AMERICA, WHAT WENT WRONG: The Not-A-Moment-Too-Soon Return Of Bartlett & Steele To The Inky


BARTLETT & STEELE: Eric Cantor, who has represented a section of Richmond, Va., in Congress since 2001 and now is the House majority leader, appears to want to craft a permanent U.S. tax system that caters exclusively to those at the top. So does Michele Bachmann, the Republican representative from Minnesota, a onetime tax lawyer who hopes to make a run for the White House. Likewise, Tim Pawlenty, the former two-term Republican governor of Minnesota, who also sees himself sitting in the Oval Office. Needless to say, none state their proposals like that. But that’s the way their numbers and provisions add up.

BarlettSteeleAward_2.jpgLike others in Congress and the media, Cantor, Bachmann, and Pawlenty insist that American businesses are paying too much in corporate income tax. They claim the onerous tax burden is killing jobs and forcing companies to move abroad. To reverse the nation’s fortunes, they say, all Washington need do is slash the corporate tax rate, thereby reducing the amount of taxes these businesses are forced to pay. What’s scary is a growing number of citizens believe them.

That means a forecast made years ago by William J. Casey, a wily Republican from another era who liked to dabble in the intelligence world’s black arts inside and outside the country, and who helped craft the election of Ronald Reagan, is coming true. After taking office, President Reagan installed Casey as head of the CIA in 1981. After his first staff meeting at the agency, Casey was quoted as saying:

“We’ll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false.” MORE

ABOUT BARTLETT & STEELE: Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele are contributing editors at Vanity Fair. They have worked together for four decades, first at The Inquirer (1971-1997), where they won two Pulitzer Prizes and scores of other national journalism awards, then at Time magazine (1997-2006), where they earned two National Magazine Awards, and since 2006 at Vanity Fair. They have America_What_Went_Wrong.jpg also written seven books, including the New York Times No. 1 best-seller “America: What Went Wrong?” – an expanded version of the 1991 Inquirer series. Both live in Philadelphia.

RELATED:  America: What Went Wrong? is an expanded version of a nine-part series originally published by the Philadelphia Inquirer in October 1991. The series generated the largest response from readers in the newspaper’s history-some 20,000 letters, notes, telephone calls, and requests for reprints. Of all the debts we incurred in researching and writing this project, the largest is to the institution where we have worked for the last twenty-one years-the Philadelphia Inquirer. In an age in which many newspapers are advocating short news stories, the Inquirer continues to swim vigorously and successfully against the tide, believing, as we do, that readers want detailed information they can get nowhere else, that they will read long stories if the material is interestingly written and appropriately presented. MORE

RELATED: “Donald Barlett and James Steele, two investigative reporters who have chronicled the vicissitudes of the American economy for Time magazine since 1997, have lost their jobs in a budget squeeze. MORE

RELATED: Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele have embarked on an update of their 1991 “America: What Went Wrong?” project, which was published in The Inquirer. Through a collaboration with the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University, The Inquirer will run pieces from the new project, “What Went Wrong: The Betrayal of the American Dream,” over the coming year. For more on the project, visit

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