“On Nickels and Dimes” by Ehrenreich: Review

Poverty remains a major issue for the United States, but it seems that the government has no rush to stop it. While some struggle to survive, other people may benefit from their misfortune. In her works, Ehrenreich exposes the reality behind poverty and focuses on its systematic nature and how it affects individuals with low income. This paper will address several questions about the phenomena using Ehrenreich’s findings.

In the title of her book, Ehrenreich uses wordplay which reveals poverty’s nature. First of all, “nickel and dime” refers to the unfair practice of charging customers more for less, and it connects to the problem that exists in the private sector (Ehrenreich, “How the poor” para. 2). For poor people, the issue would be to receive less money for their hard work, which borderlines overtime (Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed 16). Meanwhile, the working conditions are far from perfect, and living is not particularly comfortable despite the price, which better suits the phrase’s definition (Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed 20). However, the overarching and local governments appear to maintain the status quo and keep people with low income in their vulnerable position (Ehrenreich, “How the poor” para. 2). Thus, the book’s title reflects that poverty is forced on people by other, more affluent parties.

A comparison often reveals more than separate facts about two phenomena, and Ehrenreich had to experience it herself. Her co-workers have to either share their apartments with people they do not like because of overwhelming rent or live in various types of vehicles, which is hardly convenient (Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed 20). On the other hand, Ehrenreich can afford a single apartment at a price unachievable by low-income communities (Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed 14). Gail’s housing results from two simultaneous attempts by the government to suppress the poor: her boyfriend’s arrest and subsequent death and the absence of power to negotiate the rent (Ehrenreich, “How the poor” para. 19). Thus, the officials maintain the environment in which low-income communities feel helpless.

In conclusion, Ehrenreich offers an insight into poor people’s lives, and one might discover that many factors surrounding it are unnatural and artificially supported by the government. A high rent or a low salary may not be coincidental and occur only in one place; rather, they appear to be systematic, agreed upon by those in power. Drawing attention to the issue might gradually lead to changes.

Works Cited

Ehrenreich, Barbara. “How the poor are made to pay for their poverty,” The Guardian, 2012.

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. Henry Holt and Company, 2001.

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