10/19/12: Nickel & Dimed: Part Four


Why does Ehrenreich continually attempt to introduce hypothetical earnings that she could have achieved when she did not?

Why were housing subsidies around the 1990s denied by the government?

Does ‘Work hard and you’ll get ahead’ still apply in society?


“… no job, no matter how lowly, is truly ‘unskilled.'”

“… because ‘the more they think you can do, the more they’ll use you and abuse you.'”

“… strength comes from knowing what to do with weakness.”

“… employers resist wage increase with every trick they can think of an every ounce of strength they can summon… – free meals, subsidized transportation, store discounts – rather than raise wages.”

“… humans experience a little more ‘friction’ than marbles do, and the poorer they are, the more constrained their mobility usually is.”

“… one is required to surrender one’s basic civil rights and – what boils down to the same thing – self-respect.”

“… urination is a private act and it is degrading to have to perform it at the command of some powerful other.”

“The top 20 percent routinely exercises other, far more consequential forms of power in the world… is home of our decision makers, opinion shapers, culture creators – our professors, lawyers, executives, entertainers, politicians, judges, writers, producers, and editors.”

“… the newspaper-reading professional middle class are used to thinking of poverty as a consequence of unemployment.”

“But guilt doesn’t go anywhere near far enough; the appropriate emotion is shame – shame at our own dependency, in this case, on the underpaid labor of others.”

“Make love not war… Screw it, just make money.”

“‘They arrested a homeless man in a shelter for being homeless?'”

Rhetorical Analysis

Details: “In Key West, I earned $1,039 in one month and spent $517 on food, gas, toiletries, laundry, phone, and utilties… In Portland, Maine… Between my two jobs, I was earning approximately $300 a week after taxes and paying $480 a month in rent… In Minneapolis… If I had been able to find an apartment for $400 a month or less, my pay at Wal-Mart- $1,120 a month before taxes – might have been sufficient…”

Logical Fallacy: “Federal Reserve chief Alan Greenspan… went so far as to suggest that the economic laws linking low unemployment to wage increases… which is a little like saying that the law of supply and demand has been repealed.”

Simile: “… workers will sort themselves out as effectively as marbles on an inclined plane – gravitating to the better-paying jobs and either leaving the recalcitrant employers behind or forcing them to up the pay.”

Symbolism: “The money taboo is the one thing that employers can always count on… preventing workers from optimizing their earnings.”

Paradox: “… I was amazed and sometimes saddened by the pride people took in jobs that rewarded them so meagerly, either in wages or recognition.”

Details: “The Economic Policy Institute recently reviewed dozens of studies of what constitutes a ‘living wage’ and came up with an average figure of $30,000 a year for a family… which amounts to a wage of $14 an hour… The shocking thing is that the majority of American workers, about 60 percent, earn less than $14 an hour.”

Irony: “Most civilized nations compensate for the inadequacy of wages by providing relatively generous public services… But the United States, for all its wealth, leaves its citizens to fend for themselves.”

Satire: “… the affluent exert inordinate power over the lives of the less affluent, and especially over the lives of the poor, determining what public services will be available, if any, what minimum wage, what laws governing the treatment of labor.”

Metaphor: “Some odd optical property of our highly polarized and unequal society makes the poor almost invisible to their superiors.”

Metonymy: “Working poor” and “Philanthropist”

Foreshadowing: ” There’ll be a lot of anger when that day comes, and strikes and disruptions.”

Situational Irony: “In 2006, Adam Shepard, undertook to refute it (Nickel & Dimed) with his own experiment as a low-wage worker. He turned out to be far more financially successful than I had been…”


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