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This Land Is Their Land

An investigator of American class inequity comments on life, economy, and how we've erased any distinction between them.

Book Digest I must note that my sense of the people who are popularly characterized as conservatives—officials and pundits—is that they are not coherent enough to be judged as anything other than loonies and comedians and carnival barkers. I have in mind as the prototypical American conservative George Will and the late Sen. Barry Goldwater. At the same time, a blurry picture seems to present itself when I try to locate the American left. I have no such difficulty placing the politics and principles of the indomitable Barbara Ehrenreich. The author of the invaluable study of the working poor and the conditions and corporations that oppress them, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America, Ehrenreich is a bemused and incisive investigator of American class inequity and an eloquent proponent of humane and equitable social and economic justice. Her journalism—which appears or has appeared variously in The New York Times, Harper’s, The Nation, and Time—is equally potent, and her new book, This Land Is Their Land: Reports From a Divided Nation, anthologizes a good cross-section of that work as well as material from her blog.

Take her recent entry, “The Suicide Solution,” where she comments on the recent Housing Bill, connecting it with a foreclosure victim who committed suicide, and a quick retrospective on responses to similar foreclosure conditions in the 1890s and 1930s and ultimately a call to action:
Dry your eyes, already: Death is an effective remedy for debt, along with anything else that may be bothering you too. And try to think of it too from a lofty, corner-office, perspective: If you can’t pay your debts or afford to play your role as a consumer, and if, in addition—like an ever-rising number of Americans—you’re no longer needed at the workplace, then there’s no further point to your existence. I’m not saying that the creditors, the bankers and the mortgage companies actually want you dead, but in a culture where one’s credit rating is routinely held up as a three-digit measure of personal self-worth, the correct response to insoluble debt is in fact, “Just shoot me!”
Anyway, it is truly always a pleasure to encounter a new book by Barbara Eherenreich and to see that her heart is in the right place; this, her 16th, has the following dedication:
To all the under-celebrated people who make books possible and available—editorial assistants, copy editors, proofreaders, publicists, print industry workers, truck drivers, and bookstore workers.
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