Pinched: How the Great Recession Has Narrowed Our Futures and What We Can Do About It
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What lies on the other side of Great Recession? While the most acute part of the economic crisis is past, the downturn's most significant impact on American life remains in the future. The personal, cultural, and political changes that result from severe economic shocks build slowly. But history shows us that, ultimately, downturns like this one profoundly alter the character of society.
Don Peck's Pinched keenly observes how the recession has changed the places we live, the work we do, and even who we are--and details the transformations that are yet to come. Every class and every generation will be affected: newly minted college graduates, blue-collar men, affluent professionals, exurban families, elite financiers, middle-class retirees.
The crash has shifted the course of the economy. In its aftermath, the middle class is shrinking faster, wealth is becoming more concentrated, twenty-somethings are sinking, and working-class families and communities are changing in unsavory ways.
We sit today between two eras, buffeted, anxious, and uncertain of the future. Through vivid reporting and lucid argument, Peck helps us make sense of how our society has changed, and why so many people are still struggling.
The answers to these questions reveal a new way forward for America. The country has endured periods like this one before, and has emerged all the stronger from them; adaptation and reinvention have been perhaps the nation's best and most enduring traits. The time is ripe for another such reinvention. Pinched lays out the principles and public actions that can help us pull it off.
to offer their continued guidance and companionship to those who are already succeeding, perhaps because time spent with successful children flatters the parents more. A May 2010 “Shouts & Murmurs” column in The New Yorker captures the ambivalence felt by many “helicopter parents” as their children have returned to the nest. Titled “Your New College Graduate: A Parents’ Guide,” it begins, “Congratulations! It took four years and hundreds of thousands of dollars, but you’re finally the parents of
have to save up just for a deposit now,” he says. “It’s like starting from scratch.” SINCE THE 1940s, the story of the American middle class has been tightly intertwined with that of America’s suburbs. Middle-class life is, to a large extent, measured by housing, and the purchase of a house in the suburbs is, for many families, an emblem of achievement—signifying fully-adult status, economic security, and some measure of prosperity. And of course a home is by far the largest store of wealth for
the future of the economy and the stock market, they wrote, you first needed to recognize that there was “no such animal as the U.S. consumer,” and that concepts such as “average” consumer debt or average consumer spending were highly misleading. In fact, they said, America was composed of two completely distinct groups: the rich and the rest. And for the purposes of investment decisions, you needed to simply ignore the second group; the masses didn’t matter, and tracking their spending habits
banking system through the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, by far the largest bailout program in American history. The Fed, meanwhile, began an intervention without precedent, making almost $7 trillion available for troubled-asset purchases, new lending, and direct company bailouts. To help stabilize financial institutions, the Fed had already dramatically widened access to its discount window, and has since kept interest rates near zero. Without these and other measures—some of which
for many men without four-year college degrees, a group whose struggles the Great Recession has intensified. Tax cuts and government spending won’t fix the various structural problems that afflict the economy. Simply juicing demand won’t magically turn factory workers into nurses any faster, nor will it turn laid-off high-school graduates into more-skilled college grads. These are real problems (more on this in a moment). But demand is the bigger problem in the short run. At an absolute minimum,