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Nickel and Dimed, 10 years later.
August 11, 2011 7:55 AM   Subscribe

Barbara Ehrenreich, author of the the 2001 bestseller "Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America", releases a new afterward for the tenth anniversary edition of the book, focusing on what has changed in the last 10 years. The conclusion: Poverty has since turned into an American crime.

"In what has become a familiar pattern, the government defunds services that might help the poor while ramping up law enforcement. Shut down public housing, then make it a crime to be homeless. Generate no public-sector jobs, then penalize people for falling into debt. The experience of the poor, and especially poor people of color, comes to resemble that of a rat in a cage scrambling to avoid erratically administered electric shocks. And if you should try to escape this nightmare reality into a brief, drug-induced high, it’s “gotcha” all over again, because that of course is illegal too."
posted by windbox (178 comments total) 94 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ehrenreich has always made good points, on this as well as in her critiques of the fetishization of breast cancer "survivor" culture, among others.

However, back in 2001, a community political group with which I was involved was thinking about bringing Ehrenreich to speak. Cost? $8000. My response: That's a lot of nickels and dimes...
posted by dhens at 7:59 AM on August 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


Americans treat poverty as punishment for not being inherently virtous enough.
posted by The Whelk at 8:00 AM on August 11, 2011 [69 favorites]


I saw this on Salon the other day, excellent excerpt. I have yet to read the book but it's on my list after reading that article.
posted by IvoShandor at 8:02 AM on August 11, 2011


Previously
posted by hydatius at 8:03 AM on August 11, 2011


Ha ha ha! She writes about poverty, but then she charges money for a service! What a country!
posted by Zozo at 8:03 AM on August 11, 2011 [93 favorites]


focusing on what has changed in the last 10 years"new" administration.

We need to stop voting for conservatives, whatever their supposed party.
posted by DU at 8:04 AM on August 11, 2011 [12 favorites]


Yes. She should have been willing to speak for a few pounds of lentils and maybe some sack-cloth.
posted by everichon at 8:04 AM on August 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


Sack-cloth? What is this, the Ritz?
posted by Zozo at 8:05 AM on August 11, 2011 [32 favorites]


I am getting increasingly frustrated with the fact that authors like Ehrenreich write these insightful, fundamentally necessary things, but it is increasingly evident that the people that need to read these things do not read, and steadfastly refuse to listen to anything that doesn't align with their worldview for five minutes, let alone sit down with a book for several hours.

Triple frustrating when the people who need to know this are very often the subjects of the damn book.
posted by Shepherd at 8:06 AM on August 11, 2011 [43 favorites]


That's not a large speaking fee, as speaking fees go.

Also, yes the right way to talk about the escalating marginalization and criminalizing of poverty is to attack the person who raises the issue, that helps so much.
posted by The Whelk at 8:07 AM on August 11, 2011 [59 favorites]


I am getting increasingly frustrated with the fact that authors like Ehrenreich write these insightful, fundamentally necessary things, but it is increasingly evident that the people that need to read these things do not read, and steadfastly refuse to listen to anything that doesn't align with their worldview for five minutes, let alone sit down with a book for several hours.

Have you read Nickle a Dimed? The last thing the working poor have time for is time for reading and contemplating things for several hours. Life is a fucking grind when you're on your feet all day and living in a goddamn hotel room.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:15 AM on August 11, 2011 [14 favorites]


This was excellent reading, though the point is well made that many who should be reading it will likely not.

It's strange how one little, almost incidental fact in all of that has really struck me in a powerful way:
More recently, Gainesville, Florida, began enforcing a rule limiting the number of meals that soup kitchens may serve to 130 people in one day
It's overwhelming how depressing that is to me. We can't have any sort of real social safety net in this country, and I often hear how it should be the job of churches and charity groups to help the hungry and homeless. Clearly, there are charities that are being restricted in the amount of food they're allowed to serve to the people that need it the most when they have the ability to help. I cannot fathom that. Not even one bit.
posted by ndfine at 8:15 AM on August 11, 2011 [58 favorites]


The poor don't vote. That is what you will hear on the Hill. In part true, but the kernel of thought here is driving further disenfranchisement. Bit by bit, the poor lose. Public transportation? Cut it and raise the fares. Schools? Cut the budgets, raise the class size and lengthen the year. Convicted felon? Need food stamps? Can't get them in a good handful of states. Does it matter that you have hungry children? Nope. You'd have better luck leaving the state.

There are so many barriers. The next budget is going to bring the US to standstill in social programs. I am frightened to think about what poor families are going to do when their lifeline services (food, medicine, housing) are cut.

If we could move people away from voting on the core right issues (gays, guns and god) and voting for things that effect them personally (living wage, healthcare, public education) we'd be much further along.

Man, this stuff makes me angry and sad.
posted by zerobyproxy at 8:23 AM on August 11, 2011 [13 favorites]


Personal theory : because there is no safety net Americans must demonize the poor to keep away the encroaching horror they're one bad month away from being them so it must be something inherently wrong with them that keeps them poor creating a cause that could never happen to me, I'm a good worker cycle.
posted by The Whelk at 8:24 AM on August 11, 2011 [75 favorites]


I must say I was not prepared for the reaction to my comment. I started it by saying that I agree with most of what she says. When I noted that she prices herself out of the range of many of the people she writes about (which in hindsight may be necessary to prevent too many requests for her time, but at the time it left a bad taste in my mouth), the negative responses came out.
posted by dhens at 8:24 AM on August 11, 2011


I am pretty sure the poor are already aware it sucks to be poor. I think the people who need to read her books are the ones who are decidedly not poor.
posted by schroedinger at 8:26 AM on August 11, 2011 [22 favorites]


Americans Calvinists treat poverty as punishment for not being inherently virtuous enough.
posted by mondo dentro at 8:31 AM on August 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


Americans can sometimes be some of the most vindictive people on the planet. No more-so than when it comes to our treatment of the poor. We see poverty as both a character flaw and some sort of deep personal insult to the communal image of "exceptionalism" and, well, punishment must be served.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:31 AM on August 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


If we could move people away from voting on the core right issues (gays, guns and god) and voting for things that effect them personally (living wage, healthcare, public education) we'd be much further along.

That's why you never hear these things in the corporate media.

I think the people who need to read her books are the ones who are decidedly not poor.

You think the upper classes don't know the score? Heh.

The poor do indeed need to read the book, but not to tell them that it sucks to be poor. To tell them what heads need to roll.
posted by DU at 8:31 AM on August 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


dhens, perhaps you should write her and ask if she's considered/is already doing any free lectures. I would guess that her regular speaking gigs/book royalties are her bread and butter, but that she is already doing/promoting various kinds of outreach.
posted by emjaybee at 8:32 AM on August 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


"A number of cities, led by Las Vegas, passed ordinances forbidding the sharing of food with the indigent in public places"

What the heck is this? Why would this be right or fair in anyone's mind? Do they put up yellow "do not feed the men" signs?
posted by Winnemac at 8:34 AM on August 11, 2011 [28 favorites]


Americans Calvinists People who interpret Calvin through Weber think that Calvinists treat poverty as punishment for not being inherently virtuous enough.
posted by valkyryn at 8:34 AM on August 11, 2011 [9 favorites]


"the people that need to read these things do not read, and steadfastly refuse to listen to anything that doesn't align with their worldview for five minutes, let alone sit down with a book for several hours."

Well...you know Barbara Ehrenreich is just one of those Socialist moonbats that wants to redistribute all of my wealth and put me in one of Obamination's FEMA concentration camps right? Things are so polarized now you'll never get people who aren't already inclined to read something like this to read it. I read N&D when it first came out, I may have to give another look.
posted by MikeMc at 8:35 AM on August 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


What the heck is this? Why would this be right or fair in anyone's mind? Do they put up yellow "do not feed the men" signs?

I think they see it in the same way as "Do not feed the pigeons" signs. Seriously. Feeding the homeless might encourage them to congregate in public. And, they're dirty and disease-ridden...like pigeons.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:36 AM on August 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


There is a large segment of the population that feels giving anything to the poor or disadvantaged is setting oneself up for humiliation. You see, the poor will take what you offer with a snicker and mock you for your foolishness. Your selfless act of charity will, by virtue of its kindness, lead you to shame. To prevent the shaming, one has two choices: either refuse to give anything at all, or, if that's not politically possible, inflict pre-emptive shaming on the recipients of the aid. Make them grovel for it, make them jump through hoops, so there's no confusion about who's the important person here. Cut out as many potential mockers of your help as possible and make the rest ashamed, so you don't have to.

This segment of the population needs to go fuck itself. So very hard.
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 8:47 AM on August 11, 2011 [10 favorites]


> Poverty has since turned into an American crime

Just since then?

"Laws are like a spider’s web; the small are entrapped, the great break through and escape"
- Solon of Athens (638 – 558 BC)
posted by jfuller at 8:48 AM on August 11, 2011 [26 favorites]


The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich and the poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread. — Anatole France, 1894
posted by Zozo at 8:55 AM on August 11, 2011 [50 favorites]


Food Not Bombs is an interesting thing. I've attended several giveaways and it was a) a wonderful uplifting experience that rekindled my faith in humanity b) an object lesson in how much food waste we have, since the food they give away is donated by stores that would otherwise toss it, and c) clear that most of the people taking food were not homeless or indigent.
posted by bq at 8:56 AM on August 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


NIckel and Dimed is a book that should have had as great an impact on public policy as Upton Sinclair's The Jungle. The fact that it hasn't is a sign that there is something very very wrong with our society. The people we have elected as protectors of our society are wholly owned by corporations hell-bent on enslaving us all.
posted by any major dude at 8:58 AM on August 11, 2011 [17 favorites]


I remember that book being slammed so hard by right wing pundits and bloggers that it became surreal as they tried to explain how awful, evil, and wrong it was to mention poor people at all.
posted by The Whelk at 8:59 AM on August 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


A related issue, that she doesn't touch on here (but could), is how we've increasingly defined poverty itself as a form of child abuse or neglect, without doing anything to ameliorate it ... just breaking up poor families and putting their children into care. Which isn't really good for anybody.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:00 AM on August 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


I aimed at the public's heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach.

