Barbara Ehrenreich, the author of Nickel and Dimed, has for the past two months been writing a series of opinion essays in the New York Times that discuss poverty, both new and entrenched. The pieces, so far, are “Too Poor to Make the News,” “A Homespun Safety Net,” and “Is It Now A Crime to Be Poor?“”Too Poor to Make the News”
In some accounts, the recession is even described as the “great leveler”…. But the outlook is not so cozy when we look at the effects of the recession on a group generally omitted from all the vivid narratives of downward mobility — the already poor.
So far, despite some temporary expansions of food stamps and unemployment benefits by the Obama administration, the recession has done for the government safety net pretty much what Hurricane Katrina did for the Federal Emergency Management Agency: it’s demonstrated that you can be clinging to your roof with the water rising, and no one may come to helicopter you out.
In defiance of all reason and compassion, the criminalization of poverty has actually been intensifying as the recession generates ever more poverty. So concludes a new study from the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, which found that the number of ordinances against the publicly poor has been rising since 2006, along with ticketing and arrests for more “neutral” infractions like jaywalking, littering or carrying an open container of alcohol.