Book Review : Politics

Fifteen Steps to Corporate Feudalism: How the Rich Convinced America's Middle Class to Eliminate Themselves

Reviewed by Jim Barnes, Editor,

"In its weakened state the U.S. government has lost the support of the very citizens who depended on it the most, the middle class. How did this happen? When Ronald Reagan got to Washington, he set out to convince the middle class that their government was their enemy, using his considerable powers of persuasion. The basic message of Reagan and the conservatives was that everyone would be better off if the federal government just disappeared."


I’ve received a lot of political books over the past few months, and this one was the most intriguing. Author Dennis Marker, a career Washington insider and consultant, lays out a very plausible answer to why the U.S. middle class is working harder than ever but still losing ground. His list of fifteen specific policies promoted by conservatives and their corporate allies suggests that the decline of the middle class is no accident.

The recent Occupy movement was devoted to exposing some of these same policies, but never really got serious attention from the media. Guess what Marker’s Step One is? You guessed it, “Controlling the Media.” Conglomeration of the media is something we’ve been watching happen in publishing for 20 years, and it really got rolling during the Reagan Years of rampant deregulation. Media mergers have reduced the number of publishers, television networks, radio stations, and movie studios to a handful of gatekeepers, all firmly bound to the bottom line and more easily influenced by a handful of super rich owners and CEOs.

At first, Marker’s ideas seemed a bit paranoid, but then I thought, “Why wouldn’t the wealthiest people try to increase their wealth by obtaining more leverage, more influence over the circumstances – isn’t that what their stockholders expect?” It began to seem feasible these 15 steps really exist, and as I read through them, it brought back repressed memories of the Reagan and Bush years, and reminded me just how much the tide has turned since the ‘70s, when political involvement was commonplace, and everything that happened in Washington was scrutinized and questioned. Where have the activists gone? We’ve all seen it happen: it’s become unpatriotic to question authority and military action, and a badge of courage to dislike unions, teachers, liberals, peace activists – it’s now just fine to say you hate “the government.”

Marker reminds us how much changed during eight years of Reaganomics. People had always trusted our government to provide services that improved and protected our lives. Under Reagan government workers became the bad guys, and privatization of services began to allow well-connected contractors to get U.S. tax money to do the work with no accountability. The second Iraq War and Halliburton are more recent poster children for the continuation of this kind of waste.

Marker also lists deregulation of American business, destroying public education, conning the evangelical church, promoting unnecessary wars, and corrupting the courts as factors that have further weakened the middle class and fueled a corporate takeover in America. Newt Gingrich and the Republican Contract with America furthered the cause, fighting Clinton tooth and nail while his policies reversed much of the damage Reagan had done and creating a budget surplus. Of course, all we heard about Clinton was his sex life.

Why hasn’t the middle class fought back? By controlling the media and making Fox News and Rush Limbaugh seem normal, those in power could market their way out of appearing to be the manipulators they were. The Occupy Movement is made to look like a band of crazy hippies. Unions can be busted and public school teachers can be demonized. A Reaganesque throwback like Mitt Romney can actually run neck-and-neck with a president that is fighting for the middle class and truly seems to have a chance to begin restoring our trust in government.

If you’re sick of it, frustrated by it, or Mad as Hell and Can't Take it Anymore, check out this book and website, and answer Dennis Marker’s call: “The challenge for those of us who are not part of the top 1 percent is to create a radical, comprehensive, and visionary plan to reverse the trend toward Corporate Feudalism and restore the middle-class democracy that made this country great.”

One Standard Press, Santa Fe, NM; www,; 232 page paperback; $17.00 (May 2012) ISBN: 978-0-9837112-0-9