Journalist Charles Platt follows Barbara Ehrenreich's lead and tries working at Wal-Mart:
Several of my co-workers had relocated from other areas, where they had worked at other Wal-Marts. They wanted more of the same. Everyone agreed that Wal-Mart was preferable to the local Target, where the hourly pay was lower and workers were said to be treated with less respect (an opinion which I was unable to verify). Most of all, my coworkers wanted to avoid those “mom-and-pop” stores beloved by social commentators where, I was told, employees had to deal with quixotic management policies, while lacking the opportunities for promotion that exist in a large corporation.
Platt says that such stories are not easy to place in magazines:
I considered writing about my brief experience, but a book defending a company that has been demonized does not have a large potential audience, and the writer tends to be dismissed as either hopelessly naive or bribed by corporate America.
Similar factors result in someone such as Adam Shepard remaining relatively obscure.
If you haven’t heard of Adam Shepard, this illustrates my point. His remarkable book Scratch Beginnings, now being promoted through www.scratchbeginnings.com, describes how he went through an experience far more gruelling than my brief flirtation with low-paying work. He placed himself in a homeless shelter with $25 in his pocket, found a job as a day laborer, then worked for a moving company, and after 10 months had a pickup truck, an apartment, and $2,500 in savings. His conclusion: People can still make it in the United States if they are willing to live carefully on a budget and work hard.
Somehow that kind of news is never as popular as denunciations of the free market written by professional handwringers such as Barbara Ehrenreich.
(Hat tip: Perry)