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Publisher's Summary

From the award-winning journalist and best-selling author of America's Bitter Pill: a tour de force examination of 1) how and why major American institutions no longer serve us as they should, causing a deep rift between the vulnerable majority and the protected few, and 2) how some individuals and organizations are laying the foundation for real, lasting change.

In this revelatory narrative covering the years 1967 to 2017, Steven Brill gives us a stunningly cogent picture of the broken system at the heart of our society. He shows us how, over the last half-century, America's core values - meritocracy, innovation, due process, free speech, and even democracy itself - have somehow managed to power its decline into dysfunction. They have isolated our best and brightest, whose positions at the top have never been more secure or more remote. The result has been an erosion of responsibility and accountability, an epidemic of shortsightedness, an increasingly hollow economic and political center, and millions of Americans gripped by apathy and hopelessness. 

By examining the people and forces behind the rise of big-money lobbying, legal and financial engineering, the demise of private-sector unions, and a hamstrung bureaucracy, Brill answers the question on everyone's mind: How did we end up this way? Finally, he introduces us to those working quietly and effectively to repair the damages. 

At once a diagnosis of our national ills, a history of their development, and a prescription for a brighter future, Tailspin is a work of riveting journalism - and a welcome antidote to political despair.

©2018 Steven Brill (P)2018 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"Brill's perceptive analysis about how the cult of meritocracy has tragically created an entrenched elite who are determined to defend their moats - and make themselves, rather than America, 'great' - should challenge us all. The analysis is meticulously detailed and sourced, building on Brill's long career in investigative journalism. However, Brill shows how groups in America are trying to fight back, in all manner of grassroots ways, making the book also a manifesto for practical change and a rallying cry for everyone who wants to rebuild America." (Gillian Tett, author of Fool’s Gold and US managing editor of The Financial Times)

"Steve Brill has written a book that every American should read. It faces the problems of our immediate past unflinchingly. At the same time it sees the seedlings of hope all across America. Ultimately, it reminds us that America is in the choices we make as citizens. The future is up to us." (Bill Bradley, former US senator)

"A compelling, surprising narrative about the unlikely people and forces responsible for the dashing of the American dream - and an uplifting look at those working to restore it." (Jill Abramson, former executive editor, The New York Times)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Joseph
  • Somerset, Kentucky, United States
  • 06-12-18

Shorter would have been Better

I really liked Bitter Pill, Brill's expose of modern American medicine. I agreed with his premise in this book, and was hoping for great things. However, there is just too much information, and many of his points could have been made just as well in a much shorter version.
Nevertheless, the country is in big trouble, as his points make abundantly clear.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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An important book that should be read by every member of Congress.

Our democracy is in deep trouble. While we are distracted by the political partisanship and daily controversies focused on by the media, the Tailspin continues. Brill provides a compelling diagnosis of the reasons for our present plight. The actions needed to slow the descent however seem overwhelming in our present political environment. The responsibility for a more positive future falls on the electorate. Unfortunately, the moneyed interests have the power. Will the public finally see the danger for our children and grandchildren and be motivated to reclaim our democracy from the aristocracy? That is the critical question in mind?
The book is well written and the information presented with clarity and evidence.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Time to stop hitting the snooze button.

For years I convinced myself that just showing up and voting was enough. Not only was it not enough, but given the political/social anti democratic structural forces outlined in Tailspin, just voting may have been a waste of time. It is obvious to me now that my vote must be the result of being a part of a sustainable movement for concrete measures to improve life on this planet. This book outlined many, many of what should have been wake up calls, but me and those like me, just kept hitting the snooze button.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Eye opening and substantive

Provides a compelling case for how we got here, and references some studies that outline solutions. I feel more informed, and am glad to hear of various pathways forward, but am a bit pessimistic that this book will reach people that actually need to read it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Tom
  • Warm Springs, Georgia
  • 08-08-18

Good Laundry List of the Country’s Problems

Unfortunately I was expecting an excellent lawyer and investigative journalist to provide an incisive tale of the downward spiral America has been experiencing for fifty years and a prescription for action to pull us out of it.

I was half right. Brill does a pretty good job of listing the problems. Perversion of Due Process, Financialization of the Economy, Weakening of Labor Unions, Globalization, Dark Money, etc., etc., etc.. A well documented list of issues that have arisen since the Sixties sprinkled with some inspiring examples of folks trying various solutions.

The problem is that after providing this list he sums it all up with a plea used nightly by Australian Comedian Jim Jefferies: “We can all do better”. They’re both right. We can. We should. Maybe we will.

But we’re going to have to find our own way. Tailspin won’t help much. No Revolution here, move along.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Get ready to take back our country!

This was a well-written and researched macro perspective at the policies and leaders over the past 50 years and how it has led to (intended or not) consequences many of us now at the height of feeling the effects. Day to day news consumption is overwhelming in what each move or decision actually means, so to have a fact based view point from the last 5 decades gives the perspective we all need to start being active and well-educated in selecting our leaders. It takes very difficult concepts for regular Americans to digest, or even want to discuss, and brings them to light in a way that it can be conceived by all who are willing. Worth the read for everyone living in a democracy!

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good points but gets bogged down

it was a good point with well thought out points, it just starts to get repetitive by the end

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compelling as hell and scary

in the beginning I didn't think it was going to be hard heading enough but by the end it was quite frightening an excellent read

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Must for anyone tired of the DC log jam!

This give anyone on the right or the left a reason to hope that things can get better. Things may upset you from either side but it gives understanding on how it can work. How it did work and most of all how it was broken!

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Nice overall summary of US issues

A good summary of the overall issues that have affected the US during the last 4 decades

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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-29-18

Should be compulsory reading

This an easy to understand expalanation of most of the things that are wrong with America, and to a lesser extent much of the world. This should be compulsory reading for everyone. It makes one wonder whether revolution or vigilantism are the only avenues left for ordinary people to regain access to justice and fairness, and to bring morality back to big business and politics.