SHE’S THE BEST-SELLING author of more than a dozen books, but Reed College grad Barbara Ehrenreich’s most noteworthy efforts have been exposés about her travails in the workforce, both as a minimum-wage laborer in Nickel and Dimed (2001) and as an unemployed white-collar drone in Bait and Switch (2006). Her latest book, This Land Is Their Land, is a collection of essays about America’s ever-widening poverty gap, a topic that inspired a conversation about our less-than-booming economy.
During a Democratic presidential debate on ABC, the moderators were miffed about a possible raise in the capital gains tax because it might hurt the middle class. But it apparently only affects households that make over $200,000 a year. Is the media really that clueless? That was surprising. But these are people [George Stephanopoulos and Charles Gibson] who are paid in the seven-figure range. I’m sure they consider themselves upper middle class. It’s easy at the top to lose sight of what’s going on.
Why is that? The deterioration of public services, for one thing. They don’t ride public transportation anymore, or recreate in public parks, and the upper middle class are taking their kids out of public schools because [the schools] aren’t good enough. And they won’t be, especially if all the middle-class kids withdraw from them.
What can the next president do to take the pressure off the working poor? We took a small step in the right direction when we raised the minimum wage last summer. But it was such a small amount! Minimum wage should be a wage that you can actually live on.
There’s reportedly a movie based on Nickel and Dimed in the works. Is this an indie production, or will you be played by Julia Roberts? I was hoping for Catherine Zeta-Jones. You know, someone who actually looks like me.