In a recent poll, 70% of Americans said the country was going in the Wrong Direction. And why are we going in the Wrong Direction? According to Kurt Andersen, it’s because of Evil Geniuses like Ronald Reagan, Newt Gingrich, the Koch brothers, and more recently, Moscow Mitch and Trump.

Kurt Andersen isn’t afraid to go into the political weeds to identify significant but low-profile Evil Geniuses. Take Grover Norquist as an example. Norquist invented “The Pledge” which forces almost all Republicans who take it NEVER to vote for tax increases. So, when the Economy was humming along and small tax increases could have paid for much needed infrastructure projects, more medical research, and preparing for a pandemic, Norquist’s iron hold over Republicans prevented that from happening. Now, we have to live with more trillions in National Debt as a result.

Kurt Andersen also provides revealing looks at some of the minions of the Evil Geniuses: “[David] Stockman’s chief economist at the Office of Management and Budget–who left in 1983 to earn a fortune on Wall Street, then became a cocaine addict and TV pundit… That was thirty-six-year-old Larry Kudlow, defining political economist to mean not an expert on political economics, but an economist willing and eager to disassemble and lie to suit his political masters… (p. 109)

Evil Geniuses is filled with nuggets like this. Very informative and insightful. Highly recommended! GRADE: A


Introduction xiii

Part 1 A Brief History of America

1 Land of the New: America from 1600 to 1865 3

2 Land of the New: An Economic History from the 1770s to the 1970s 11

3 Approaching Peak New: The 1960s 21

Part 2 Turning Point

4 The 1970s: An Equal and Opposite Reaction 33

5 The 1970s: Liberalism Peaks and the Counterrevolution Begins 48

6 The 1970s: Building the Counter-Establishment 61

7 The 1970s: From a Bicentennial Pageant to a Presidency 73

8 The 1970s: Neoliberal Useful Idiots 86

Part 3 Wrong Turn

9 The Reagan Revolution 103

10 Raw Deal What Happened in the 1980s Didn’t Stay in the 1980s 115

11 The Rule of Law 123

12 The Deregulation Generation 136

13 The Culture of Greed Is Good 145

14 How Wall Street Ate America 154

15 Workers of the New World, You Lose 186

16 Insecurity Is a Feature, Not a Bug 203

17 Socially Liberal, Fiscally Conservative, Generally Complacent 214

18 The Permanent Reagan Revolution 220

19 The 1990s: Restrained and Reckless 231

Part 4 Same Old Same Old

20 Rewind, Pause, Stop: The End of the New 245

21 The Politics of Nostalgia and Stagnation Since the 1990s 259

22 Ruthless Beats Reasonable 271

23 Winners and Losers in the Class War 286

24 American Exceptionalism 303

Part 5 Make America New Again

25 Winners and Losers (So Far) in the Digital Revolution 313

26 How the Future Will Work 323

27 This Strategic Inflection Point 340

28 What Is to Be Done? 347

29 The Plague Year and Beyond 367

Acknowledgments 389

Bibliography 391

Index 407

19 thoughts on “EVIL GENIUSES: THE UNMAKING OF AMERICA By Kurt Andersen

  1. Deb

    I’ve said before that I believe the Reagan Administration’s decision to overturn the Fairness Doctrine—which had required tv and radio stations to give equal time to opposing views—was possibly the most damaging event of his presidency. Once there wasn’t even the need to pretend both sides were being presented in a debate, the right wing went to town: first, 15 years of talk radio, convincing primarily white, primarily rural Americans that every problem (or perceived problem) they had was the fault of the liberals, the Democrats, feminists, and (mostly) scary people with dark skin. The pump was then primed (with a little help from Newt Gingrich—railroading through an American citizenship for Rupert Murdoch) for Fox News in 1995, which has become ubiquitous and insidious. It only takes two generations for domesticated cats to become feral and it’s only taken approximately two generations for 40% of the American voting public to become wild in their toxic hatred, violence, and “otherizing.” It’s an absolute mess and I really don’t know how we can come back from it.

    1. george Post author

      Deb, Reagen also run up the U.S. Debt almost as much as Trump has. That was the beginning of the One Percent and massive economic inequality.

  2. Patti Abbott

    I don’t either, Deb. An article in the NYT on how Gen X, who has grown up under Presidents like Reagan (and even Clinton), is a very conservative group, really saddened me yesterday. They equate the prosperity of the late 20th century with Republicanism. And they are now the dominant group-power-wise.

  3. wolf

    Strange coincidence!
    On the Hungarian political site that I’m on we just now are discussing a similar development in the Balkan/Eastern Europe.
    Funny aside:
    The right wingers there always call this part of Europ from Poland to Hungary “Eastern Central Europe”, but that’s just nonsense – they have no democratic tradition eg, having gone from monarchies and class socities to “communism” and now they’re fighting for democracy.
    Britain has similar problems – could one reason be that Murdoch has built an empire of horrible fake news media?.
    On the other hand I sometimes fell proud that after the Nazi horrors we’re moving to more and more liberalism, equal rights etc in Germany.

  4. Michael Padgett

    My advice to people young enough to get through the disruption of leaving this country for another, do it now. Things are just going to get worse, not better. I gave it serious thought after the 2000 election but chickened out, and now I’m too old. Go to Canada, or one of the better governed European countries like Germany. The alternative is to live the rest of your life on a sinking ship.

    1. george Post author

      Michael, the massive problems of climate change, a damaged world economy, environmental degradation, pandemics, etc. can’t be escaped. We’re all in this together.

  5. Fred Blosser

    Now RBG’s death takes things to a whole new level. Expect Trump and McConnell to seat a properly vetted (i.e., anti-abortion) female nominee on the SC by election day.

  6. Jeff Meyerson

    To quote Bluto: “My advice to you is to start drinking heavily.”

    Or as Deb so eloquently (and rightly) put it, “we’re f#cked.”


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