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Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream

by Barbara Ehrenreich

Published by Metropolitan Books

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The bestselling author of Nickel and Dimed goes back undercover to do for America's ailing middle class what she did for the working poor.

Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed explored the lives of low-wage workers. Now, in Bait and Switch, she enters another hidden realm of the economy: the shadowy world of the white-collared unemployed. Armed with a new identity and a plausible résumé of a professional "in transition," she attempts to land a middle-class job -- undergoing career coaching and personality testing, then trawling a series of boot camps, job fairs, networking events, and evangelical job-search ministries. She gets an image makeover to prepare for the corporate world and works to project the winning attitude recommended for a successful job search. She is proselytized, scammed, lectured, and -- again and again -- rejected.

Bait and Switch highlights the people who've done everything right -- gotten college degrees, developed marketable skills, and built up impressive résumés -- yet have become repeatedly vulnerable to financial disaster, and not simply due to the vagaries of the business cycle. Today's ultralean corporations take pride in shedding their "surplus" employees -- plunging them, for months or years at a stretch, into the twilight zone of white-collar unemployment, where job-searching becomes a full-time job in itself. As Ehrenreich discovers, America's middle class is now the loser in a classic game of bait and switch, in which the promise of upward mobility and financial security has given way to a harsh reality of limited social supports for newly disposable workers -- and no guarantees even for those who have jobs.

Alternately hilarious and tragic, Bait and Switch, like the now-classic Nickel and Dimed, is a searing exposé of economic cruelty where we least expect it.


pub date: 2005-08-09 | hardcover | 9780805076066