March 2020

Supreme Inequality

By Adam Cohen
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America has become more unequal since the 1960s. The middle class has shrunk, schools are more segregated, and mass incarceration has devastated African American and Latinx communities. Meanwhile, wealthy individuals and corporations have an outsize say in elections, resulting in lower taxes, more favorable legislation and preferential treatment from government agencies. What is not well known, however, is the role the Supreme Court has played in creating these inequities.

The Supreme Court is often seen as the defender of the underdog. Cases like Brown v. Board of Education and Miranda v. Arizona seemed to guarantee all Americans equal rights and due process under the law. However, as Adam Cohen meticulously documents in Supreme Inequality, certain justices on the Supreme Court have worked to not only erode the rights of the poor and middle class but also to extend the interests of the rich. In many ways, Cohen argues, the court is the author of the increased inequality in American society, and of that inequality’s many consequences.

Cohen is uniquely qualified to write this book. After graduating from Harvard Law, where he was the editor of the Harvard Law Review, he worked at the Southern Poverty Law Center and the ACLU. He then pursued a career in journalism, eventually joining the editorial board of the New York Times. Cohen’s lucid writing makes even the most difficult court cases understandable as he expertly details the evolution of the law in areas as diverse as the workplace, criminal law, campaign contributions and the corporate boardroom. Cohen’s greatest strength, however, is his ability to explain clearly and urgently how the court, supposedly the least political of the three branches of the government, has relentlessly pursued a political agenda that has made Americans less equal and less secure.

If nothing else, Supreme Inequality reveals the extensive role the court plays in everyday American life. More importantly, it is a sobering history of how the court has disregarded precedent, statutory law and common sense to achieve its political agenda. The only question that remains is if it’s too late to do anything about it.

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Supreme Inequality

Supreme Inequality

By Adam Cohen
Penguin Press
ISBN 9780735221505

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