August 12, 2004

by Reb Yudel
Income Insecurity, or, shifting the risk from corporations to you!

Kevin Drum cites Mark Schmitt citing Jacob Hacker, to explain why we feel worse off than four -- or forty -- years ago:
So why does the economy feel so much worse to so many people? Hacker believes that one of the big reasons is that life has become so much more risky. People are a lot closer to the edge, closer to a single catastrophe that can wipe them out, than they were three decades ago.

This has a chilling effect even if nothing ever happens to you. Almost everyone who's not already well off these days knows someone who's been ruined by a personal catastrophe, and this personal knowledge rubs off. You're worried that you could get laid off at any time -- and not be able to find a job for months or years. You're worred that a sudden healthcare crisis could devastate you. You're worried that your pension fund or your 401(k) might not be there when you retire because you made bad investment choices.

FDR dedicated the New Deal to "freedom from fear." He believed that government's role was not to provide handouts to the poor, but to provide a certain minimum level of security against the everyday catastrophes that ruin people's lives.

It is this minimum level of economic security that George Bush and modern movement conservatives want to abolish. In fact, it's the point of Bush's "ownership society": if everyone owns their own Social Security account, owns their own healthcare account, and owns their own college accounts, then the government no longer provides security against disaster. If you make a mistake, or if the market makes a mistake, you're screwed.

Read it all and follow the links. This is an important story.