If only Ehrenreich had included some passages about how poverty makes poor people spit in the coffee and food.
posted by kithrater at 9:00 AM on August 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


(I just read up to the part in the article where Ehrenreich uses that exact France quotation. D'oh.)
posted by Zozo at 9:01 AM on August 11, 2011


I'm still irritated by the assumption that the poor vote on core right issues (gays, guns and god) rather than things that effect them personally (living wage, healthcare, public education...

If you actually read Nickel and Dimed that's so far beyond the point. The point of the book is that even if you have a minimum wage job - say, waiting tables or housecleaning - it is not enough to get by on. And a lot of these working poor are women.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:03 AM on August 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


I volunteered for Food Not Bombs not bombs back in university. I ended up making the food, while the "leaders" sat out in the back garden and talked politics and smoked pot.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:04 AM on August 11, 2011


re: The Whelk's Personal theory, Lack of a safety net isn't necessary--just a stigma is enough, which has existed forever. When I worked for the Welfare Department (later to be renamed the Department of Human Services) it was always the low level clerks, who most closely resembled those receiving welfare, who had the most contempt for the recipients. The message was "If they were like me, they wouldn't need to be on welfare." The reality was, they're very much like me. Freud called this "The narcissism of small differences."
posted by Obscure Reference at 9:07 AM on August 11, 2011 [24 favorites]


Yes, in Las Vegas, it is illegal to give free food to the poor.

You can, however, still give them free booze on casino properties.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:13 AM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


It never fails to boggle me the sheer resistance towards raising the minimum wage in America. It's like the immovable object. The most recent set of raises (2007) have only been brought in after a massive shitfight that lasted ten years. Ten god damn years to raise the minimum wage during one of the most prosperous times in US history.

You really think Burger King or 7-11 is going to employ less hourly people to do the work? If they could get away with employing a smaller number of people they would have done it already. Give the small business a tax break if you must but the US minimum wage has only just made up for the amount lost in inflation. It's still well below when the working poor were the most "prosperous" during the 60s and 70s.

The US also has to end this charade of no mandated paid vacation. Four weeks per year per salaried person and all federal holidays off or days off in lieu. Wage loadings for hourly workers with no paid time off or sick leave.

Labour standards in the United States are a god damn joke.
posted by Talez at 9:14 AM on August 11, 2011 [67 favorites]


"Yes, in Las Vegas, it is illegal to give free food to the poor."

It however permissible to make cash donations but only if they supply sex or a blow job. We've got to make sure the poor earn their keep.
posted by xarnop at 9:17 AM on August 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


The phrase " The Anti-Sharing Law Of Orlando Florida" has been seared into my head as my personal dystopia totem.

Just think about that phrase : The Anti-Sharing Law Of Orlando Florida.
posted by The Whelk at 9:18 AM on August 11, 2011 [20 favorites]


I find this so depressing.

For a long time I've been reasonably optimistic about the future of America, but right now I'm watching myself turn into one of those "I have dual citizenship and I'm not afraid to use it - HELLO EUROPE!" people.

I don't know what to do. The size of the gap between where America is and where any industrialized nation should be is so vast that I don't... the mind boggles and I don't know what tiny thing I can do. I vote and give money and write cranky letters to my representatives, but obviously that does nothing.

The part in the new afterword that made me especially angry is the part where the lady on TANF has to drive 35 miles a day for mandatory-yet-useless "job readiness training" offered by a private company. So the use of my many tax dollars (I did okay this year) to help out families who don't have food in the house is an outrage, but it's okay for my money to fund the job-training equivalent of Halliburton?

America has become a machine that squeezes money from the poor and middle-class and moves it to the rich, like a giant tube of Human Anguish brand toothpaste.
:(
posted by thehmsbeagle at 9:24 AM on August 11, 2011 [66 favorites]


It however permissible to make cash donations but only if they supply sex or a blow job. We've got to make sure the poor earn their keep.

Prostitution is actually illegal in Clark County. It's also illegal in Washoe County where Reno lies.
posted by Talez at 9:25 AM on August 11, 2011


In re Ehrenreich's speaker fee, I'll paraphrase Neil Gaiman, who points out that his livelihood is writing. Speaking to people -- most of whom are already fans and have bought damn near everything he's written -- takes away from time he can spend writing. So he sets his fees at ridiculously (he may have used the word "obscenely") high levels, mostly to minimize the times he has to do it.

Eight grand isn't obscenely high, but when you think about what she gets out of giving a talk to a bunch of people who probably already agree with her, it doesn't seem so bad. She's not an activist urging people to join up with her cause, she's a writer.
posted by Etrigan at 9:26 AM on August 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


It's a little strange that she says "a few years ago" Food Not Bombs starting giving away food and getting arrested, as it was founded three decades ago. Keith McHenry, one of its founders, was arrested scores of times by the mid-90s in San Francisco, and there were hundreds of others arrests just in San Francisco during that period. I don't know if FnB have faced more or less repression since that period.
That's just a tiny quibble obviously. Her book is essential reading: I'm using it for a class I'm teaching this Fall.
posted by williampratt at 9:29 AM on August 11, 2011 [2 favorites]



Just think about that phrase : The Anti-Sharing Law Of Orlando Florida.

Where's that from? the looters in Atlas Shrugged?
posted by infini at 9:32 AM on August 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


"we've increasingly defined poverty itself as a form of child abuse or neglect, without doing anything to ameliorate it ... just breaking up poor families and putting their children into care. Which isn't really good for anybody."

This both true and complicated by the fact that being poor decreases peoples impulse control, increases stress and misery which in turn has a negative affect on behavior, increases desire to use substances to escape-- etc.

These are thigns which negactively impact parenting-- and the solutions are complicated because they really require a complex network of access to family friendly activites, relaxation, therapies, and access to many of the health promoting services and activities people with even moderately higher income have access to. Surviving being poor means giving up valuing these things which poor people can't afford. So in cycles of behavior,many poor people learn not to value these things because they are considered unnecessary froofroo rich people things.

Then when efforts are made to connect families with services the service providers get angry because the stupid poor people don't want a cooking class, they want their doritos and soda and they don't want to do yoga because they want to sit and watch TV.

There are reasons this is the case, and until we work WITH families to understand their family history and values and appreciate that the survival tenchiniques they are using MIGHT WORK BETTER when you are dirt poor in america-- family services will continue to be seen as scary people who come in to shame parents for not have middle class parenting values-- and holding onto coping techniques that feel safe, reliable and known-- in comparison to coping techniques that were invented by middle class people from the comfort of their secure job trying to make the poor people behave better.
posted by xarnop at 9:35 AM on August 11, 2011 [11 favorites]


If only Ehrenreich had included some passages about how poverty makes poor people spit in the coffee and food.


I think that only happens to customers that are bullies and probably doesn't detract that much from your salmonella chicken or e-coli hamburger.

As for speaking fees, I would rather pay some author that researched a topic on a bet that someone would be interested enough to profit from a year of work than go to a political fundraiser where puppets get paid no matter what. Actually it is way cheaper is to go to the library and read the book. Anyone speaking about it is just repeating the reasearch in a less organized manner.
posted by Bitter soylent at 9:50 AM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Barbara Ehrenreich on Democracy Now and Rachel Maddow.
posted by homunculus at 10:00 AM on August 11, 2011


Then when efforts are made to connect families with services the service providers get angry because the stupid poor people don't want a cooking class, they want their doritos and soda and they don't want to do yoga because they want to sit and watch TV.

No one wants a cooking class or has time to do yoga when they are working 2-3 jobs that they have to take 2-3 buses each to get to, and did I mention that the kids need to go to the dentist and that takes hours because the waiting room at the low-cost dental clinic is backed up? If you're struggling with all you have to (not) get by every day, sitting and watching TV tends to be the limits of your energy level
posted by zachlipton at 10:04 AM on August 11, 2011 [21 favorites]


There was another post on Metafilter just a moment ago that got deleted. It was about this online survey by a consumer debt website, claiming 64% of Americans couldn't come up with $1,000 for an emergency.

There was another (not online) survey a few months ago, showing that half of Americans couldn't come up with $2,000 for an emergency within 30 days: "Only a quarter of Americans said they are certain they would be able to come up with the funds."

$2,000 was chosen as the test amount because it could cover a lot of typical emergencies such as major car repairs, home repairs, etc. Half said they had no (legal) way to come up with the money in a month's time.

And, as in the UK (but with much less of a social safety net here in the U.S.), the poor are under actual attack by local, state and federal government. We are on the verge of something horrific.
posted by kenlayne at 10:08 AM on August 11, 2011 [17 favorites]


(zachlipton-- in the event it wasn't clear-- that was my point exactly. I was channeling the attitudes of some of the social workers/professionals/general public I've known when I used the phrase "stupid poor people" and I realize that might not have been clear.
posted by xarnop at 10:15 AM on August 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Americans Calvinists People who interpret Calvin through Weber think that Calvinists treat poverty as punishment for not being inherently virtuous enough.

The theological nuance is much appreciated, vaklyryn. Thanks.
posted by mondo dentro at 10:16 AM on August 11, 2011


She's not an activist urging people to join up with her cause, she's a writer.

And that's the root of the problem: this is basically a form of disaster journalism and a pity party for the middle class readership who pays her bills as a journalist. Basically, she's picked a demographic that is easy to portray as innocent 'victims'

This sort of "left" politics is almost entirely disengaged from actual politics. The real issues lie with people who are making it, but are getting screwed because of the collapse of opportunity to advance in US society. These people are less sympathetic.
posted by ennui.bz at 10:17 AM on August 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


In 1902, Jack London went into the east end of London to find out, and write about, what the poor people were suffering at that place and time. The People Of The Abyss is the book he wrote, detailing his experience, in which he dressed as the poor people dressed, lived where they lived and how they lived, and went in with almost no money, which was part of the experiment -- could he, a healthy and resourceful man, could he make it as the people who lived there did. (A very readable online copy of it here; laid out well, lots of b/w photos, too.) It's an amazing book, appalling, and we are not there. Yet.

