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3-Minute Interview: Peter Gosselin

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The author of "High Wire: The Precarious Financial Lives of American Families" will join a panel discussion titled "Surviving the Great Recession" at the Commonwealth Club on Thursday at 6 p.m.

Will the economic downturn be short-lived, as some experts say? No, I think it’s going to be with us for a long time because it’s not a normal downturn, it’s being fed by the housing-market slump. ... I think it will continue well into next year.

How much have rising gas prices contributed? Fuel and food prices are the prices we see most often, so when they go up, they are almost immediately observed by people. Housing values are the biggest thing most people own, and when they go down, it hurts the most. So the current economic crisis is particularly painful for Americans because it’s hitting them where they see it the most and where it hurts the most.

What can the presidential candidates do? I’ve been trying to figure out what in their world their economic plans are.

How much is the government to blame for the housing crisis? We left an entire segment of the financial sector essentially unregulated. This is the case where the market showed no self control and the government didn’t have the guts to jump in there and do something.

What can a family do to avoid crisis? People have to save more and live closer to the ground. They can’t do exotic, interest-only balloon payment mortgages.

Who is being most affected? The majority of America’s families from the working poor to the reasonably rich have been pushed further out onto the economic limb. … What all this did was is made it more likely that events that used to knock you over a little now send you into huge financial free fall.