THE GREAT RISK SHIFT….Via Instapundit, I see that the Wall Street Street Journal has published a very peculiar “review” of Jacob Hacker’s forthcoming book, The Great Risk Shift.
I use the scare quotes advisedly. You see, The Great Risk Shift is about…..risk. It’s not about income inequality, or stagnant median wages, or improvements in technology over the past few decades, or whether the CPI is overstated. It’s about the growing amount of risk being shifted onto the backs of American workers: the fact that fewer of them have health insurance, fewer have guaranteed pensions, fewer have lifelong marriages, and fewer have stable jobs.
Now, all of this stuff is arguable, but Brink Lindsey doesn’t even try. Instead, he talks about longer lifespans, increased homeownership, and the prevalence of color TVs. The closest he comes to even engaging with the thesis of the book comes near the end:
Mr. Hacker leans heavily on his findings that fluctuations in family income are much greater now than in the 1970s. But research by economists Dirk Krueger and Fabrizio Perri has shown that big increases in the dispersion of income have not translated into equivalent increases in consumption inequality. In other words, most Americans are able to use savings and borrowing to maintain stable living standards even in the face of economic ups and downs.
Hooray! Life is riskier for today’s family’s, but they manage to eke out a bit of stability anyway by maxing out their credit cards and spending down the money in their retirement accounts. This is, to say the least, not a very persuasive rebuttal.
I still have a few pages left to read in the book, so I’ll hold off on any further comment. Besides, I imagine Jacob can defend himself. In fact, he’ll be doing exactly that right here the week of October 9th, when his book hits the shelves. Mark your calendars.