As their infatuation with President Obama fades, millions of Americans anxiously ask, Is this the change we were waiting for? The current administration represents change, for sure, Steven Malanga argues - a momentous transformation of the fundamental structure of American politics. A self-interested coalition of public-sector unions and government-financed community activists (like the young Barack Obama) has become our era's characteristic political machine. In Shakedown, Mr. Malanga shows how this machine's single-minded goal is always bigger government and more public spending. The bill, he says, is now coming due for the relentless rise of this new political powerhouse. He chronicles how public-sector unions and the corrupt political hacks beholden to them have all but bankrupted once-rich states like California and New Jersey. He details the campaigns to undermine the successful and popular 1990s welfare reform and to revitalize the failed, wasteful War on Poverty programs that funnel taxpayer money to the advocacy groups that are integral cogs in the new political machine. And he provides a comprehensive summary of how these same advocacy groups spent decades helping undermine mortgage standards in the name of helping the poor - in the process enriching themselves and enabling the housing meltdown. As Americans anxiously ponder the future direction of their government and their economy, Shakedown explores the questions of who got us in this mess and why we need change - constructive change - more than ever.
Steven Malanga is senior editor of City Journal and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute specializing in the intersection of urban economies, business communities, and public policy. He is the former executive editor of Crain's New York Business. His other books include The New New Left and, with Victor Davis Hanson and Heather Mac Donald, The Immigrant Solution. His work has appeared in a wide variety of publications including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Los Angeles Times.