About Me

Ithaca, New York
MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

#61 - This Land is Their Land

Yee haw! Giddyap, folks, it's time again for the semi-annual vacation roundup. #61, finished in transit on ye olde Shortline bus (long story, but see previous post on the badly damaged Matrix and draw your own conclusions), was Barbara Ehrenreich's This Land is Their Land: Reports from a Divided Nation (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2008).

Summary: "America in the "aughts" -- hilariously skewerd, brilliantly dissected, and darkly diagnosed by the bestselling social critic hailed as 'the soul mate' of Jonathan Swift. Barbara Ehrenreich's first book of satirical commentary, The Worst Years of Our Lives, about the Reagan era, was received with bestselling acclaim, The one problem was the title: couldn't some prophetic fact-checker have seen that the worst years of our lives -- far worse -- were still to come? Here they are, the 2000s, and in This Land is Their Land, Ehrenreich subjects them to the most biting and incisive satire of her career. Taking the measure of what we are left with after the cruelest decade in memory, Ehrenreich finds lurid examples all around. While members of the moneyed elite can buy congressmen, many in the working class can barely buy lunch. While a wealthy minority obsessively consumes cosmetic surgery, the poor often go without health care for their children. And while the corporate C-suites are now nests of criminality, the less fortunate are fed a diet of morality, marriage, and abstinence. Ehrenreich's antidotes are as sardonic as they are spot-on: pet insurance for your kids; Salvation Army fashions for those who can no longer afford Wal-Mart; and boundless rage against those who have given us a nation scarred by deepening inequality, corroded by distrust, and shamed by its official cruelty. Full of with and generosity, these reports from a divided nation show once again that Ehrenreich is, as Molly Ivins said, 'good for the soul.'" (from The Times (London).

Table of Contents:
  • Introduction
Chasms of Inequality
  • This Land is Their Land
  • Miami Vice: The Class Analysis
  • Home Depot's CEO-Size Tip
  • Going to Extremes: CEOs vs. Slaves
  • Banish the Bloated Overclass
  • Got Grease?
  • Class Struggle 101
  • Minimum Wage Rises, Sky Does Not Fall
  • Could You Afford to Be Poor?
  • Desperately Seeking Stimulus
  • Smashing Capitalism
  • The Communist Manifesto Hits 160
Meanness on the Rise
  • Pension or Penitentiary?
  • Where the Finger's Pointing
  • The Cheapskate Warfare State
  • Are Illegal Immigrants the Problem?
  • The Shame Game
  • The New Cosby Kids
  • What America Owes Its "Illegals"
  • The Suicide Solution
Strangling the Middle Class
  • Freshperson, Welcome to Debt!
  • Party On
  • Fastest-Growing Jobs of '06: Are You Handy with Bedpans and Brooms?
  • Your Local News -- Dateline Delhi
  • That Sinking Feeling
  • What's So Great about Gated Communities?
  • World's Designated Shoppers Drop
Hell Day at Work
  • Circuit City Slaughter
  • Blood in the Chutney
  • Workplace Bullies
  • Big (Box) Brother
  • Invasion of the Cheerleaders
  • Fake Your Way to the Top!
  • Challenging the Workplace Dictatorship
  • Gap Kids: New Frontiers in Child Abuse
  • French Workers Refuse to Be "Kleenex"
  • Truckers Protest, the Resistance Begins
Declining Health
  • We Have Seen the Enemy -- and Surrendered
  • Gouging the Poor
  • The High Cost of Doing without Universal Health Care
  • Health Care vs. the Profit Principle
  • Children Deserve Veterinary Care Too
  • Our Broken Mental Health System
  • What Causes Cancer: Probably Not You
  • Liposuction: The Key to Energy Independence
  • A Society That Throws the Sick Away
Getting Sex Straight
  • Fear of Restrooms
  • Let Them Eat Wedding Cake
  • Opportunities in Abstinence Training
  • Opening Up to Abortion
  • How Banning Gay Marriage Will Destroy the Family
  • Do Women Need a Viagra?
  • A Uterus Is Not a Substitute for a Conscience
  • Who's Wrecking the Family?
  • Bonfire of the Princesses
False Gods
  • The Secret of Mass Delusion
  • Who Moved My Ability to Reason?
  • All Together Now
  • The Faith Factor
  • Follies of Faith
  • Pastors Go Postal
  • Is It Safe to Go Back to Church?
  • God Owes Us an Apology
  • Postscript: Rich Get Poorer, Poor Disappear
My take: An entertaining and, for those new to the subject, illuminating collection of essays on the socioeconomic disparities in contemporary America. If this wasn't already a soapbox issue of mine, and I wasn't already a fan of Ehrenreich's work, I'd probably be thrilled to hear someone write pieces like this in my local newspaper. But it is, and I am. Consequently, the book seemed a little lightweight -- not nearly up to the author's usual level of detail or journalistic ability. Still worthwhile for those who find that the issues cited resonate with them, and would like a primer of sorts to get angry about.

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