If you’ve heard of Barbara Ehrenreich, the National Magazine Award-winning American journalist, human rights activist and renowned muckraker, it’s probably related to her 2001 book, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. To expose the terrible living and working conditions of America’s legions of working poor, Ehrenreich spent months traversing the country, working as a hotel maid, waitress, nursing home aide, housecleaner and Wal-Mart salesperson, while trying (with varying degrees of success) to live on the money these minimum-wage jobs brought in.
The book was a huge hit, becoming a New York Times best seller and garnering praise from across the nation. Ehrenreich has been busy since, writing books about the polarization of American politics and the surprisingly negative effect of positive thinking on our culture, but now, ten years after Nickel and Dimed, she returns to the subject once again, discovering that things are largely much worse for America lowest wage earners.
In a recent essay on Salon, How America turned poverty into a crime, Ehrenreich turns a hard gaze on the laws and institutions that are, effectively, making it a crime to be poor during one of the worst recessions in American history. Indeed, while the people in her book struggled to feed and house themselves and their families ten years ago, it was during a time of great prosperity for the rest of America. Now, things have gotten much, much worse.
According to Ehrenriech, as many as 29% of American families could be living in poverty, and thanks to laws that treat these mostly hard-working people like criminals, it has become an even more difficult cycle to escape. Check out the piece on Salon. Ehrenreich is one of the best voices on the side of the working poor in American journalism, and she needs to be heard.