The comparison that London made between being poor in London and in US cities in which he slummed -- a lot of them, London was one hell of a character, he lived hugely, broadly also -- they compared horribly at that time, with US cities being just one hell of a lot more compassionate and just one hell of a lot easier to get off the streets, too. It's a great read; I'm a huge London fan so maybe I'm biased but I don't think so, not in the case of this particular book anyways; you can argue his short stories or Call Of The Wild if you want, but this is grit wrote true.

One thing that struck me is that it wasn't until he dressed differently that he was accepted by the poverty-stricken, also immediately discounted and cut off from those who were not poverty stricken. The change was immediate, and total; you want to immerse in the other side, put on some rags, and it went both ways, as he could put on his glad rags and get right back over there.
**
The cities in which I've spent the most time in recent years are Austin and Phoenix. Austin doesn't look as harsh as it could be; it's no picnic to be on the street anywhere but there is not the desperation in the eyes that I've seen in other places. Phoenix is the shittiest scum-hole that there is, should you be unfortunate enough to fall through the cracks there -- unbelievably harsh. It is amazing to me that anyone could ever pick themselves back up, if they fall there; I'd tell anyone to get out NOW, just go, no matter what, no matter where, just skate. A friend of mine was on the street there, hard times he'd fallen into in the 90s, he affirms what my eyes have told me -- a horror show.
**
I know a guy who had a drunk driving charge on him, and it wasn't the first, he did need jail probably, I damn sure don't want him on the road, but upon getting out, he experienced a lot of total jive, reporting time and again to this probation office or that one, and having to pay them each time he went there -- this guy couldn't find a job and he's GOT to give them money, all the damn time. I don't really know how he did it.
**
What is so funny -- not ha ha funny but rather omygod-we-are-so-screwed funny -- is that people seem to wonder how this has all happened. I'm like hey, open your eyes, we threw all the money to the war machine -- and plz don't play their game and call it the department of defense, it's the department of killing brown people and giving money to corporations owned by the fucks who run this joint; I guess if you want to shorten it to the war department that'll do -- and whatever wasn't given to the war machine was given to the banks, and now it's all gone, or going...

Don't forget your Freedom Fries!
posted by dancestoblue at 10:21 AM on August 11, 2011 [37 favorites]


The real issues lie with people who are making it, but are getting screwed because of the collapse of opportunity to advance in US society

It's your position that the lower class doesn't matter because the middle class can't become upper class? That's an... interesting stance.
posted by Etrigan at 10:23 AM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


> I remember that book being slammed so hard by right wing pundits and bloggers that it became surreal as they tried to explain how awful, evil, and wrong it was to mention poor people at all.

The main criticism I remember is that she didn't go to a church for help, meaning she hadn't exhausted all alternatives and therefore "cheated."

Any time I try to imagine the ideal conservative solution to poverty and crime I remember that Simpsons episode with the Cypress Creek promotional video showing boarded-up stores magically transforming into coffee shops and the homeless guy turning into a mailbox.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:23 AM on August 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


And that's the root of the problem: this is basically a form of disaster journalism and a pity party for the middle class readership who pays her bills as a journalist. Basically, she's picked a demographic that is easy to portray as innocent 'victims'


WTF? It couldn't be clearer that you entirely missed the point of the book: these people aren't victims, they're working their asses off and going nowhere, or worse, going backward. They aren't helpless, they aren't stupid, they're trying to work within the system and they will forever be poor.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:25 AM on August 11, 2011 [23 favorites]


In 1902, Jack London went into the east end of London to find out, and write about, what the poor people were suffering at that place and time. The People Of The Abyss is the book he wrote,

Thanks for the recommendation, I'm going to read this tonight.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:28 AM on August 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


"A number of cities, led by Las Vegas, passed ordinances forbidding the sharing of food with the indigent in public places"

JUST a few days ago, I was wondering what laws I would be willing to break to go to jail for. Having kids now, I don't really want to go to jail for throwing a garbage can through a closed *$s or spraypainting "something something sucks".

But yeah...I think *THIS* is something I would be proud to have any member of my family go to jail for. I think its a good starting point.

Also, WTF?!?!?!? What kind of asshole legislature came up with this? People realized there is a problem with homeless people being hungry...and rather than trying new solutions to solve the problem or make it better...they cover it up with a blanket and criminalize altruistic behavior?

holy shit, vegas. fuck you.
posted by hal_c_on at 10:37 AM on August 11, 2011 [17 favorites]


I am getting increasingly frustrated with the fact that authors like Ehrenreich write these insightful, fundamentally necessary things, but it is increasingly evident that the people that need to read these things do not read, and steadfastly refuse to listen to anything that doesn't align with their worldview for five minutes, let alone sit down with a book for several hours.

I know that you were mostly referring to "the poor" here as the people who need to read these things, but they already know it. They have both done darn little to show for it, but I do feel that it is better to live in a world where both Barack Obama and David Cameron view The Wire as their favorite TV show than one where the President has never bothered to think about life from McNulty, Pryzbo, Bell, Poot, Sobotka, Dukie, Gutierrez, and the rest of the gang's points of views. A bit of action sure would be nice, but just as we used to expect our leaders to be well versed in the classics, today, familiarity with Ehrenreich, Kozol, and Simon/Burns ought to be basic qualifications for public office.

"We used to make shit in this country, build shit. Now we just put our hand in the next guy's pocket."
posted by zachlipton at 10:39 AM on August 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


Thirty years after Jack London, Eric Blair (aka George Orwell) did much the same with "Down and Out in Paris and London." Excellent book.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 10:41 AM on August 11, 2011 [9 favorites]


xarnop: no I know what you meant. I was trying to expand on your point, not call you an insensitive clod.
posted by zachlipton at 10:43 AM on August 11, 2011


Here is a recent piece on poverty in America published by the Heritage Foundation. The title speaks for itself. Air Conditioning, Cable TV, and an Xbox: What is Poverty in the United States Today?
posted by zerobyproxy at 10:44 AM on August 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


The poor aren't going to read this book. They will, however, listen to someone eloquent who makes great speeches about what was written in this book.

The poor of the current age are waiting for their Spartacus, their Lenin. As am I.
posted by Slackermagee at 10:45 AM on August 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


The title speaks for itself. Air Conditioning, Cable TV, and an Xbox: What is Poverty in the United States Today?

The dog whistle here being, "Look, those wretched and undeserving poor people are having fun and being entertained using cheap and widely available consumer electronics after working two jobs. Aaand they're not dying in a heat wave! Those little bastards."
posted by Slackermagee at 10:48 AM on August 11, 2011 [31 favorites]


ennui.bz: Basically, she's picked a demographic that is easy to portray as innocent 'victims'

Yeah, screw the impoverished and the marginalized, the only thing they're victims of is their own pity-party what's-in-it-for me victim complex.

zerobyproxy: Here is a recent piece on poverty in America published by the Heritage Foundation. The title speaks for itself. Air Conditioning, Cable TV, and an Xbox: What is Poverty in the United States Today?

“The poorest Americans today live a better life than all but the richest persons a hundred years ago. In 2005, the typical household defined as poor by the government had a car and air conditioning. For entertainment, the household had two color televisions, cable or satellite TV, a DVD player, and a VCR. If there were children, especially boys, in the home, the family had a game system, such as an Xbox or a PlayStation. In the kitchen, the household had a refrigerator, an oven and stove, and a microwave. Other household conveniences included a clothes washer, clothes dryer, ceiling fans, a cordless phone, and a coffee maker."

Shorter version: Product saturation means that so-called "poor people" eventually attain all the conveniences of modern life if they just wait a few decades. They're a Thorstein Veblen wet dream!
posted by blucevalo at 10:51 AM on August 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


rmd1023: "Yes, in Las Vegas, it is illegal to give free food to the poor."

It was in Orlando too for awhile, but a truce has been called and the arrests have stopped.
posted by I am the Walrus at 10:53 AM on August 11, 2011


WTF? It couldn't be clearer that you entirely missed the point of the book: these people aren't victims, they're working their asses off and going nowhere, or worse, going backward. They aren't helpless, they aren't stupid, they're trying to work within the system and they will forever be poor.

i.e. victims. There are plenty of people working their ass off, who aren't on food stamps or on the verge of getting thrown out of their apartment but, who will drop down into that class if, say, they have a major medical problem or get divorced or whose children may not be able to get anywhere without joining the military because university is beyond reach.

The important poverty story for American politics is the poverty of the Assistant Managers at McDonalds or the local Diner, not the waitresses.... if you want to do politics. But, people like Ehrenreich aren't doing politics. They'd rather tell a better story than win the fight.

Yeah, screw the impoverished and the marginalized, the only thing they're victims of is their own pity-party what's-in-it-for me victim complex.

But the pity party isn't helping anyone... as anyone can acknowledge by the collapse of left politics in the US.
posted by ennui.bz at 10:54 AM on August 11, 2011


Oh yeah, the Heritage Foundation. That's where I go for, y'know, the truth. Fuck them and fuck you and fuck anybody who thinks like you.
posted by entropicamericana at 10:58 AM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


This. For the working poor they are one mistake from losing everything. One car accident from losing everything. One illness away from losing everything. People are working hard and long. They just are not being paid for it. Period.
posted by zerobyproxy at 10:58 AM on August 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


KokuRyu: I volunteered for Food Not Bombs not bombs back in university. I ended up making the food, while the "leaders" sat out in the back garden and talked politics and smoked pot.

