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The Boston Globe


Katharine Whittemore

Six books examine the decline of the American middle class

I ate lots of Tums for this one. As a lifelong member of the middle class and a victim of two layoffs , these books on the freefall of the middle class burned me up. Here, have your own Tums: In 1980, CEOs earned 42 times the average factory worker’s wage. Now it’s 325 times as much. Have another: In the mid-2000s, Pfizer, like many corporations, got a huge tax break from the US government. To show their thanks, Pfizer’s CEO got a 72 percent raise and later a $200 million severance package — as the company axed 11,700 jobs. And to top off your agita: Since 1985, corporations have killed off 84,350 pension plans.

But you think I’m angry? You should read Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele. They’re the only reporting team to have won two Pulitzers and two National Magazine Awards; they’re masterful investigators, and they’re unafraid to throw stones. The stats above, and plenty more like them, slash through their “The Betrayal of the American Dream” (PublicAffairs, 2012).

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