Who Said It?

Posted by on May 30th, 2010 at 1:11 PM

Answer: Barbara Ehrenreich! But it’s not a policy prescription. She was just feeling cheesed off during a long shift at Wal-Mart picking up clothes.

From her book Nickel and Dimed:

I cannot ignore the fact that it is the customers’ sloppiness and idle whims that make me bend and crouch and run. They are the shoppers, I am the antishopper, whose goal is to make it look as if they’d never been in the store. At this point, “aggressive hospitality” gives way to aggressive hostility. Their carts bang into mine, their children run amok. Once I stand and watch helplessly while some rug rat pulls everything he can reach off the racks, and the thought that abortion is wasted on the unborn must show on my face, because his mother finally tells him to stop.

The lesson, of course, is that there would be no class conflict if everyone had better matters.

I like Ehrenreich a great deal. She’s one of the few left-wingers who can write a good sentence, and she knows what she’s talking about. Nickel and Dimed is probably her best-known book, so it will be news to no one. But the concept of a “working poor” threw me for a loop. You can work 40 hours a week (or 60) and live in a truck? I didn’t know. I’m much more interested in party politics than in what, in theory, the parties are fighting over. The Republicans are a disaster, the Democrats are pretty much kind of tolerable. Then I take a look closer and find they’re not so tolerable after all. Good old Clinton and his welfare reform.

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