Washington DC July 12, 2013 Friday 12pm-2pm
AFL-CIO Lunch Time Book Talk, 815 16th St NW, (right by the White House.)

Mystic Ct, Friday June 28, 6:30 pm
Talk, and signing, Bank Square Books, 53 West Main Street, Mystic, CT 06355, 860-536-3795,

Follow Up, Pink Slip Club


“Does Spelling Count?”

If you’ve opened to this site it’s probably because you’ve read “Down the Up Escalator.” I promised at the end of the book to keep up with the fortunes of the people I interviewed who lost jobs, homes, and savings in the great recession. And I meant to keep that promise. But I’m scared.

I’ve written book, plays and articles but this is the first time I’ve done anything like blogging. The frightening thing I notice immediately is that there are no copy editors.

In elementary school I was the kid who asked “Does spelling Count?” I still can’t spell and I can’t recognize typos in my own or anyone elses writing. So I ask you, the recipient of my first online efforts to bear with me as far as possible and make corrections when it gets too bad. But it’s your comments, ideas and information on the other matters are what I’d really like.

So on to the first of the follow ups I promised.


Between the first and last time I interviewed the four Manhattan friends who formed The Pink Slip Club, they had gone from being the newly unemployed to the long term unemployed. Now, over three years later, none of them has yet found a full time job.

But Elaine noticed an announcement in the newsletter of a cultural institution she supports, requesting clerical help. With her characteristic spunk and curiosity she volunteered, began getting people’s files and desks in order (she has a talent for that) and found herself with paid clerical work in various departments. At this point she gets around minimum wage for a few hours a day a couple of days week. There are no benefits. But the schedule is flexible and that leaves her free to go out on interviews “and who knows, if I hang around something may turn up there.” One of her clerical jobs involved inputting information about the institutions regular employees. She couldn’t help noticing the low pay of people with impressive advanced degrees. It’s obvious that anything that turns up for her there would be well below her former pay.

We got off the subject and talked about happenings around the city. Elaine retains her curiosity, energy and taste and I took notes about many exhibits and books she mentioned.

As a matter of fact, she confessed, she’s coming to feel she could happily accept going into an office only two days a week if that’s how things turn out. But, as she reminded me, she has an inheritance which she’s turned into an annuity. “Something will come in every month for the rest of my life.” She knows the others don’t have anything like that to fall back on. They need to work even more than she does. She’s afraid that like too many unemployed people, her friends may keep looking for something like they used to do, and those jobs won’t come back again. She advises unemployed people that for the sake of a small paycheck but even more for their mental well being, to take any little job that brings them back into the work world.

Feldman also had a part time job, but he sounded far less cheerful. He’s doing print and web production two days a week at $16 an hour (a little less than half his old pay rate.) “That’s not cutting it financially,” he said. He’s still looking for full time work. In fact, he figured that since “you just got something published you might know someone in the publishing field.” So he named the new graphics programs he uses, one is called something like “Jumla” and he described the recent college courses he took in web design and programming. I invited him to send me a paragraph with full details that I could post here. Why not?

Gerry worked for a tax preparation company during tax season. But that’s over of course. She keeps busy with regularly scheduled social activities but her spirits are somewhat down. When I asked how she supports herself she said “I’m using my retirement money which really sucks. I had a couple of interviews lately but…nothing.”

Elaine is doing the right thing for herself by ferreting out jobs in interesting or convivial surroundings. The cultural institution she’s working for is, to my mind, one of the most interesting in New York. But both its public and private support are down. It’s not as if they had money to spare, or as if Elaine is taking what otherwise be a real job

But, as we saw, some very profitable businesses were using the recession as an excuse to turn full time professional jobs into part time non commissioned work and making the necessary arrangement to make this temporary work pattern permanent.

Maybe I’ll report back on one of those next time.

