A close examination of the plight of the working class, the decline of organized labor’s political power, and the stirrings of activism that indicate change may be on the way.
Draut (Strapped: Why America’s 20- and 30-Somethings Can’t Get Ahead, 2006), the vice president of policy and research for Demos, the liberal think tank, pulls no punches in her analysis. Asserting that “the social contract of the New Deal is in tatters” and that “the working class has had a boot on its neck for three decades,” she goes on to tell how that came about, who the responsible parties are, what that has meant to American society, and what can be done to create necessary changes. Draut defines working class as anyone in the labor force without a bachelor’s degree. Because this group is more diverse—i.e., black, Latino, and female—than in the industrial era, it has been, she writes, easier to ignore. Interviews with workers in “the bargain basement economy” provide a glimpse of their lives, and interviews with assorted activists in such movements as the Fight for $15 and Black Lives Matter show the latest strategies. The Republican Party and the once pro-union Democratic Party come in for some sharp jabs, as do America’s cultural elites, its power brokers, and its news- and its policymakers for being too socially distant from the working class to see and understand what has been happening. The middle chapters focus on history, and the closing one, which calls for a “Better Deal,” sees a possibly brighter future, the details of which are spelled out in an addendum, “The Blueprint for a Better Deal.”
Readers who concur that we have a “neoliberal economic system that is systematically rotten to the core” will welcome Draut’s impassioned report; others may be unmoved.