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Janesville: An American Story (2017)

por Amy Goldstein

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3542055,716 (4.05)19
"A Washington Post reporter's intimate account of the fallout from the closing of a General Motors' assembly plant in Janesville, Wisconsin--Paul Ryan's hometown--and a larger story of the hollowing of the American middle class. This is the story of what happens to an industrial town in the American heartland when its factory stills--but it's not the familiar tale. Most observers record the immediate shock of vanished jobs, but few stay around long enough to notice what happens next, when a community with a can-do spirit tries to pick itself up. Pulitzer Prize winner Amy Goldstein has spent years immersed in Janesville, Wisconsin where the nation's oldest operating General Motors plant shut down in the midst of the Great Recession, two days before Christmas of 2008. Now, with intelligence, sympathy, and insight into what connects and divides people in an era of economic upheaval, she makes one of America's biggest political issues human. Her reporting takes the reader deep into the lives of autoworkers, educators, bankers, politicians, and job re-trainers to show why it's so hard in the twenty-first century to recreate a healthy, prosperous working class. For this is not just a Janesville story or a Midwestern story. It's an American story"--… (mais)
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Mostrando 1-5 de 20 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
Just taking a hiatus. Not in the right mood for it.
  JustZelma | Dec 20, 2020 |
Thoroughly researched and well told, this story of Janesville after the closure of the GM plant holding up much of the town's middle class is interesting, but in its desire to be told in an objective, nonpartisan way, it stops short of really exploring the "why" behind this downfall. Definitely still worth the read for its look at labor in the midwest and the struggles of factory economy workers. ( )
  KimMeyer | Sep 8, 2020 |
A fascinating, detailed, wise accounting about what Janesville did when the GM plant and suppliers closed, a disaster for the economy and livelihoods of most residents. But I just couldn't keep reading when Paul Ryan came up -- the current Ryan vs (the appearance of) the former Ryan was just too disgusting. I can't help but think of the Ryan who MISREAD an article about a waitress saying her extra $1.50 (purportedly because of tax cut) would help her "cover her Costco annual fee." She was actually pointing out how ironic -- criminal? -- it was that corporations got the lion's share -- which they are investing in buying back their shares, not in increased wages or "bonuses" (i.e. crumbs). So yea -- a great book, but I'm just too disgusted to take "former Ryan" seriously as a public servant.
  MaximusStripus | Jul 7, 2020 |
This is a well researched and extremely readable book about life in Janesville, Wisconsin, from 2008 through 2013, in the years following the closure of what had been the longest-running GM plant in the country. Literally generations of Janesville residents had made their livings from the plant and the many manufacturing companies that existed to supply parts to the cars built there. Interestingly, Janesville is also the hometown of Paul Ryan, Republican champion of governmental austerity and former Speaker of the House, a somewhat ironic fact given how solidly Democratic and pro-union the town has always been.

In the wake of the plant closing, the town's economy and lifestyle were devastated. Amy Goldstein skillfully and compassionately details the rising and pervasive unemployment, the lowering of standards of living of previously solidly middle-class families, to near the poverty line. School systems begin struggling, with students often going hungry and short on basic supplies, parents working two jobs just to try to get half of the income their union jobs had paid or driving four hours each way--generally staying away from home from Monday through Friday--to take jobs in still running plants. Goldstein also chronicles the efforts of local agencies to provide help in the form of job training and pro-active economic boosterism that tried to bring new corporations to town. In the midst of this came the election of Scott Walker-an avowed enemy of unions and government subsidies alike--as the state's governor. Soon the teachers' union was under attack from above, as well.

Goldstein's reporting method was, in addition to providing a comprehensive overview of events, to tell the town's story through the eyes of several families, people she clearly got to know well. In so doing, Goldstein was able to paint detailed portraits of the day to day lives and struggles of the people of Janesville during these extremely difficult years. She also chronicles, although not in great detail, the ways in which these events gradually created "two Janesvilles," as the interests of the still thriving upper class and the increasingly desperate middle and lower classes began to diverge more and more dramatically.

At one point, soon after Walker's election, he visits town and attends a banquet where a leader of the town's business community asks him in a one-on-one conversation, "Any chance we'll ever get to be a completely red state and work on these unions and become right-to-work? What can we do to help you?"

Walker's response is, "Oh, yeah. Well, we're going to start in a couple weeks with our budget adjustment bill. The first step is, we're going to deal with collective bargaining for all public employee unions, because you use divide and conquer."

The business leader's response: "You're right on target."

A sad aspect into all of this is Goldstein's reporting, and documenting, that job retraining, as hard as people worked at making it available and as hard as people worked to receive it, in the end did little to improve the lives and incomes of most of the people who took such training.

This book does a lot to bring all of these issues--for those of us not living in areas like Janesville--into sharp, human-dimensioned focus. I suppose one of the drawbacks is that the viewpoint of many of her sources is somewhat self-selectiong. By that I mean that the blue collar families that moved into conservatism and eventually, perhaps, into Maga territory, were probably nowhere near as likely to agree to spend quality time with a reporter.

