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Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope

– tekijä: Nicholas D. Kristof, Sheryl WuDunn

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2201694,905 (3.99)6
New York Times Best Seller  "A deft and uniquely credible exploration of rural America, and of other left-behind pockets of our country. One of the most important books I've read on the state of our disunion."--Tara Westover, author of Educated     The Pulitzer Prize-winning authors of the acclaimed, best-selling Half the Sky now issue a plea--deeply personal and told through the lives of real Americans--to address the crisis in working-class America, while focusing on solutions to mend a half century of governmental failure. With stark poignancy and political dispassion, Tightrope draws us deep into an "other America." The authors tell this story, in part, through the lives of some of the children with whom Kristof grew up, in rural Yamhill, Oregon, an area that prospered for much of the twentieth century but has been devastated in the last few decades as blue-collar jobs disappeared. About one-quarter of the children on Kristof's old school bus died in adulthood from drugs, alcohol, suicide, or reckless accidents. And while these particular stories unfolded in one corner of the country, they are representative of many places the authors write about, ranging from the Dakotas and Oklahoma to New York and Virginia. But here too are stories about resurgence, among them: Annette Dove, who has devoted her life to helping the teenagers of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, as they navigate the chaotic reality of growing up poor; Daniel McDowell, of Baltimore, whose tale of opioid addiction and recovery suggests that there are viable ways to solve our nation's drug epidemic. These accounts, illustrated with searing images by Lynsey Addario, the award-winning photographer, provide a picture of working-class families needlessly but profoundly damaged as a result of decades of policy mistakes. With their superb, nuanced reportage, Kristof and WuDunn have given us a book that is both riveting and impossible to ignore.… (lisätietoja)
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Näyttää 1-5 (yhteensä 16) (seuraava | näytä kaikki)
In Tightrope, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn examine forgotten Americans, those who suffer with poverty, addiction, or poor health. The stories they tell are personal, concentrating on individuals who grew up with Kristof in Yamhill, Oregon, many of whom have been unable to live the American Dream. Yamhill, once an area with a strong middle class, has been hard hit as good middle-class jobs dried up in recent years. As Kristof explains, the collapse of working class towns such as Yamhill has often led to high rates of unemployment, poverty, broken families, drugs, obesity, and early deaths. And this is the story which Kristof tells.

The Stock Market is rising, and the wealth of the Nation is increasing, but not all Americans are sharing in the prosperity. As he notes, one in seven people in the U.S. are below the poverty line, much worse than in Canada and other OECD Countries. And according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, median wages for non college educated Americans is significantly lower today than in 1979. Additionally, median Net Worth is actually lower than it was in 2000. If the Federal Minimum Wage of 1968 had kept up with inflation, it would be $22/hr vs. $7.25 today. Moreover, 60% of Americans don't have $1000 to cover sudden expenses like a health issue or a car repair, and 40% couldn't cover an unexpected $400 expense.

This inequality between the haves and have-nots is only growing. The wealth of just 3 Americans (Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet, and Bill Gates) is greater than the bottom HALF of Americans. Throw in a few more millionaires, like 2020 Presidential candidates Donald Trump and Mike Bloomberg, and things only looks worse. That disparity leads some to believe Capitalism is broken. A recent study showed that among the young, 50% had a favorable opinion of socialism, but only 46% felt the same toward capitalism. Many seem to think that Capitalists don't know how to divide the pie, and socialist don't know how to grow it.

To many, these inequalities are a reflection of personal responsibility, that the poor were irresponsible in their behavior and / or made poor choices. It's easy to dismiss the homeless, addicts, dropouts, or incarcerated as being that way through their own fault. And, the thinking goes, if they'd simply "pull themselves up by the bootstraps", take responsibility for their actions, work hard, and change their ways, success in life would follow. Some also believe that the poor prefer handouts such as food stamps, housing subsidies, and free education over hard work and discipline. But the authors argue that it's more than that. Personal responsibility is important, of course. But so is Collective responsibility that plays a part.

