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The "American Dream" Does NOT Work Anymore

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  • The "American Dream" Does NOT Work Anymore

    For working poor, work never ends

    Sunday, March 21, 2004
    By the Business Librarians at the Carnegie Library of PittsburghZ

    "The Working Poor: Invisible in America" by David Shipler. Knopf, 2004.

    A "snow day" can mean a day when your office closes, you take the kids sledding, come home for hot cocoa and enjoy an afternoon listening to your CDs.

    Or it can mean a day when your kids have no food because they won't get the subsidized meals at school and you have to decide whether to forfeit the $38 you could make by mopping hospital floors all day or leave them unsupervised in a freezing apartment where you have missed too many gas payments.

    Welcome to the world of the working poor, a world that is unseen by most Americans, but to which author David Shipler opens our eyes with clarity and compassion.

    Shipler, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for his 1986 book Arab and Jew, spent the years from 1997 to 2003 interviewing and investigating the lives of American workers who exist just at or slightly above the official poverty level. (The Bureau of Labor Statistics counted 6.8 million workers who actually lived below the poverty level in 2001.) In this book, he achieves a forceful impact by weaving together hard-hitting analyses of the conditions of their lives -- the unyielding barriers to good jobs, credit, education, housing, health care, nutrition, etc. -- and memorable and vivid portrayals of real people trying desperately to surmount those barriers - with some success, but mostly failure.

    The hard-working and fragile lives of Tom and Kara King and their three children, for instance, who battle job loss, back injuries, the rural New Hampshire cold, epilepsy, alcoholism and terminal cancer, are recreated with novelistic grace and impact. So is the story of Claudio and his wife, stoic migrant workers sleeping on cardboard in bare cement barracks, struggling to pay off the $2,700 owed to the smuggler who got them across the border by filling bushel baskets of potatoes at 40 cents a bucket. And Leary Brock, surviving rape and years of crack addiction, transported almost magically -- through the help of a fine job-training program -- to the sleek offices of Xerox Corp. and a speaking engagement in the chamber of the U.S. Supreme Court.

    Scores of real individuals come to life in these pages, the workers as well as the clergymen, lawyers, business owners, loan sharks, welfare bureaucrats, managers, union organizers, doctors and teachers who surround them, and are more genuine for the author's evenhanded coverage of their faults and their virtues.

    What the book convincingly argues is that the "problems" of the working poor are not isolated. Illiteracy, depression, asthma, addiction, homelessness, malnutrition all come together, and can only be addressed by integrating the solutions. Institutions can go beyond their narrow mandates, as when the Boston Medical Center improves the physical health of its patients by hiring lawyers and social workers to address their housing and employment situations, or when schools offer day care for high school parents and subsidized meals. Job-training programs can also register people to vote: the author points out that if people with incomes under $25,000 cast ballots at the same rate as those over $75,000, an added 6.8 million would have gone to the polls in 2000, undoubtedly changing the outcome.

    "The country's prosperity relies on badly paid workers -- that's a fact that's not going to disappear," Shipler notes. "You can hardly go through a day... without the fruit of their labor in your life." He does these workers a service by underscoring their importance to the economy, and powerfully advocating for an America where "nobody who works hard should be poor." But also, by illuminating their difficult world, he does his readers -- those who are fortunate enough to live outside of that world -- a greater one.
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  • #2
    Working poor struggle to get by -- and their numbers are growing

    Sunday, March 21, 2004
    Kalamazoo Gazette

    There's a cheerful competence about Mary Miley as she hands a cup of hot coffee and a breakfast sandwich out the drive-in window early one morning.

    "Have a good day," she calls out with a smile, every hair on her head neatly tucked into the cap with the fast-food logo, her manager's uniform freshly washed and pressed.

    In some ways Miley, 29, is an American success story.

    She's worked at the same full-time job for 13 years at a busy McDonald's restaurant by Maple Hill Mall in Oshtemo Township.

    She's been a manager there for more than 10 years, overseeing the work of others, hiring and firing, while still doing all the jobs from lifting the crisp hot fries from the fat to wrapping burgers while they're hot.

    Miley, 29, the mother of two children, also epitomizes another kind of story that's become as American as the hot apple pies she slips into customers' bags.

    Miley is among millions of the "working poor" in this country: people who work 27 hours a week or more but still aren't able to make ends meet without help from their families and/or other taxpayers.

    The working poor perform tasks that are central to the American way of life, from serving meals in restaurants to adding up purchases in malls to wheeling the elderly down halls in nursing homes.

