The working poor: Invisible in America By David Shipler
America is a developed country but there still exists a group of people called the working poor. Although these people are working, they still languish in poverty. They live between a state of “poverty” and “well being”. Their efforts to move from “poverty bracket” to “well being bracket” are diminished due to negligence by the government. This book focuses on American working poor and what the government is doing to help the situation.
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The author writes about the group of individuals struggling to survive in the US. His focus is on the people who are working but struggling to live and meet their daily needs. He terms them as people who have been left behind. Existence of such groups of people at a time when the US is celebrating its prosperity is considered a disgrace. The author carries out several interviews with people who are struggling to meet their basic needs like medical care.
He finds out that most of these people are working and some are even engaged in full time jobs. He is not pleased with the kind of life these people are leading despite their hard work. He believes that the government is not doing much to address the issue of the working poor. He adds that the government is not implementing laws that can help the working poor improve their living standards.
Although there are laws set up to protect the working poor, the process of implementing them is very poor and this leads to their failure. The kind of leadership in place can not come up with strategies to ensure that the laws are enforced. Therefore, it is very difficult to change the situation.
This book also reveals many other facts about the life of the working poor. All these facts give an indication of failure of leadership at state as well as national level. This means that the economic prosperity can not be sustained. The author suggests various ways by which the working poor can be helped. He insists that the government and the private sector should work hand in hand with other agents to come up with collective strategies that will improve the living standards of the working poor.
In order to help the working poor, the author proposes wage reform strategy that will regulate employers on how they pay their workers. He also says that the wage reform should apply at the bottom as well as the top. It should be able to set the minimum as well as the maximum pay standards for the workers for equality purposes. The issue of excess wealth to some Americans should be considered. Some Americans are paid very high salaries leading to various imbalances and creating a huge gap between the poor and the rich.
The book ends by the author appealing for ideological debate. He says that unless the ideological debate is encouraged and incorporated in public policies, the situation of the working poor is likely to remain the same. He says that it is time to table the facts about the working poor so that proper steps can be taken to correct the situation. Silence means prolonging the problem but not solving the problem.
The central theme
The main theme featured in this book is poverty. The author examines a group of Americans who are completely left behind despite their hard work. He refers to them as the working poor. Although these groups of people are working, their living standards are still low. Despite their effort and willingness to work hard, it is almost impossible for them to attain their American dream.
In case of a financial obstacle, the working poor may not be able survive and this may lead to an irreversible financial downfall. They live up to their means with no funds left for emergency cases. In this book, the author holds various conversations with the working poor. He finds out that the working poor are held in dead end jobs where chances for advancement and improvement are very slim. There are no benefits and opportunities for further development.
These are the factors that make the working poor languish in poverty. The author also blames the government systems that are set up to help the working poor. He says that most of these systems are only provided but not implemented. Their effects are not visible at all. Some of the working poor are also resistant to help from the systems. Others are completely unaware that there are such systems in place to help them.
The quantitative role played by the US
The United States as a cultural entity is not very aware of the factors that contribute to poverty. This means that the US is not so sure of the solutions that might fully correct this situation. However, there are many ways in which US play a role concerning the invisible working poor. Politically, the government has come up with laws that enforce minimum wage.
The only problem is that these laws are not implemented according to the government specifications leading to their failure. In fact the working poor are being charged high bills when it comes to health care and other public services. This raises their expenditures with no increase in income leading to poverty.
Although there are many upcoming ways to help the working poor, the author insists that no single way can succeed in correcting this situation. He proposes that the government should work hand in hand with the private sector to ensure that the laws are well implemented. Among the strategies proposed include changing of the present wage structure, fair distribution of public resources and coming up with programs that are more vocational.
The perception of the US in the book
I think the perception of the US in this book is negative. Although US is considered as a land of opportunities, there still exists a group of people who are working but still live in poverty. These people have been neglected and their welfare is not a priority anymore to America.
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This is because the laws that have been put in place to help these people are not enforced into actions. The government is not committed to evaluate its law system to make sure that the laws are being obeyed. This shows how the US is less concerned with the working poor. We are told that the working poor are handled like slaves despite the existence of laws that enforce humane working conditions and minimum wage.
As much as we expect the working poor people to be treated at low medical costs in hospitals, they are being charged much more money than they can afford. Any emergency treatments, transport and other medical costs are even worsening the situation of the working poor.
Lessons that the book holds for US citizens
There are very many lessons that this book holds for the US citizens. First, the US citizens need to be very careful when choosing leaders in future. They need to elect leaders who will implement the set laws and make sure that the laws are obeyed. This will reduce poverty among the working poor.
The US citizens need to learn that despite being a developed country, there are still groups of people who are languishing in poverty. With this in mind, they can be able to strategize on the factors contributing to this situation and come up with viable solutions that can help correct the situation.
How to change the problems addressed in the book
From a personal perspective, I would encourage formation of movements and unions that will protect and fight for the rights of the working poor. These unions and movements will be able to push for reforms and law implementations that will see the working poor improve.
From a perspective of US policy, the government needs to make sure that those laws concerning minimum wage and humane working conditions are enforced and implemented. This is through setting up of law structures and arms that will monitor the implementation process and ensure that everybody is obeying the laws.
Poverty is an urgent issue in the American society especially among the working poor. These issue need to be addressed by the government in collaboration with other agents for improvement of the living standards of the working poor.
Both, Deborah and Barbara. Zang. 2009. The working poor in America. Washington, DC: National academy press.
Shipler, David. 2004. The working poor: Invisible in America. New York: Knopf publishers.
- David Shipler, The working poor: Invisible in America (New York: Knopf publishers 2004), 21.
- Ibid, 23.
- Ibid, 23.
- Ibid, 23.
- Deborah Both and Barbara Zang,The working poor in America (Washington, DC: National academy press 2009), 54.