The authors show how difficult it can be for people without means to get back on the right track.
Rush Limbaugh admitted to being addicted to OxyContin and other pain killers in 2003, but being a millionaire, could take time off from work, enroll in a costly rehab program, and have his arrest charges cleared. A military veteran who got hooked on pain killers after treatment for a combat injury, or a low wage earner would be hard pressed to do the same. It's true that there are social programs available to the poor and the homeless, but you may have to read Kristoff's book, or one like it, to gain an appreciation of just how hard it can be for many to afford treatment, or to take time off to go into a treatment program, or to move out of town/out of state to a treatment center, or to care for your family while in treatment, etc.

Kristof shows the reality of that situation when discussing some of the people he grew up with in Oregon. An appreciable percentage of people in his town have ended up with health issues, shortened lives, addiction, or jailed. Many who suffer made terrible decisions in their own lives, but this was compounded by poor decisions our country made on multiple fronts. Poor regions often have poor schools, lack of job training, lack of family planning centers, etc. Inadequately trained people face tough job prospects. When good jobs disappear and wages are low, and people need two jobs to manage, individuals suffer, families suffer. People despair. One effect of despair can be self medicating through drugs and alcohol, further complicating lives.

Single parents also may have a particularly hard time meeting their needs. Several people mentioned in the book had children at a very young age. Teen pregnancies in the U.S. may be high, but the percentage of teens having sex in the U.S. is about the same as in Europe. But European teens become pregnant at a rate about 1/3 of American girls. Difference? Availability and acceptance of family planning and birth control. Preaching abstinence doesn't work. Kristof explains the need to look at how our Government, institutions, and society treat family planning and birth control, and adopt programs which have proven to be effective.

Low incomes didn't help the people in Yamhill either. As the authors point out, even bright students struggle to succeed when poor. The Boston Globe reviewed 93 high school valedictorians from 2005 - 2007. Most were people of color from middle or lower class neighborhoods. Almost one-fourth of them wanted to become doctors upon high school graduation. None did. Moreover, 25% of these bright students failed to attain a bachelors degree within 6 years of high school graduation. Four ended up homeless, one died, and one ended up in prison. A similar group of wealthy students would be expected to have much better achievement.

Of course the well to do don't always succeed, nor do the poor always fail, but Kristoff describes life's journey for the well to do as a stroll on a wide smooth path, forgiving of missteps. For those less fortunate, that journey is more like walking a tightrope. Some make it, but it's challenging. A tightrope is not forgiving of a misstep, and those missteps can destroy not only the individual, but sometimes entire families as well.

The most unforgiving of readers may not buy into all of Kristof's arguments that dysfunctional families, high crime neighborhoods, failing school systems, poverty, environment, and simply bad luck are necessarily obstacles to success in life. We're all aware of individuals who have overcome those obstacles and achieved. But those who haven't been able to overcome those barriers are much more numerous, and it's those who need help. Kristof hopes that readers may see how a focus on education, job training, sex education, criminal justice reform, drug education and treatment can be a more effective and much more economical way to deal with these issues. Not addressing these problems up front typically leads to more harmful outcomes and more expensive fixes down the road. Politicians often state they money isn't available for drug programs, sex education, job training, lead abatement, birth control programs, etc., but then find they're faced with costly needs such as a need for more prisons, unemployment benefits, special education programs, Medicaid births, etc. all of which cost more after the fact than preventive steps would have cost in the first place.

"Tightrope" sets out to provide a deeper understanding of what's been happening in our Country, how we've allowed tens of millions of Americans to suffer loss of jobs, dignity, hopes and lives. Kristof and WuDunn hope to make the reader more empathetic, and offer solutions to bring about the necessary changes for those suffering the most in America.

