, they paid 19.8 percent.
Those salaries do not come from the "natural working" of private markets, as many political and business leaders routinely claim. They come from markets the wealthiest crafted and created for themselves, Barlett and Steele argue.
We are witnessing the end of middle class America.
In 1979, our economy reached a "zenith" of more than 19.5 million well-paying manufacturing jobs -- 18 percent of the total workforce. By 2001, there were only 11.6 million manufacturing jobs -- just 8 percent of the workforce.
President Ronald Reagan is famous for promoting deregulation, particularly of airlines when he fired 11,345 federal employees of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization, or PATCO, when they walked out on strike in 1981.
But the initial deregulation of airlines and trucking companies came under legislation Jimmy Carter pushed through Congress. Carter also began deregulation of the housing and mortgage industries.
In an unregulated market, Barlett and Steele argue, big airlines swallowed small airlines. Many went bankrupt.
In 1978, the 10 largest airlines took in 88 percent of all passenger revenue. Today, there are not even 10 airlines left. American, United and Delta control two-thirds of all domestic air travel.
"Deregulation is one of the greatest triumphs of America's ruling class, but for middle-class workers and their families, the fallout has been devastating," Barlett and Steele argue.
In 1999, Bill Clinton played a central role in repealing portions of the Glass-Steagall Act -- deregulating banks, financial services and mortgage lenders.
Passed during the New Deal in 1933, Glass-Steagall reined in bank excesses and prohibited them from risking clients' savings by marketing stocks and mutual funds.
Lost jobs and disappearing income
When today's political leaders talk about how to solve our economic difficulties, they routinely ignore these facts.
Between 2001 and 2008, tax cuts for the wealthy cost the United States Treasury $700 billion in lost revenues.
Companies paying the lowest taxes included: General Electric, Boeing, Wells Fargo and Exxon Mobil. Many companies avoid domestic taxes by setting up overseas headquarters, often based in a post office box, in places like the Cayman Islands.