I feel strongly, however, that this book is an extremely valuable resource for understanding the economic and cultural issues besetting so much of American society today. ( )
  rocketjk | Jun 24, 2020 |
An in-depth look at how the loss of the GM plant in Janesville WI in 2008 affected the workers, the community, and the citizens. Told largely through the eyes of several people involved, whether they lost their jobs, taught in the schools, or were involved in community agencies, businesses, and politics. An important read. ( )
  cherybear | Dec 8, 2019 |
Mostrando 1-5 de 20 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
Goldstein gives the reader a gripping account of the GM layoff, the real loss it caused and the victims’ heroic resilience in adapting to that loss. By the end of this moving book, I wanted her to write a sequel on what might have been done to prevent the damage in the first place. For it turns out that while we’re often primed to take management’s word for what a company needs to do, this is a question well worth asking... In the end, Goldstein says, “ it became evident that no one outside — not the Democrats nor the Republicans, not the bureaucrats in Madison or in Washington, not the fading unions nor the struggling corporations — had the key to create the middle class anew.” Maybe so. But does such a disproportionate burden have to rest on the weary shoulders of the Jerad Whiteakers of the nation? How welcome it would be if the higher-ups at GM and elsewhere demonstrated the same generosity and ingenuity that Jerad and his co-workers have displayed.
adicionada por Lemeritus | editarThe Washington Post, Arlie Hochschild (sítio Web pago) (Apr 20, 2017)
 
“Janesville” joins a growing family of books about the evisceration of the working class in the United States. What sets it apart is the sophistication of its storytelling and analysis... perhaps the most powerful aspect of “Janesville” is its simple chronological structure, which allows Goldstein to show the chain reaction that something so calamitous as a plant closing can effect. Each falling domino becomes a headstone, signifying the death of the next thing... “Janesville” is eye-opening, important, a diligent work of reportage. I am sure Paul Ryan will read it. I wonder what he will say.

adicionada por Lemeritus | editarThe New York Times, Jennifer Senior (sítio Web pago) (Apr 19, 2017)
 
While it highlights many moments of resilience and acts of compassion, Amy Goldstein's "Janesville: An American Story" also has a tragic feel. It depicts the noble striving of men and women against overpowering forces — in this case, economic ones... Goldstein is a reporter, not a pundit. She is fair-minded and empathetic in presenting her viewpoint characters. Also fairly, as Ryan becomes a leading figure in American politics, she notes the dissonance between the gospel of local self-reliance that Ryan preaches and what is available to people struggling in his hometown.
 
Like Barbara Ehrenreich and George Packer, Goldstein reveals the shattering consequences of the plant’s closing through an evenhanded portrayal of workers, educators, business and community leaders, and politicians—notably, Paul Ryan, a Janesville native who swept into town periodically. Like other politicians, Ryan made promises that proved empty...A simultaneously enlightening and disturbing look at working-class lives in America’s heartland.
adicionada por Lemeritus | editarKirkus Reviews (Mar 7, 2017)
 
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For Cynthia ad Robert Goldstein, who taught me to love - and look up - words and have never stopped trying to improve their community
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At 7:07 a.m., the last Tahoe reaches the end of the assembly line.
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Keeping up appearances, trying to hide the ways that pain is seeping in, is one thing that happens when good jobs go away and middle-class people tumble out of the middle class.
Over a few years, it became evident that no one outside—not the Democrats nor the Republicans, not the bureaucrats in Madison or in Washington, not the fading unions nor the struggling corporations—had the key to create the middle class anew.
Wisconsin sends off to the company its final economic incentive package to try to land the new small car for Janesville’s assembly plant. The package adds up to $195 million: $115 million in state tax credits and energy-efficiency grants, the $20 million that Marv Wopat pushed through the county board, $15 million from the strapped Janesville city government, and $2 million from Beloit, plus private industry incentives, including from the businesses willing to buy out the tavern in the assembly plant’s parking lot. And that isn’t counting concessions worth $213 million that UAW Local 95 is willing to sacrifice in exchange for retrieving jobs. The biggest incentive package in Wisconsin history... Michigan offered nearly five times as much.
to offer General Motors the amazing sum of $779 million worth of tax breaks over the next twenty years and $135 million in job-training funds, plus water and sewer credits from Orion Township and money from a fund to help companies find good workers. In all, more than $1 billion in public money.
When General Motors decided last year to build a Chevy compact, the Cruze, at its assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio, that state gave GM $220 million in incentives. After the Ford Motor Company decided last year to spend $75 million to renovate a truck plant in Wayne, Michigan, in order to manufacture a compact model, the Ford Focus, the state of Michigan agreed to give Ford $387 million in tax credits and rebates. And when Volkswagen last year decided to build a plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to manufacture a sedan, the Passat, that company received $554 million in state and local tax breaks. All were more than Wisconsin offered General Motors to try to get the lights back on at Janesville. Even in this high-stakes, high-priced environment, Michigan’s play in the bidding war
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"A Washington Post reporter's intimate account of the fallout from the closing of a General Motors' assembly plant in Janesville, Wisconsin--Paul Ryan's hometown--and a larger story of the hollowing of the American middle class. This is the story of what happens to an industrial town in the American heartland when its factory stills--but it's not the familiar tale. Most observers record the immediate shock of vanished jobs, but few stay around long enough to notice what happens next, when a community with a can-do spirit tries to pick itself up. Pulitzer Prize winner Amy Goldstein has spent years immersed in Janesville, Wisconsin where the nation's oldest operating General Motors plant shut down in the midst of the Great Recession, two days before Christmas of 2008. Now, with intelligence, sympathy, and insight into what connects and divides people in an era of economic upheaval, she makes one of America's biggest political issues human. Her reporting takes the reader deep into the lives of autoworkers, educators, bankers, politicians, and job re-trainers to show why it's so hard in the twenty-first century to recreate a healthy, prosperous working class. For this is not just a Janesville story or a Midwestern story. It's an American story"--

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