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ChatChat - Claudia Cragg

Oct 31, 2017

KGNU's Claudia Cragg speaks here with Ron Formisano about his new book, 'American Oligarchy' and what he sees as the permanent political class has emerged on a scale unprecedented in America's history.

Formisano discusses what he sees as the self-dealing, nepotism, and corruption which contribute to rising inequality. Its reach, he says,  extends from the governing elite throughout nongovernmental institutions. Aside from constituting an oligarchy of prestige and power it enables, he says, the creation of "an aristocracy of massive inherited wealth that is accumulating immense political power."

In a muckraking tour de force reminiscent of Lincoln Steffens, Upton Sinclair, and C. Wright Mills, #AmericanOligarchy demonstrates the way the corrupt culture of the permanent political class extends down to the state and local level. Ron Formisano breaks down the ways this class creates economic inequality and how its own endemic corruption infects our entire society.

Formisano delves into the work of not just politicians but lobbyists, consultants, appointed bureaucrats, pollsters, celebrity journalists, behind-the-scenes billionaires, and others. Their shameless pursuit of wealth and self-aggrandizement, often at taxpayer expense, rewards channeling the flow of income and wealth to elites. That inequality in turn has choked off social mobility and made a joke of meritocracy.

As Formisano shows, these forces respond to the oligarchy’s power and compete to bask in the presence of the .01 percent. They also exacerbate the dangerous instability of an American democracy divided between extreme wealth and extreme poverty.