The Great Risk Shift: The New Economic Insecurity and the Decline of the American Dream

Oxford University Press
Free sample

America's leaders say the economy is strong and getting stronger. But 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. In The Great Risk Shift, Jacob S. Hacker lays bare this unsettling new economic climate, showing how it has come about, what it is doing to our families, and how we can fight back. Behind this shift, he contends, is the Personal Responsibility Crusade, eagerly embraced by corporate leaders and Republican politicians who speak of a nirvana of economic empowerment, an "ownership society" in which Americans are free to choose. But as Hacker reveals, the result has been quite different: a harsh new world of economic insecurity, in which far too many Americans are free to lose. 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. Blending powerful human stories, big-picture analysis, and compelling ideas for reform, this remarkable volume will hit a nerve, serving as a rallying point in the vital struggle for economic security in an increasingly uncertain world.
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About the author

Jacob S. Hacker is the Stanley B. Resor Professor of Political Science at Yale University and a frequent commentator on American politics and social policy. He is also the coauthor, with Paul Pierson, of Winner-Take-All Politics (Simon & Schuster),American Amnesia (Simon & Schuster) and Off Center: The Republican Revolution and the Erosion of American Democracy (Yale University Press).
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Additional Information

Publisher
Oxford University Press
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Published on
Oct 9, 2006
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Pages
256
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ISBN
9780199726639
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Language
English
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Genres
Political Science / Political Economy
Political Science / Public Policy / Economic Policy
Political Science / Public Policy / Social Security
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Policy debates are often grounded within the conceptual confines of a state-market dichotomy, as though the two existed in complete isolation. In this innovative text, Marc Allen Eisner portrays the state and the market as inextricably linked, exploring the variety of institutions subsumed by the market and the role that the state plays in creating the institutional foundations of economic activity. Through a historical approach, Eisner situates the study of American political economy within a larger evolutionary-institutional framework that integrates perspectives in American political development and economic sociology.

This volume provides a rich understanding of the complexity of U.S. economic policy, explaining how public policies become embedded in bureaucracy and reinforced by organized beneficiaries and public expectations. This path-dependent layering process helps students better understand the underlying historical dynamics, which provide a clearer sense of the constraints faced by policymakers now and in the future.

The revisions to the second edition include:

Complete rewrite of the chapter on the recent financial crisis, adding in commentary on the debt ceiling, the fiscal cliff, and other recent events.

New material added and existing material updated in the chapter discussing the two welfare states.

Extensive updates to the coverage of the global economy

Expanded and updated discussion of Obama’s economic policies.

Updates to figures and data throughout the text.

The collapse of the financial markets in 2008 and the resulting 'Great Recession' merely accelerated an already worrisome trend: the shift away from an employer-based social welfare system in the United States. Since the end of World War II, a substantial percentage of the costs of social provision--most notably, unemployment insurance and health insurance--has been borne by employers rather than the state. The US has long been unique among advanced economies in this regard, but in recent years, its social contract has become so frayed that is fast becoming unrecognizable. Despite Obama's election, the burdens of social provision are falling increasingly upon individual families, and the situation is worsening because of the unemployment crisis. How can we repair the American social welfare system so that workers and families receive adequate protection and, if necessary, provision from the ravages of the market? In Shared Responsibility, Shared Risk, Jacob Hacker and Ann O'Leary have gathered a distinguished group of scholars on American social policy to address this most fundamental of problems. Collectively, they analyze how the 'privatization of risk' has increased hardships for American families and increased inequality. They also propose a series of solutions that would distribute the burdens of risks more broadly and expand the social safety net. The range of issues covered is broad: health care, homeownership, social security and aging, unemployment, wealth (as opposed to income) creation, education, and family-friendly policies. The book is also comparative, measuring US social policy against the policies of other advanced nations. Given the current crisis in America social policy and the concomitant paralysis within government, the book has the potential to make an important intervention in the current debate.
A groundbreaking work that identifies the real culprit behind one of the great economic crimes of our time— the growing inequality of incomes between the vast majority of Americans and the richest of the rich.

We all know that the very rich have gotten a lot richer these past few decades while most Americans haven’t. In fact, the exorbitantly paid have continued to thrive during the current economic crisis, even as the rest of Americans have continued to fall behind. Why do the “haveit- alls” have so much more? And how have they managed to restructure the economy to reap the lion’s share of the gains and shift the costs of their new economic playground downward, tearing new holes in the safety net and saddling all of us with increased debt and risk? Lots of so-called experts claim to have solved this great mystery, but no one has really gotten to the bottom of it—until now.

In their lively and provocative Winner-Take-All Politics, renowned political scientists Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson demonstrate convincingly that the usual suspects—foreign trade and financial globalization, technological changes in the workplace, increased education at the top—are largely innocent of the charges against them. Instead, they indict an unlikely suspect and take us on an entertaining tour of the mountain of evidence against the culprit. The guilty party is American politics. Runaway inequality and the present economic crisis reflect what government has done to aid the rich and what it has not done to safeguard the interests of the middle class. The winner-take-all economy is primarily a result of winner-take-all politics.

In an innovative historical departure, Hacker and Pierson trace the rise of the winner-take-all economy back to the late 1970s when, under a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress, a major transformation of American politics occurred. With big business and conservative ideologues organizing themselves to undo the regulations and progressive tax policies that had helped ensure a fair distribution of economic rewards, deregulation got under way, taxes were cut for the wealthiest, and business decisively defeated labor in Washington. And this transformation continued under Reagan and the Bushes as well as under Clinton, with both parties catering to the interests of those at the very top. Hacker and Pierson’s gripping narration of the epic battles waged during President Obama’s first two years in office reveals an unpleasant but catalyzing truth: winner-take-all politics, while under challenge, is still very much with us.

Winner-Take-All Politics—part revelatory history, part political analysis, part intellectual journey— shows how a political system that traditionally has been responsive to the interests of the middle class has been hijacked by the superrich. In doing so, it not only changes how we think about American politics, but also points the way to rebuilding a democracy that serves the interests of the many rather than just those of the wealthy few.
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