Publication Announcement: New Book Reveals the Stories of Millions of Americans in Search of Economic Security

Release Date: 
September 12, 2006

New York, NY — Today marks the publication of an illuminating new book, JACKED: How "Conservatives" are Picking your Pockets (whether you voted for them or not) (PoliPointPress, September 12, 2006, $12.95, ISBN: 0976062186), by Nomi Prins, acclaimed author of Other People's Money and Senior Fellow at Demos, a national public policy organization. With the deep national insecurity still felt on the anniversaries of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, and with the upcoming November 2006 elections, Prins takes us on a journey demonstrating how the erosion of government and fiscally unsound public policies have led America down the wrong path, leaving most Americans concerned about their economic future.

In a travelogue spanning 32 states, Prins reveals an America decimated by decades of disinvestment in the physical and policy-based structures that build community and provide opportunity in the United States. She tells the story of Katrina survivors, victims of Detroit's massive auto plant layoffs, retirees in Florida and Chicano families in Austin. From credit cards and social security to driver's licenses and housing insurance, Prins unfolds the stories of hardworking Americans--students, factory workers, small business owners, mothers — who, at every stop, are questioning the priorities of our political leadership. JACKED demonstrates that almost everyone in the country feels "The Wallet Pinch" — as we work harder for fewer benefits and lower wages, the government's priorities have not aligned with with national concerns about education, social security, health care and Katrina — while war expenditures have continued to mount.

Here is a look inside JACKED:

Driver's License:

Gas prices have doubled since 2000, from an average of $1.50/gallon prior to the invasion of Iraq to more than $3/gallon and higher after Katrina. With ongoing deregulation of the energy industry — continuing with the House Energy Policy Act signed into law by President Bush in 2005 — consumer protections and fair utility oversight have eroded. Oil and gas producers pay well below the federal corporate tax rate of 35 percent, averaging 13.3 percent, much less than the average American household. The energy bill allotted for an additional $8 billion in tax breaks over the next 10 years.

Credit Cards and National Debt:

Largely due to rising costs in housing, medical care and education, Americans are unable to make ends meet — and are sinking deeper and deeper into debt, overall by 25 percent between 2001 and 2004. During that same period, the credit card debt of middle-class families rose 75 percent, and the average credit card debt for all families in America reached $8,650. Consumer credit card debt has almost tripled over the last two decades — from $238 billion in 1989 to $800 billion in 2005. With interest rates frequently exceeding 30 percent and ever-spiraling fees, credit card issuers helped American families dig a financial hole too deep to climb out of. Late fees alone cost Americans $16 billion last year.

What we owe on credit cards is a mere tenth of the $8.2 trillion that America owes to other countries, with our nation's deficit at $314 billion.

Working in America:

Today, worker security has eroded for millions--with massive layoffs at companies, including GM and Ford, the exporting of jobs, minimal health coverage and retirement benefit cuts. Following the New Deal Era, workers rights and needs were at the center of our public policy concerns, leading to the creation of an array of retirement, pension and health benefits. After WWII, 62 percent of American employees had full pensions covered by their companies — in 1997 only 13 percent had. For millions today, however, pensions and healthcare are often sacrificed just to keep a job and a sub-living wage coming in. Minimum wage is now the average salary for a third of the private sector, and has the lowest purchasing power in 50 years.

Educating America:

A record number of students graduated high school in 2006, and college enrollment is projected to increase by 14 percent over the next decade. Four out of five of those additional students will be minorities — half from Latino communities. Yet, the increase in college tuitions and decrease in government support for higher education has created economic barriers preventing young people from enrolling in or finishing college. The majority who emerge with a degree do so with substantial debt. While college tuition has increased 34 percent in the last five years, Congress cut $14.3 billion of student aid last fall in an effort to reduce the highest deficit in the country's history. Adjusted for inflation, Pell Grants are worth $900 less than in the 1970s.

Health Insurance:

Today, 46 million Americans, including 8.4 million children, are without health insurance. Between 2000 and 2003 alone, almost 4 million Americans lost employer-sponsored healthcare, and even those with insurance are facing fees that have nearly doubled in the last five years. In April 2005, the House and Senate passed measures that would cut $10 billion from Medicaid by 2010. Across the country, Americans of all ages and backgrounds are calling for a national healthcare program that provides affordable and accessible care for all.

Social Security:

The current administration has attempted to dismantle and privatize Social Security. JACKED discusses the need for this fundamental government contract, calling for continued investment in Social Security through increasing social security tax as a progressive tax — removing the current $94,000 income cap, and regulating companies to invest in federal tax programs. JACKED demonstrates that scaremongering and repeated borrowing from the Social Security Trust Fund, which has depleted the security of a more than $1.5 trillion surplus, endangers a program that 78 percent of elderly (65-80) Americans rely on to help meet their basic needs.

Home Insurance and Katrina:

After Katrina, a new horror unfolded as insurance companies have failed to come to the aid of residents. Despite the widespread destruction of the 2005 hurricane season, with over $3 billion in claims, net income for the insurance industry increased by 4.4 percent, or $29 billion, in 2005. Insurance companies have promised shareholders and investors that they would raise their disaster premiums substantially in 2006, while they have yet to pay out a gross chunk of claims to Hurricane survivors.

JACKED highlights the personal stories of real American heros — like Ozzie LaPorte, a New Orleans tour bus operator struggling to make a living in the wake of Katrina, and De Ette Peck, a twice-married single mother, working through college while fighting for better funded education programs, and many others.

As we approach the mid-term elections, JACKED outlines the need for a government that reinvests in the public interest and restores the promise of hard work and opportunity in America.

For more information about JACKED and a list of upcoming events in your city, visit www.nomiprins.com

ABOUT NOMI PRINS: Before becoming a journalist, Prins served as a managing director for Goldman Sachs in New York and ran the analytics group at Bear Stearns in London. She is a senior fellow at Demos, a public policy think tank based in New York City. Her previous book, OTHER PEOPLE'S MONEY: The Corporate Mugging of America, was chosen Best Book of 2004 by The Economist, Barron's, Library Journal, and The Progressive. Her articles have appeared in the New York Times, Newsday, Fortune, The Guardian and The Left Business Observer. She is a frequent commentator on CNBC, and has appeared on BBC, Marketplace Radio, Air America, CNN Radio and many NPR affiliates.

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