Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Don Peck examines how the recession has changed the places we live, the work we do, and even who we are. In Pinched: How the Great Recession Has Narrowed Our Future and What We Can Do About It, he looks at how the middle class is shrinking faster, wealth is becoming more concentrated, new college graduates are struggling, and working-class families and communities are under growing pressure. 

Don Peck’s article “Can the Middle Class Be Saved” is the cover story in the September issue of The Atlantic magazine.

How has the recession changed your life? Leave a comment below.


Don Peck

Comments [19]

Jane from Brooklyn

"The government or the people elected to Congress"?! Uh, same thing, Leonard.

Aug. 11 2011 12:13 AM
Christopher from Brooklyn

John A.

Or I suppose it can mean that we are losing fluidity or mobility between the strata. I do think there is something in the use of the word 'stratification' that needs more precision in the broader discourse.

Aug. 11 2011 12:11 AM
Rick from Manhattan

I am getting a little tired of all "the world is changing" fretting. The current world-wide economic weakness is a fairly simple Keynesian lack of demand arising because a fairly small group of countries, primarily oil producers, China and Germany, have been allowed to benefit from lowered trade barriers while accumulating huge trade surpluses. In 2007, this group had trade surpluses of $1.4 trillion, which is about equal to the loss of production when the music stopped in 2008 and the debt-creation stimulus machine stopped. Ask yourself, how did we double the national debt under George Bush without creating even a whiff of inflation. The answer is that there is a large drag on the world economy which our stimulative policies disguised by keeping employment up. In 2008, this stopped. We would be just fine if trade agreements require balanced trade positions in order for participants to benefit and if we reduce what we pay for foreign energy.

Aug. 10 2011 01:05 PM
Olivia from New York

Two points: First: we need to be careful because history has shown that in tough times like these people tend to vote against their own intererests - in favor of restricted freedoms, less tolerance - leading to uninteded and unwelcome outcomes. Second: all these problems are the result of poor policy decisions going back many years, by both political parties and a Congress owned by the corporate elite - from the deregulation of financial institutions, to allowing jobs to go overseas without requiring the increased profit from such moves to be put back into our economy and job creation, to promoting home ownership to people who couldn't afford it (it's not just the mortgage - there are many expenses involved in owning a home) - to promoting personal debt using credit cards - to then allowing banks to charge unlimited interest rates on those cards. All these were purposefully pursued to make the wealthy more powerful and the rest more easily manipulated, and the media is complicit. The 'integrity' deficit is far worse than the fiscal one.

Aug. 10 2011 01:03 PM
John A.

Christopher from Brooklyn ,

Increasingly stratified can mean that Two halves are drawing farther Apart. At any rate, it's bad.

John A.

Aug. 10 2011 12:51 PM
amalgam from NYC by day, NJ by night

As a daily NJ Transit rail commuter, I can most assuredly say that Gov. Christie's shutdown of the ARC Tunnel was one of the most short-sighted and foolish policy mistake on many levels, not just for NJ but for the metro region.

It will directly impact the region's long-term economy in a negative manner, especially with regards to productivity, beyond the immediate jobs it would have created in the short-term.

That decision shows Christie has no vision and perfectly exemplifies that lack of vision for the US in our current situation being that he is America's darling right now.

Aug. 10 2011 12:49 PM

Again, Don Peck is just repeating neo-con/neo-lib mythology on technological innovation. The US could _certainly_ be investing more in research, science, education. But the rate of technological innovation has been slowing consistently since the 1970s.

See Lester Thurow, MIT economist, among others.

Aug. 10 2011 12:47 PM
Fuva from Harlemworld

"Creating 2 middle class Indians for every American that falls out of middle class"? How generous of these plutocrats. And that it also JUST HAPPENS to increase their incomes (and income inequality)exponentially is just a fortunate coincidence, an afterthought...This is NOT how prosperity is spread.

Aug. 10 2011 12:45 PM

The problem is NOT medicare -- it is soaring prices of health care. The rate of increase is seen _across_ the health care industry.

Don Peck is just repeating (presumably unwittingly) Obama-Republican talking points (lies) on Medicare.

