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Nickel and Dimed Essay

Ehrenreich speaks about the working class poor in her book Nickel and Dimed. She discusses many issues that are affecting the working class poor including health problems, lack of resources, lack of security and lack of adequate financial resources to live on. She continues to maintain that there should be a higher minimum wage and that one should be able to work for minimum wage and live on that amount of money. In order to do her research for this book, Ehrenreich agreed to live like the working poor.

She worked at various places of employment including a small locally owned restaurant where she was a waitress; Merry Maids where she worked as a maid; and Wal-Mart where she worked as a store associate and all were negative experiences in her opinion. Capitalism is the idea that the economy of a given country should be run completely by the people of the country and that the government should not be involved in any way. Capitalism relies heavily on the idea that if the people were to control the wealth rather than the government than more human needs would be met.

The people would also be in control of the ways of producing wealth and therefore wealth would be available to more in theory. Another principal idea in capitalism is the idea of land ownership. In capitalism those who own land would be able to sell their land to whomever they please or even sell the rights to use the land as an ongoing marketable property. The government would not produce fair market value for products either, the price of products would solely be based upon the market value which would be based upon supply and demand and a free price structure.

I agree with Ehrenreich that there needs to be a lot of structural changes in our society. The only way to truly change the system is for everyone to be on board. I once heard a friend state that there should be a one house rule, meaning until everyone in the country has one house, no one should be allowed two. I feel strongly that the work that Ehrenreich did was important to those whom she was involved with as well as opening up the world of the working class poor to which many people have a hard time understanding. There were many things that I learned while reading the book Nickel and Dimed.

I learned many things about what it would be like to be less fortunate than I am. There are many things that could happen to improve the system that involves us. The structural changes that were involved in the book included restructuring the minimum wage system, the way that the working class poor is able to afford basic human needs and that there needed to be changes to the health care for these people as well. Some structural changes that need to occur in order for there to be a better life for the working class poor including livable wages.

It needs to be mandated and regulated by our government that the wages that someone earns are enough money to properly care for a parent and a child. Yes this could make it hard for a single parent with more than one child but for them to be at a wage where there was the ability to pay for themselves and one child would still be a vast improvement on what there is today. The wages need to allow a person to be able to provide housing, transportation, food and clothing. The problem with many low income families is that they get to a point where they have to choose between two of their needs.

Take for instance in the book the young woman who was unable to afford to feed herself when she was pregnant as paying all of the bills was reliant upon her. She was working very hard as a pregnant woman for Merry Maids and working to ensure that there was a way to take care of an ill relative. This should not happen in our country where so many people are so fortunate. No one should have to go without food and set structural changes and better enforced regulations on pay would advance the quality of life for many who are a part of the working poor. Having wages that one can easily live on is very important.

There are many things that could benefit the people of the working class poor if they were able to make enough money to survive on a month to month basis, rather than struggle. Some other structural changes that need to be made are issues with housing. It is sad to think of the fact that so many people in the US are homeless. The homeless in our country are not all unwilling to work. For instance just the other day I saw on Oprah a story about a middle class family with three children who were now homeless after being laid off and losing their home.

Some of the structural changes that need to be made with housing are the way that people are able to find places to rent when they have little or no income through no fault of their own. I am not saying that there should be a way for people to just get free housing for everyone but rather that those who are in these situations and have worked hard and are simply laid off because of a bad economy are able to find a way to keep housing. The regulations made on housing and the way that housing is available to the working class poor needs to change as well.

Another structural problem that needs to change is the lack of health care for those who fall in the working class poor. There is adequate health care through Medicaid if you don’t make money or if you only make little money. However someone who is working full time makes too much money to qualify for Medicaid alone. The person has to pay a co-pay in order to be able to get their Medicaid and usually they have a spend down to meet as well. A spend down is money that is out of pocket prior to any Medicaid benefits kicking in.

The problem with this is that those who are working full time and earning only minimum wage are not making enough money to cover the cost of housing, food and their medical. Having a better and more readily available health care system for all is something that is important as many things that end up costing more lately could be prevented by having adequate regular medical exams and check ups. I am not even saying that there should be free national health care but rather that there are some ways that the availability of health care should be improved for all people.

My suggestion would be a program that uses the social security numbers in order to offer free services to the American people. This would be like yearly physicals, generic prescriptions at reduced costs, yearly eye exams and reduced eye wear and yearly dental exams and reduced dental procedures. The charges should be based on a sliding scale fee with the person submitting income and monthly bill verifications. Another thing that could be done in order to make sure that employees are getting adequate health care is that the government could place regulations on companies about health care.

The government could impose a percentage of an employee’s salary that a company could charge for health insurance and the government could limit the number of part time employees that companies have in comparison to how many full time employees have and if the company fell outside of those guidelines then they would have to offer health insurance to their part time employees as well. These are all simple things that would not cost the employers much more money and they are all things that could really benefit the entire working class poor in the long. Simple regulations have the ability to make the biggest changes in our economy.

Another way that the government could regulate the medical insurance problems for the working class poor is to regulate the amount of money that can be employed for such health care services as a continuation in the direction that we are headed in currently is only going to raise insurance costs and make the availability of insurance to all even further out of reach. By having some set regulations for the cost of health care and the cost of health care insurance the government could easily help the working class poor to be able to better provide adequate health insurance for themselves.

In the book Nickel and Dimed the author thoroughly explores the working class poor and their lifestyle. The author looks at the fact that without structural changes there will never be a better life for this entire class of people. These people will continue to struggle on a monthly basis, will continue to face homelessness, hunger and inadequate health care if there are never any changes made to the structural system that is indeed causing the problems for the worker. The system could make many simple changes that could greatly affect how these people, the working class poor, live their lives.

These simple regulations and easy changes could make the world of difference to someone who is not as fortunate as others as this class of people would not have to go hungry again. Also it would greatly reduce the number of severely ill people who were unable to get early detection for major medical problems because of a lack of resources. Capitalism would allow the working class poor to be able to have control of more wealth and to control more of the terms of wealth that was available to them. It would give everyone an equal chance to be able to get some type of wealth system in place.


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