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Goldstein with reporters this week. Photo: Steve LeVine

Amy Goldstein's Janesville is this year's Hillbilly Elegy — the go-to volume for understanding what is really going on in the hearts of the U.S. midsection. The book chronicles six years in a Wisconsin town where the demise of its central actor — a General Motors plant — pushes many of its long-middle class residents into poverty.

Quick take: In a survey that Goldstein commissioned, she found that, contrary to the popular consensus, reskilling is not necessarily the answer for reemploying people thrown out of work.

Goldstein discussed the book in a small lunch this week organized by Brookings' David Wessel.

The top takeaways:

  • 71.8% of the laid-off workers who did not retrain after being laid off in Janesville starting in 2008 had jobs by 2011; just 61.3% of those who did enroll in a local technical center were employed.
  • The new jobs and what they paid differed, too: Those who did not retrain were earning $6,210 a quarter, or $534 less than their income at the time they were laid off; those who did retrain received $3,348, a drop of almost $2,000 in their prior pay, and much less than those who did not go back to school.
  • "Our data showed that people who went back to school in this part of southern Wisconsin were faring worse than people who didn't go back to school," Goldstein said.

The explanation: Retraining in and of itself is one factor in finding a new job. But it matters where you are living, Goldstein said, and whether there are many jobs to be had even for the skilled. In the case of Janesville, there simply were not many jobs, and while one group of laid-off workers were retraining, the others were hired for those positions, and began to move up the income ladder.

Go deeper

Reports: CIA finds "Havana Syndrome" unlikely caused by foreign campaign

CIA Director William Burns testifies during a Senate hearing on Capitol Hill last April. Photo: Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images

A preliminary CIA report rules out a foreign global campaign as the cause of American and Canadian diplomats affected by a mysterious illness known as "Havana syndrome," per multiple reports.

Why it matters: Some lawmakers had suggested the sometimes debilitating illness was due to directed energy attacks. But CIA officials told the New York Times that most of the 1,000 cases reported to the government could be "explained by environmental causes, undiagnosed medical conditions or stress." This finding has angered some victims, per the NYT.

Jan. 6 panel subpoenas 2 far-right "America First" activists

The House panel investigating the Capitol riot, from left; Reps. Bennie Thompson, Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger and Jamie Raskin on Capitol Hill in December. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The House select committee investigating the Capitol riot issued subpoenas Wednesday for far-right leaders Nick Fuentes and Patrick Casey, who allegedly encouraged followers to go to D.C. and challenge the 2020 election results.

Why it matters: The action underscores the panel's increasing focus on rallies held ahead of the Capitol attack and how extremists were drawn to former President Trump's baseless claims of widespread voter fraud, per the New York Times.

Democrats fail to change Senate rules to pass voting rights bill

Senate Majority Leader during a news conference in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Democrats failed Wednesday night to change Senate filibuster rules to pass the voting rights bill, with Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) voting with Republicans.

The big picture: The failed effort came after Senate Republicans blocked the voting rights measure from coming to a final vote earlier Wednesday.