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« Sick: The Untold Story, by Jonathan Cohn | Main | Progressive Christians Speak, by John Cobb »


The Great Risk Shift, by Jacob Hacker

By an everyday book reader
April 1, 2007

This book offers the compelling call for 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.

"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, Presidential Candidate and former U.S. Senator

The Great Risk Shift: The Assault on American Jobs, Families, Health Care, and Retirement and How You Can Fight Back
by Jacob S. HackerBook Picture

Hardcover: 256 pages
Oxford University Press, USA
August 2006
ISBN: 9780195179507, 0195179501

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.

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.

Jacob Hacker brings into focus as never before the pressures that the Great Risk Shift exerts on our pocketbooks and on our lives. 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.

"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

"Hacker's biggest idea to combat volatility: Smooth out the financial ups and downs through 'universal insurance' that would temporarily make up income shortfalls from job losses. Don't be surprised to see a variation on this and other Hacker ideas batted around during the 2008 presidential race."-- U.S. News and World Report

"As Jacob Hacker argues persuasively in The Great Risk Shift, America's middle class finds itself living with far more risk and income volatility than it did a generation ago." -- Christopher Hayes, The Nation

"Hacker's important and illuminating bookwith its call for creating an insurance and opportunity society should inform every discussion of progressive political strategy in the coming decade." -- David Moberg, In These Times

"Jacob S. Hacker, a 35-year-old political science professor at Yale, has become something of an intellectual 'It boy' in the Democratic Party over the last decade...The patchwork safety net created in the decades after World War II truly is shriveling, and there will be rewards for the party that comes up with a convincing solution. Hacker has done the Democrats a favor by developing a story and a catchphrase - the great risk shift - to describe the problem." -- David Leonhardt, New York Times

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.

Jacob S. Hacker is Peter Strauss Family Associate Professor of Political Science at Yale University and Fellow at the New America Foundation. He is author of The Divided Welfare State and The Road to Nowhere and, and most recently, co-author of Off Center: The Republican Revolution and the Erosion of American Democracy. A frequent commentator on NPR, PBS, and CNN, Hacker has written for The New Republic, The Nation, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, and other publications.

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