Aug. 10 2011 12:42 PM
Chris from Brooklyn

I've heard that mobility is one of the USA's economic strengths, but it is quite frankly terrifying to move to a new city when there are few jobs ANYwhere. Moving is a huge investment, and there no guaranteed returns anymore. When it takes a couple years to find a tiny economic toe-hold, one does not give it up without much hesitation.

Aug. 10 2011 12:41 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

All of this talk is nonsense. EVERY FAMILY is going to have to move a few steps DOWN the economic ladder. It may mean giving up a car,or moving out of a big house into a condo, or whatever. The idea that there is some magic bullet, by taxing the rich more, or squeezing the poor more are all ridiculous.

The real answer is, we will have to live with less and love it!

Aug. 10 2011 12:40 PM
Christopher from Brooklyn

Mr. Peck said that the majority of profit was made by 1% of the population. He then went on to say that society was becoming increasingly stratified. Isn't the opposite actually the case? There are fewer strata as we become a nation of superrich and everyone else: two strata?

Aug. 10 2011 12:40 PM

We have many people out of work in the construction sectors.. why aren't we putting those people to work rebuilding our infrastructure? Bridges, dams, highways...

Aug. 10 2011 12:35 PM

For those who are curious, there are the well-known names: Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Chris Hedges, Barbara Ehrenreich, Naomi Klein, Glenn Greenwald, Paul Krugman. (Many others)

Other perhaps less well-known people (representing a range of political opinion, though none conservative, I admit): Joseph Stiglitz, Amartya Sen, John Rawls, Sheldon Wolin, Larry Bartels, David Cole, Daron Acemoglu, Esther Duflo, Carles Boix, Samuel Bowles, Herbert Gintis, John Roemer, Josh Cohen, Joel Rogers, David Harvey, Jon Elster, Pranah Bardhan, Partha Dasgupta, Chalmers Johnson, Duncan Foley. . . and dozens more.

Aug. 10 2011 12:31 PM
amalgam from NYC by day, NJ by night

This restructuring is part of the 40-year story of globalization and the rise of the Networ/Information economy, which include technological innovation/gains, productivity gains, "footloose capital" (offshoring), and the predominance of Neoliberal economics.

Mr Peck is thus correct that business has taken the opportunity of the Great Recession to intensify these already ongoing processes to benefit their bottom line.

Government needs to be more creative - not more economically repressive - to help its populace face this new economy and provide support as it ravages many parts of the middle and lower classes. The strength of our society depends on all of us being secure and successful. (Other people, besides just "me and mine", matter.)

Aug. 10 2011 12:26 PM
Laura from UWS

Very interesting segment...worth going further.

Echo of "Shock Doctrine"?

Also worth considering:
send media:
"Upper-class people less empathetic than lower-class people: study"

Aug. 10 2011 12:20 PM

Ignore the right-wing and 'classical' economists, things are changing for the US permanently. In particular, the period of sustained growth that followed World War 2 has now come to an end. Even if it were it _in principle_ possible to restore the US economy to the strength of the more sustainable parts of the 1990s, it is painfully clear that the Democrats and Republicans and the Oligarchs who direct them are unwilling to surrender any of their wealth to finance education, infrastructure, research, health care — all the things that contributed to American growth for over half a century.

The wealthiest Americans, the top 1% or so, have perfected the immunization of their own well-being against any infection that affects Americans generally. Obama's violent campaigns against whistleblowers, for domestic spying, etc., will serve well to protect the most privileged from all of the rest of us, if Americans generally ever again show any inclination to exercise the democratic rights we still enjoy . . . for now.

Sound ridiculously left-wing? Check the moderates. Paul Krugman is liberal but he's no lefty. Check work by Sheldon Wolin and Larry Bartels, both professors at Princeton. Consider Bruce Ackerman, Chris Hedges. . . . There is a growing body of scholarship and more popular work detailing at length the decline of American democracy.

Aug. 10 2011 12:17 PM
jayr from Queens

The positive effect of this recession has led my wife and I to contemplate "re-designing" our lives, so that we carry less of an economic burden going forward.

Aug. 10 2011 12:15 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Harsh global economic realities are going to downsize the US middle class to about where it should be, which is roughly where it was in 1960, before the suburbanization boom began in earnest. The country is going to downsize and reurbanize to cut energy and other costs.

None of us is going to have much say in the matter. It's going to happen, like it or not.

Aug. 10 2011 11:44 AM

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