The authors also point out that Americans like to chant "we're number 1", and that may be true in terms of National wealth and military strength. But compared to other industrialized nations, we're #40 in childhood mortality, #32 in internet access, #39 in access to clean drinking water, #50 in personal safety, #61 in high school enrollment, #25 in well being of citizens, etc. So clearly, there are a number of programs and approaches being made in the Country which can be improved upon, and the authors leave that as food for thought for all of us.
( )
  rsutto22 | Jul 15, 2021 |
This is a whistle stop tour of what's ailing america, especially the working class. A lot of it is familiar if you read Kristof's columns in the NYT (I picked up the book from the library after reading an excerpt in the Times). Kristof looks in particular at the Oregon town of his childhood, but highlights examples from throughout the country. It's not spectacularly deep--and can't be, with covering so many things in 300 pages--but it hits a lot of points: healthcare, education, jobs, incarceration--and successfully makes the point that we have built this with failed policy and incentives. Voters overrate moral hazard when it comes to the poor, but underrate it for the rich. They are willing to help individuals, but see the poor en masse as willing to cheat (sometimes based on experiences with family). "Personal responsibility" is presented as overriding, and liberals occasionally fall into the trap by de-emphasizing people's decisions to the point where it seems like they're characterizing the poor as solely hapless victims of fate--a characterization that the poor themselves reject. Kristof and WuDunn are careful to show that choices matter, but that luck and birth are major factors in outcomes. As they say, when there's a 20 year difference in life expectancy based solely on place of birth, we can't pin that on choices. ( )
  arosoff | Jul 11, 2021 |
While this is a compelling book by husband-and-wife authors that really want to solve the persistent poverty and addiction problems they write about, I don't think this was the right vehicle for them. They center most stories in Kristof's hometown of Yamhill, Oregon, where addiction and poverty have always had a foothold, but easily available meth and scarcer jobs have irreparably damaged many of the families highlighted. You do get a feel for how they've tried to do right by their kids and neighbors, but I don't know how to connect that with the rest of the book's topic.

The policy prescriptions are quite muddled, arguing for a greater collective response from the public sector but never mentioning how Congress and state legislatures have onerously de-funded or blocked the solutions they lift up as effective. And even the specific popular policy proposals of the final chapter are introduced as "big steps we urge the country to take" while ignoring that if not for obstructionist governors, legislators, and presidents we would have these already. This is my pet peeve, clearly, but if really sincere about selling these, two renowned authors and public figures wouldn't write them in great detail in your popular nonfiction book, instead putting them into policy briefs with evidence and sending to the White House and Congress, then asking in the book (and your op ed column) that your readers lobby their representatives for their passage into law! That would seem to be a more effective way to ensure that Yamhill and places like it have a promising future. Still, the authors do have it correct when they say "helping people is harder than it looks." Nonprofit and front-facing social service agency staff frequently burn out and leave their jobs because of the constant challenges of what they do, and we can do better by them.

In any case, two sources they reference are probably the most relevant texts on this topic: the National Academies' 2019 study "A Roadmap to Reducing Child Poverty" and the Boston Globe's in-depth survey of the life outcomes of valedictorians of urban high schools 10+ years on. Unless you are specifically interested in this corner of rural Oregon, I'd read those instead. ( )
  jonerthon | Jan 17, 2021 |
Very well written and researched book. Yamhill, Oregon is about 1 hour away where we live and to read about the "backstory" of this community was eye-opening and concerning to say the least.
This book should be required reading for all high school and college level students and their families along with all community members and legislators.
We can no longer live our lives as if others don't matter or that it is their "fault" that they are in the situations they are in. Community safety nets are essential for our society to grow and prosper. Most of us have our own personally constructed versions of these "nets" but so many do not. This affects all of us from enjoying a stable and thriving society and has led to many of the social unrest issues we are currently experiencing. ( )
1 ääni Katyefk | Jan 13, 2021 |
Recommended reading for all educated Americans. We have the tools to fix the systems. Meritocracy isn’t working. ( )
  sjanke | Dec 9, 2020 |
Näyttää 1-5 (yhteensä 16) (seuraava | näytä kaikki)
Poor and working-class Americans start out with countless disadvantages, and the social safety net that ought to help them recover from missteps has been systematically slashed by 50 years of mean-spirited social policy — even as corporations and the wealthy have enjoyed steadily growing government subsidies and a steadily more permissive regulatory environment. ... The intended audience for “Tightrope” isn’t clear. The authors inform us that their main goal is to “tell stories” rather than explore “policy alternatives,” because only storytelling is likely to convince conservatives that the woes of the working class can’t just be chalked up to personal irresponsibility. On these points, conservatives are unlikely to be persuaded, and liberals are unlikely to require persuasion.
lisäsi Lemeritus | muokkaaWashington Post, Rosa Brooks (maksullinen sivusto) (Jan 30, 2020)
 
