Kicking People When They’re Down
The rise in New York’s poverty rate as a result of the ongoing recession has pushed nearly half of the city’s population into the ranks of the poor or near-poor. Ironically, the nation’s largest city is run by a multi-billionaire. Almost on the same day, another report came out saying “Hedge Fund Titans Get Lavish Paydays Stretching to Ten Figures.” People are immiserated and dumped into the streets because of decisions made downtown in the suites. Do we lend a helping hand to the poor? Barely. Let them eat op-eds about values and the virtues of hard work. There’s billions to fund the latest F-whatever fighter jet but scant little for people in distress. The pounding the needy are taking is particularly severe because much of the social safety net has been shredded. Can anyone say compassion and caring?
This event was presented by the Lannan Foundation.
Barbara Ehrenreich was a renowned social critic, journalist, feminist and author. She was born in Butte, Montana and studied chemistry at Reed College in Oregon and later received a Ph.D. in cellular immunology at Rockefeller University in New York. But she left a possible career in science and teaching to become a muckraker in the tradition of Ida B. Wells and Lincoln Steffens. She wrote many books. Her articles appeared in Ms., Mother Jones, and The Progressive. She wrote incisively and with compassion about working people and the hardships they endure. To write about the underclass she went undercover and took low-wage jobs such as hotel maid, cleaning houses, nursing home aide and waitressing. Through her work she made the invisible working poor visible. She was long active in the DSA, Democratic Socialists of America. In 2012 she founded the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, seeking to place the crisis of poverty and economic insecurity at the center of the national political conversation. Her best-known book Nickel and Dimed, a classic in social justice literature, has sold millions of copies. She passed away on September 1, 2022. Katha Pollitt in The Nation wrote “Barbara accomplished so much, but what I love most about her work is that it was never boilerplate. She always found a way to take her argument to a deeper level. And there was always empathy—for the people who are overlooked, whose struggles are disregarded, who have to fight for food and shelter and a halfway decent life, for every shred of dignity and recognition.”