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Book review: How You Got Screwed

How You Got Screwed: What Big Banks, Big Government, and Big Business Don’t Want You to Know — and What You Can Do About It
By Allen Marshall
Skyhorse Publishing, May 1, 2018
Paperback list price: $12.99, current Amazon price: $9.20
Kindle price: $7.80


Do you have friends, relatives, neighbors, or co-workers who are just waking up, shaking their heads, and asking, “WTF happened?”

This is the book for them. This may be the book for you to buy by the dozen to give to them. That’s especially true if they’re Millennials or in the younger cohort of Gen-X.

I can state unequivocally that you’re not going to find a better primer to explain “WTF happened.” Giving somebody this book will save you a lot of research, discussion, and persuasion.

At a slender 172 pages and small enough to fit into the pockets of cargo pants, How You Got Screwed is easy to handle physically. But Allen Marshall’s truly masterful achievement is the clarity and brevity with which he delivers a boatload of well-researched (332 endnotes) information.

The book is divided into four sections:

  1. The Money Masters
  2. Big Government
  3. Big Business
  4. Taking Action

Seventeen short — and I emphasize short — chapters cover everything from the housing market to healthcare to perpetual war to retirement woes to big media.

Short does not equate to “lite.” There are lots of facts here. For instance, from the chapter on government:

[I]t may be small comfort to know that the government had a law against domestic propaganda, passed in 1948, to supposedly ensure that our propaganda efforts were only to be used overseas. It will surely be less comfort to know thta this law, the Smith-Mundt Act, was repealed in 2013, making it legal to disseminate propaganda within the borders of the United States.

To make things worse, in light of the histrionics about Russian influence in the U.S. election, you might be surprised to learn that Congress recently slipped even more aggressive language, the Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act of 2016 into a larger bill to fund intelligence activities, specifically HR 6393, the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017.

The book has plenty of charts and graphs, each created to be easily understandable. My particular favorite was a full page graphic that shows the life-cycle of a bureaucracy, from inception to catastrophic implosion.

The writing is competent, the tone friendly (but not condescending), and the approch … highly approachable. For instance, here’s how Marshall opens the book:

I remember playing a game of Monopoly with a friend when I was maybe ten or eleven years old. I was doing well, but I was still losing — and that’s when I realized that my friend, who was acting as the bank, was cheating by secretly moving money from the bank over to his own pile. Once I figured this out, I quit the game: Why play when it’s impossible to win?

In a nutshell, that’s what’s happening to you in today’s America.

How You Got Screwed is a tad lighter when it comes to action items. But you’ll be glad to know there are no sunny civics lessons about how you can v*te your way out of this mess or dazzle congresscritters with your letters of protest. The solutions, though not detailed, are oriented around individual action. The action portion of the book would be positively Freedom Outlawish if not for several reminders to stay within the law.

I was more impressed with this book than I expected to be. If you want to see more before you buy that dozen for your young friends, there’s the “look inside” option on Amazon. For a more thorough picture, The Burning Platform is running excerpts, including this one that I linked to on April 28.

Great work, Allen Marshall.


  1. Ron Johnson
    Ron Johnson May 15, 2018 4:03 am

    I followed the links and read the excerpts. Yep. It’s the stuff I know that I wish my son would learn soon. I’ll be ordering a copy for him, though I have my doubts he will read it.

    I suspect the author’s solutions are a bit thin because…well… there aren’t a lot of solutions.

  2. Joel
    Joel May 15, 2018 7:31 am

    Thanks, Claire. I just ordered this – because while I don’t expect any startling new insights, I’ve never really been able to wrap my poor prosaic mind around the details.

    I notice that “Customers who bought this item also bought” another new book we all know and love.

  3. Claire
    Claire May 15, 2018 8:03 am

    So you noticed that, did you?

    I didn’t notice it. Not until I’d already written my review and went to post an edited segment of it on Amazon this moring.

  4. fred
    fred May 15, 2018 9:42 am

    SS taxes will rise by a few percent.The cutoff for paying FICA is pure BS,I paid on every dime I earned,and the top % of wage earners are going to pay on theirs.This is also almost always overlooked.That alone will solve the problem for a good while IMO.

    The MIC and billion/trillion dollar programs with little return are also getting a haircut.This is NEVER mentioned by these authors.The warmongers will taste their own medicine I think is possible.

    When you have MILLIONS marching on Washington,the critters will change or the French Revolution will come their way.Scary part is what change the sociopaths might pull off.

    BK on the dollar and bring on the Amero? Its a possibility,a reset.Nukes going off? Some nice biological weapon released on we the cockroaches? Could happen.

    There are some ‘solutions’,nobody is going to be exempt from some pain,but the can WILL be kicked down the road until TEOTWAWKI and WROL and I dont think those 2 scenarios are imminent.

    Bring on the popcorn,we live in interesting times.

  5. J. Warden
    J. Warden May 16, 2018 5:41 pm

    Resist by looking at your IRA or 401K. Sell any mutual funds that invest in treasury bonds and switch to a fund that invests in investment grade corporate bonds. Why lend your hard earned money to an entity that doesn’t support your values?

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