Shop Notes

Barlett and Steele on our upcoming collaboration

Posted: Jan. 5, 2011 | Tags: What Went Wrong

The Workshop is partnering with two titans of investigative reporting, Donald Barlett and James Steele, for a project exploring the state of poor and working people in America.  In a recent post on their site, Barlett and Steele explain what exactly we're working on, and what the next year of reporting will hold.

Over the last year we’ve received some remarkable e-mails and letters about something we wrote nearly 20 years ago.

“Your story,” wrote a man from Springfield, Ill., “is still going on, but, unfortunately, few people are aware of the causes, only the dire consequences.”

Our story was a newspaper series and then a bestselling book, America: What Went Wrong? that caused a sensation in the early 1990s by explaining to millions of middle-class Americans why they were losing ground, and why it wasn’t their fault. A:WWW pinned the blame squarely on an alliance between Washington and Wall Street that was implementing policies that were destroying good-paying jobs and eroding hard-earned benefits.

America: What Went Wrong? was controversial. We took plenty of heat from some economists and others who claimed that the agony millions were experiencing had nothing to do with policy, but was just one of those rough patches America had to go through as our economy reinvented itself.

But to thousands of Americans who wrote to us, America: What Went Wrong? explained what  had happened to them — and why things might get even worse. And in the last year we’ve been hearing again from many distressed Americans, with comments like these:

“(You) outlined the problems and predicted this . . . No one listened and now we are paying.”
”If everyone had read your book, today’s economy would not be a shock.”
“It is ironic how we face many of the same issues nearly two decades later.”
“Maybe it is time to write a sequel to your great book.”

The full post, including more on their plans for the book, the site we're collaborating on, and plans for a documentary film, is on their site.

And as Jim and Don say in their post, we need your help:

Tell us how you are coping with a layoff or a job change, how you and your family manage expenses for health care, how have your plans for retirement changed, how you are trying to make ends meet, and how you envision the future you will leave to your children.

You can share your story here, or you can email Jim, Don, or Kat Aaron, the project editor.

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