Wednesday, July 29, 2009

So, in the recession, should be Pennied and Nickeled?

Opinions abound about the new federal minimum wage increase. It's been a long time since I've taken an economics class, and I don't want to risk turning this blog into a collection of liberal rants. But before you form an opinion about the minimum wage on either side of the issue (if you care to form an opinion at all, that is), I urge you to read Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich. In the spirit of full disclosure, I will admit that I haven't read the entire book yet, but I started it yesterday and have almost finished it. It has to be a pretty compelling read for me to plow through a work of nonfiction that quickly. The book is well-written, and the subject matter is fascinating. Ehrenreich, a journalist/essayist by trade, conducts a social experiment by taking on a series of minimum-wage/"unskilled" jobs, and trying to live on her earnings. She acknowledges her advantages from the beginning: decades of desk work have not ravaged her body, she has a comfortable life waiting at home when the experiment is over, and she allows herself certain advantages (like a car) that would not be available to her if this were more than an experiment.

Friends urged me to read this book for years, and like my recent reading about food, I pushed it aside for too long. I worked in menial jobs in high school and college, but always with an eye toward a better job, and a better life. I've never known hunger, and I've always known that I would have a place to rest my head at night. This book is giving me a rare glimpse as to what it would be like to live a different life, and why it is so important that everyone has a chance at a real living wage.

1 comment:

  1. I read this book several years ago, and still love it. Thanks for writing about it! I'm glad I discovered your blog, Carrie. :) (I mean, Curessa!)