$2.00 a Day:
Living on Almost Nothing in America
by Kathryn J. Edin & H. Luke Shaefer
This is the kind of fraud that occurs among our poor:
* Selling food stamps (@ 50 cents on the dollar) to get the electricity turned on
* Trading sexual "favors" in order to buy food
* Selling a child's social security number to be claimed on someone else's taxes when you have been unemployed in order to pay the rent.
These are some of the ways people survive when they live on $2 (or less) a day. And yes, that happens in this country, more so since Bill Clinton's heralded welfare reform, which was supposed to be tied to work opportunity. Alas, all those jobs and training programs failed to materialize, but the small cash subsidies for the poor disappeared as well.
It has become so hard to receive TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, which replaced welfare) that many aren't aware that it is available, and many others that are eligible stop trying to apply. The essence of this failure is that the money goes to the states, as well as the discretion to use the federal funds, often cutting the amount that should be going to the poor.
But they are out there. Children who sleep in cars or are subject to family or non-family member's sexual abuse in order to have a roof over their heads. Women who cannot keep a low-wage job because there are no safeguards when she takes a sick day for herself or a child and gets fired. School failure. Hunger. Suicide.
Our legislators have closed their eyes to this national tragedy, preferring to believe that the welfare reforms of the 90's have ridden us of all those welfare cheats and given jobs to any who want to work.
Over the past year the working poor have found their voices. The absurdity of working full time and not being able to afford housing, living on SNAP benefits while working for the largest and wealthiest corporations, going to work sick, being sent home when business is slow, all those have led to the point where workers will take the risk of organizing and striking.
But that is not the point of this book. While we see the minimum wage slowly rise, those with no cash at all continue to live a Dickensian nightmare.
I am happy to say that the Charleston County Library has several copies of this book on its shelves, as well as in electronic format. It's a small but powerful book, and I urge you to read it.