Adam Ash

Your daily entertainment scout. Whatever is happening out there, you'll find the best writing about it in here.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The working poor

Tales of the Poor, Working to Survive in America by Jeannette Catsoulis

For most of us, a 25-cent increase in hourly wage would hardly be cause for celebration. But for at least one of the subjects of "Waging a Living" - an eye-opening, often heartbreaking documentary about America's working poor - that pittance could mean the difference between disaster and survival.

Filmed over a three-year period in the Northeast and California, "Waging a Living" tracks four ethnically diverse, low-wage workers as they struggle to bridge the gap between paycheck and expenses. "There's no American dream anymore," sighs Jean Reynolds, 51, a certified nursing assistant supporting three children and four grandchildren on $1,200 a month. In common with 78% of low-wage workers, Jean has no health insurance and faces eviction when she must choose between paying her rent and purchasing medication for her terminally ill daughter.

Middle-aged divorcee Mary Venittelli works as a waitress for $2.13 an hour and feeds her three children from a food pantry in a neighboring county to avoid the shame. Applying for yet another credit card to pay the bills, Mary is resigned: "What do I have to worry about, someone stealing my identity? Please!"

We have all heard the appalling statistics. More than 30 million Americans work low-wage jobs, and more than half the people who began the last decade in poverty are still there. Many are single mothers, battling a system intent on getting people off welfare without lifting them out of poverty. The documentary reveals a country rife with income inequality, short-term political thinking and ineffective tracking of deadbeat dads, a country in which filling a simple prescription for a child's asthma medication can put a family in the street.

Barbara Brooks, a mother of five and a recreational counselor, is bewildered. "I tell everyone I'm hustling backwards," she says, her faith in the golden ring of education severely dented when a sorely won associate's degree yields a raise of $450 in income a month and - shockingly - $600 less in public assistance.

Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed covered some of this ground.

MORE THAN 30 MILLION Americans work at low-wage jobs that don't give them a decent living. Is this something our pols will attend to? Our Republican pols? Our Democratic pols? Don't hold your breath.


At 7/28/2005 11:37 AM, Blogger FemaleCSGradStudent said...

It's really ridiculous. What's even more ridiculous is this notion that "if people just pull themselves up by their bootstraps" they can make it. Social Darwinism remains in this country, and it is very frustrating. Being a PhD candidate coming out of a working class home makes me see with even bigger eyes how ridiculous the American class system really is.

Not to mention that much of our society takes advantage of the working poor. Most of the audits done by the IRS are on people who make less than 28,000. "Check-cashing stores" just renamed loan sharks making exhorbitant interest on people who living from check to check. It even costs money to declare bankruptcy.

You hit a nerve Adam. Thanks.

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At 11/27/2006 2:54 PM, Blogger Lily said...

I found a great prescription discount card that costs only $4.95 a month for a whole family. It's at They post drug prices to look at before you sign up. That might help someone.


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