If populist politicians want company on the barricades, argues Adam Seth Levine in his upcoming book, American Insecurity (Princeton University Press, February 2015), they should consider adopting the casino rule.
(Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images )Casino employees aren't supposed to talk to patrons about the economy because it's bad for business. Remind would-be gamblers about high health care costs or looming layoffs, the theory goes, and wallets are bound to snap shut. Since the financial collapse, however, both Democratic and Republican officials and activists have attempted to mobilize the masses by reminding average Americans of their perilous economic position. And Levine says that simply by talking about economic insecurity, politicians are driving away the very people they're attempting to engage.
It's not that the public is complacent. Levine divides economic insecurity into four subcategories: unemployment, health care costs, education costs, and retirement security. Americans profess considerable concern about all four, but they say they're especially worried about unemployment. According to Gallup, between one-third and one-half cite joblessness as the nation's most important problem—heights of concern not hit since the waning days of the Carter administration. And it is not just the unemployed who are alarmed; even those who have jobs increasingly say they fear they're at risk of losing them.