If you have high blood pressure, you do not want to read Steven Malanga’s Shakedown: The Continuing Conspiracy Against the American Taxpayer, unless you have taken a mega dose of your medication.
Otherwise, you will blow a “gasket” as Malanga chronicles how a coalition of thuggish public sector union bosses, self-serving politicians, crony capitalists, misguided clerics and parasitic community activist organizations rule America, “enrich” themselves and expand big government in the name of fighting poverty. In addition, Malanga reveals how public sector unions have used every means available, including their incredible political clout, to obtain higher wages and benefits for local and state government workers at the expense of the general public.
Raising their banner under the name of “social justice” this coalition has been the most successful political movement in the past five decades, as scores of nonprofit organizations—including hospitals–also joined this statist movement to wrest funds from the general public as politicians were more than willing to feed the welfare state rather than be good stewards of the public’s pocketbook.
Even upper income suburbanites have embraced the propaganda that government anti-poverty programs are necessary to lift the poor urban masses out of their misery. Suburban voters typically provide the margin of victory for politicians who campaign as fiscal conservatives and will maintain the welfare state, or tweak it to rein in the most egregious waste and abuses. Bill Clinton followed that script in his 1996 reelection victory after he signed a major overhaul of welfare benefits that summer.
Just as collectivism, i.e., socialism, is unsustainable, so is the welfare state. The evidence is mounting throughout the country. Malanga takes the reader on a tour of the most egregious actions of the past several decades from California, New Jersey, Chicago, New York City and other urban centers.
Malanga, a New Jersey resident, is senior editor of City Journaland senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, and formerly executive director of Crain’s New York Business. His essays have appeared in major newspapers around the country, and he is a frequent guest on television outlining the coming day of reckoning as the unfunded pension and healthcare liabilities of state governments is rapidly approaching.
In his short book, Malanga covers urban history, economics, philosophy, finance, sociology and politics. The last chapter, “A culture of entitlement everywhere,” hits the nail on the head. America has been transformed from a limited government republic, where social welfare issues were handled at the local level, primarily by religious institutions or other voluntary organizations to where the federal government is involved in health care, housing, education, retirement benefits, job training, etc.
In short, America’s welfare state is entrenched for the time being…until the market forces policymakers to make the necessary changes. That day is rapidly approaching. In the meantime, we should not look to D.C. or Trenton for wisdom on economics and policy issues, because with very few exceptions, politicians from both major political parties also embrace the culture of entitlement.
My major criticism of Shakedown is that there are no footnotes or a bibliography. As an academic, footnotes and a bibliography are the mother’s milk of good research. However, Malanga does quote from several books and essays, which the reader can then access. In sum, Steven Malanga has performed a valuable public service in writing Shakedown. Let’s see if our public servants provide the leadership to do the right thing and downsize government or continue to be part of the conspiracy against the American taxpayer.