A Magazine about the Hudson Valley’s local economy, published by Hudson Valley Current.

Book Review: Squeezed: Why Our Families Can’t Afford America

by: Alissa Quart

Does something feel amiss in your economic life, something beyond the constant static of today’s politics, or our growing macro-wish for different parameters to the very w  ays in which we define economics and the use of money?

Too remarkable new books get at the roots of our growing sense of discomfort. Both are by authors familiar with the Hudson Valley, and frequent guests for author events and symposia in our midst.

Squeezed: Why Our Families Can’t Afford America, by Alissa Quart, takes a heart-wrenchingly personalized deep dive into the ways in which many middle-class Americans can barely afford to raise children in today’s world. Mixing firsthand storytelling that tie her own experiences to those of the many professionals she has interviewed, Quart uncovers the ways in which a combination of rising childcare costs and increasingly heartless employment policies, from bad hours to competitive workplaces, hurt one’s chances at effective, life-affirming parenthood.

Think of this as Barbara Ehrenreich’s influential Nickel & Dimed taken into everyday lives, into what all of us experience. But also consider how Quart, executive editor of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project and author of many other articles and books about the hurtful ways in which modern capitalism has evolved, is one with a growing number of academics, top writers and publishers to force a shift in all the ways we approach money and economics.

Just look at the ways in which Mindy Thompson Fullilove’s Root Shock: How Tearing Up City Neighborhoods Hurts America, and What We Can Do About It, and Urban Alchemy: Restoring Joy in America’s Sorted-Out Cities, looks into the ways in which economic abstractions can cripple urban neighborhoods. Root Shock examines three cities – Pittsburgh, Newark, NJ and Roanoke, VA – and the ways in which “disinvestment” led to “urban renewal” or, in the “best” cases, neighborhood-killing gentrification. Urban Alchemy, meanwhile, is closer to Dr. Fullilove’s work as a public health psychiatrist, looking at the health crises and other deep effects that result when neighborhoods get divided, and offers ways in which healing can begin when municipalities look to each other for help, and start to work on a regional basis.

Furthermore, look at how our Hudson Valley is changing these days, both in terms of the pressures affecting all, as well as the more specific challenges hitting our small cities and long-depressed towns. You’re reading this, here, because you realize something needs to shift in the way we approach economics in general, and currency in particular. Now read these thinking author’s books for ways to expand your vistas even further, and hopefully start the change we all know is now needed.