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Down the Up Escalator: How the 99 Percent Live    by Barbara Garson order for
Down the Up Escalator
by Barbara Garson
Order:  USA  Can
Anchor, 2014 (2014)
* * *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

Barbara Garson in Down the Up Escalator: How the 99 Percent Live employs an anecdotal approach that allows the reader to connect with this book's subject matter on a personal level. We are told that the recent Great Recession is behind us now but that the effects of it will be with us for years to come.

The super affluent or the fabled One Percent did OK during this stressful period but the rest of us…well, we didn't do too well. In this entertaining and enlightening book, Garson explains what happened to the folks who struggled, mightily to keep their heads above water. A few of them were successful, but many weren't.

Garson has interviewed a sampling of these people and tells their stories in this book. These individuals come from a cross section of economic and geographical sections of the United States. In most cases they have experienced some type of loss (job, home or savings) and the resulting insecurity that comes with it.

Besides putting a face on what happened, the author also tries to address the causes and far ranging consequences of the stagnation of wages, reliance on credit, and the technology, real estate and stock bubbles that harmed so many people.

When so many individuals from all walks of life were seeing their little nest eggs or meager savings literally vanish overnight, there were others who had another problem to deal with. What do you do with piles of money when no one wants to borrow it and not even the banks want to hold it for you?

Granted, that may not be the dilemma you faced in the past five or so years, but it was a conundrum a few poor souls faced. More than large multi-national corporations have been sitting on this apparent windfall but it doesn't seem to have trickled down to the rest of the population.

It appears the recession and resulting problems have landed a goodly number of individuals in a different socioeconomic class. You'll meet some of these men and women in this book.

If, as some observers contend, this latest recession will leave another large swath of Americans out on the periphery, that's not a good thing. 'Aside from being painful to individuals it's dangerous to a democracy when so many of its citizens are marginal, contingent, and peripheral,' writes Garson.

The vignettes presented here focus a cold, bright light on some of the economic issues facing middle class America. Give the statistics a face and tell the stories that the number crunchers neglect to share because they aren't part of the story and suddenly one begins to understand why we are in a new place facing a whole new set of problems. How we move forward and cope with this new reality will define who we are for decades if not centuries to come.

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