Barbara Ehrenreich is a well-known investigative reporter and social commentator. She has been called a myth buster and a muckraker for her unflagging devotion to uncovering the silent and contradictory spaces in our national persona. A chemist with a doctorate in cellular immunology, Ehrenreich has chosen to focus her life’s work on changing the national discourse on issues relating to poverty, health, equality, women, and war. The recipient of numerous awards including a Guggenheim fellowship, a Ford Foundation award, and the Freedom from Want Medal, she was the founder and co-director of United States Women’s National Health Initiative and of Unite Professionals, an organization for white collar workers employed and unemployed.
The following excerpt is taken from her 2001 bestseller Nicked and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America. p. 27-28. To write this book she went undercover and worked as a waitress, hotel housekeeper, Wal-Mart employee and maid and tried to live on the money she earned.
There are no secret economies that nourish the poor; on the contrary, there are a host of special costs. If you can’t put up the two months’ rent needed to secure an apartment, you end up paying through the nose for a room by the week. If you have only a room, with a hot plate at best, you can’t save by cooking up huge lentil stews that can be frozen a week ahead. You eat fast food or hot dogs and Styrofoam cups of soup that can microwaved at a local convenience store. If you have no money for health insurance–and the Heathsides’s niggardly plan kicks in only after three months–you go without routine care or prescription drugs and end up paying the price…Marianne’s boyfriend lost his job as a roofer because he missed so much time after getting a cut on his foot for which he couldn’t afford the prescribed antibiotic.
Learn more about her views on her blog http://ehrenreich.blogs.com/
Have you ever thought of going undercover to investigate a social issue or discover a lifeway to write about?