The American economy is in the midst of a wrenching crisis, one caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and aggravated further by a series of climate-driven natural disasters. While the economy has made some steps towards recovery, the pandemic has laid bare the reality that too many Americans are unable to meet many of their urgent and basic needs. At the same time, it has become painfully clear that American society is not equipped to deal with the risks emerging from our changing climate. This book is a contribution towards policy options for addressing these challenges. Although it was largely written before the pandemic crises beset our country, the analyses, diagnoses, and prescriptions contained within all shed new light on the underlying fragilities that have since been exposed.
The volume is composed of nine commissioned chapters and is divided into three sections, covering the ‘Economics of the American Middle Class’; the ‘Geographic Disparities in Economic Opportunity’; and the ‘Geopolitics of the Climate and Energy Challenge and the US Policy Response.’ Part I focuses on the economic wellbeing of the American middle class and the chapters in this section evaluate the prevailing narrative of its decline. The chapters in part II investigate the large variation in income and economic opportunities across places, and include a specific policy proposal for emergency rental assistance. Part III is devoted to the global climate crisis. The chapters in this final section emphasize the mounting social and economic costs of inaction and discuss potential policy approaches for tackling the climate challenge.