You should have volunteered for Food Not Bongs.
posted by dr_dank at 10:58 AM on August 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


Holy shit, blucevalo, were they really arguing that truly poor people don't have stoves or refrigerators? What next? "The poorest Americans have indoor toilets and only a 50/50 chance of getting shot in the street when they leave their apartments?"
posted by cereselle at 10:59 AM on August 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Just posting the Heritage Foundation link as clarification for the far-right's position. NOT my position.
posted by zerobyproxy at 10:59 AM on August 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


Ah, sorry for the blow-up, I'm just at the end of my rope over here myself. So I guess I meant "fuck them and people who think like them."
posted by entropicamericana at 11:03 AM on August 11, 2011


I'm not trying to troll this thread, but this is really lazy work by Ehrenreich: she should be asking where is left-politics ten years later i.e. she should be looking at herself. Yes, the poor are still getting screwed, harder and faster, but did her work make any difference?

She has a fan base now but what has she down, politically, with it?

the marginalized, the only thing they're victims of is their own pity-party what's-in-it-for me victim complex..

also, it's not the poor who have a "victim complex" but well-meaning liberals.
posted by ennui.bz at 11:04 AM on August 11, 2011


“The poorest Americans today live a better life than all but the richest persons a hundred years ago. "

The unspoken part being that this isn't 1911. Even the wealthiest people in 1911 didn't have access to things everyone takes for granted today like antibiotics or radios.
posted by MikeMc at 11:05 AM on August 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


“The poorest Americans today live a better life than all but the richest persons a hundred years ago.

Yes, but all but the richest Americans today live a life of incredible squalor compared to the lives of the poor in 2111, when even the poor have low-end advertising-supported budget model nanoconstructors and replicators.
posted by rmd1023 at 11:07 AM on August 11, 2011 [16 favorites]


Regarding Anti-Sharing laws. In a certain diabolical way they make a lot of sense, especially in tourist cities. Giving things to homeless people encourages them to hang around that much more. Homeless people hanging around outside your bar, casino or restaurant drives away customers. This is a serioius problem in New York, some bars have 4-5 homeless guys hanging around outside. Some of them are shitfaced and pass out on the sidewalk, the rest just harass the patrons.

I don't want to come off as supporting such measures, but people who own local bars need to eat too. I would rather have patrons simply not hand out money outside the bar than have the same confrontation I see every night. Someone gets mad and tries to hit one of them, the police are called and a shouting match ensues for 2 hours. Or worse yet, someone passes out or gets injured and EMS and the fire department (why do those guys show up for passed out drunks, are they bored?) show up and pick the guy up and handcuff him to a stretcher and bring him to the hospital.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:08 AM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, I hate it when people say "folks in India would kill to live as good as our "poor"". Well, we don't live in India or Bangladesh or Somalia or where ever. We live in the wealthiest nation on earth and poverty is relative.
posted by MikeMc at 11:08 AM on August 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


‎"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich & the poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, & to steal bread." -Anatole France
posted by AlsoMike at 11:13 AM on August 11, 2011


Public institutions have a duty to look into each assistance case closely, because when you're giving something away, the unethical hordes come out of the woodwork. A shining example: the former mayor of Detroit, Kwame Kilpatrick (now just released from prison, but stlll under federal indictment). He boasts in his new book about taking advantage of the food stamp "hookup" when he was in college at Florida A&M. At the time, his mother was a Congresswoman, his father a ranking county official: not only did he NOT need the help, he of all people should have known better than to take it.

The Kilpatricks are surely not the only ones who've wrongly taken money meant for the poor. They should be ashamed of themselves; but no, this is considered an "exploit" deserving of publication.

Taxpayers are right to insist that assistance programs be a little suspicious and ask a few questions. It is really too bad that this is seen as an insult to the dignity of the people who really need help -- but human nature is what it is, and the scammers will always be with us.
posted by philokalia at 11:13 AM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've been mulling over this story for a couple of days now, mostly because my mother is about to retire after about 20 years working for LA County in the welfare office. I've been out of the house most of that time, so I don't know exactly what her job has been, but I know that most of the time she's been in fraud detection. And it's dispiriting to hear her talk about clients. "The ostensible goal is to prevent welfare fraud, but the psychological impact is to turn poverty itself into a kind of crime." I think there's now always a part of her brain wondering how people are gaming the system, suspicious about motives and activities. She's not a bad person; she taught us to be kind and thoughtful towards other people; she's volunteered with Friends of Foster Children since before I was born, etc., etc. But the whole system is set up in an adversarial and suspicious way, and it seems like it's only gotten worse. I don't know what would make it better, exactly, because the free rider problem does exist, but the way it is sucks.

When I was 19, in college, dead broke, cut off by mom (long story), deeply depressed, I applied for food stamps and got turned down. (Don't remember the details, probably included that I was a student.) It was a horrible feeling, heading to the rental I was sharing with 3 other people, knowing that it would be spaghetti with butter again for dinner, after sitting in a dingy windowless room all morning. I managed to make it through until I was in a place physically and emotionally where I could work again, but really only because I had a tiny VA stipend (also a long story).
posted by epersonae at 11:19 AM on August 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


ennui.bz, so you can't respect Ehrenreich until she's (wo)manning the barricades and throwing Molotov cocktails? I really do not see what you're driving at. What exactly do you expect a journalist and writer to do above and beyond what she has done?

Pointing to her as some example of "why the left has failed" requires some explanation. Let's hear it.
posted by emjaybee at 11:22 AM on August 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


I volunteered for Food Not Bombs not bombs back in university. I ended up making the food, while the "leaders" sat out in the back garden and talked politics and smoked pot.

FWIW, I worked w/FNB in Boston in the early 90s - everyone (including the late, much-missed Eric Weinberger, a 20+ year volunteer) worked hard, and many of the people we fed were genuinely destitute.
posted by ryanshepard at 11:26 AM on August 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm not trying to troll this thread, but this is really lazy work by Ehrenreich: she should be asking where is left-politics ten years later i.e. she should be looking at herself. Yes, the poor are still getting screwed, harder and faster, but did her work make any difference?

This is the problem with the "left". Fucking backbiting, endless navelgazing, bitching, whining, complaining. Jesus, any idea how much work it takes to write a goddamn book? And make sure the book is actually good and relevant enough so that people will actually talk about it?

Ehrenreich is not lazy, and she owes nothing to self-proclaimed "leftists" who debate about everything under the sun but in reality do fuck all.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:54 AM on August 11, 2011 [40 favorites]


My experience of talking with the well-off who demonize the poor is apparently very different from most of the people posting in this thread.

I can recall almost verbatim a conversation that I had with an acquaintance of mine who religiously listens to Rush Limbaugh. I asked her: do you think it would make much difference if the millions people on welfare all got a work ethic and earned their own keep and didn't take checks from the government any more?

She said absolutely.

And I told her that I did not think it would make any difference to her and I at all. Not one dollar difference in our tax bill. Not one percentage point in the poor on middle class crime statistics. We would not even notice the difference that it would mean for she and I personally.

We actually discussed why she thought what she thought and why I thought what I thought and I really think I moved her opinion a millimeter towards reason from out there in Limbaugh la-la land where it was, although not much further. To move it inches will require a lot more reasonable people reasonably engaging her.

Which may be too much to ask for.
posted by bukvich at 11:58 AM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I *just* read this book a few days ago, was planning to see if it was on the blue. Thanx.

I live in poverty; my disability benefit comes to under $10,000 a year. I would LOVE cooking and yoga classes and would be more than happy to switch from riding the bus for 3-4 hours to get to the useless doctor I can barely afford (with Medicare & Medicaid) to classes that would help keep me away from the docs. I couldn't come up with $2000 emergency funds to save my life. I cannot afford cable, a car or car insurance, an Xbox, a smart phone, a tv or a even regular supply of food. The only reason I can have internet now is that I've just a roommate situation. I just spent the past year without, using at a friend's or the library. From what I've read on MeFi & AskMeFi, I am not the only one here lacking basic needs or lacking "luxury" items like a television. My neighbors often don't even have a couch, bed, or dining table - an Xbox isn't a real priority around here.

I wasn't always poor; a series of medical cluster-fucks (w tramatic brain injury) put me into this situation. None of it was my fault, but I'm treated every day like I'm less than a citizen, less than human, because of my current financial situation. I'm treated as if my poverty is infectious. But, because I speak and dress more like my previous station encouraged, I also find my ghetto neighbors distrust me and welfare providers doubt my neediness*. And, yes, it is rather harsh to fall thru the cracks in Phoenix; what few lack-luster assistance programs usually available are now heavily burdened by the previously middle class that got dropped into poverty via the American housing bust/economic disaster.

It's even harder to tap those services if one is brain damaged; a challenge a lot of homeless & poverty stricken face - many who were not poor until the TBI.

It's a crying pull-out-your-hair shame that the HARDEST working people are also often the POOREST. Can't fault the work ethics of those with 2-3 jobs. Even without a job, it's really hard work to live this way just trying to survive and WAY more expensive than when I was finacially secure - even the "dollar store" around here charges more than a dollar. I make myself feel better by saying "but I live so much better than those of my station did 100 years ago." And it does work to cheer me - I LIKE electric lights and running water. Having spent time without either, I make sure to enjoy those things.

* One social worker suggested I dress down when seeking assistance, so I'd be more "believable".

Also, I just moved out of the ghetto into a fairly nice roommate situation. "My neighbors" referring to last months neighbors.

posted by _paegan_ at 12:01 PM on August 11, 2011 [44 favorites]


I've just moved into a roommate situation, that is.
posted by _paegan_ at 12:03 PM on August 11, 2011


bukvich - perhaps what ditto-heads and soon-to-win-lottery conservatives need to be told is how NOT having social services costs America & citizens more than having services.
.
Though I'd need someone to search for an adequate cite on that; but I'm sure I've heard & read variations on the theme several dozen times, even on the blue.
posted by _paegan_ at 12:09 PM on August 11, 2011


The poor of the current age are waiting for their Spartacus, their Lenin. As am I.

