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No less than Mark Twain looked at the long end of America's 19th century, with its railroad barons and opulent rich, and dubbed it the "Gilded Age" — Rockefeller, Carnegie, glittering mansions, vast fortunes, corrupt politics.
With today's billion-dollar paydays and spiraling concentration of wealth, many see a new Gilded Age around us.
On Point news analyst Jack Beatty has put on his historian's hat to go back and dig into the country's first rein of riches and money politics. In a big new book, he calls it the Age of Betrayal.
This hour On Point: Jack Beatty goes deep on the politics and pertinence of the first Gilded Age.
Quotes from the Show:
"In reading about the 1890s, I kept coming across this feeling that the country had taken a wrong turn, that things had not worked out the way people thought they were at the end of the Civil War. Ruther B. Hayes crystallized this in his diary in 1886 where he wrote: 'we're a nation, we're a government not of the people, by the people and for the people but of the corporation, by the corporation and for the corporation." Jack Beatty
"Three promises were made to Americans explicitly and sort of implicitly by the Civil War. One of course was the promise of emancipation for the 4 million slaves. The second promise was what Lincoln said: government by the people, of the people, democracy, that government would be returned to the people because in the lead-up to the Civil War, the southern planters dominated the government. And the third promise was this complicated idea of free labor. For Lincoln, for the Republican party, the vital thing in life was what they called the right to rise. ... And the right to rise essentially meant no classes. ... All of these promises were betrayed after the war." Jack Beatty
"America was the only country where industrialization happened with a fully mobilized electorate." Jack Beatty
"Where we stand now [in terms of the wealth distribution] is similiar to where we stood in 1911." Jack Beatty
Jack Beatty, On Point news analyst, senior editor at the Atlantic Monthly, author of "Age of Betrayal: The Triumph of Money in America 1865-1900"
This program aired on April 30, 2007.
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