Glass House: The 1% Economy and the Shattering of the All-American Town (Compact Disc)
Of the myriad of books describing the devastation of working class towns across America, perhaps none better describes the societal and economic failures of late capitalism's transition from industrialism to financialization than Glass House does. Alexander's reportage brings the fight to the doorstep of the people and systems truly responsible: the depraved neoliberal economic policies promoted by Milton Friedman that inspired a generation of politicians and enabled a class of pirating financiers. For much of the 20th century, Lancaster, Ohio, was a quintessential company town essentially run by the locally owned and managed glass factory that hired a large union labor force. With regulations stripped in the 1980s, Anchor Hocking and the people of Lancaster became the prey of a dizzying succession of green-mailers, debt-chasing hedge funders, and distant private equity raiders. Some of the names of the predators that sized-up Lancaster for its stripping apart are all too familiar today: Romney ("consulted" but couldn't close), Icahn (tragically did close on the company's future), Gallo (the ex-Amazon.com President crushed the local schools by extracting an exchange of school funds for a huge corporate tax abatement). The strength of Glass House is its description of each successive generation's further loss of opportunity and education and the resulting deep fall into the traps of poverty, drug addiction and imprisonment. Unlike the more facile and self-serving Hillbilly Elegy, Alexander shows that in Lancaster, "it's not the culture of the people that's the root problem, it's the culture of those who've broken faith with them."— Will
The Anchor Hocking Glass Company, once the world's largest maker of glass tableware, was the base on which Lancaster's society was built. As Glass House unfolds, bankruptcy looms. With access to the company and its leaders, and Lancaster's citizens, Alexander shows how financial engineering took hold in the 1980s, accelerated in the 21st Century, and wrecked the company. We follow CEO Sam Solomon, an African-American leading the nearly all-white town's biggest private employer, as he tries to rescue the company from the New York private equity firm that hired him. Meanwhile, Alexander goes behind the scenes, entwined with the lives of residents as they wrestle with heroin, politics, high-interest lenders, low wage jobs, technology, and the new demands of American life: people like Brian Gossett, the fourth generation to work at Anchor Hocking; Joe Piccolo, first-time director of the annual music festival who discovers the town relies on him, and it, for salvation; Jason Roach, who police believed may have been Lancaster's biggest drug dealer; and Eric Brown, a local football hero-turned-cop who comes to realize that he can never arrest Lancaster's real problems.