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The Great Risk Shift: A Response

On Monday, December 18th the New York Daily News published a column by Mort Zuckerman entitled “America’s Anxiety Attack.” The article raises issues which Jacob Hacker addresses in his book, The Great Risk Shift: The Assault on American Jobs, Families, Health Care, and Retirement And How You Can Fight Back. Below is Hacker’s letter to the editors of the NY Daily News.

To the Editors,

Mort Zuckerman is right that America’s biggest domestic issue is the growing economic risks facing the middle class. But he has less to say about what’s behind this “Great Risk Shift” and what might be done about it. From our health care and retirement pensions to our job security and family finances, government and corporations have offloaded risks onto the backs of hardworking Americans — often with the claim that doing so will encourage people to take more risks and invest in their futures.

The irony is that we don’t treat businesses and entrepreneurs the same. We give them bankruptcy relief and limited liability to encourage them to take risks and make investments. And today, it’s precisely because the economic security once enjoyed by working families is eroding that middle-class Americans are anxious, rather than confident. Providing security — through affordable health care for all, as Zuckerman says, but also through initiatives to restore retirement security and job security and help families balance work and child-rearing — isn’t just about helping Americans who’ve fallen on bad times. It is about creating the conditions under which all Americans have the opportunity to look beyond their immediate financial situation and reach for the American Dream.


Jacob S. Hacker, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Political Science Fellow, New America Foundation Author, The Great Risk Shift: The Assault on American Jobs, Families, Health Care and Retirement–And How You Can Fight Back (Oxford University Press, 2006)

To learn more about Jacob Hacker read his Q & A, or take the Economic Risk Test.

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