Historically, economic crisis breeds fear and vulnerability to manipulation by authoritarians among groups perceiving a loss of power; racism is indeed rife in a country built on white supremacy. But “Tightrope” catches what many analyses miss about struggling communities across color lines: an undercurrent of self-hatred, in which people blame themselves for bad outcomes and are loath to ask for a “handout.” ... “Tightrope” thus concludes that America’s true exceptionalism is our lack of concern for one another. ... “Tightrope”’s greatest strength is its exaltation of the common person’s voice, bearing expert witness to troubles that selfish power has wrought.
lisäsi Lemeritus | muokkaaThe New York Times, Sarah Smarsh (maksullinen sivusto) (Jan 20, 2020)
 
Tightrope is a convincing argument that it's not too late to change the course of the nation. "We remain optimistic about what is possible," Kristof and WuDunn write. It's also an agonizing account of how apathy and cruelty have turned America into a nightmare for many of its less fortunate citizens. ... It's difficult to read, and it was surely difficult to write, but it feels — now more than ever — deeply necessary.
 
Husband and wife journalists Kristof and WuDunn (A Path Appears) turn a compassionate lens on the failed state of working-class American communities in this stark, fluidly written portrait.... Kristof and WuDunn avoid pity while creating empathy for their subjects, and effectively advocate for a “morality of grace” to which readers should hold policy makers accountable. This essential, clear-eyed account provides worthy solutions to some of America’s most complex socioeconomic problems.
lisäsi Lemeritus | muokkaaPublishers Weekly (Oct 16, 2019)
 
Pulitzer Prize winners Kristof and WuDunn (A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity, 2014, etc.) zero in on working-class woes and how to ease them.

With an earnest blend of shoe-leather reporting and advocacy for social justice, the married journalists send a clear message to anyone who wants to see working-class Americans prosper: Stop blaming them for making “bad choices” and for failing to “pull themselves up by the bootstraps.” While acknowledging the need for personal responsibility—and for aid from private charities—the authors make a forceful case that the penalties for missteps fall unequally on the rich and poor in spheres that include education, health care, employment, and the judicial system.... An ardent and timely case for taking a multipronged approach to ending working-class America’s long decline.
lisäsi Lemeritus | muokkaaKirkus Reviews (Oct 6, 2019)
 

