America's leaders say the economy is strong and getting stronger. But ordinary Americans aren't buying it. They see what the rosy statistics hide: We are all struggling under the weight of terrifying economic instability. No matter how well educated and hard working we are, we know that the bottom can fall out at any moment. Meanwhile, the safety net that once protected us is fast unraveling. With retirement plans in growing jeopardy while health coverage erodes, more and more economic risk is shifting from government and business onto the fragile shoulders of the American family.
The book documents how two great pillars of economic security--the family and the workplace--guarantee far less financial stability than they once did. The final leg of economic support--the public and private benefits that workers and families get when economic disaster strikes--has dangerously eroded as political leaders and corporations increasingly cut back protections of our health care, our income security, and our retirement pensions. Hacker concludes by advocating an "insurance and opportunity society" that would safeguard economic security and expand economic opportunity, ensuring that all Americans have the basic financial security they need to reach for and achieve the American Dream.
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In The Great Risk Shift, Jacob S. Hacker lays bare our unsettling new economic climate, showing how it has come about, what it is doing to our families, and how we can fight back. Behind today's insecurity, he contends, is the Personal Responsibility Crusade, eagerly embraced by corporate leaders and politicians who speak of a nirvana of economic empowerment, or an "ownership society." But as Hacker reveals, the result has been quite different: a harsh new world of economic turmoil. Hacker brings into focus as never before the pressures that shifting financial risk onto consumers exerts on our pocketbooks and in our lives. Blending powerful human stories, analysis, and compelling ideas for reform, this remarkable volume will hit a nerve and serve as a rallying point in the struggle for economic security in an increasingly uncertain world.
Read a letter from the author of The Great Risk Shift.
Dear Amazon Reader,
Given what’s happening on Wall Street right now, you are probably feeling at risk. But have you stopped to think about why? Why are our personal finances so much more anxiety-producing today? The stories in the headlines are all about the financial crisis at the very top--among the big banks and Wall Street firms, the hedge funds and financial insurers--but the story I tell in The Great Risk Shift is about the slow-moving financial crisis that has crept into the lives of the rest of us as risk has moved from the broad shoulders of government and corporations onto the backs of American workers and their families.
Our jobs, our health care, our family finances, and our pension plans are all less secure--and the reason is pretty much the same across all these areas. We've seen major changes in our economy, yet little response from our corporate and political leaders. Indeed, the big response is--you guessed it--to shift more risk onto us. So guaranteed pension plans morph into risky 401(k) plans, traditional health plans morph into Health Savings Accounts--or no pension plan or health plan at all. Meanwhile, proponents of the risk shift call for partial privatization of Social Security and shifting away from employment-based health insurance to individually purchased, unregulated plans--all to put more of your skin in the game.
Make no mistake. Your skin is very much in the game already, and each of us has to step up to the challenge on our own and together. Acting alone, we can set up a sunny-day fund to put aside unexpected windfalls (rare as they sometimes seem) for future rainy days. We can also check out our private and public insurance options using the guidelines in the book. And with simple mortgages and pre-set savings, we can commit ourselves to do automatically what we have trouble doing optionally.
But I wouldn't feel the book was complete if it just said, "It's up to you," because, frankly, there's no way most of us can deal with these risks on our own. We need to "get mad" and then "get even," as I put it in the book, to put in place a new set of priorities. So read the book for a simple (I promise) health plan that can cover everyone, and which was the basis for leading candidates' plans in this year's presidential race. I will tell you how 401(k)'s can be truly made secure and predictable (really!) and how we can deal with the job insecurity that plagues so many.
The Great Risk Shift is an expose, a call to arms, and handbook for how we can get back to the basic idea that once made our middle-class strong: people who work hard and do right by their families should have a basic foundation of financial security to be able to confidently reach for the American Dream. I promise the book will change the way you look at your own financial situation and our nation’s choices. Please check the book out for yourself.
Jacob S. Hacker
"The Great Risk Shift is a powerful and timely account of the forces driving the ascendance of economic insecurity in America. But Hacker does more than describe the problem; he offers a thoughtful and ambitious policy agenda and explains how each of us can make our own families more secure. This is an important book for anyone concerned about the continuing vitality of the American dream." -- John Edwards, former U.S. Senator and Director, Center on Poverty, Work, and Opportunity at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
"What Hacker so effectively documents in the The Great Risk Shift is that for too many Americans, Washington's pursuit of a so-called Ownership Society has instead brought about deepening economic insecurity. From job tenure and health coverage to retirement planning, corporations and governments are offloading longstanding institutional responsibilities onto the fragile psychologies and balance sheets of ordinary families and households. Small wonder the public doesn't trust the national economy and its circumstances." -- Kevin Phillips, author of American Theocracy
"America's largest social class isn't upper-income, middle, or poor. It's our sprawling anxious class. As Jacob Hacker shows in this lucid and riveting account, American families are experiencing more and more uncertainty about their future, and the reigning conservative orthodoxy is exposing them to ever greater risk. Hacker lifts up the floor boards of conservative's much touted "ownership society" and reveals the extended rot. But he also offers up a new foundation for economic security. This is an important book." -- Robert B. Reich, Professor of Public Policy, University of California at Berkeley, and former U.S. Secretary of Labor
"Hacker shows that the decline in economic security is the major economic issue of our time, far more important than the occasional recessions and blips in the unemployment rate that preoccupy so many economists. This book powerfully illuminates the real scope of the problem." -- Robert J. Shiller, author of Irrational Exuberance
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