    They are the topic this year of the Kalamazoo Public Library's Reading Together program, which is focusing on the book "Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America," by Barbara Ehrenreich.

    The working poor include not only the 8.5 million workers who are literally at or below the official federal poverty level, but also the roughly 40 million who live above that level but are little more than a car repair or dental bill away from losing everything -- car, then job, then house -- according to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Shipler, author of "The Working Poor: Invisible in America," published this year by Knopf.

    Here in Kalamazoo County, the 2000 Census showed about 12 percent of the residents -- 27,482 people -- were living in poverty, and 16,641 lived in the city of Kalamazoo, about 24 percent of the city's population, according to Kalamazoo's W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research and the Kalamazoo County Community Action Bureau.

    If you count people such as Miley, who are at 150 percent of the poverty rate but needy enough to qualify for certain government aid, the number of poor in Kalamazoo County rises to 44,723, or almost one in every five county residents. As another indicator of need, 61 percent of 11,000 students in Kalamazoo Public Schools qualify for free or reduced-price lunches because of their family incomes.

    There is no clear-cut income standard for what constitutes "the working poor," but Medicaid assistance is available to families making as much as double the poverty level, according to the Kalamazoo County division of the state Family Independence Agency.

    The key point to understanding poverty locally, said George Erickcek of the Upjohn Institute, is that nearly 15 percent of children in the county were poor in 1999. "From what we are hearing anecdotally here, it has gotten worse," he said.

    Working hard, falling short

    Miley works 38 to 40 hours a week earning $10.30 an hour, double the federal minimum wage of $5.15. Her annual income puts her about $4,000 above the federal poverty level of $15,670 for a family of three, but she is still unable to make ends meet on her own. And what she earns is far below the $13.88 an hour needed to afford fair-market rent on a three-bedroom apartment in Kalamazoo County, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

    Miley certainly qualifies as a low-wage worker in this economy, according to Tim Bartik of the Upjohn Institute. Most economists, he said, believe the poverty line is arbitrary, does not reflect current realities and is "too low to begin with."

    Miley lives with her two children -- Kyra, 7, and Kyron, 6. Their father lives in another state; Friend of the Court records indicate he owes more than $13,000 in child support.

    She can't afford health insurance at the $80-a-month price tag offered by her employer. She was going to the free health-care clinic at First Presbyterian Church in downtown Kalamazoo, but then she was found to have high blood pressure, a condition that runs in her family. Having an ongoing condition makes her ineligible for treatment at the clinic.

    Miley has started going to the subsidized Family Health Care Center on Paterson Street, which charges patients on a sliding scale, but she doesn't know how she'll come up with the $100 she needs for a hip X-ray.

    She's grateful, however, for the kinds of assistance she does receive: Medicaid coverage to pay for her children's health care, a subsidized apartment and day care. "They're helping me a lot," she said.

    Miley doesn't get these things free, however. By the time she pays $100 a month for day care for her two children, $475 for her three-bedroom subsidized apartment, $80 a month insurance on her car, $50 for phone and $80 in utilities, she says she is $400 short of meeting the family's other living expenses and must rely on her parents for financial help.

    She said she has mixed feelings about the 20-cent-an-hour raise she expects soon. "Once I get this raise, I'm scared to death the rent's going to go up to $650" because rents are set on a sliding scale according to income, she said. "That could really put me over the edge" and into the next rent bracket, she said.

    A growing problem

    Crossing the thin line between making it with subsidies and going into a financial free-fall is a reality for a growing number of people in Kalamazoo County, according to heads of local social-service agencies.

    "I've never seen anything like it, and I've been doing this kind of thing for 15 years," said Sheri Ritchie, assistant director of Loaves and Fishes, a volunteer network that gives out free emergency food aid at county sites to people who prove they qualify. Agency volunteers received 58,000 more calls for food last year than they did the previous year.

    "We're getting people coming in for food who say, 'I used to donate,'" Ritchie said. "And almost everyone (getting food) is working."

    At the drop-in center Ministry with Community in Kalamazoo, an average 270 people show up every day for the free lunch, a 25 percent increase in the last six months and nearly twice the number getting the free meals than five years ago, according to Director Judy Markusse Mann.

    "We know that 60 percent of them are working," Mann said.

    Many don't receive help from an extended family, Mann said.

    Miley credits such help for keeping her and her kids out of shelters and free food centers.

