Kevin Phillips

Kevin Phillips is the author, most recently, of Wealth and Democracy: A Political History of the American Rich.

Recent Articles

Bubble and Bail

For most of the 20th century, America manufactured things. For the past 30 years, though, it has chiefly manufactured debt. Wall Street, with the aid of both political parties, gravely damaged the economy.

As of spring 2008, we're probably just a third of the way through the unfolding debacle in the housing, credit, and financial markets. In political and regulatory terms, the ultimate problems and remedies have only begun to define themselves. We're not just looking at an ordinary recession. Since the 1970s, the United States has redefined itself from a manufacturing nation to a financial economy built on debt, leverage, and a considerable ratio of speculation. Both political parties have been complicit in this, and the downturn now beginning will be unusual and potentially tragic. The case being made in some reform-minded and progressive circles -- that we are on the cusp of a grand political, ideological, and pro-regulatory opening such as that of 1933 -- has some logic but also merits a considerable amount of economic and historical caution. The plausible analogies deserve a quick run-through. To begin with, there is the prospect that, over the next few years, the largest credit...

All Eyes on Dixie

How to balance northern and southern strategies is as central a challenge for the national Democratic Party in the 2000s as it was for the Republicans in the 1960s and '70s. The irony is that some of the same tactical considerations apply -- at least if one reverses regionalisms. Three decades ago, the GOP's obvious need to concentrate on realigning the South engendered an obvious corollary debate: Should the Republican Party, in the process, write off the Northeast? My own 1969 book, The Emerging Republican Majority , was cited as saying so, when it certainly did not. It would be equally crazy for today's Democrats to dismiss the South completely rather than simply give it a low priority when the White House is at stake. Back in the Nixon era, national Republican strategists could and did assume, as a consequence of the expected southern shift, that the Northeast would become less of a priority -- few states there were needed -- in a tight presidential race. However, to write it off...

How Wealth Defines Power

Of all the great deceptions that come to surround a gathering stock-market boom -- from blather about the obsolescence of the business cycle to editorial claptrap about the United States turning into a republic of shareholders -- one of the most pernicious has been the failure to recognize the character of the money culture it creates. The pages of American history tell different stories about enormous wealth. Sometimes it has coexisted reasonably well with democracy, as in the days of Andrew Jackson or during the two decades after World War II. But the reverse has been true of the record concentrations of wealth that have grown up around the three most important financial boom periods: the post-Civil War Gilded Age, the Roaring Twenties and the just-concluded bull market of the 1980s and '90s. In a nutshell, these unusual wealth surges have bred unusual corruption. The moral degradation, in fact, has been multiple -- financial corruption, political corruption, and philosophic or...

Market Extremists Amok

M arket extremism doesn't wear hoods, white sheets, or armbands. Skinheads in its ranks are few. Suicide bombers in its cause are even fewer. But the essence of extremism, as opposed to other specific "isms," is to extend -- harshly, rigidly, and dangerously -- a commitment and ideology that in softer and milder forms can be acceptable or useful. Worship of an unfettered, self-justifying marketplace developed in exactly this harsh, rigid form during the 1980s and 1990s. The infamous practices of Enron -- where market mania turned abusive, with the help of the Bush family -- are only the tip of one berg in an ice field that continues to threaten national political and economic navigation. Over the last 15 years, market-based excesses have run the gamut from crony-driven privatization of public assets and attempts to remold U.S. law into a branch of laissez-faire economics to even bolder efforts to recast U.S. election finance as a marketplace. These unchained markets have reshaped the...

His Fraudulency the Second?

U ntil recently there was no particular contemporary relevance to the nicknames of some of our less-favored presidents. Rutherford B. Hayes, victor in the hijacked electoral vote of 1876, was known as "Old 8-7" or "His Fraudulency." John Tyler, promoted from vice president when William Henry Harrison died of pneumonia after only one month in office, was referred to as "His Accidency." After the events of November and December 2000, however, a big question of the new year is whether the Democrats will have the guts to coin and circulate a comparable name for George W. Bush. If there were but one or two dubious elements to Bush's ascension, a question like this would be churlish. But the dubious elements of Bush's victory are so numerous that questions regarding his legitimacy are appropriate--even urgent. First, George W.'s election represents, both literally and symbolically, a restoration--a return to power of a ruling family earlier thrown out of...

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