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The Working Poor: Invisible in America

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | The Working Poor: Invisible in America.pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    David K. Shipler(Author)

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“Nobody who works hard should be poor in America,” writes Pulitzer Prize winner David Shipler. Clear-headed, rigorous, and compassionate, he journeys deeply into the lives of individual store clerks and factory workers, farm laborers and sweat-shop seamstresses, illegal immigrants in menial jobs and Americans saddled with immense student loans and paltry wages. They are known as the working poor.

They perform labor essential to America’s comfort. They are white and black, Latino and Asian--men and women in small towns and city slums trapped near the poverty line, where the margins are so tight that even minor setbacks can cause devastating chain reactions. Shipler shows how liberals and conservatives are both partly right–that practically every life story contains failure by both the society and the individual. Braced by hard fact and personal testimony, he unravels the forces that confine people in the quagmire of low wages. And unlike most works on poverty, this book also offers compelling portraits of employers struggling against razor-thin profits and competition from abroad. With pointed recommendations for change that challenge Republicans and Democrats alike, The Working Poor stands to make a difference.

“Nobody who works hard should be poor in America,” writes Pulitzer Prize winner David Shipler. Clear-headed, rigorous, and compassionate, he journeys deeply into the lives of individual store clerks and factory workers, farm laborers and sweat-shop seamstresses, illegal immigrants in menial jobs and Americans saddled with immense student loans and paltry wages. They are known as the working poor.They perform labor essential to America’s comfort. They are white and black, Latino and Asian--men and women in small towns and city slums trapped near the poverty line, where the margins are so tight that even minor setbacks can cause devastating chain reactions. Shipler shows how liberals and conservatives are both partly right–that practically every life story contains failure by both the society and the individual. Braced by hard fact and personal testimony, he unravels the forces that confine people in the quagmire of low wages. And unlike most works on poverty, this book also offers compelling portraits of employers struggling against razor-thin profits and competition from abroad. With pointed recommendations for change that challenge Republicans and Democrats alike, The Working Poor stands to make a difference.

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Book details

  • PDF | 352 pages
  • David K. Shipler(Author)
  • Vintage; Reprint edition (January 4, 2005)
  • English
  • 7
  • Politics & Social Sciences