Publishers Blurb

How the 99 Percent Live in the
Great Recession

One of our most incisive and committed journalists—author of the
classic All the Livelong Day—shows us the real human cost of our economic
The Great Recession has thrown huge economic challenges at almost all
Americans save the super-affluent few, and we are only now beginning
to reckon up the human toll it is taking. Down the Up Escalator is an
urgent dispatch from the front lines of our vast collective struggle to keep
our heads above water and maybe even—someday—get ahead. Barbara Garson has been practicing and perfecting the art of social reportage for four decades, and for this book she has interviewed a wide (economically and geographically) variety of Americans to show the painful waste in all this loss and insecurity, and to describe how individuals are coping. Organized broadly around the areas of homes, jobs, and savings, this book also focuses on the causes and consequences of the long stagnation of wages, and how it has resulted in an increasingly desperate reliance on credit and a series of ever larger bubbles…stocks, technology, real estate.
Down the Up Escalator presents a sobering picture of what happens to a society
when it becomes economically organized to benefit only the very rich and the quick-
buck speculators. But it also demonstrates the resilience of ordinary Americans—
and why they deserve so much better than the hand they’ve been dealt.

BARBARA GARSON is the author of three books: All the Livelong Day: The Meaning
and Demeaning of Routine Work, The Electronic Sweatshop: How Computers are
Transforming the Office of the Future, and, most recently Money Makes The World Go
Around: One Investor Tracks her Cash Through the Global Economy. She has also
written several plays, including Mac Bird! and the OBIE award-winning The
Dinosaur Door. Her work has appeared in Harper’s, The New York Times,
Newsweek, and The Nation.

DOWN THE UP ESCALATOR | 978-0-385-53274-7 | 4.2.13 | A Doubleday hardcover & eBook

From Publishers Weekly

Down the Up Escalator: How the 99 Percent Live in the Great Recession
Barbara Garson. Doubleday, $26.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-385-53274-7
Reviewed on: 11/19/2012…

Americans cope with the fallout from 40 years of dwindling prospects in this quietly harrowing mosaic of economic decline. Journalist Garson (All the Livelong Day) focuses on the basics—jobs, homes, money—and the people who have lost them since the 2008 financial crisis: a group of middle-aged New Yorkers who comfort each other as their layoffs turn into long-term unemployment; California homeowners, some facing immediate eviction, while others cynically game the foreclosure system; elderly pensioners who suddenly find their nest eggs crushed. Through their stories, she weaves lucid explanations of the mortgage bubble and financial speculations that wrecked the system, situating them within a larger analysis of the generations-long post-Vietnam economic transformation that replaced middle-class jobs with low-paid contingent labor, widened the gulf between the rich and the rest, and forced workers to take on ever more debt to keep their heads above water. Garson’s vivid, shrewd, warmly sympathetic profiles show the resilience with which ordinary Americans respond to misfortune, but also the enduring costs as they abandon hopes for a fulfilling career, an extra child, or a secure retirement. The result is a compelling portrait of an economy that has turned against the people. Agent: Joy Harris, the Joy Harris Literary Agency. (Apr.)
1 of 11/28/2013

Kirkus Review

How the economic recession is reshaping peoples’ lives and prospects.
Garson (Money Makes the World Go Around: One Investor Tracks Her Cash Through the Global Economy from Brooklyn to Bangkok and Back, 2001, etc.) combines her skills as a dramatist with her activist’s conscience in this study of the economic issues confronting individuals and families in different parts of the country. With brutal clarity, the author shows how job categories have been redefined and wages and salaries cut, often in half, as skilled workers find themselves replaced by temps and other contingent hires working for the minimum wage. Whether it is the members of New York City’s “Pink Slip Club” or graduate professionals who have joined the ranks of the long-term unemployed, Garson powerfully highlights the similarities within the differences. She also shows how the transformation to contingent, or temporary, status has affected workers in upscale services and the financial industry, including hedge funds. Interestingly, the author profiles some of the technicians whose models caused the financial crash, many of whom continued to find employment on credit default swaps and other derivative products few understand. Garson also takes up household finance and the effects of the collapsed bubble on homeowners and investors. The author traces each step of the foreclosure process through individual case studies, which allow her to identify and dramatize the pitfalls set for the unknowing and the villains preying on the unaware. She does not exclude speculators, who fell victim to their own get-rich schemes.

A skillful presentation that lifts the veil too often hiding areas that should be brought to light.
Pub Date: April 2nd, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-385-53274-7
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online: Jan. 16th, 2013
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2013