    Her mother loaned Miley a car for two weeks when Miley's old one quit working and she was hunting for the '91 model she now drives so she wouldn't lose her job.

    Miley said she relies on her parents more than she wants to, especially on the three out of four weekends when she has to work and the child care she has during the week isn't available.

    "They're good about it, but they're in their 60s. They already raised their kids," Miley said. Her father is retired from careers with the U.S. Navy and as a boiler technician at Bronson Methodist Hospital and is disabled. Her mother still works at a day-care center, but the couple have their own struggles, Miley said, including paying for prescription drugs.

    The issue for Miley and for the low-wage workers described in "Nickel and Dimed" and other studies of the working poor is an "enormous" and growing inequality between low-wage earners and most other workers, Bartik said.

    Many economic models blame a minimum-wage level that is no longer high enough in real income. A full-time, minimum-wage job produces earnings of $8,980 a year, 28 percent below federal poverty guidelines for one person.

    Another issue is that technological changes have made higher-skilled workers more valuable. So the lower the educational level, the greater the disparity, Bartik said.

    "We have a dramatic problem in under-enrollment and completion of post-secondary education," Bartik said. "It's particularly acute among the lower incomes, which suggests financial problems may play a part."

    What to do?

    So what can be done to change the plight of the working poor?

    In a 2003 survey of 202 poor people in Kalamazoo County, low wages and high housing costs emerged as two of the most critical issues, according to "Poverty in Kalamazoo County," a report prepared for the Kalamazoo County Community Action Bureau.

    "We've seen a lot of people in emergency financial crisis because so many people have been laid off," said Ellen Kisinger-Rothi, executive director of Housing Resources Inc., a Kalamazoo agency that runs several housing-assistance programs.

    "We need to provide more affordable housing ... (and) work on building people's skill levels and ability to secure a higher-paying job," Kisinger-Rothi said. "You have to work really on both fronts."

    If more people could be encouraged to go to community college to learn a skill, poverty would decrease, Bartik said.

    Improving learning skills would not only increase the wages of those getting educated, but would drive up the wages of those at the bottom of the scale, Bartik said.

    In Michigan, the fastest-growing fields are predicted to be high-tech areas such as computer support and software engineering, Erickcek said. But the greatest number of job openings are expected to occur in low-wage, low-skill positions, such as cashiers, food workers, janitors and stock clerks.

    Increasing the minimum wage would also help reduce poverty, Bartik said. A $1-an-hour increase would cost some jobs, but would create a modest reduction in poverty of about 1 percent in the population in general and 12 percent among families whose head earns the minimum wage, he said.

    However, "higher wages have a limited effect on the poor because most of the poor do not work full time, full year," Bartik said.

    He said increasing the federal Earned Income Tax Credit also would reduce poverty. This credit reduces federal income taxes on low-income workers. A program is under way in Kalamazoo County to help people eligible for the credit to use their tax returns to take advantage of it.

    Bev Barrone, program manager for the state Family Independence Agency in Kalamazoo County, and Sherry Thomas-Cloud, executive director of the county FIA, said many people whose incomes exceed poverty levels could get Medicaid, food or child-care assistance but don't apply for it.

    "We know there are many more people out there who can qualify for food assistance who don't apply because of the stigma," Thomas-Cloud said.

    The plight of the poor has been in the spotlight a number of times lately in Kalamazoo.

    A year ago, the Kalamazoo County Poverty Initiative was launched as an ambitious effort to reduce poverty. It was an outgrowth of a failed campaign in 2001 to force the city of Kalamazoo and companies that do business with it to pay employees a "living wage."

    Also last year, an alliance of area churches and faith-based organizations formed the Interfaith Strategy for Advocacy and Action in the Community, or ISAAC, which has made improving dental care for children in needy families and housing for the underprivileged top priorities.

    ISAAC members were among those who recently pressured the Kalamazoo City Commission to roll back a planned 50-cent hike in Metro Transit fares to 10 cents, partly out of concern for low-income riders who rely on city buses to get to work.

    The homeless and their advocates have gone before the City Commission repeatedly over the past year to lobby for more money for affordable housing.

    The Rev. Milton Wells, who serves on the boards of the Kalamazoo County Poverty Initiative and the Community Task Force Against Poverty, said he believes poverty reduction has become a true front-burner issue here.

    "There are some people that are very passionate about trying to do something," he said.

    "It's a big issue, but a long journey still begins with the first step, and with each step you get closer and closer to your destination. The key is not losing focus, not giving up."

