A shocking 37 million Americans live in poverty. That is 12.7 per cent of the population – the highest percentage in the developed world. They are found from the hills of Kentucky to Detroit’s streets, from the Deep South of Louisiana to the heartland of Oklahoma. Each year since 2001 their number has grown.
37 million poor hidden in the land of plenty (Observer, 19th February)
This is something that tends to get lost in the popular understanding of the rich United States destroying and lording it over the rest of the world. In reality, it’s a certain sub-strand within the US that has the power and ability to inflict such on other countries; the masses of people trying to pull off the minimum-wage-survival trick don’t really have a direct involvement in international politics.
A very good portrayal of the low-wage economy in the US is Barbara Ehrenreich’s book ‘Nickel and Dimed’, which is a first-person account of Ehrenreich’s experiences working in minimum-wage jobs over the course of some months, with strong background material (Ehrenrich has been publishing on social issues since the 70s and is a serious writer on sociology, economics, feminism etc). She blogs too, and wrote this week on the growth in low-paid jobs as seen in US labour statistics.