An astute writer on the American scene is Barbara Ehrenreich. She has done the research to be able to tell the truth. This interview with Amy Goodman comes from Alternet.

Barbara Ehrenreich: America’s Tragic Decline — Resistance Bursts Out All Over the World, While We Do Nothing to Fight Corporate Takeover

By Amy Goodman and Barbara Ehrenreich, Democracy Now!
Posted on August 8, 2011, Printed on August 9, 2011–_resistance_bursts_out_all_over_the_world%2C_while_we_do_nothing_to_fight_corporate_takeover

 Editor’s note: In the following Democracy Now! interview, journalist Barbara Ehrenreich and Amy Goodman talk about the human cost of the economic meltdown.

AMY GOODMAN: Standard & Poor’s announced Friday it’s downgraded the U.S. credit rating for the first time in history. The move by S&P, one of three leading credit rating agencies, came just days after Congress approved a $2.1 trillion deficit-reduction plan. S&P called the outlook “negative,” indicating that another downgrade is possible in the next 12 to 18 months. Lowering the nation’s rating to one notch below AAA, the credit rating company said “political brinkmanship” in the debate over the debt had made the U.S. government’s ability to manage its finances, quote, “less stable, less effective and less predictable.” It said the $2.1 trillion bipartisan agreement reached last week “fell short” of what was necessary to reduce the nation’s debt over time.

In its report, S&P explicitly blamed the political process in Washington and the refusal by Republicans to raise taxes as part of last week’s agreement to raise the debt ceiling, writing, quote, “We have changed our assumption on this because the majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues, a position we believe Congress reinforced by passing the act,” they said.

Speaking to reporters Sunday, Democratic Senator John Kerry blamed Tea Party Republicans who refused to sign on to any deal that raised taxes.

SEN. JOHN KERRY: I believe this is, without question, the Tea Party downgrade. This is the Tea Party downgrade because a minority of people in the House of Representatives countered even the will of many Republicans in the United States Senate, who were prepared to do a bigger deal, to do $4.7 trillion, $4 trillion, have a mix of reductions and reforms, in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, but also recognize that we needed to do some revenue.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, to talk more about the state of the American economy and how it impacts the American people, we go to Washington, D.C., to talk to bestselling author Barbara Ehrenreich.

On her Facebook page, Ehrenreich writes, quote, “My patriotic pride is not offended by S&P’s downgrade of the US credit rating, but by the fact that while resistance bursts out everywhere—Tel Aviv, Santiago, Tottingham, not to mention No. Africa and Middle East—we do NOTHING.”

The 10th anniversary edition of Barbara Ehrenreich’s book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America has just been published. In the book, she tells the story of life in low-wage America, and she herself tries to earn a living working as a waitress, a hotel maid, a nursing home aide and a Wal-Mart associate. The book, over the last 10 years, has sold more than two million copies.

She’s also the author of many other books, including Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking is Undermining America and Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream, a frequent contributor to Harper’s and The Nation and has also a columnist at the New York Times and Time Magazine.

Barbara Ehrenreich, welcome to Democracy Now!

BARBARA EHRENREICH: Good to be with you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s great to have you with us. Before we get to Nickel and Dimed, let’s talk about Standard & Poor’s—and perhaps then we’ll go into poor is the standard in America today—but the significance of this for everyday people in the United States, the downgrading of America’s credit rating?

BARBARA EHRENREICH: I don’t know. I’m not sure. I mean, it’s part of a general sense of decline that I think we’ve gotten in many ways and that people like Tom Friedman have been writing about in the New York Times for some time. But, you know, in some ways, that is in another world from most Americans and their day-to-day struggles. What is it going to mean to you if you have no job now? Or if you have a job and you have no health insurance? Or if you are trying to get through college while working full time? It just seems very distant and abstract. When we’re talking about the economy in this country, we seldom talk about real people’s lives.

AMY GOODMAN: And that’s what we’re going to talk about today. Your book took this country by storm. I am sure there was no one more surprised than you, Barbara. You have written a number of books. You did do something very interesting in Nickel and Dimed, but the fact that it caught on in a time when “prosperity” was the watchword, the buzzword, in the mainstream media—talk about—especially for young people who were 10 years old when the book came out, talk about exactly what you did, what you found then, and what it means today, 10 years later, when “prosperity” is certainly not the buzzword.

BARBARA EHRENREICH: Well, I took on a challenge that I set myself, which was to see whether I could support myself on the money I could earn in, well, obviously entry-level jobs, which are the, you know, kind of jobs where you go and apply, and they’re not going to ask—you know, they’re not going to ask for a résumé. They’re not going to—they don’t care about anything, except whether you’re a convicted felon or whether you have—you’re actually—you know, it’s legal for you to work in this country. So, I—you mentioned some of the jobs I worked at. I think you left out the maid with a house cleaning service, though. That was a very instructive one. And all these jobs averaged at the time, in around 2000, about $7 an hour, even including the tips with waitressing, which would be equivalent to about $9 an hour now.

And basically, what I found, that for me, just as one person—I wasn’t trying to support my family with my earnings or anything like that—it just wasn’t doable, because the rents were so out of line with my earnings. And I did try. I mean, I didn’t spend any money except on gas, food and, you know, the bare minimum, which was possible to do because I worked at each city for only a month. So I wasn’t depending—you know, medical care or anything like that was not coming through my jobs.

But I found a very important thing—well, two very important things. First, at $7 an hour, or $9 an hour in today’s dollars, you’re not considered poor. You don’t show up in the poverty statistics. You’re considered to be fine if you’re one individual earning that much. And the other big lesson here is—which is maybe a hard one to remember at a time of high unemployment—is that jobs are not necessarily a cure for poverty. Jobs that don’t pay enough to live on do not cure poverty. They condemn you, in fact, to a life of low-wage labor and extreme insecurity.

AMY GOODMAN: This figure, Barbara, of the number of Americans on food stamps, almost one in six, almost 15 percent. The figures from May, people on food stamps were 12 percent higher than a year earlier, according to the Agriculture Department. One in almost six Americans. And this applies directly to the people that you met, to the jobs that you took—for example, being a Wal-Mart associate. Talk about that and the woman you wrote about and where she is today.

This is only a small portion of the whole interview. Go to Alternet to read the rest.



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