    Miley's dreams

    Miley knows that not finishing college after she graduated from Kalamazoo Central High School is hurting her now.

    "I took two classes in business management," she said. That was soon after high school, but she dropped out because she couldn't afford the $3,000 that Davenport College charged at the time.

    She enrolled at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, where her boyfriend -- the future father of her children and the man she thought would marry her -- promised to buy her books. Neither the books nor the marriage materialized.

    Miley knows, too, that her status as a single mother is a contributing factor to her low wages: Nearly 17 percent of women who maintain families and work full time are poor, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. And women earn an average 78 cents for every dollar earned by men, resulting in a typical annual loss of income of $4,000 per U.S. family, according to Upjohn Institute figures.

    Miley said she still loves the father of her children but is resigned to having no future with him. She said she doesn't know if he is working, but learned earlier this month that he had moved out of Michigan.

    If she could do anything differently, what would it be?

    "I still would have had my kids because I love them to death," she said. But if she had to do things all over again, she said, "I would have pushed harder to go to college. I wanted to get a degree in business administration. I still do."

    Miley would go back to school, she said, if she could figure out how not to leave her children at night and still keep up her income.

    She would get a job that pays a living wage.

    "I would buy a house," she said. "I'd have a dog. I'd buy a dependable car."

    Taking a vacation doesn't even occur to her. She and the kids have never taken one.

    She needs to work, and for her job and her kids, Miley is grateful.

    "Even though we're struggling, we're still happy," she said.

    Barbara Walters can be reached at 388-8563 or [email protected]. Ed Finnerty can be reached at 388-8551 or [email protected].
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    • #3
      Chatham high grad, author urges working poor to vote

      By MAX PIZARRO , Editor 03/19/2004
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      • #4
        The Working Poor : Invisible in America

        by DAVID K. SHIPLER (Author)

        Editorial Reviews

        The Working Poor examines the "forgotten America" where "millions live in the shadow of prosperity, in the twilight between poverty and well-being." These are citizens for whom the American Dream is out of reach despite their willingness to work hard. Struggling to simply survive, they live so close to the edge of poverty that a minor obstacle, such as a car breakdown or a temporary illness, can lead to a downward financial spiral that can prove impossible to reverse. David Shipler interviewed many such working people for this book and his profiles offer an intimate look at what it is like to be trapped in a cycle of dead-end jobs without benefits or opportunities for advancement. He shows how some negotiate a broken welfare system that is designed to help yet often does not, while others proudly refuse any sort of government assistance, even to their detriment. Still others have no idea that help is available at all.

        "As a culture, the United States is not quite sure about the causes of poverty, and is therefore uncertain about the solutions," he writes. Though he details many ways in which current assistance programs could be more effective and rational, he does not believe that government alone, nor any other single variable, can solve the problem. Instead, a combination of things are required, beginning with the political will needed to create a relief system "that recognizes both the society's obligation through government and business, and the individual's obligation through labor and family." He does propose some specific steps in the right direction such as altering the current wage structure, creating more vocational programs (in both the public and private sectors), developing a fairer way to distribute school funding, and implementing basic national health care.

        Prepare to have any preconceived notions about those living in poverty in America challenged by this affecting book. --Shawn Carkonen

        From Publishers Weekly

        This guided and very personal tour through the lives of the working poor shatters the myth that America is a country in which prosperity and security are the inevitable rewards of gainful employment. Armed with an encyclopedic collection of artfully deployed statistics and individual stories, Shipler, former New York Times reporter and Pulitzer winner for Arab and Jew, identifies and describes the interconnecting obstacles that keep poor workers and those trying to enter the work force after a lifetime on welfare from achieving economic stability. This America is populated by people of all races and ethnicities, whose lives, Shipler effectively shows, are Sisyphean, and that includes the teachers and other professionals who deal with the realities facing the working poor. Dr. Barry Zuckerman, a Boston pediatrician, discovers that landlords do nothing when he calls to tell them that unsafe housing is a factor in his young patients' illnesses; he adds lawyers to his staff, and they get a better response. In seeking out those who employ subsistence wage earners, such as garment-industry shop owners and farmers, Shipler identifies the holes in the social safety net. "The system needs to be straightened out," says one worker who, in 1999, was making $6.80 an hour80 cents more than when she started factory work in 1970. "They need more resources to be able to help these people who are trying to help themselves." Attention needs to be paid, because Shipler's subjects are too busy working for substandard wages to call attention to themselves. They do not, he writes, "have the luxury of rage."

