Team Human: Alissa Quart on the Squeezing of the American Family

One of the lies many of us have bought over the years is the American Dream. It seemed to work – at least back in the day of the GI bill and guaranteed mortgages. You work hard, go to college, and things will work out. You’ll be okay.

And now, a lot of us who were privileged enough to be able to follow that path, are finding ourselves unable to reach that place of security anymore. It’s a new precarity – shared by almost everyone in America today – and what our guest Alissa Quart has beautifully documented in work at the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, and in her new book, Squeezed: Why Our Families Can’t Afford America.

In today’s conversation, Alissa deconstructs the individualist, pull yourself up by the bootstraps myth, and looks at the way the system has failed so many Americans. “It’s not your fault,” emerges as the theme from Alissa’s eye-opening research and reporting.

From Squeezed:

This personal experience was partly how I arrived at what was to become the mantra of this book: It’s not your fault. It seems key to me—to recognize that feeling in the red or on the edge isn’t all your personal problem. And while some psychological analysis or boosts may help, the problem of not being able to afford to live in America can’t be cured by self-help mantras. It can’t be mended simply by creating a résumé that utilizes several colors of printer ink or a regimen of cleansing green juices. The problem is systemic.

Today’s show begins with a monologue from Douglas on how the dynamics of cult thinking might help us understand the seemingly irrational commitment to Trump by his supporters. A full transcript of the essay that inspired this talk can be found on Rushkoff’s Medium page.

If you enjoy this episode, you might also like our very first episode with debt resisters Astra Taylor and Thomas Gokey. Also mentioned in today’s show was Episode 93 guest Palak Shah whose work at the National Domestic Workers Alliance resonates with the many of the topics discussed in this episode.

This show features intro music sampled from Fugazi’s Foreman’s Dog courtesy of Dischord records. Musical interludes include new, unreleased music from Herkimer Diamonds courtesy of Majestic Litter: also heard a sampled loop from Episode 31 guest and Mondo 2000 creator, R.U. Sirius and closing the show is a track from Mike Watt’s Hyphenated Man LP.

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