cover image The State of Working America

The State of Working America

Lawrence Mishel, Jared Bernstein, Sylvia Allegretto. ILR Press, $31.5 (484pp) ISBN 978-0-8014-8962-4

In their biennial report, the Economic Policy Institute is sparing in its comments about specific leaders in government and their impact on employment. Instead, the think tank focuses on the long-term business cycle, which takes shape under the influence of successive administrations. Few lay readers are likely to wade through the book's multitude of graphs and charts, but the data found here will undoubtedly inform reports in the media, academic studies and policy development at the highest levels. Examining the five dimensions of the national economic situation (family income, wages, jobs, wealth and poverty), the authors analyze trends in the nation's levels of inequality and unemployment and make acute regional and international comparisons. What they find is not pretty: they conclude that income inequality in America is now much higher than in other periods, and that the economic mobility of the American dream is largely just that, a dream. One political point they do make is an important one for a book that examines economic history ""from the perspective of working families"": the ""recent regressive tax cuts,"" they say, have worsened this inequality. Overall, the authors join the chorus that sings the praises of the 1990's boom while lamenting the current weak recovery, and they provide ample statistical evidence to support their assertions and give journalists, professors and lobbyists plenty of ammunition.