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The Working Poor: Invisible in America

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Book Overview

From the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Arab and Jew, an intimate portrait unfolds of working American families struggling against insurmountable odds to escape poverty. As David K. Shipler... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

A superb investigation of the problem of American poverty

There have been a number of important books recently on the American working poor, notably Ehrenreich's "Nickel and Dimed," Shulman's "Betrayal of Work," and now Shipler's "The working poor". In many ways, Shipler's is the most comprehensive of the three. He does a superb job blending ethnographic and interview material with legal and sociological research, and paints a compelling picture of poverty as a web of interlocking causes and effects that is deceptively easy to fall into and difficult to struggle free from. In many ways, the most remarkable thing about the book is Shipler's ability to see and portray the same situation from a variety of perspectives: welfare-to-work employment incentive programs from the eyes of both employer and employee, or drug rehabilitation from the eyes of both addict and rehab center worker. And it's not a partisan book: Shipler shows how there's never just one direction to point the finger of blame, and how the web has to be attacked from more than one direction to truly be cut and free those who are ensnared.

introspection for Americans; analysis for everyone

The Working Poor: Invisible in America by David K. Shipler is nowhere near as dry as one might expect from the title. It is a very readable analysis of the many complex issues facing the "working poor" in America. The author takes a relatively even-handed approach politically, but he does not fail to let you know what he thinks about various policies, using real life stories from the perspective of employees, employers in the private and public sector to illustrate his points. Rather than being all about how 'America is a land of opportunities if you only try hard enough' or 'the poor are oppressed; there's nothing anyone can do,' Shipler strikes a balance. He recognizes that there is never a one-size-fits-all approach, and that there are many parties with a stake in the policy process. In a society where there is so often a rush to judgment and a desire for simple solutions, Shipler takes the time to explore the different pieces of the puzzles, stripping each back as if peeling an onion... And ironically, the deeper in he takes you, the more of a big picture you see.I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone who seeks to understand the class system of the United States.

It was Time for this book

It was Time for this bookAbsolutely time for this book to come out and show the world what the real life human beings/people of this USA have to live with and through. It is an honest look at todays society and well worth the purchase.Ever since the Bush administration has taken over we have less and less value as citizens in this great country. We can not afford our homes nor afford a decent car...life is not good for us that puts in 60 hour weeks and still not have enough left over for a trip to McDonald's with our kids.Several other books I would like to mention: Nightmares Echo, Tuesdays with Morrie, Lost Boy

Sobering and disturbing

Like Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed, this book will make you think twice and notice the cashier who rings up your purchase at Walmart, the worker who bags your Whopper at the local Burger King, the laborer who picks your vegetables, and all sorts of other people who make our lives more comfortable and convenient, but live every day on the edge of hunger and homelessness. While conservatives are eager to feed us soundbites about the laziness and dishonesty of those on welfare, this book puts a face on a problem that impacts all of us through stories of real people and families, and delves deeply into the social causes and real costs of poverty. Highly recommended to anyone who has ever taken a full stomach and a warm, safe home for granted.

Needs Policy Summary, But Provides Full Details

Edit of 20 Dec 07 to state that this is a book of lasting value that must be kept in print, and to add links. This book complements Barbara Ehrenreich's book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America Ehrenreich's is much easier to read and makes the same broader points. Where this book excels is in the details that in turn lead to policy solutions. I will go so far as to say that if John Kerry and John Edwards do not get hold of an executive summary of this book, and integrate its findings into their campaign as a means of mobilizing the working poor in the forthcoming election, then they will have failed to both excite and serve what the author, David Shipler, calls the "invisible." Invisible indeed. How America treats its working poor--people working *very* hard and being kept in conditions that border on genocidal labor camps, is our greatest shame. The most important point made in this book, a point made over and over in relation to a wide variety of "case studies", is that one cannot break out of poverty unless the **entire** system works flawlessly. To hard work one must add public transportation, safe public housing, adequate schooling and child care, effective parenting, effective job training, fundamental budgeting and arithmetic skills, and honest banks, credit card companies and tax preparation brokers, as well as sympathetic or at least observant employers. The author is coherent and compelling in making the point that a break or flaw in any one of these key links in the chain can break a family. I am personally appalled at the manner in which H & R Block, to name the largest within an industry, and Western Union, to name another, are ripping off the working poor with a wide variety of "surcharges" such that they end up paying 25% of their tax return or their funds transfer back to Mexico. This is both usury and treason if you want to look at it in the largest sense. They are sabotaging the American economy in a time of war. It surprised me to learn that while hospitals are forced to treat the poor in an emergency, they are also allowed to bill them, and these bills, for an ambulance ride or emergency treatment, often are the straw that breaks a family into destitution. This is outrageous and should not be permitted. Then the author tells us that it costs as much as $900 for a working poor family to declare bankruptcy and obtain the protection of the law from creditors, many of whom are cheats in the larger sense of the world. How can this be?!?! It did not surprise me, but continues to distress me, to learn that the laws are not enforced. Although laws exist about minimum wage, humane working conditions (and humane living conditions for migrant workers), they are not enforced. The working poor are treated as less than slaves, for they are "used up and thrown out" with no defense against unfair firing. They are forced to work "off the books", to do piece rate work at below minimum wage, this list goes on. I
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