        From The Washington Post's Book World/

        "The millions who are poor in the United States tend to become increasingly invisible," Michael Harrington wrote in The Other America (1962). "Here is a great mass of people, yet it takes an effort of the intellect and will even to see them." Harrington, a prominent democratic socialist, revealed that not all Americans were sharing in the prosperity of the Eisenhower era. The Other America brought the poor out of the shadows, appealed to the conscience of the educated middle class, became a bestseller and helped to inspire the War on Poverty. For a decade or so the existence of poor housing and poor health in the world's wealthiest country was regarded as a national disgrace, a social problem addressed with the sort of fervor later directed at illegal drug use and the graduated income tax. Compassion for the poor dwindled amid the stagflation of the late 1970s. It was ridiculed during Reagan revolution, whose old-fashioned belief in self-reliance reached its peak in 1996, when President Bill Clinton backed legislation to replace federal welfare with hard work.

        Now poverty seems once again to have been forgotten. For the past 20 years the mainstream media have been obsessed with the lifestyles of the rich and famous -- not those of the poor and dispossessed. In The Working Poor, David K. Shipler directs our gaze to the people we encounter every day, yet hardly seem to notice, the low-wage workers who flip burgers at McDonald's, stock the shelves at Wal-Mart and sew the hems of designer clothes. Their misery hides in plain sight. Like Harrington's work of a generation ago, The Working Poor delivers an unsettling message for the comfortably well-off and complacent: "It is time to be ashamed."

        Shipler's focus is not the lazy, the homeless, the seriously mentally ill -- the sort of people whom you might expect to be poor. Instead he chronicles the plight of those Americans who have jobs but still live in poverty. It is remarkable how many people fit that description. A conservative estimate would be between 35 and 40 million. "Poverty" is not easy to define, and regional differences in the cost of living make nationwide measurements particularly difficult. According to the federal government, in 2002 a family of four -- one adult, three children -- that earned $18,500 had an annual income above the poverty level. An adult in such a household, working forty hours a week, five days a week, would have to earn more than $8.80 an hour to remain above the official poverty line. That is an hourly wage 70 percent higher than the current federal minimum wage. However you measure poverty, it has been growing in recent years, along with disparities in wealth. One-fifth of the American population, those at the very bottom of the income scale, have a median net worth of $7,900.

        I've spent a fair amount of time among the working poor, and Shipler conveys the stress and anxiety and chaos of their lives with extraordinary skill. There is nothing simple about the poverty he depicts. Shipler spent five years investigating the subject, and the depth of his reporting conveys a reality too complex to fit neatly into any liberal or conservative scheme. Poverty emerges in these pages not as the inevitable result of an unjust society or as a reflection of individual failings, but as a mixture of both. "Liberals don't want to see the dysfunctional family," Shipler argues, "and conservatives want to see nothing else." He supplies a haunting portrait of a woman whose upward mobility in the service industry is blocked, in large part, by the fact that she has no teeth. Poverty was responsible for her losing the teeth -- and lacking the sort of smile assistant managers like to see behind the counter, she became trapped in poverty. We meet victims of sexual abuse trying to recover from the trauma, migrant workers sleeping 12 to a room, sweatshop workers exploited by greedy employers, teachers and social workers struggling to lift children from the lower depths.

        The sort of problems that are merely inconvenient for an upper-middle-class family -- a flat tire, a baby sitter who fails to show up, a bout of the flu -- can prove disastrous for the working poor. They live precariously near the edge, without job security, health insurance or money in the bank. A boss at Wal-Mart expects workers to come whenever needed, morning, noon or night. A labor contractor deducts a smuggler's fee, along with room and board, from a migrant worker's weekly paycheck. The owner of a sweatshop suddenly closes the business, then reopens at a new location, leaving workers with weeks of unpaid wages. And it's not just unscrupulous employers who prey on the poor. Financial institutions that offer easy credit can plunge them into debt. The annual interest charged by some check-cashing outfits -- where the poor must often do their banking -- can reach 521 percent.

        No matter how close to the bottom a family may fall, there is always a relentless, downward pull. "Poverty leads to health and housing problems," Shipler explains. "Poor health and housing lead to cognitive deficiencies and school problems. Educational failure leads to poverty." There is no simple way out of such vicious circles, and Shipler advocates remedies that are as complex as the social problems he addresses. A more responsive network of social services could simultaneously offer legal, medical, educational and even parenting support. A higher minimum wage and health insurance for all Americans would help, too. Shipler's proposals defy ideological labels; they are guided by a pragmatic appreciation of what might actually get results.