"When I met Lenin, I had much less impression were of bigotry and Mongolian cruelty. When I put a question to him about socialism in agriculture, he explained with glee how he had incited the poorer peasants against the richerones,’and they soon hanged them from the nearest tree-ha! ha!ha!’His guffaw at the thought of those massacred made my blood run cold" Bertrand Russell

She's not an activist urging people to join up with her cause, she's a writer.

Reads like a polemicist to me. I mean, hard to confuse her with a pure entertainer like, say, Neil Gaiman. Which leads me to a small cheer for my fellow romantic dhens here as well.

Sure, 8k for a speech is pretty standard for a mid-range author back in the day, and sure, dhens could have asked to have the fee waived and might have gotten it. And sure, a girl's got to make a living.

But that said, even in 2001, BE was already making a good dime off of capitalizing on other people's misfortune ("bank account, IRA, health insurance, multi-room home", according to her book). I can see it as a bit of a jolt for a struggling, possibly naive, presumably left leaning political group looking for a little B list celebrity encouragement to hear the cry, "show me the money". Sort of like the pre-meds I knew in college whose conversation eventually drifted to the six figure incomes they anticipated. Somehow vaguely - disjointed, unseemly.

Even real world like. And how sad is that?
posted by IndigoJones at 12:20 PM on August 11, 2011


There is a large segment of the population that feels giving anything to the poor or disadvantaged is setting oneself up for humiliation. You see, the poor will take what you offer with a snicker and mock you for your foolishness

Anyone who reads what I write knows that I am pretty far left on the political scale but I have to tell you something. I have been poor and I have been homeless . I've stayed in homeless shelters and I am here to tell you that there is a significant percentage of homeless who will indeed do exactly as you satirize above. A not-insignificant number of the homeless just want to get high and loaf around and will play you like a violin to get what they want. Not all of the very poor are saints and not all rich people are assholes.

There are problems with both extremes of wealth in our society and the problem is laziness and greed. Too many extremely rich people want to keep their excesses of wealth without working any harder for it then they have to . Too many of the homeless want to keep drinking their cheap liquor or toking on the crack pipe instead of working. Laziness and greed , from my perspective, is not confined to either end of the economic spectrum. When a solution comes, if it ever does, it will have to address the issue from both sides.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 12:20 PM on August 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


ennui.bz, so you can't respect Ehrenreich until she's (wo)manning the barricades and throwing Molotov cocktails? I really do not see what you're driving at. What exactly do you expect a journalist and writer to do above and beyond what she has done?

Well, actually I was advocating for her to become a running dog of the petit bourgeois if you read my comment. It's not a question of respect, it's a question of whether she is actually engaged politically with the causes she espouses... Upton Sinclair ran for governor, what has she done? I think it's a far larger issue that the Democratic party has almost entirely dropped it's working class issues, than the whether the recession has hurt poor people (which is obvious.)

The political question is how do you get the asst. manager at McDonalds to identify with the rank employees rather than the manager or the owner? Telling the tragic story of the underclasses to the haute bourgeoisie is a time-honored trope, but do they really share the same interests? It's ironic that Ehrenreich mentions, as a positive outcome of her book, that people become better tippers at restaurants, as if the "tip system" isn't part of the way serving staff is exploited.
posted by ennui.bz at 12:23 PM on August 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Reads like a polemicist to me. I mean, hard to confuse her with a pure entertainer like, say, Neil Gaiman.

It's called journalism. It used to exist up until about 5 years ago and the growth of free, all-you-can-eat content. But keep reading your Neil Gaiman fantasies.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:25 PM on August 11, 2011 [2 favorites]




The poor aren't going to read this book. They will, however, listen to someone eloquent who makes great speeches about what was written in this book.

Remember what Orwell said about the proles:

"Until they have become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious"

—Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:33 PM on August 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


Reads like a polemicist to me. I mean, hard to confuse her with a pure entertainer like, say, Neil Gaiman.

Especially since he mostly writes fiction and she doesn't!

Really? Your criticism is "she's not entertaining me enough?" Pfft.
posted by emjaybee at 12:38 PM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


There are problems with both extremes of wealth in our society and the problem is laziness and greed.

I think few with disagree with that. But it seems to me that both the law and public opinion are structured to punish the holy living hell out of the poor for laziness and greed while saying what amounts to "Oh, you!" to the rich for their laziness and greed.
posted by lord_wolf at 12:47 PM on August 11, 2011 [10 favorites]


Here is a recent piece on poverty in America published by the Heritage Foundation.

It laments the amount of amenities that poor people have, but look at those graphs: less than 30% have videogames or internet service; less than 40% have a computer; barely more than half have a cellphone. It drops off pretty quickly once you get past the stuff that comes with renting an apartment -- I've never been in an apartment or rental home that didn't come with a fridge, stove, and possibly an air conditioner. It's like saying, "you're poor, oh boy, you're too poor for video games or cellphone, but you're not poor enough." The report says that Americans have access to healthcare -- but they don't say that poor people actually partake in the expensive healthcare. Then, they compare to their "median" score, and completely mess up the parallel. It's not "the poor have too much stuff" but "the average person is so very, very close to being poor". If the difference between povery and middle class is having a couple hundred bucks to afford a third TV, things are grim indeed.

When they compare the number of people who see a dentist or a doctor on a regular basis, have ever bought a new car, can contribute to a retirement fund, have ever flown on an airplane, then we can compare poverty to unimpoverished. That people can scrape up $120 on Billy's birthday for the PS2 right after the PS3 came out isn't the dividing line between poverty and middle class; what happens when the $300 bill for a broken arm comes in the mail is a much more telling factor.
posted by AzraelBrown at 12:48 PM on August 11, 2011 [16 favorites]


philokalia: Public institutions have a duty to look into each assistance case closely, because when you're giving something away, the unethical hordes come out of the woodwork. A shining example: the former mayor of Detroit, Kwame Kilpatrick (now just released from prison, but stlll under federal indictment). He boasts in his new book about taking advantage of the food stamp "hookup" when he was in college at Florida A&M. At the time, his mother was a Congresswoman, his father a ranking county official: not only did he NOT need the help, he of all people should have known better than to take it.

The Kilpatricks are surely not the only ones who've wrongly taken money meant for the poor. They should be ashamed of themselves; but no, this is considered an "exploit" deserving of publication.
This seems a little like Reagan's (fictional) "welfare queen"; a singular anecode to justify a widespread bad practice. Kilpatrick is probably a subclinical sociopath, as his political career suggests; that he also scammed the food stamp system doesn't mean the food stamp system should have draconian review policies and an antagonistic treatment of their clients. Yes, some poor people are assholes or even sociopaths; the same is true of Wall Street traders (probably more so, honestly) but god forbid we have any auditing or oversight of their activity.

Look, the "waste" in these systems is minimal compared to the net good, and infinitesimal to the waste that goes on in the parasitic investment "industries", in government pork barrel spending, or the ceaseless spending of the American War Machine. Throwing up a Kwame to justify treating people like shit, or cutting spending while people are out of work, is a pointless distraction.
posted by hincandenza at 12:50 PM on August 11, 2011 [27 favorites]


I really thought Nickel and Dimed missed the point. If I were making $7 an hour, I wouldn't be living in my own apartment; I'd be living with a bunch of roommates and taking the bus. I made it on $5k a year during college and, while it wasn't fun, it would have been way worse to spend every last cent on housing and transportation.

Of course real poverty isn't like that. It's a lot harder to get that $7 an hour if you're black or disabled or have a criminal record or speak little English, and if you have kids it may well be better to not work and take care of them. And don't forget the ridiculous health care situation. But Ehrenreich didn't examine any of these issues -- her book isn't "what's it like to be poor," it's "what would happen if a single white woman were dropped into a low-wage job while trying to change her lifestyle as little as possible."
posted by miyabo at 12:52 PM on August 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


I get unreasonably agitated whenever I see a reference to Nickel and Dimed, stemming from discussing it in a book group I was in years ago. It was an all woman group and we were all friends that had mostly met through our kids. They were all well educated and left leaning and we got along great, but I did not realize how different we were in our backgrounds and how little people from comfortable backgrounds understand about how the other half lives.

The book amazed them. They thought it was the best book ever as it opened their eyes to a world they had never considered. And I read the same thing not seeing anything I didn't know or situations that friends and family had to deal with on a daily basis. The disconnect STILL rankles me. I stopped beig a part of that book group mostly because of how I felt that evening, a feeling I find it hard to get my head around. I am not jealous, but after that night I saw them through different eyes. If their family members have health issues they can afford home health care providers, never having to try and deal with the sick and elderly with just Medicare dollars to consider. Opportunities were so different for our kids. They could afford to have their kids do unpaid internships to try out all sorts of interesting careers and no school was completely out of bounds. I wasn't resentful but I found myself wanting to point out that most people don't enjoy these priveleges. It wasn't my place to be a nag and really it just is a wide gulf with no easy answers, so I dropped out.

So yes, it is great that this book is coming out again and it will be read by rich liberals who will feel good about themselves for being empathetic and in the long run they WILL be more empathetic and I guess that's better than nothing.
posted by readery at 12:52 PM on August 11, 2011 [9 favorites]


KokuRyu: I volunteered for Food Not Bombs not bombs back in university. I ended up making the food, while the "leaders" sat out in the back garden and talked politics and smoked pot.

I still maintain that there is very little difference between rich bosses and poor bosses.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:02 PM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


"The political question is how do you get the asst. manager at McDonalds to identify with the rank employees rather than the manager or the owner? "

You don't. It's aspirational politics. The Asst. Manager may know that s/he is closer to the rank and file but aspires to be the manager or own his/her own franchise. To identify with the workers s/he might possibly alienate the people s/he seeks to emulate.
posted by MikeMc at 1:06 PM on August 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


Look, the "waste" in these systems is minimal compared to the net good, and infinitesimal to the waste that goes on in the parasitic investment "industries", in government pork barrel spending, or the ceaseless spending of the American War Machine. Throwing up a Kwame to justify treating people like shit, or cutting spending while people are out of work, is a pointless distraction.
So true. I think of it this way:

1) People should not defraud the social safety net.
2) People should not have to worry about whether or not they can eat.

