Sirotas premise is that we have a silent majority whose day-to-day issues are being ignored by those in power. Why? Because our political system has been sold out to corporate interests. Sirota, a veteran political operative, makes a strong case. For each of the broad issues considered, he points to recent history, neatly laying out how government policies have been designed as a reverse Robin Hood. Included in each section are some of the hacks who have acted to ensure that corporate interests would be upheld and, importantly, some of the heros who have worked to oppose the destructive policies. Sirota forcefully exposes the lies and myths the public is spoon-fed to garner support for policies that are anything but in the interest of the average American. For each of the standard defenses of corporate enrichment at public expense, Sirota rips apart the rhetoric and exposes the hypocrisy. Though the zingers are aimed mostly at Republicans who have been the more numerous promoters of the nefarious policies, guilty Democrats are not left behind.
The devil is in the details. Sirota carefully analyzes each of the policies (taxes, wages, jobs, debt, pensions, health care, prescription drugs, energy, unions and legal rights), distinguishing between the lies, myths, misperceptions, half-truths and fairy tales promoted to sell the policy. His style is breezy and chatty, as if you were having a cocktail conversation with someone who happened to bring up the topic. All seems cool, but its hard not to get angry as the evidence mounts and Sirota makes his case about what really has happened to our government. It has turned into a plutocracy. Sirotas barbs, however, are not merely an anger machine for the left to latch onto; they are backed with literally hundreds of footnotes documenting the veracity of his statements. You, dear reader, dont have to do the workits already been done. A click of the mouse and you can do your own fact-checking.
Sirota doesnt confine his list of the bad guys to the politicians and their corporate conspiratorsthough lets be clear: he does not put forth a conspiracy theory. It is rather an unholy alignment of self-interest that binds the groups in a synergistic relationship with strong bonds. Sirota pegs the media as part of the corporate powers that be. The media has become part of the current political establishment, thus betraying their public trust on all fronts. As an integral part of the problem and also an object of Sirotas wrath, the media is one and the same in the corporate scheme of money talks and power walks away with the highest bidders. But Sirota doesnt directly deal with the specifics of media influence; there are several books on the market that take up that cause. Sirotas beef is with corporate power in general and the unelected corporate executives who now rule the day.
A brief look at the wave patterns of our own history shows how Americans have been driven by a sense of outrage that has fueled our countrys past historic battles against injustice. Sirotas denunciation of the current economic policies, along with the specific examples of how they work against us, will help arm with facts those who are willing to pick up the gauntlet and wage the internal war for survival.
To cite one example, Sirota describes how President Bush attacked asbestos victims during his State of the Union address in 2005. Our economy is held back by irresponsible class actions and frivolous asbestos claims, Bush told us, receiving a round of applause. But Sirota follows up the Bush claims and compares them to the claims of prosecutors five days later in their indictment of W.R. Grace, once one of the worlds largest companies. Apparently, the company not only knew that a Montana mine was releasing cancer-causing asbestos into the air, but it tried to hide the danger to workers and townspeople. Just hours after the indictment, Sirota tells us how Vice President Cheney, the past CEO of Halliburton which had also been sued for asbestos-related claims, went on the attack. Cheney derided frivolous lawsuits and went to work to garner support from his allies on Capital Hill where legislation was introduced banning workers from filing lawsuits against companies that exposed them to asbestos. The whole episode shows us just how sophisticated Corporate Americas propaganda cycle really isand how, because of the hostile takeover, politicians have become just another appendage of that propaganda machine, Sirota explains. The solutions Sirota suggests lie in legal reform, citing an example of a law passed in his home state, presumably with his help as a strategist for Montanas governor.
Is Sirotas game plan sufficient? Can it make a difference? Certainly the outrage is there and growing. Certainly grassroots movements are taking shape. The question is will armchair readers get mad enough to get out of their seats and fight. From the passive act of reading to the active act of doing is a difficult transition. Its an uphill battle and Sirota doesnt make pretenses about the difficulty. He understands, in fact anticipates, some of the responses that will be made to his cry for action and provides some context for preempting the criticism. The next step is up to the audience. Unlike those attending a theatrical performance, they have to participate even after the lights have gone down and the show is over.
Though Sirotas purpose is not merely to provide conversational cocktail tidbits (in fact he goes out of his way to negate such an interpretation), the book will give readers the facts; depending on the company one keeps, readers will either be popular conversationalists at the upcoming cocktail parties on the decks of summer homes or at least not be embarrassed by their lackluster counter to the moneyed justifications of crony capitalism. Anyone who wants to be so armed should read this book.
© Lynne Glasner, 2006