Tchaikovsky Sounds Funny: Book Review: "Nickle and Dimed"

Is this where I put in key words such as sex, lesbians, vampires, Christopher Lloyd and others things to which this blog do not pertain, but by putting them here, I may get hits from all the Christoper Lloyd lesbian vampire fans (and you know who you are)? This is the primarily humorous and occasionally rambling writings of Leon Tchaikovsky, humor writer. Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Book Review: "Nickle and Dimed"

Tchaikovsky Sounds Funny

This review is at the request of my one reader (you know who you are). Figuring it best to be responsive to the demands of my (entire) reading public, “Nickel and Dimed” is being reviewed.

“Nickel and Dimed” provides first hand research of what it is like to be a low income worker. While the book is well researched and includes the important facts and documentation that points out how hard it is to overcome the economic challenges of being a low wage earner, this book takes the issue an important step further. It shows, first hand, the emotional direct effects of what it is like to live the life of a struggling employee.

The author, Barbara Ehrenreich, researched this book by living the life of a divorced woman attempting to reenter the workplace after decades of non employment while raising children. Indeed, this would accurately describe the author, except that her background and previous book earnings provide her with a comfortable life. She did not have to face what millions of other middle aged women find when reentering the workforce face, which is life without a security net. Thus, to research this book, she attempted to see what such life is like by not using her security net.

Ms. Ehrenreich describes the pressures and frustrations facing so many people struggling just to keep their heads above water. We follow her as she hunts for jobs, works long hours in difficult jobs, and then tries to manage a living on her paychecks. Readers learn how difficult life is for so many Americans.

Interspersed with the descriptions of such a life, and of the lives of her co-workers to whom this type of life is reality, we do learn some interesting facts. According to the research Barbara Ehrenreich presents, almost 30% of the American workforce earned (in 1998) $8 an hour or less. Yet it took an average hourly wage of $8.89 or more to afford a one bedroom apartment. The author discovered this immediately, as she found she could only earn about $7 an hour and have $500 a month for rent when it cost $675 a month to afford trailer rental. As she realized, for many working poor, becoming “trailer trash” is a sought-after goal. What the author found was many co-workers living in cars or vans. This supports statistics indicating that about one-fifth of homeless people are employed.

Life on low wages is difficult. If one does not have the money to make a deposit on a room, one cannot cook meals. This means food is likely going to be more costly, which in turn makes it more difficult to save for a room. Further, health care is usually a dream for most low wage earners. Yet, prescription drugs and medical care are more expensive for people without insurance, which again makes it more difficult to break out of the low wage cycle.

Stress is a major part of low income employment. The author describes how employers of low income workers, perhaps knowing most will not remain with them long and definitely aware they can easily be replaced, attempt to get as much work as possible as they can out of employees while they have them. This makes life difficult for low income employees. Again, this matches data showing that work-related injuries and illnesses have risen sharply over the past two decades.

Barbara Ehrenreich summed her findings in the following conclusion:

“The working poor…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 privatization so that inflation will be low and stock prices high.”

Not all working poor are alike. Their jobs, be they in housekeeping, serving food, legislative employment, vary, and each has a unique story. Yet, it is a story often overlooked, unless, of course, you are a member of the working poor. If you can afford to buy this book, you will find it interesting. If you can’t afford it, ask your library for a copy.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Listed on BlogShares