Running Title: Nickel and Dimed – On (Not) Getting By In America
More than ten years ago, a good friend of mine had suggested this book. Considering the utter bollocks that exists out there in the current social landscape, I had to free this one from the stacks and give it a look. Needless to say, I was not disappointed. A bit angry and pissed at the end, but not disappointed.
In Nickel And Dimed, the author ( an Ivy League PhD) does the “unthinkable”: not only does she try to pass herself off as your average, poor, working class stiff but she tries to find work and live on the (so-called) living wage that politicians so kindly make possible to … well … the working class. Let’s get this straight, she did not take the Bear Gryll’s approach to this: you know, living in fancy hotels whilst pretending to rough it. She stayed at real crappy dives simply because this all that a “living” wage could provide.
I love it when politicians get on their high horses and talk about how “some” people ( you know, the poor ones and lately, middle class) are just plain lazy and should just go out and get a job. I truly doubt that if you’ve spent your life making tons of money off of insider information and self-voted pay-raises, that are in any sound position to talk about or identify with the working class. Here’s a hint (for starters): those of us in the REAL world don’t get to vote for a pay raise on the whim. Would be nice if we could. I am detouring. Let’s get back on track shall we?
What was uncovered in this book was that … well … working class jobs are at the most hard, unrewarding and the living wage should be called a barely sustaining wage. Sort of like the way life sustaining machines keep a coma patient alive. With lodging and shelter that eats people’s earnings some are forced, in some cases, to live out of their cars where breakfast comes in form of a bag of chips (and we’re not talking about the party sized bags here) or if they’re lucky, the complimentary donut or bagel that served by some home cleaning agency prior to their daily bout of humiliation from the occasional wank that is too lazy to clean their own home but think those that are doing so are somewhat beneath and are treated as such. Oooh lousy hours, painful work, and crappy pay … it can’t get any worse. Or can it possibly? Apparently, it does: management. These are, most of the times, working class stiffs that just found themselves on a slightly higher rung and in order to “prove” themselves become snooty tossers and douchebags by offering great ditties such in order to be paid “one must work through (possibly life-ending) pain” or “putting up with some condescending asshole as you clean their toilets builds character”. Surprisingly, during the author’s interaction with many of her co-workers what surfaces is that, unlike the stance that is offered by many ivory tower politicians which seemed to be more of an occasion to remove copious amounts of halitosis, many people want to work and many people take pride in their work. Even when it’s flipping burgers or cleaning toilets. Yes, not everyone can go to or even survive college, but people deserve better. At the end of the book, Ms. Erhenreich writes a touching comment on the working poor: “The ‘working poor,’ as they are approvingly termed, are in fact the major philanthropists of our society. They neglect their own children so that the children of others will be cared for; they live in substandard housing so that other homes will be shiny and perfect; they endure privation so that inflation will be low and stock prices high. To be a member of the working poor is to be an anonymous donor; a nameless benefactor, to everyone else.” Sad. But true. Great, yet unnerving, read and even though you might think this book was written recently, it was actually written more than TEN years ago. To possibly write a book like that now would probably show a much more uglier side of our society.