The Moral Underground: How Ordinary Americans Subvert an Unfair Economy

The Moral Underground: How Ordinary Americans Subvert an Unfair Economy - Lisa Dodson Let's cut to the chase. The reason I did not rate this book higher is that it can get repetitive at times. The book also is a bit heavy on anecdotes, and to be honest, it goes more into effects and impact of poverty, which are important topics, than into the moral underground concept, which is the real reason I picked up the book. Now, don't let that fool you. This book presents some very solid research the author did over eight years, and it does include plenty of notes and documentation for those who want to go further. Do understand that names have been changed to protect people who often take great risks to help out their fellow human beings who happen to be poor and need a hand in a society that pretty much discards them. Anyhow, the book spends two-thirds of the content on the exposition of the poverty issue, and only towards the end does it get to the point promised in the title. After a while, you can skim some of it. Now, leaving the negative I saw as a reader aside, this is a book that more people need to be reading. What I am afraid of is that the usual "poor blaming" and "victim blaming" crowds (you know them, the asshats who always say "if those poor people only did X and Y" and "why the hell do they keep breeding?") will probably glance at it, then toss it aside, minds already closed and made up. But they need to read this. Policy makers, educators, social workers, teachers, parents, all need to be reading this. Because when we think of poverty, we usually think of those who suffer it. The real issue, in addition to that, is the impact that poverty has on the rest of society. The poor do work, and they work hard. In their underpaid, often exploitative jobs they come across middle class people, their employers and managers, and this creates tension and strife. Some of these managers lack any sense of empathy or compassion in spite of the fact they are the ones who often enable an unjust system that does not even pay a living wage. But Dodson points out that there are some small points of hope: managers, supervisors, superiors, so on who see injustice and refuse to simply watch it happen. They show compassion and empathy, and they disobey the rules as need be because immoral conditions should not be tolerated. So, a manager might overlook a worker being late because of a mother having to take a kid to the doctor, or maybe said manager alters the time clock so she gets her full pay if the mother had to leave early for said doctor appointment. What conservative hypocrites fail to appreciate, and it is very well laid out here, is that minimum wage jobs not do not provide a living wage: period. For all their whining about "welfare moms" and other stereotypes of unemployed people, there are are tons of working poor, who have, you know, real jobs. And in their minds, work is what is supposed to lift them out of poverty and give them progress. Well, when you pay shitty wages that force someone to work two or even three jobs to make ends meet, other corners have to be cut. So, mom has to leave her child alone at home for a few hours because she cannot afford day care on the shit salary your slave job pays. Is that really neglect? It's either the kid or the job. Most middle class people would probably say the kid first, but they have the resources to buy child care as needed. Poor people often lack that option, and when they do, that situation does have ripples throughout the rest of society, something that most whiny right winger conservatives and libertarians fail to see. So, a small, mostly invisible moral underground emerges where some folks with compassion do whatever they can to help out their poor workers and friends. Some of these managers do have compassion and hearts, and they see the plight of their workers. A doctor writes a prescription for an asthmatic patient, but puts it in the name of the aunt, for instance, because said aunt has health insurance, so the medication will be covered. Fraud? To the letter of the law moralists, maybe. But it's either that, or let a child go without life saving medicine. If I was that physician, I know my choice. Do you? And this kind of thing does happen all over the place. However, as Dodson points out, it is not visible. It is an underground. She had to do a lot of work and give a lot of reassurances to get some of the information. You see, people in the Moral Underground have certain mechanisms and knowledge in place, information they are not going to share with just anyone, if at all. In many cases, the best Dodson could do was just provide outlines of what some folks do, or mention they did something without giving any specifics so as not to disrupt a pipeline. At the end of the book, Dodson does provide a plan, outlining what needs to change and happen for things to get better in order to have a truly fair economy for ordinary people. Overall, this is probably one of the best books I have read, and I do wish more people will read it.