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Book Review Of Nickel And Dimed By Barbara Ehrenreich

1048 words - 4 pages

Before making a great success in the restaurant and wholesale beverage businesses, Alice Foote MacDougall and her three children had been thrust into deep poverty by her husband's financial failure. Raised in wealth and high social standing, she had been forced to ask relatives for help and was humiliated by their presumptuous inquiries about her lifestyle and expenditures. In her autobiography, recalling the period of deep poverty that followed her affluent childhood and preceded her eventual business success, MacDougall relates, "Poverty is relative, and the lack of food and of the necessities of life is not necessarily a hardship. Spiritual and social ostracism, the invasion of your privacy, are what constitute the pain of poverty."Barbara Ehrenreich aptly, though misguidedly, expounds upon this ideological construct in her book Nickel and Dimed. However, in her effort to transcend implicit cultural boundaries, Ehrenreich ultimately undermines both her credibility and her journalistic objectivity and integrity in a vain attempt to educate the masses on the evils of the corporate world.In 1996, the Republican Congress passed and Democratic President, Bill Clinton, signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, (better known as welfare reform) replacing Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) with the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. The law also gave states the primary responsibility for welfare, established a five-year cumulative lifetime cap on benefits and, to a large extent, shifted welfare expenditures from cash benefits to training and employment assistance.Upon its passage, experts argued that wages would go down, families would dissolve and children would suffer needlessly. Barbara Ehrenreich goes further and asserts that people, specifically (if not especially,) women, being weaned off the welfare program due to welfare reform, have little hope of surviving in the world on the salary they are likely to garner without some form of external assistance. Aside from simply evaluating the purely physical effects of this situation, Ehrenreich also attempts to apprise the reader of the physiological and psychological characteristics exhibited in the rank and file, minimum wage working public as represented by her newly transformed self. It is in this misaligned and irrational assertion that a critical error is made. All attempts on her part to partially, only insofar as it was convenient for her, extricate herself from her doctorate level education and upper middle class lifestyle only serve to weaken her premise and undermine her assertions.Ultimately, after three brief (30 days or less) employment engagements, she arrives at the conclusion that "two jobs or at least a job and a half would be a necessity . . . [to survive]." Additionally, she pontificates, "You do not need a degree in economics to state that wages are too low and rent is too high." Her remarks and conclusions lead the...

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