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Review Text

  • By PaperbackPal on March 3, 2005

    It was clear to me after having read only a few pages that this book was written with a right wing slant utilizing typical right wing stereotypes. I noticed that there wasn't one person in the list of those consulted in the writing of this book, or that offered an editorial review, that wasn't a newspaper or affluent. No anti-poverty, women's, immigrant, or any other group that represents the poor were included. All people who have much to gain from giving the average American the impression that the poor are poor due to their own defects. I would have thrown this book out except that I feel that you must know your enemy to fight them.Reading this book was infuriating. The author made it appear that most low income people have a combination of drug problems, alcohol problems, childhood abuse issues, poor parenting skills, poor budgeting skills, and an incomplete education.In the chapter on child abuse there isn't a poor parent in America that hasn't been abused by their parents and all are at risk, if not already abusing their own kids! He feels that they all need to take parenting classes!When the author discusses illegal immigrants, particularly farm and factory workers, and describes their terrible living conditions he gives the impression that poor immigrants must be terrible slobs that can't see anything wrong with their living conditions and are satisfied with them as long as they have work. He wasn't able to find a single illegal immigrant farmer or factory worker in the entire United States that had anything negative to say about these conditions! Does this author really expect people to buy this?The author found a token *middle class* white woman who had been unfortunate enough to have divorced and fallen from her higher position in society. Of course, according to the author, there are no low income people in America that haven't fallen from this higher rung on the economic ladder that are literate so he must use this example. Here he portrays her as making the correct choice of working part time to spend more time with her kids and to send them to private school by making sacrifices in other areas while she lives off of the generous support payments that her husband provides. He can't use a mother on government assistance as an example of working only part time to stay home with the kids because that would not sit well with the affluent readers.He consistently portrays the low income person's home as dirty, dishes everywhere, clothes on the floor, filthy conditions generally. They are deficient in homemaking skills!He insists that they haven't any `soft skills', a spin phrase used by the welfare reform proponents to denote cases that must be forced into training programs which consist of resume writing, interviewing skills, basic computer usage, getting to work on time, etc. According to this author, all poor people have low self esteem and can't even look at an employer or speak properly when in an interview, nor arrive to work on time, or call in when they can't show up for work. The author makes the reader feel that they are all so terribly damaged and need help in this area in the form of forced participation in a *program* that will address these soft skills and then direct the poor into *entry level* positions. After all, do you really expect employers to pay decent wages to people when they are so damaged and so useless that they are barely even human? They are costing companies money by putting up with them you know!Really is just amazes me that so many readers are taken in by this book. I wonder how it is that nearly every low income person I have ever known had excellent skills in time management, budgeting, problem solving, and are computer literate today as well. They have all kept relatively clean houses and none of them beat their kids, in fact they were usually the first ones to point out minor flaws in each other's parenting and offer helpful suggestions. They develop fine networks of bartering and support amongst each other. They are skilled at resume writing and communication skills.So how come they aren't working or working and still low income? Well, there are no unskilled jobs that pay enough money to support a single person, never mind a family. There is a lack of economically feasible and decent childcare. Tuition costs are so high that only a fool would go into that kind of debt for a higher education with little means to pay it off upon graduation. Jobs once performed by unskilled labour now require a masters degree to get hired. There are often a thousand applicants for every one position advertised. Low paying jobs don't have promotion opportunities. Neither do they provide raises for skills, experience, and time on the job. They may, for example, offer a 2% raise when inflation is 5% which puts the low income person further into the hole. They call this a raise. Employees wages are decreasing every year to the benefit of the employers. There is also the cost of public transportation or a car if they are rural, clothes for work and quicker more costly meals because of the time factor. The low wage worker ends up without enough left to sustain them to go to work. I guess low income people are supposed to work hungry and like it. This will really increase self esteem! Does this author actually expect us to buy the idea that a lower income job, usually a position that no one wants to do, doesn't lead anywhere, and doesn't pay enough to fill their stomach or pay their bills to increase people's self esteem!? Let the author work at one of these low wage jobs for a few weeks and see how his self esteem is.While I don't dispute that the people mentioned in this book are actual people with the problems cited, the author has conveniently selected a group of experiences which very carefully fit the spin doctors stereotypical view of the poor in order to justify their welfare reform, low wages, and forced back to work *programs*. Very clever and hardly noticeable by the general population who are not acutely aware of the real issues and the elaborately planned, corporate funded, political brainwashing attempt to divert their attention from the problems of the free market system to the defects of the poor.Absolutely no mention was given to the responsibility of corporations in paying livable wages and his end remarks regarding government responsibility were diluted at best. The author mentions a few employers who say they can't cut into their profit margins or it will put the business at risk. These are all small operations he mentions. Does the risk to employees mean anything? Have corporations that have billions a year in profits been mentioned? NO! We can't upset the corporate guys or they won't buy the book !Though there are many problems amongst lower income people these problems are almost always caused by poverty itself and could be significantly reduced by providing universal health care, access to decent and affordable housing, livable wages, reliable and efficient transportation, affordable food and nutritional supplements, affordable and reliable child care, and a comprehensive education for all members of our society.Don't buy the SPIN!

  • By Jerry Saperstein on June 5, 2004

    Shipler preaches to the choir of those who believe the United States is a horrible place, it's political system more oppressive than the former Soviet Union and that more government bureaucracy and taxpayer money alone can solve a given problem. Shipler begins with an untrue thesis: "Workers at the edge of poverty are essential to America's prosperity, but their well-being is not treated as an integral part of the whole [whatever that is supposed to mean] . . . It is time to be ashamed." Shipler's agenda is clear: take the money from taxpayers and give it to other people. Wealth redistribution to some, Marxism or socialism to others, Shipler's idea is to strip some of their earnings in order to "lift" those who have failed to take advantage of the opportunities offered in this country - or have other problems, such as drug addiction and alcoholism. Shipler makes his biases clear through blanket statements such as liberals support intact families while conservatives demand dysfunctional families. He offers no support for such claims - and it is unlikely that such blatant generalizations could be supported. Ultimately Shipler gives away his own flawed perspspective. He claims "[a]s the the people in these pages show, working poverty is a constellation of difficulties that magnify one another: not just low wages but also low education; not just dead-end jobs, but also limited abilities, not just insufficient savings but also unwise spending, not just poor housing but also poor parenting, not jsut the lack of health insurance but also the lack of healthy households." Two paragraphs later he asserts "[a]ll of the problems have to be attacked at once." Like those revolutionaries (a tiny band) who gave birth to the long discredited concept of the "New Soviet Man," Shipler's solution would require the vast majority of responsible, hard-working people to surrender their own limited money and freedom to serve the needs of the few who have squandered their opportunities, consciously made poor decisions that they blame others for and refuse to take responsibility for. Unrepentant Marxists, unthinking do-gooders and those who want everyone to share equally in misery will love this book. Others not so inclined may feel a chill that Shipler and his fellow-travellers have failed to learn the lessons of history: "from each according to their abilities; to each according to their needs" was a philosophy that impoverished billions and murdered hundreds of millions. It didn't work then and it won't work now. Shipler's tome, stripped of its sugarcoating, is nothing more than warmed over Marxist cant.Jerry


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