Overall, for society as a whole, which is the more important thought to focus on? How could anyone possibly believe it's more important to worry about people gaming the system? If a whole 1% of our population was scamming the federal food stamp program (SNAP) at the average of $101 per month, that's roughly $36 Billion a year. On a federal level, that's insignificant, and there's no way 3 million Americans are gaming the system like that as is.
posted by ndfine at 1:09 PM on August 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


You really think Burger King or 7-11 is going to employ less hourly people to do the work? If they could get away with employing a smaller number of people they would have done it already.
If you haven't seen minimum-wage jobs replaced by capital expenditures or outright lost lately, you need to look more closely. Yes, that includes fast food and convenience store jobs.

Here's a loose rule of thumb for avoiding the Law of Unintended Consequences: if you want X to happen or Y to stop, then you actually ought to subsidize X and/or penalize Y, not merely attempt to penalize alternatives to X or subsidize alternatives to Y. In this example, although [Give more money to poor people who work] is less politically palatable than [Try to trick employers into giving more money to poor people who work], it also has fewer ways to fail or backfire.
posted by roystgnr at 1:13 PM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


“If you’re lying on a sidewalk, whether you’re homeless or a millionaire, you’re in violation of the ordinance,” a St. Petersburg, Florida, city attorney stated in June 2009

I live in St Pete and the issue she's talking about can't be boiled down to one nasty quote from a city lawyer. Last year a 350 bed shelter was opened in St Petersburg to get as many people off the streets as possible. There are numerous organizations in the county helping feed and clothe as many folks as need help. The big issue is the number of chronic drunks and mentally ill living on the streets who just want to be left alone to drink and sleep under the stars. Their primary income is by aggressive panhandling. St Pete's economy is almost entirely based on tourism and the panhandling was getting so out of hand that the downtown was starting to get the reputation of being one big homeless camp.
posted by photoslob at 1:14 PM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


1) People should not defraud the social safety net.

Since were talking about fraud...why is there no outcry against the enitire industry that has cropped to the assist well-to-do elderly in "hiding" their assets so they can receive LTC under Title XIX?
posted by MikeMc at 1:16 PM on August 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


i.e. victims. There are plenty of people working their ass off, who aren't on food stamps or on the verge of getting thrown out of their apartment but, who will drop down into that class if, say, they have a major medical problem or get divorced or whose children may not be able to get anywhere without joining the military because university is beyond reach.

The important poverty story for American politics is the poverty of the Assistant Managers at McDonalds or the local Diner, not the waitresses.... if you want to do politics. But, people like Ehrenreich aren't doing politics. They'd rather tell a better story than win the fight.


I don't understand what this means.
posted by bq at 1:37 PM on August 11, 2011


It's not a question of respect, it's a question of whether she is actually engaged politically with the causes she espouses.

Very little googling was required for me to find out that she is a prominent member and founding co-chair of the Democratic Socialists of America. I agree that simply depicting the plight of the working poor isn't going to magically change things, but it still needs to be said. Left anti-intellectual activistism is a more serious problem.

Activists are short-sighted and seize on whatever narrative is handy that gets people motivated and out on the streets, regardless of whether that's productive in the long run. Sympathy for the poor engages the middle class and calls for us to be morally better - more charitable, more generous, etc. But presenting the solution as a type of charity leads directly to the other side of the coin, which is skepticism about whether the poor are virtuous enough to deserve this superhuman effort on our part. "We are supposed to be extraordinarily generous, but the poor allowed to get away with laziness and dishonesty!" If you demand that the middle class address their moral failings, you can't avoid creating the expectation of a reciprocal moral improvement from the poor, which inevitably doesn't occur and it undermines the case for social welfare.

Ultimately, this comes down to the belief that the free market is a neutral entity that equally rewards hard work, that it's almost a natural thing like farmland, where whatever you can grow out of the ground belongs to you, and if someone is impoverished, it's because they didn't work as hard. That's the narrative that needs to be fought - the capitalist economy is not a bounteous and fertile land that rewards the diligent and punishes the idle.
posted by AlsoMike at 2:02 PM on August 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


Anyone who would support a law to ban giving food to homeless people isn't fit to call themselves a Christian.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:05 PM on August 11, 2011 [14 favorites]


EMS and the fire department (why do those guys show up for passed out drunks, are they bored?)

In my county and many other locations, FD EMS are the mandated first responders to all emergency situations that might include a hurt person (911 "help, I'm sick" calls, car accidents, police requests for ambulances, etc.). They can't ever selectively not come.
posted by FelliniBlank at 2:31 PM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Very little googling was required for me to find out that she is a prominent member and founding co-chair of the Democratic Socialists of America.

Seriously? How are they engaged with anything other than fundraising and intra-marxist hairsplitting?

I agree that simply depicting the plight of the working poor isn't going to magically change things, but it still needs to be said. Left anti-intellectual activistism is a more serious problem.

Marxism declined from Marx because it quickly turned into a pseudo-scientific intellectual cult. The playbook for political activism in the US is being written by the ex-post-goldwaterites and the christian right. Now, there are two ideologies for the times...
posted by ennui.bz at 2:34 PM on August 11, 2011


ennui.bz, that's a classic trope of activistism. The discourse of unthinking urgency is constantly promoted by those in power, putting us in permanent crisis mode: "We're post-ideological now, and besides, things are happening too fast. Don't think, just act!" The hostility to those on the left to thinking prevents them from noticing that they can't win by participating in the politics of media spectacle.
posted by AlsoMike at 3:07 PM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


No offense, guys, but if you want to awaken class consciousness and actually motivate people, you need to speak in plain English.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:11 PM on August 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


Didn't you know? The poor are like raccoons.

"The raccoons figured out the beetles are in the bucket," Bruning said. "And its like grapes in a jar. The raccoons - they're not stupid, they're gonna do the easy way if we make it easy for them. Just like welfare recipients all across America. If we don't incent them to work, they're gonna take the easy route."
posted by madamjujujive at 4:02 PM on August 11, 2011


If we don't incent them to work, they're gonna take the easy route."

And if there's no work available then fuck 'em and let 'em die under a bridge. There's too many people in the world already AMIRITE FOLKS?
posted by Talez at 4:20 PM on August 11, 2011


"And if there's no work available then fuck 'em and let 'em die under a bridge."

Sorry, sleeping, and by extension dying, under bridges is illegal. If want to die you'll have to do it in private.
posted by MikeMc at 4:25 PM on August 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Some points about that book always bothered me: she chose to live alone rather than split rent with a roommate, and she smoked pot, effectively disqualifying herself from obtaining a better paying job. And she was actually worse off than she needed to be because she couldn't, as a genuinely wealthy woman, qualify for government assistance. She could have had a much easier time if she hadn't consciously made two costly choices and been eligible for assistance. She would have made a much more compelling case if she had been able to do everything right.
posted by holterbarbour at 4:36 PM on August 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Slackermagee: "The poor aren't going to read this book. They will, however, listen to someone eloquent who makes great speeches about what was written in this book.

The poor of the current age are waiting for their Spartacus, their Lenin. As am I.
"

This is the most patronizing thing I have ever read, ever.
posted by falameufilho at 5:13 PM on August 11, 2011


Anyone who would support a law to ban giving food to homeless people isn't fit to call themselves a Christian.

I think you could probably make millions if you did a groundbreaking new analysys of the bible, based on shocking new evidence of course, that Jesus actually hated the poor and just wanted them to get off their lazy asses and get a job.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:14 PM on August 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Why would the poor read her schtick? Most people I know who live in public housing or who get government assistance would think she was an idiot, based on her deliberately dumb choices in Nickeled and Dimed (no social network, living along, cleaning houses with a service rather than working off the books for cash.) I think she's great at being provocative but falls short in actual real world experience.
posted by Ideefixe at 5:20 PM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]




I highly recommend The Working Poor. The author delves into the lives and challenges of about a half-dozen people from diverse backgrounds. He uses their stories to illustrate the traps and entanglements that keep them struggling. It is similar in content to Nickle and Dimed, but more substantive and less gimmicky.
posted by jeoc at 5:39 PM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Whelk: "I think you could probably make millions if you did a groundbreaking new analysys of the bible, based on shocking new evidence of course, that Jesus actually hated the poor and just wanted them to get off their lazy asses and get a job"

Prosperity Theology indeed made some people millionaires. But contrary to your suggestion, it is not a theological device to make rich Christians feel better about themselves for allegedly treating poor people like shit, on the contrary, it mostly appeals to the poorest of the poor.
posted by falameufilho at 5:40 PM on August 11, 2011


Then you need a return to the 13th century and " Jesus was a rich prince" and the like.
posted by The Whelk at 5:42 PM on August 11, 2011


This is utterly horrifying.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:42 PM on August 11, 2011


I posted this the other day, but it's a point I believe needs to be made in this thread too.
The fact that TANF, i.e. what we used to think of as welfare, costs $17 billion or 0.45% of the federal budget never seems to sink in. Indeed, the entire top level 'Welfare' category of the budget, including TANF, Food Stamps, SSI for disabled people, all Federal housing assistance programs (including the Home Affordable Modification Program [portion of] TARP), and every other way our tax money goes to relieve the suffering of our fellow citizens who are poor, hungry, homeless, or disabled amounts to 13% of the budget. This is nevertheless a substantial amount of money, nearly half a trillion dollars.
People, especially the kind of people who post on Facebook about how they claim millions of crackheads as dependents1, seem to vastly overestimate how much of their hard-earned tax money goes to try and relieve the suffering of their fellow citizens. What I left out the other day is that $495 billion/13% is just for FY11. The next five years look like they're going to be even harder on the people who are just barely making it.
              FY11    FY12    FY13    FY14    FY15    FY16
     Budget  3818.8  3728.7  3770.9  3977.1  4189.8  4467.8
All Welfare   495.6   431.5   405.4   389.0   378.7   380.3
               12.9%   11.6%   10.8%    9.8%    9.0%    8.5%

       TANF    17.0    17.2    16.9    16.7    16.7    16.7
                0.5%    0.5%    0.5%    0.4%    0.4%    0.4%

       SNAP    78.5    80.2    77.9    70.7    63.8    60.6
                2.1%    2.2%    2.1%    1.8%    1.5%    1.4%

God Bless America.


