From Publishers Weekly
When a hospital employee whose hospital-supplied insurance doesn't cover her hospital-incurred bill finds her wages garnished, where's a political satirist to go for material? Feisty, fearlessly progressive Ehrenreich offers laughter on the way to tears in 62 previously published essays that show the rich getting richer and poor getting poorer. She investigates pockets of poverty among undocumented workers, military families and recent college graduates. Ehrenreich's reach is capacious, encompassing not only unemployment, health insurance and inflation, but corporate spying, cancer studies, marriage education, the abstinence training business and Disney's Princess products. Her passion, compassion and wit keep these excursions lively and timely—even when yesterday's headlines provide the immediate provocation, e.g., JetBlue's snow snafu. The vignettes go down a bit like eating peanuts—too many at one time palls, but they're not unhealthy, unless you have an allergic reaction to Ehrenreich's message: America is being polarized between the superrich few and the subrich everyone else. Entertaining Ehrenreich certainly is, but she raises a hard, serious question: How many 'wake-up calls' do we need, people...? (May)
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Despite long national claims to being a classless society, the U.S. has a growing gulch between the haves and have-nots and what used to be the middle class. Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed (2001) and Bait and Switch (2005), catalogs the many ways that the rich are getting richer and the rest of us are getting poorer. The new top of the polarized social order has “pay in the tens of hundreds of millions, a private jet and a few acres of Nantucket,” and the new bottom is virtual slavery—captive domestics, sweatshop workers, and sex slaves exploited by their employers. She details the huge compensation gaps between CEOs and other management, top-ranked professors and adjunct professors, law firm partners and temp lawyers. In separate sections, Ehrenreich analyzes how wealthy individuals and corporations maintain the gap by engineering social, political, and economic policies that continue to disadvantage the middle class and poor, and our accommodation to it. Ehrenreich’s sharp analysis and engaging writing make the litany of misery enlightening, if not more bearable, reading. --Vanessa Bush