Monday, July 30, 2012

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, by Barbara Ehrenreich

Barnes & Noble

Millions of Americans work for poverty-level wages, and one day Barbara Ehrenreich decided to join them. She was inspired in part by the rhetoric surrounding welfare reform, which promised that any job equals a better life. But how can anyone survive, let alone prosper, on $6 to $7 an hour? To find out, Ehrenreich moved from Florida to Maine to Minnesota, taking the cheapest lodgings available and accepting work as a waitress, hotel maid, house cleaner, nursing-home aide, and Wal-Mart salesperson. She soon discovered that even the "lowliest" occupations require exhausting mental and physical efforts. And one job is not enough; you need at least two if you intend to live indoors.Nickel and Dimed reveals low-wage America in all its tenacity, anxiety, and surprising generosity -- a land of Big Boxes, fast food, and a thousand desperate strategies for survival. Instantly acclaimed for its insight, humor, and passion, this book is changing the way America perceives its working poor.

How much money do you make?  More than $15 an hour?  More than $20?  Then you need to read this book.  From an intellectual standpoint, of course I knew that people who work minimum-wage jobs have it tough.  But wow.  I had no idea how bad it was.

This was quite eye-opening and has changed the way I view the dramatic differences in salaries. How can billionaire owners of franchise restaurants and retail stores treat their employees -- the people who keep their businesses running -- so poorly?  No health care.  Back-breaking work.  Not enough money to find a safe place to live or a healthy meal to eat.

How do people afford to live when making minimum wage? Answer: they barely survive.

Scary, scary stuff.

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