US families have been pushed to the wall. At the bottom of the economic ladder, poor and working-class adults aren't forming stable relationships and can't give their kids the start they need because of low wages and uncertain job prospects. Toward the top, professional parents' lives have become a grinding slog of long hours of paid work. Meanwhile their kids are overstressed by pressure to succeed and get into good colleges. In this provocative book, Maxine Eichner argues that these very different struggles might seem unconnected, but they share the same root cause: the increasingly large toll that economic inequality and insecurity are taking on families.
It's government rather than families that's to blame, Eichner persuasively contends. Since the 1970s, politicians have sold families out to the wrongheaded notion that the free market alone best supports them. In five decades of "free-market family policy," they've scrapped government programs and gutted market regulations that had helped families thrive. The consequence is the steady drumbeat of bad news we hear about our country today: the opioid epidemic, skyrocketing suicide and mental illness rates, "deaths of despair," and mediocre student achievement scores. Meanwhile, politicians just keep telling families to work a little harder.
The Free-Market Family documents US families' impossible plight, showing how much worse they fare than families in other countries. It then demonstrates how politicians' free-market illusions steered our nation wildly off course. Finally, it shows how, using commonsense measures, we can restructure the economy to work for families, rather than the reverse. Doing so would invest in our children's futures, increase our wellbeing, reknit our social fabric, and allow our country to reclaim the American Dream.