Unlike the last book, I blew through Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich in less than 24 hours. I've been meaning to read it for some time and it doesn't disappoint. For her book, Ehrenreich spent time working low-wage jobs (waitress, housecleaner, nursing home aide, Wal-Mart employee) in Florida, Maine, and Minnesota. Her aim was to determine if it was possible to live on minimum wage in the wake of welfare reform that was predicated on the notion that if welfare recipients could get jobs, everything would be fine. She found that minimum-wage living means using most of your earnings to pay for housing, and not being able to consistently feed yourself, never mind take care of kids or pay for transportation. And if you get sick, taking time off can mean not having money for groceries. Going to the doctor is often not an option at all. In short, many millions of people are working more than full time and are still not able to their meet basic needs. Barbara bottom lines it for us, with an alternative view of the way our economy works:
When someone works for less pay than she can live on--when, for example, she goes hungry so that you can eat more cheaply and conveniently--then she has made a great sacrifice for you, she has made you a gift of some part of her abilities, her health, and her life. The "working poor," as they are approvingly termed, are in fact the major philanthopists of our society. They neglect their own children so that the children of others will be cared for; they live in substandard housing so that other homes will be shiny and perfect; they endure privation so that inflation will be low and stock prices high. To be a member of the working poor is to be an anonymous donor, a nameless benefactor, to everyone else.
Preach it, sister. Yay!