        The Working Poor is not an easy read, and the darkness of the subject is only partly to blame. Shipler's hard work deserved a better editor. The structure of the book is sometimes confusing, and it would have benefited from a tighter focus, with fewer individual portraits and digressions. But this is an essential book. Even those who lack pity and compassion should be concerned about what is now happening to the poor. One of the great achievements of postwar America was the creation of a stable middle-class society. That achievement is unraveling. At the moment, the dispossessed are politically apathetic, distracted by video games and cable television, the modern equivalent of bread and circuses. Yet throughout our history, poverty and great inequalities of wealth have led to political extremism and social unrest. The Working Poor and Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed, a book that eloquently covers some of the same ground, should be required reading not just for every member of Congress, but for every eligible voter. Now that this invisible world has been so powerfully brought to light, its consequences can no longer be ignored or denied. Reviewed by Eric Schlosser

        Copyright 2004, The Washington Post Co. All Rights Reserved.

        From Booklist

        Shipler, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Arab and Jew (1986), examines the complex issues behind poverty and changes in policy and ideology regarding the poor. Shipler fleshes out statistics and social policy with compelling portraits of people who struggle to maintain lives for themselves and their families with low-paying jobs and little social support. Looking at workers from a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds, from illegal immigrants working on farms in California to factory workers in New Hampshire, Shipler vividly portrays the plight of people living on the very brink of economic disaster, some of whom are only one paycheck away from homelessness. He examines schools, job-training programs, and health-care services aimed at low-income people that often fall woefully short of actually helping their clients. Finally, Shipler ties together the micro and macro factors that condemn the working poor to a marginalized existence. This is a compelling, insightful book for those interested in issues of poverty and social justice.


        "This is one of those seminal books that every American should read and read now."
        --The New York Times Book Review

        "Through a combination of hard facts and moving accounts of hardships endured by individuals, David Shipler's new book fills in the gaps and denounces the many myths of the politically drawn caricatures and stereotypes of workers who live in poverty in America. His call to action powerfully argues that we must simultaneously address the full range of interrelated problems that confront the poor instead of tackling one issue at a time. It is a compelling book that will shift the terms of and reinvigorate the debate about social justice in America."
        --Bill Bradley

        "The 'working poor' ought to be an oxymoron, because no one who works should be impoverished. In this thoughtful assessment of poverty in twenty-first century America, David Shipler shows why so many working
        Americans remain poor, and offers a powerful guide for how to resuscitate the American dream. A tour de force of a forgotten land."
        --Robert B. Reich, University Professor, Brandeis University, and former U.S. Secretary of Labor

        Inside Flap Copy

        Most of the people I write about in this book do not have the luxury of rage. They are caught in exhausting struggles. Their wages do not lift them far enough from poverty to improve their lives, and their lives, in turn, hold them back. The term by which they are usually described, ?working poor,? should be an oxymoron. Nobody who works hard should be poor in America.? ?from the Introduction

        From the author of the Pulitzer Prize?winning Arab and Jew, a new book that presents a searing, intimate portrait of working American families struggling against insurmountable odds to escape poverty.

        As David K. Shipler makes clear in this powerful, humane study, the invisible poor are engaged in the activity most respected in American ideology?hard, honest work. But their version of the American Dream is a nightmare: low-paying, dead-end jobs; the profound failure of government to improve upon decaying housing, health care, and education; the failure of families to break the patterns of child abuse and substance abuse. Shipler exposes the interlocking problems by taking us into the sorrowful, infuriating, courageous lives of the poor?white and black, Asian and Latino, citizens and immigrants. We encounter them every day, for they do jobs essential to the American economy.

        We meet drifting farmworkers in North Carolina, exploited garment workers in New Hampshire, illegal immigrants trapped in the steaming kitchens of Los Angeles restaurants, addicts who struggle into productive work from the cruel streets of the nation?s capital?each life another aspect of a confounding, far-reaching urgent national crisis. And unlike most works on poverty, this one delves into the calculations of some employers as well?their razor-thin profits, their anxieties about competition from abroad, their frustrations in finding qualified workers.

        This impassioned book not only dissects the problems, but makes pointed, informed recommendations for change. It is a book that stands to make a difference.

        About the AuthorBook Description

        The Working Poor : Invisible in America
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        • #5

          Your sister-in-Islam
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