No one doubts that there is some corruption in America, as there is in every other country. But in her latest book, Sarah Chayes contends that the United States is showing symptoms distressingly similar to those of the most corrupt countries in the world.
Corruption, as Chayes defines it, is an operating system of sophisticated networks in which government officials, key private-sector interests, and out-and-out criminals interweave. Their main objective: to maximize returns for network members. Chayes shows how corrupt systems are organized, how they enforce the rules so their crimes are rarely punished, how they are overlooked and downplayed—shrugged off with a roll of the eyes—by the richer and better educated, and how they shape our government, affecting all levels of society.
Chayes also reviews the historical trends involved, beginning with the titans of America's Gilded Age (Carnegie, Rockefeller, J. P. Morgan), the collapse of the stock market in 1929, the Great Depression and FDR's New Deal, and Joe Kennedy's banking, bootlegging and machine politics financial empire, which led to the Kennedy presidency. She says all of that was soon followed by the deregulation of the Reagan Revolution, which undermined the middle class and the unions, the Clinton policies of political favors and personal enrichment, and most recently Trump's hydra-headed network of corrupt players, systematically undoing the Constitution and our laws.
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