Reviews for Tailspin

by Steven Brill

Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

A dysfunctional system serving an unaccountable ruling class is wrecking America, according to this searing sociopolitical jeremiad. Journalist and Court TV founder Brill (America's Bitter Pill) traces a downward spiral of inequality, stagnating wages, expensive and substandard health care and schools, crumbling infrastructure, a "hollow economy" that jettisoned manufacturing in favor of low-paid services and high-paid finance, polarized politics, and a gridlocked Congress that panders to plutocrats and leaves everyone else unprotected. His intelligent, intricate analysis traces these problems to well-intentioned reforms that were turned into institutional "moats" that safeguard elite privilege: universities intending to level inequality ended up entrenching it; "due process" provisions to make federal rule-making fairer were gamed by special interests, from bankers to community groups, to block needed and reasonable government action; First Amendment absolutism regarding campaign finance gave pharmaceutical companies license to defy FDA regulations restricting the marketing of drugs for off-label uses; civil service reform ended corrupt patronage, but made incompetent bureaucrats untouchable; primary elections liberated candidates from party bosses, but enslaved them to zealots and rich donors. Despite his stinging indictment of lawyers, money men, and politicians, Brill still finds worthwhile possibilities everywhere, from innovative job training programs to campaign finance crusades. He brings both detailed reporting and wide-ranging perspective to this insightful account of how America reached its current state. Photos. Agent: David Kuhn, Aevitas Creative Management. (May) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

*Starred Review* Seeking the causes of America's current malaise, high-profile legal journalist Brill (America's Bitter Pill, 2015) examines a half-century of interrelated structural changes in business, finance, and law, and diagnoses an autoimmune disorder of sorts, in which ingenuity and meritocracy have been inverted so as to impair, rather than enhance, the nation's health. He laments a broad-spectrum breakdown in things that the U.S. used to do well: infrastructure, banking, education, governance, public health, and basic civility. The problem, he suggests, is that the American machine may have worked too well, allowing a small number of bright, driven people to amass enough wealth and sophistication to master its levers and destroy any threats to their power. Thus, innovations in executive compensation lead to corporate raiding and routine downsizing. Lawyers are pushed to find creative new ways to maximize their clients' wealth. Hard-won advances in free speech and due process are co-opted to advance corporate interests. It's a bleak assessment, but a penetrating one, in large part because of Brill's skill in presenting abstruse legal and financial developments in an accessible manner. And if his proposed remedies seem thin, that only underscores how effectively Brill has presented the challenges ahead in this clarifying and invaluable overview.--Driscoll, Brendan Copyright 2018 Booklist

Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

With this work, Brill (English & -journalism, Yale Univ.; America's Bitter Pill) thoroughly peals back the layers of the current -ineffective political logjam that snares DC and leaves many Americans frustrated or apathetic. This book does not solely take aim at one political party over the other; it rightly casts blame on both sides. Brill roots his argument in the basis that the knowledge economy churned forces against the common good. The new capital was not iron or steel but ingenuity. Fear of replacement with someone whom was smarter drove people to work harder to gain the system. Get yours now was the new maxim. With that, corporations began to seize the political currents by pouring money into campaigns and lobbyists. Campaigns became louder and swung away from the center in order to appeal to voters. Brill effectively demonstrates how this process has corrupted the government's ability to function. VERDICT An eye-opening and engrossing treatise representative of all that is wrong with today's political processes.-Jacob Sherman, John Peace Lib., Univ. of Texas at San Antonio Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.