Nickel and Dimed Quotes

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Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America by Barbara Ehrenreich
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Nickel and Dimed Quotes (showing 1-22 of 22)
“What you don't necessarily realize when you start selling your time by the hour is that what you're really selling is your life.”
Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America
“When someone works for less pay than she can live on — when, for example, she goes hungry so that you can eat more cheaply and conveniently — then she has made a great sacrifice for you, she has made you a gift of some part of her abilities, her health, and her life. The 'working poor,' as they are approvingly termed, are in fact the major philanthropists of our society. They neglect their own children so that the children of others will be cared for; they live in substandard housing so that other homes will be shiny and perfect; they endure privation so that inflation will be low and stock prices high. To be a member of the working poor is to be an anonymous donor, a nameless benefactor, to everyone else.”
Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America
“I grew up hearing over and over, to the point of tedium, that "hard work" was the secret of success: "Work hard and you'll get ahead" or "It's hard work that got us where we are." No one ever said that you could work hard - harder even than you ever thought possible - and still find yourself sinking ever deeper into poverty and debt.”
Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America
“When someone works for less pay than she can live on -- when, for example, she goes hungry so that you can eat more cheaply and conveniently -- than she has made a great sacrifice for you, she has made of a gift of some part of her abilities, her health, and her life.”
Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America
“...Maybe it's low-wage work in general that has the effect of making feel like a pariah. When I watch TV over my dinner at night, I see a world in which almost everyone makes $15 an hour or more, and I'm not just thinking of the anchor folks. The sitcoms and dramas are about fashion designers or schoolteachers or lawyers, so it's easy for a fast-food worker or nurse's aide to conclude that she is an anomaly — the only one, or almost the only one, who hasn't been invited to the party. And in a sense she would be right: the poor have disappeared from the culture at large, from its political rhetoric and intellectual endeavors as well as from its daily entertainment. Even religion seems to have little to say about the plight of the poor, if that tent revival was a fair sample. The moneylenders have finally gotten Jesus out of the temple.”
Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America
“There seems to be a vicious cycle at work here, making ours not just an economy but a culture of extreme inequality. Corporate decision makers, and even some two-bit entrepreneurs like my boss at The Maids, occupy an economic position miles above that of the underpaid people whose labor they depend on. For reasons that have more to do with class — and often racial — prejudice than with actual experience, they tend to fear and distrust the category of people from which they recruit their workers. Hence the perceived need for repressive management and intrusive measures like drug and personality testing. But these things cost money — $20,000 or more a year for a manager, $100 a pop for a drug test, and so on — and the high cost of repression results in ever more pressure to hold wages down. The larger society seems to be caught up in a similar cycle: cutting public services for the poor, which are sometimes referred to collectively as the 'social wage,' while investing ever more heavily in prisons and cops. And in the larger society, too, the cost of repression becomes another factor weighing against the expansion or restoration of needed services. It is a tragic cycle, condemning us to ever deeper inequality, and in the long run, almost no one benefits but the agents of repression themselves.”
Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America
“What you don't necessarily realize when you start selling your time by the hour is that what you're actually selling is your life.”
Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America
“To draw for a moment from an entirely different corner of my life, that part of me still attached to the biological sciences, there is ample evidence that animals — rats and monkeys, for example — that are forced into a subordinate status within their social systems adapt their brain chemistry accordingly, becoming 'depressed' in humanlike ways. Their behavior is anxious and withdrawn; the level of serotonin (the neurotransmitter boosted by some antidepressants) declines in their brains. And — what is especially relevant here — they avoid fighting even in self-defense ... My guess is that the indignities imposed on so many low-wage workers — the drug tests, the constant surveillance, being 'reamed out' by managers — are part of what keeps wages low. If you're made to feel unworthy enough, you may come to think that what you're paid is what you are actually worth.”
Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America
“What these [personality] tests tell employers about potential employees is hard to imagine since the 'right' answer should be obvious to anyone who has ever encountered the principle of hierarchy and subordination. Do I work well with others? You bet, but never to the point where I would hesitate to inform on them for the slightest infraction. Am I capable of independent decision making? Oh yes, but I know better than to let this capacity interfere with a slavish obedience to orders . . . The real function of these tests, I decide, is to convey information not to the employer but to the potential employee, and the information being conveyed is always: You will have no secrets from us. We don't just want your muscles and that portion of your brain that is directly connected to them; we want your innermost self.”
Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America
“...I displayed, or usually displayed, all those traits deemed essential to job readiness: punctuality, cleanliness, cheerfulness, obedience. These are the qualities that welfare-to-work job-training programs often seek to inculcate, though I suspect that most welfare recipients already possess them, or would if their child care and transportation problems were solved.”
Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America
“You might discover that, nationwide, America's food banks are experiencing 'a torrent of need which [they] cannot meet' and that, according to a survey conducted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, 67 percent of the adults requesting emergency food aid are people with jobs.”
Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America
“Some economists argue that the apparent paradox rests on an illusion: there is no real 'labor shortage,' only a shortage of people willing to work at the wages currently being offered. You might as well talk about a 'Lexus shortage' — which there is, in a sense, for anyone unwilling to pay $40,000 for a car.”
Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America
“My aim here was much more straightforward and objective — just to see whether I could match income to expenses, as the truly poor attempt to do every day. Besides, I've had enough unchosen encounters with poverty in my lifetime to know it's not a place you would want to visit for touristic purposes; it just smells too much like fear.”
Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America
“According to a recent poll [...] 94% of Americans agree that "people who work fulltime should be able to earn enough to keep their families out of poverty.”
Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America
“We can hardly pride ourselves on being the world’s preeminent democracy, after all, if the large numbers of citizens spend half their waking hours in what amounts, in plain terms, to a dictatorship.”
Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America
“What I have to face is that 'Barb,' the name on my ID tag, is not exactly the same person as Barbara. 'Barb' is what I was called as a child, and still am by my siblings, and I sense that at some level I'm regressing. Take away the career and the higher education, and maybe what you're left with is this original Barb, the one who might have ended up working at Wal-Mart for real if her father hadn't managed to climb out of the mines. So it's interesting, and more than a little disturbing, to see how Barb turned out — that she's meaner and slyer than I am, more cherishing of grudges, and not quite as smart as I'd hoped.”
Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America
“But Jesus makes his appearance here only as a corpse; the living man, the wine-guzzling vagrant and precocious socialist, is never once mentioned, nor anything he ever had to say. Christ crucified rules, and it may be that the true business of modern Christianity is to crucify him again and again so that he can never get a word out of his mouth.”
Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America
“My father had been a copper miner, uncles and grandfathers worked in the mines for the Union Pacific. So to me, sitting at a desk all day was not only a privilege but a duty: something I owed to all those people in my life, living and dead, who'd had so much more to say than anyone ever got to hear.”
Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America
“I dust a whole shelf of books on pregnancy, breastfeeding, the first six months, the first year, the first two years — and I wonder what the child care-deprived Maddy makes of all this. Maybe there's been some secret division of the world's women into breeders and drones, and those at the maid level are no longer supposed to be reproducing at all. Maybe this is why our office manager, Tammy, who was once a maid herself, wears inch-long fake nails and tarty little outfits — to show she's advanced to the breeder caste and can't be sent out to clean anymore.”
Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America
“Everyone in yuppie-land — airports, for example — looks like a nursing baby these days, inseparable from their plastic bottles of water. Here, however, I sweat without replacement or pause, not in individual drops but in continuous sheets of fluid soaking through my polo shirt, pouring down the backs of my legs ... Working my way through the living room(s), I wonder if Mrs. W. will ever have occasion to realize that every single doodad and objet through which she expresses her unique, individual self is, from another vantage point, only an obstacle between some thirsty person and a glass of water.”
Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America
“Almost everyone smokes as if their pulmonary well-being depended on it — the multinational mélange of gooks; the dishwashers, who are all Czechs here; the servers, who are American natives — creating an atmosphere in which oxygen is only an occasional pollutant. My first morning at Jerry's, when the hypoglycemic shakes set in, I complain to one of my fellow servers that I don't understand how she can go so long without food. 'Well, I don't understand how you can go so long without a cigarette,' she responds in a tone of reproach. Because work is what you do for other; smoking is what you do for yourself. I don't know why the atismoking crusaders have never grasped the element of defiant self-nurturance that makes the habit so endearing to its victims — as if, in the American workplace, the only thing people have to call their own is the tumors they are nourishing and the spare moments they devote to feeding them.”
Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America
“Something is wrong, very wrong, when a single person in good health, a person who in addition possesses a working car, can barely support herself by the sweat of her brow. You don’t need a degree in economics to see that wages are too low and rents too high.”
Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America

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