Barbara Ehrenreich: America's Tragic Decline -- Resistance Bursts Out All Over the World, While We Do Nothing to Fight Corporate Takeover
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I would point out—and these are things that I was not aware of when I finished Nickel and Dimed, or they weren’t, you know, very prominent yet—is that employers no longer want to hire unemployed people. Think about that. They don’t want to hire people with bad credit ratings. Well, you know, who doesn’t have a bad credit rating if they’ve been unemployed for a little while and having to pay their own health insurance and everything? So it’s as if, you know, you try to climb out, you try to hold on, and you just get kicked in the face, one way or another, and pushed further down.
AMY GOODMAN: The Heritage Foundation came out with a study called "Air Conditioning, Cable TV, and an Xbox: What is Poverty in the United States Today?" by researchers Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield, who say the U.S. Census Bureau has reported for the past two decades that over 30 million Americans are living in poverty. But, you know, they ask, well, what does it really mean to be poor? And you get, from the headline—cable TV, air conditioning, etc.—what it means to the Heritage Foundation.
BARBARA EHRENREICH: Yes. Robert Rector at the Heritage Foundation has had a campaign for many decades now to prove that the poor in America really live in some kind of luxury. I would like to say, yeah, in some places, boy, you better have air conditioning. You know, in the D.C. area where I live now, you could not have survived very easily the summer, even with occasional cooling centers to go to.
But the truth is, here’s what’s happening. More and more people are having to crowd into smaller spaces to live. This is since—this has been going on for a lot of people, you know, for many years. But since the recession, since the financial crisis in '07, you find more and more families—you can have one family per bedroom and somebody, a couch surfer, on the couch in the living room. There's nothing comfortable about that. You know, one of the things that really woke me up to how bad things were was in '09 when a family member of mine suddenly needed money to pay her mortgage or her home would be taken away. I was able to help, but when I found out the real facts, I was horrified. Her home was a trailer home. Not only that, it's a dilapidated trailer home. She lives in it—a single-wide trailer home—along with her daughter and two grandchildren. Now that’s getting down to, you know, third-world levels of poverty, when you crowd that many people into such an inadequate dwelling.
Another thing people are doing: give up on medical care. You know, if we have a healthcare system in the United States, I think its real name is Tylenol. You can’t—you know, it’s something you have to drop. You can’t do it. Food prices are too high. Fuel prices are too high. So you have to give up on those things that it seems like you can get through another day without, even if that’s your blood pressure medicine.
AMY GOODMAN: There are some—
BARBARA EHRENREICH: So I—
AMY GOODMAN: There are some who are doing very well, of course. The luxury category has posted 10 consecutive months of sales increases compared to a year earlier, this a report in the New York Times. Luxury items are—
BARBARA EHRENREICH: Yes.