From Don and Jim — Updating America: What Went Wrong?
In the summer of 2019, with the presidential election campaign already heating up, a 36-year-old Washington journalist wrote us that he was reading America: What Went Wrong?, a book published when he was only six years old, but which seemed to him as if it has been written last week.
“The description of the rigged economy is so frighteningly familiar,” he wrote. “The most shocking part for me was that it was written 30 years ago, as it sounds straight out of the news pages and presidential campaign trail today.”
We have been collecting and analyzing material for years with the intention of updating America: What Went Wrong? and that email reconfirmed our commitment to this project. His words went to the heart of the original book: some of its stories are from another time, but the themes they relate and the human stories they tell are as universal and as relevant as ever.
The research for any book is always filled with surprises. For this new edition it was the steepness of the middle class decline and the size of the ever-widening chasm between the very rich and everybody else. Income inequality was growing when we wrote America: What Went Wrong? in 1992; today it is of catastrophic dimensions.
We are running out of time to make things right. If any good comes out of the coronavirus crisis, it will be the recognition that the federal government has a crucial role to play in the health and economic life of its citizens, a role which it has mostly left to the private market.