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Nicholas D. Kristofensisijainen tekijäkaikki painoksetcalculated
WuDunn, Sherylpäätekijäkaikki painoksetvahvistettu
Garner, JenniferKertojamuu tekijäeräät painoksetvahvistettu
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Be sure when you step/ Step with care and great tact/ And remember that Life's a Great Balancing Act. - Dr. Seuss, 'Oh, the Places You'll Go!'
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Tiedot englanninkielisestä Yhteisestä tiedosta. Muokkaa kotoistaaksesi se omalle kielellesi.
For Ladis and Jane, David and Alice, who nurtured us. For Darrell, Sirena and Sandra, who shaped us. For Gregory, Geoffrey and Caroline, who exhausted us and enriched us. / And for all those passing through the inferno who spoke to us honestly about their struggles so that the public might understand and support wiser policies.
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Dee Knapp was asleep when her husband, Gary, stumbled drunkenly into their white frame house after a night out drinking.
Sitaatit
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America now lags behind its peer countries in health care and high-school graduation rates while suffering greater violence, poverty and addiction. This dysfunction damages all Americans: it undermines our nation’s competitiveness, especially as growing economies like China’s are fueled by much larger populations and by rising education levels, and may erode the well-being of our society for decades to come. The losers are not just those at the bottom of society, but all of us.
Overall, the Social Progress Index ranks the United States number 26 in well-being of citizens, behind all the other members of the G7 as well as significantly poorer countries like Portugal and Slovenia, and America is one of just a handful of countries that have fallen backward. “Despite spending more on healthcare than any other country in the world, the US has health outcomes comparable to Ecuador, while the US school system is producing results on par with Uzbekistan,” the 2018 Social Progress Index concluded.
One mechanism by which pain on the bottom is transmitted throughout the nation is the political system. Some 60 million Americans live in a rural America that is suffering, and the U.S. political architecture gives the frustrations of these rural Americans disproportionate political influence. They have particular weight in the Senate, where each state has two senators, so a Wyoming voter has sixty-eight times as much clout in choosing a senator as a California voter. This baked-in bias in the Senate and Electoral College in favor of small, rural states will continue to give rural voters outsize influence for the foreseeable future, and rural America has for decades endured economic decline and social turmoil that have left voters angry and disillusioned. The political consequences are visible: Working-class Americans helped elect President Trump. The reasons they backed Trump were complicated and sometimes included nativism, racism and sexism, but about 8 million of these voters had supported Barack Obama in 2012. Many cast ballots for Trump as a primal scream of desperation because they felt forgotten, neglected and scorned by traditional politicians.
When life expectancy declined in Russia, just as it has in America today, that was a sign of systemic troubles that patriotic rhetoric could no longer conceal. It should have been a wake-up call, just as America’s declining life expectancy today should be our own alarm bell.
The people in the top 0.1 percent did fantastically well after 1980, those in the top 1 percent did very well, those below them in the top 10 percent enjoyed incomes growing at the same pace as the economy and those in the bottom 90 percent all lost ground—their incomes grew more slowly than the overall economy—during the last four decades. The Wall Street bonus pool at the end of each year exceeds the combined annual earnings of all Americans working full-time at the federal minimum wage.
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New York Times Best Seller  "A deft and uniquely credible exploration of rural America, and of other left-behind pockets of our country. One of the most important books I've read on the state of our disunion."--Tara Westover, author of Educated     The Pulitzer Prize-winning authors of the acclaimed, best-selling Half the Sky now issue a plea--deeply personal and told through the lives of real Americans--to address the crisis in working-class America, while focusing on solutions to mend a half century of governmental failure. With stark poignancy and political dispassion, Tightrope draws us deep into an "other America." The authors tell this story, in part, through the lives of some of the children with whom Kristof grew up, in rural Yamhill, Oregon, an area that prospered for much of the twentieth century but has been devastated in the last few decades as blue-collar jobs disappeared. About one-quarter of the children on Kristof's old school bus died in adulthood from drugs, alcohol, suicide, or reckless accidents. And while these particular stories unfolded in one corner of the country, they are representative of many places the authors write about, ranging from the Dakotas and Oklahoma to New York and Virginia. But here too are stories about resurgence, among them: Annette Dove, who has devoted her life to helping the teenagers of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, as they navigate the chaotic reality of growing up poor; Daniel McDowell, of Baltimore, whose tale of opioid addiction and recovery suggests that there are viable ways to solve our nation's drug epidemic. These accounts, illustrated with searing images by Lynsey Addario, the award-winning photographer, provide a picture of working-class families needlessly but profoundly damaged as a result of decades of policy mistakes. With their superb, nuanced reportage, Kristof and WuDunn have given us a book that is both riveting and impossible to ignore.

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