Down the Up Escalator: How the 99 Percent Live in the Great Recession

Barbara Garson, Author
Barbara Garson. Doubleday, $26.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-385-53274-7
Reviewed on: 11/19/2012
Release date: 04/02/2013
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Americans cope with the fallout from 40 years of dwindling prospects in this quietly harrowing mosaic of economic decline. Journalist Garson (All the Livelong Day) focuses on the basics—jobs, homes, money—and the people who have lost them since the 2008 financial crisis: a group of middle-aged New Yorkers who comfort each other as their layoffs turn into long-term unemployment; California homeowners, some facing immediate eviction, while others cynically game the foreclosure system; elderly pensioners who suddenly find their nest eggs crushed. Through their stories, she weaves lucid explanations of the mortgage bubble and financial speculations that wrecked the system, situating them within a larger analysis of the generations-long post-Vietnam economic transformation that replaced middle-class jobs with low-paid contingent labor, widened the gulf between the rich and the rest, and forced workers to take on ever more debt to keep their heads above water. Garson’s vivid, shrewd, warmly sympathetic profiles show the resilience with which ordinary Americans respond to misfortune, but also the enduring costs as they abandon hopes for a fulfilling career, an extra child, or a secure retirement. The result is a compelling portrait of an economy that has turned against the people. Agent: Joy Harris, the Joy Harris Literary Agency. (Apr.)
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