[1] They sent my Census form back! AGAIN!!! In response to the question: "Do you have any dependents?" I replied - "12 million illegal immigrants; 3 million crack heads; 42 million unemployable people, 2 million people in over 243 prisons; Half of Mexico; and 535 idiots in the U.S. House and Senate. Apparently, this was NOT an acceptable answer.
posted by ob1quixote at 5:44 PM on August 11, 2011 [15 favorites]


Each one of those poor people is a slap in the face of Capitalism. That's why they offend.
posted by sneebler at 6:09 PM on August 11, 2011


What a damn stupid article

...two color televisions, cable or satellite TV, a DVD player, and a VCR.... ... Xbox or a PlayStation. In the kitchen, the household had a refrigerator, an oven and stove, and a microwave. Other household conveniences included a clothes washer, clothes dryer, ceiling fans, a cordless phone, and a coffee maker."

Hey! I've got two color TVs! One was a cheap ass birthday present and the other was inherited from a friend that moved. Both are at least ten years old. Got a DVD player, too. Forty bucks, new, birthday present for the family guy. No more VCR--got that at a pawn shop and it pooped out after 6-7 years. It was only $20 bucks, though. The washer dryer combo was brought used as Coe's for $250. He repairs appliances. Nice guy. Now the fridge was new 12 years ago. $700 bucks, side by side with an ice maker. First new fridge we've ever owned. We bought it when I had a good job and we were fairly flush. The sucker still makes me smile. No defrosting. The ceiling fans we bought and installed ourselves. The one bought new at the thrift store was a good deal for twelve bucks. Cordless phones are what--ten bucks? We've opted for mobile phones, but it's only $20 less to have a landline. One computer was new ten years ago, one was a hand-me-down, the laptop was given to me by a friend. DH repairs them if he finds them in thrift shops, so he just gave the youngest grandkid one that he fixed up for $20. The coffee maker? Oh yeah, that was new. We got the mid-range brand at Wal-mart. Think it was about $15. We're not so hung up on the newest and the latest that we have to have shiny things. We believe in recycling. We take pride in fixing things up and making them work again. I love gloating over my used $125 washing machine that's still working after the neighbor's $1000 three-year-old space age computerized machine bit the dust the other day.

You can own a bunch of shit and still have a hard time getting bills paid. It's easy to get things at the thrift shop and yard sales, or as hand-me-downs. Stay away from CraigsList. Way over-priced. Forty-five dollars for a used microwave??? Pfffft! Get real.

As a rule of thumb, poor households tend to obtain modern conveniences about a dozen years after the middle class.

That's about how long it takes to trickle down. Leftovers.

The home of the typical poor family was not overcrowded and was in good repair.

I visited one of the kids I taught in high school about a month ago. She's not doing so well since her old man took off. If you call three kids in one bedroom and mom on a hideabed in the front room, piss in the common entry way, peeling paint, three working burners out of four on the stove, a continually running toilet, and cockroaches not overcrowded and in good repair well, then I guess they're just not your typical poor family.
posted by BlueHorse at 6:29 PM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Some points about that book always bothered me: she chose to live alone rather than split rent with a roommate, and she smoked pot, effectively disqualifying herself from obtaining a better paying job. And she was actually worse off than she needed to be because she couldn't, as a genuinely wealthy woman, qualify for government assistance. She could have had a much easier time if she hadn't consciously made two costly choices and been eligible for assistance. She would have made a much more compelling case if she had been able to do everything right.

and

Why would the poor read her schtick? Most people I know who live in public housing or who get government assistance would think she was an idiot, based on her deliberately dumb choices in Nickeled and Dimed (no social network, living along, cleaning houses with a service rather than working off the books for cash.) I think she's great at being provocative but falls short in actual real world experience.

But that's the thing about being poor: you make bad choices just like rich people do, but you don't as many resources to undo those mistakes. The emergency cash situation mentioned above is just one example.

In the US, public assistance is fairly limited for single people without children. Just as a quick example, I ran the numbers for food stamps for a single 35-year-old in California with no kids and no significant assets who makes $20K/year and pays $500/month in rent not including electricity and found that she'd be eligible for bupkis. Ditto at $15K/year with $500/month in rent. At $12K/year and $500 in rent (meaning she'd have to live farther away from work and spend more time and money on transportation) she'd probably be eligible for about $72-$82/month in SNAP benefits. For comparison, California's minimum wage is $8/hour, or $8 * 40 * 52 = $16,640 if you work eight hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. She'd also get about $110/year extra from the IRS in the form of EITC (earned income tax credit) at that level. Keep in mind that she'd be shelling out around $70/month in Medicare+Social Security+CA Disability taxes too. And comparatively, she's doing fairly well. She sure as heck won't be getting public housing anywhere around where I live, and would be on a many-year waiting list if she were eligible.

Indeed, I think that some of these "mistakes" really help prove Ehrenreich's point. Why do you think actual poor people clean houses for a service instead of privately under the table? The service provides a job and income and cleaning supplies immediately, and she couldn't afford to roam the city looking for potential clients. Working off the books also means no government assistance, and she wouldn't be paying into Medicare or Social Security or unemployment or disability, so good luck when she can't work. The lack of a social support network happens all the time; what if she's fleeing an abusive partner or parents, recently released from prison, grown disconnected from her more well-to-do former friends, annoyed everyone she knows by mooching, or is simply naturally shy?

Poor people are not inherently better at living life than the rest of us, but their mistakes have far greater consequences. I'd presumably have to be such an obvious and unproductive pothead to get fired from my job for smoking pot (at which point really I'd be getting fired for being useless at my job), while many low-paying hourly jobs have random drug testing, and employees can be fired for a single toke one Friday night that has no impact on their job performance. If I oversleep and miss a morning of work, the consequences would be minimal at most (probably zero unless it was habitual or I missed a really important meeting) and I'd still take home the exact same paycheck, whereas those with less flexible arrangements would be "written up" and subject to termination. I have all sorts of cushions to fall back on if I screw something up: savings, investments, personal property I can sell, good credit, transportation, health insurance, education and marketable skills, social support, family support, and business contacts, to name just a few.
posted by zachlipton at 6:32 PM on August 11, 2011 [25 favorites]


<>>

It's not so much the Calvinists ... the rise of what major American institution coincides with these developments? Ten letters, beginning with M.
posted by texorama at 7:01 PM on August 11, 2011


Majorettes?
posted by sneebler at 7:19 PM on August 11, 2011




Indeed, I think that some of these "mistakes" really help prove Ehrenreich's point.
No one who's lived in generational poverty or on public assistance would work for a house cleaning service--only people newly arrived in No Money World would do so, which is her audience--people worried about downward mobility. It takes smarts to live on welfare. She's pandering to the worried lower middle class.

And she seemed to have no problem with her son dragging his GF to the emergency ward.

People who live on the dole might make bad choices, but they aren't the suckers Babs thinks they are.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:59 PM on August 11, 2011


texorama It's not so much the Calvinists ... the rise of what major American institution coincides with these developments? Ten letters, beginning with M
I can't figure this out... it's not "Military", "Medicine", or "Microsoft", those are only 8, 8, and 9 letters. "Malthusian" is ten, but that's not a major American institution.
posted by hincandenza at 8:05 PM on August 11, 2011


Management
posted by The Whelk at 8:11 PM on August 11, 2011


Megachurch!
posted by texorama at 8:13 PM on August 11, 2011


MetaFilter.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 8:16 PM on August 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


To elaborate a little before going to bed, it's not that the poor experience poverty as punishment for lack of virtue; they just have their will sapped by the idea that Jesus will take care of it all. And they go even beyond believing that resistance is futile.
posted by texorama at 8:18 PM on August 11, 2011


Gay muppets
posted by KokuRyu at 8:18 PM on August 11, 2011


Musketeers?
posted by MikeMc at 8:38 PM on August 11, 2011


Metallica...Nope, only 9
Megadeth...Nope, only 8
Motorhead...Nope, 9 again

I'm stumped.
posted by MikeMc at 8:41 PM on August 11, 2011


It's not so much the Calvinists ... the rise of what major American institution coincides with these developments? Ten letters, beginning with M

Megachurch
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 8:44 PM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Meritocracy is 11, but I'm squeezing the letters together to make it fit.
posted by Jehan at 9:36 PM on August 11, 2011


No one who's lived in generational poverty or on public assistance would work for a house cleaning service--only people newly arrived in No Money World would do so

Really not sure what to say about this statement, other than we must have spent a lot of years hanging out in entirely different kinds of social circles.
posted by stagewhisper at 10:23 PM on August 11, 2011


She would have made a much more compelling case if she had been able to do everything right. -holterbarbour

So would we all. I can't say it any better than zachlipton did, "you make bad choices just like rich people do, but you don't as many resources to undo those mistakes."

Ideefixe says "No one who's lived in generational poverty or on public assistance would work for a house cleaning service." Cite, please? My personal anecdatum (I know a few) says otherwise.
posted by _paegan_ at 11:51 PM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


McDonalds, Manhattan & Mormonism all have 9. I give up.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:05 AM on August 12, 2011


Mushrooms too.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:06 AM on August 12, 2011



Malfictism- this isn't a word but it sounds very diabolical what with starting with "Mal" which is bad, of course. I think it important we exaust all "real" and "pretend" possibilities for the mystery word.
Malificenc-It's not really an "institution" and it's spelled wrong. But... um...

