The Politics of Rich and Poor

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Kevin Phillips’ brilliant critique of American life in the 1980’s shows that the Reagan era produced an immense redistribution of wealth. The poor and working middle class lost ground; the rich--especially the richest of the rich--gained it. If Ronald Reagan’s appeal subdued that intention at first, Phillips further shows how it eventually became dominant.

The nation, Phillips contends, is starting to face the economic devastation that constitutes the Reagan aftermath. A 1980’s sea change took the United States from being the world’s largest creditor to being its leading debtor. In the past nine years, the national debt has tripled to more than $3.1 trillion. Reagan will be remembered for many things, but few of his accomplishments will be more important than the toll taken by Reaganomics. Phillips’ tally is that it will sap the nation’s strength and standard of living for years to come.

Reaganomics provided some tickets to prosperity, but mostly they went to a favored few. Charitably, Phillips thinks Republican philosophy and policy, more than greed, dictated that outcome. Nevertheless, he says, “the American dream was beginning to crumble not just in inner-city ghettos and farm townships but in blue-collar centers and even middle-class suburbs.” That realization portends political upheaval.

Phillips’ credentials make his deep concern about these results all the more telling. No Marxist or socialist, he is not even a Democrat. This keen observer and astute journalist was the chief political analyst for the 1968 Republican presidential campaign. His conservative identity is as solid as it is long-standing. Appraising the Reagan-Bush 1980’s, Phillips’ voice is that of the responsible critic-from-within.

Sources for Further Study

The Christian Science Monitor. July 23, 1990, p. 13.

Los Angeles Times Book Review. June 10, 1990, p.1.

The Nation. CCLI, August 13, 1990, p.175.

The New Republic. CCIII, July 30, 1990, p.35.

The New York Times Book Review. XC’//, June 24, 1990, p.1.

Newsweek. CXVI, July 9, 1990, p.19.

Publishers Weekly CCXXXVII, April 13, 1990, p.53.

Time. CXXXV, June 25, 1990, p.69.

The Wall Street Journal. June 14, 1990, p. A12.

The Washington Post Book World. XX, July 8, 1990, p.1.