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Only the Rich Can Play: Book summary and reviews of Only the Rich Can Play by David Wessel

Only the Rich Can Play

How Washington Works in the New Gilded Age

by David Wessel

Only the Rich Can Play by David Wessel X
Only the Rich Can Play by David Wessel
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Book Summary

In a Winners Take All meets This Town narrative, a New York Times bestselling author tells the story of the creation of a massive tax break, in which political and economic elites attend to the care and feeding of the super-rich, and inequality compounds.

David Wessel's incredible tale of how Washington works-and why the rich keep getting richer-starts when a Silicon Valley entrepreneur develops an idea intended as a way to help poor people that will save rich people money on their taxes. He organizes and pays for an effective lobbying effort that pushes his idea into law with little scrutiny or fine-tuning by congressional or Treasury tax experts-and few safeguards against abuse. With an unbeatable pair of high-profile sponsors, bumper-sticker simplicity and deft political marketing, the Opportunity Zone became an unnoticed part of the 2017 Trump tax bill.

The gold rush followed immediately thereafter.

David Wessel follows the money to see who profited from this plan that was supposed to spur development of blighted areas and help people out of poverty: the Las Vegas strip, the Portland (Oregon) Ritz-Carlton, the Mall of America, and self-storage facilities-lucrative areas where the one percent can park money profitably and avoid capital gains taxes. And the best part: unlike other provisions for eliminating capital gains taxes (inheritance, for example) you don't have to die to take advantage of this one.

Wessel provides vivid portraits of the proselytizers, political influencers, motivational speakers, consultants, real estate dealmakers, and individual money-seekers looking to take advantage of this twenty-first century bonanza. He looks at places for which Opportunity Zones were supposedly designed (Baltimore, for example) and how little money they've drawn. And he finds a couple of places (Erie, PA) where zones are actually doing what they were supposed to, a lesson on how a better designed program might have helped more left-behind places. But what Wessel reveals is the gritty reality: The dark underbelly of a system tilted in favor of the few, with the many left out in the cold.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Want to expand a fortune? All it takes is a congressperson or two in the pocket, as this vivid account of gaming the political system amply demonstrates...A clearly articulated, maddening case study in how the rich get richer on the backs of the poor." - Kirkus Reviews

"Pulitzer winner Wessel traces the concept of opportunity zones from their origin at a Washington insider dinner in 2013 in this trenchant exposé...Wessel's colorful, in-depth investigative reporting shines...Comprehensive and shocking, this is an eye-opener." - Publishers Weekly

"A must-read for anyone who wants to really understand how an idea can in time become a law—with the help of a large budget, skilled lobbying, and the support of a few key members of Congress. I thought I knew a bit about how Washington works, but I learned an enormous amount from David Wessel's very carefully researched and extremely well written book." - David M. Rubenstein, cofounder and co-executive chairman of The Carlyle Group and author of How to Lead

"In Only the Rich Can Play, David Wessel masterfully makes policy wonkery into a riveting story. A cautionary tale of good intentions gone bad, it is a must read, from Wall Street to Main Street." - Arthur C. Brooks, professor, Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Business School, and New York Times–bestselling author

"David Wessel is a Washington treasure, and anything he writes is a must-read as far as I'm concerned. In Only the Rich Can Play, Wessel marries the depth of his understanding of economics with his years of experience as a Washington reporter and his skill at storytelling. He traces the origins of the Opportunity Zone tax break from conception to birth and then shows how it actually works (or not) on the ground. This is both a great read and an important one because it shows those of us outside Washington how things really work there." - Bryan Burrough, coauthor of Barbarians at the Gate and Forget the Alamo

This information about Only the Rich Can Play was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

David Wessel

David Wessel is a senior fellow and director of the Hutchins Center on Fiscal & Monetary Policy at the Brookings Institution. He joined Brookings in 2014 after 30 years as a reporter, editor and columnist at the Wall Street Journal. He is the author of two New York Times bestsellers: In Fed We Trust: Ben Bernanke's War on the Great Panic (2009) and Red Ink: Inside the High-Stakes Politics of the Federal Budget (2012). He has shared two Pulitzer Prizes, one in 1984 for a Boston Globe series on the persistence of racism in Boston and the other in 2003 for a Wall Street Journal series on corporate wrong-doing. He appears often on NPR's Morning Edition and resides in Washington, D.C.

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