(Are you going to tell us what the word is or what?!!!!! I am terrible at cross word puzzles, seriously! At least give us another hint... what's the 4th letter?)
posted by xarnop at 5:51 AM on August 12, 2011


MALKOVITCH!
posted by smoothvirus at 6:23 AM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Microfiche! Manchester! Moderators! Multiplied millipedes! Mobilisers! Motherhood! Mechanical moonwalker! Mathematic Mousetraps! Mellowness! Matterhorn! Mo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-n! Mightiness! Metaphoric monkeynuts! Masturbate! Musterings! Microphone! Menschheit! Mysterious modalities! Moochiness! Madeleines! Mediocrity! Montgomery MacPherson! Mugglosity! Mendacious! Motability!
posted by Grangousier at 6:34 AM on August 12, 2011


Microscope!
posted by Grangousier at 6:35 AM on August 12, 2011


Mythopoeia!
posted by Grangousier at 6:42 AM on August 12, 2011


Could we go back to having a conversation, or has that boat sailed?
posted by jsturgill at 8:19 AM on August 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


"The political question is how do you get the asst. manager at McDonalds to identify with the rank employees rather than the manager or the owner? "

You don't. It's aspirational politics. The Asst. Manager may know that s/he is closer to the rank and file but aspires to be the manager or own his/her own franchise. To identify with the workers s/he might possibly alienate the people s/he seeks to emulate.


McDonalds is a bad example. My bro-in-law started as a fry-cook who knew no english in the late 80's. Now he is a director who is in charge of 400+ stores and is the process of quitting his executive job and opening up a few McDonalds of his own.

So, yeah, they see themselves as rising through the ranks. And this isn't a "temporarily embarrassed millionaire" situation either. Lots of people (if they want to make McD a career) start out low and end up with decent real jobs. His story isn't that out of the ordinary there.
posted by sideshow at 9:30 AM on August 12, 2011


[folks maybe dial back on the "things that start with M" nonsense since it's precariously close to threadshitting at this point. Thanks.]
posted by jessamyn at 10:12 AM on August 12, 2011


Anyone who reads what I write knows that I am pretty far left on the political scale but I have to tell you something. I have been poor and I have been homeless . I've stayed in homeless shelters and I am here to tell you that there is a significant percentage of homeless who will indeed do exactly as you satirize above. A not-insignificant number of the homeless just want to get high and loaf around and will play you like a violin to get what they want. Not all of the very poor are saints and not all rich people are assholes.

Just give them a dollar or some change and try not to care about what they're going to use it for. My philosophy is that even if they blow it on booze they are still using that dollar more purposefully and shrewdly than I would.
posted by Deathalicious at 10:37 AM on August 12, 2011


"No one who's lived in generational poverty or on public assistance would work for a house cleaning service ..."

So all of her co-workers were what, poltergeists?
posted by kyrademon at 10:39 AM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Somewhat off topic but regarding books where the privileged voluntarily put themselves into a non-privileged state (and often later become advocates for their new found 'peers') I give you Two Years Before the Mast. Great read.
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:33 AM on August 12, 2011


To paraphrase, one of the insights people tend to get from her experience is that the system as it exists today helps keep people trapped in poverty rather than helping to lift them out of it.

Arguing that any smart poor person would work outside the system (off the books), instead of at one of the few real jobs open to them, does not exactly invalidate the point. I'd go so far as to say that it helps to affirm the point.
posted by jsturgill at 11:34 AM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Poverty often means no access to affordable healthcare or affordable dental care. There's no access to affordable transportation, which means you cannot easily find affordable food. The food that you do find near you is usually expensive, and if it is not expensive, it is unhealthy. There's no way to get to a nice place to spend some time outdoors (if you have the time, that is). Often, living conditions are not great (cockroaches, mold, trash), which leads to health problems.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:12 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


6 "so-called" job creators who won't hire the unemployed

"Yes, for those individuals who make up the 9.1 percent unemployed in the United States, many laid off through no fault of their own, misfortune is a disqualifier. Numerous employers, staffing agencies and online job posting firms have adopted policies that explicitly deny employment to the unemployed. And they don’t even try to cover up their intent. The language in the qualification requirement sections of the ads leave nothing to the imagination: “currently employed,” “must be currently employed,” “currently employed on a permanent basis,” “must be currently or recently employed” etc. If you are none of the above, as 14 million Americans are, you’re out of luck.

How widespread is this practice? When the National Employment Law Project did an independent, one-month survey earlier this year of popular job sites such as CareerBuilder.com, Indeed.com, Monster.com, and Craigslist.com, their snapshot came up with more than 150 ads containing employment-based exclusions, including 125 ads that were identified by company name. In my own research (done over the course of an hour this past week) I was able to find close to 20 more ads on these same sites. In other words, this is not a case of anomalous malice.

Who are the culprits? Aside from companies and hiring agencies you may have never heard of, included in the list of prejudicial employers are Allstate Insurance, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, the Homebuilding Recruiters of America, the University of Arizona, the University of Phoenix, and the Oil and Gas Field Recruiters of America. Sony Ericsson only ended the practice after they were caught by CNN-Money last year during its reporting on this trend.
"


Here's Forbes, back in April: America's Ever Expanding Welfare Empire

"A fundamental misconception about America’s welfare state misleads millions of voters to reflexively support ever bigger and more generous government. William Voegeli fingers the attitude in his book, Never Enough: America’s Limitless Welfare State: “no matter how large the welfare state, liberal politicians and writers have accused it of being shamefully small” and “contemptibly austere.”

Barbara Ehrenreich expresses the attitude in her book, Nickled and Dimed: “guilt doesn’t go anywhere near far enough; the appropriate emotion is shame” regarding the stingy miserliness of America’s welfare state. In light of the current budget debate, with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan putting fundamental entitlement reform on the table, this misconception especially needs to be corrected...
"
posted by flex at 1:59 PM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


I just want to say that I hate hate hate hate tips and I believe that if you think about it hard enough you'll see that tipping is a reflection of everything wrong with American values. "Oh these people don't get paid enough by their wage-slave masters, it is our responsibility to make sure they get a decent wage". Fuck that. I still tip because I am even more of an asshole than I already am if I don't, but god damn does it annoy me.
posted by MattMangels at 2:30 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Numerous employers, staffing agencies and online job posting firms have adopted policies that explicitly deny employment to the unemployed.

[Head asplodes]

I give it a year max before Orlando and Las Vegas find a way to outlaw hiring unemployed people.
posted by FelliniBlank at 2:54 PM on August 12, 2011






Christ. CNN can blow itself all day long.
posted by zerobyproxy at 6:54 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


More of the CNN interview. What a hit piece by CNN. I cannot, cannot, cannot believe how this is being framed.
posted by zerobyproxy at 7:01 PM on August 12, 2011


outlaw hiring unemployed people.

Just outlaw unemployment, bring back Workhouses and bam! brag about your 100% employment rate!

(Actually we do this, with Prison labor, soooo)
posted by The Whelk at 8:56 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Corporations are the new* tribes.
*OK, newish... compared to tribes, I mean.
posted by GrammarMoses at 7:51 AM on August 13, 2011


I find it funny that people here assume that Barbara Ehrenreich is only a journalist and a writer. She has a long history of activism in a few different forms, including pro-union activities, anti-NAFTA, anti-racism work with Cornel West, and, I believe, agitating to shut down the nuclear power plant on LI, where she lived (you know, where there's no reasonable way to move large numbers of people off the island in the event of a nuclear accident.)

We can do some research on her activities, but the fact that she's a writer doesn't mean she's not an activist. There are a few more hours in the day.
posted by vitabellosi at 1:03 PM on August 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Of COURSE the poor have their fair share of blame for the current recession. After all, they vote in disproportionately high numbers, which give them excessive control over picking representatives in congress. Plus all their myriad of poor-centric PACs funnel huge amounts of money into ad campaigns and donations to reelection campaigns that basically allow the poor to write any legislation they want to see happen. Don't even get me started on the collusion between government and the poor! It's a revolving door: work in the government 30 years, retire, and then go to work at one of the homeless camps you were supposedly regulating as a government employee.

What it boils down to is who has the money and the power in America. The poor and homeless get to shape our system however they want, and the rest of us can't do a thing to stop them. If only there was some way to rein in all these poor people and check their influence on the federal government, maybe the rest of us would have a chance at their kind of success.
posted by jsturgill at 12:31 PM on August 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


I really thought Nickel and Dimed missed the point. If I were making $7 an hour, I wouldn't be living in my own apartment; I'd be living with a bunch of roommates and taking the bus.

What if you had kids and lived in a community where there was no bus?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:35 PM on August 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's that commenter's point, EmpressCallipygos. Nickled and Dimed was written by someone who, given the example situations she was putting herself into, could have done it more resourcefully. I know for a fact that being poor does not exclude knowledge of the availability of buses, bicycles, and walking as cheaper transportation alternatives. If I recollect correctly, one of the places was the Florida Keys. I've been there. And there *are* buses in the Florida Keys. She also could have biked. Not fun, but doable. And in the Florida Keys, half the time biking will get you from A to B faster than traffic.

But what if she were disabled? Or had kids? Or spoke limited English? Or had a criminal record? The commenter was hoping that she could have addressed some of these aspects of poverty a little better.
posted by lover at 9:19 AM on August 16, 2011


RSA Animate - Smile or Die
posted by homunculus at 7:52 PM on August 20, 2011


Ghosts with Shit Jobs
posted by homunculus at 11:03 AM on August 24, 2011


Lucky Duckies In the Crosshairs
posted by homunculus at 6:16 PM on August 25, 2011




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