$2.00 A Day. Living On Almost Nothing In America
“Out of every one hundred americans, fewer than two get aid from today's cash welfare program”(7).
$2.00 A Day Living On Almost Nothing In America was written by Kathryn J Edin and H. Luke Shaefer. The book is not set up in small chapters but in this 177 pages there are only 5 chapters. The first half of this book outlines the struggles of 4 families living off of $2.00 a day. “The average monthly cost of living in the United States for a single adult with two children is $4,820”(CareerTrends.com).
Chapter one is titled “Welfare is dead”. I believe this is a very appropriate title due to the information that is in it. This chapter introduces you to two out of four families that are in the first half. The first family we are introduced to is Susan Brown. She lives with her husband Devin, her 8 month old daughter Lauren, her grandma, her step grandfather and her uncle. That is about as deep as chapter one goes into Susan’s story. The second family is Modanna Harris and her 15 year old child Brianna. They are on the north side homeless shelter in Chicago for several months. Modanna explained that getting government help is a long and most times not rewarding process. When asked by the authors of the books why she doesn’t apply for all the government help, and she answered “I’ve been through this before, and I’ve been turned down”(2). The best job Modanna could find was a cashier at stars music. It paid nine dollars an hour, and she worked there for eight years. She found a nice studio apartment for her daughter and herself. The two scraped by on a combination of Modonna's paycheck, a small amount of SNAP which is the supplemental nutrition assistance program, and whatever child support her ex husband could provide. Modanna arrived at the DHS office at 8:00 o’clock in the morning to wait in a line that reached around the block in the pouring rain. When she finally got into the building she was approached by a worker and she said “that people who didn’t arrive by 7:30 have to come back tomorrow”(7). Modanna is now convinced that applying for government help is a waste of time. Even though Modanna worked for stars music for eight years, one day 10 dollars was missing from the drawer and she was blamed, and told to not come back. The money was found when she left, but she was not apologized to or offered her job back. When Modanna lost her job, what she could claim went from $5,700 to $4,400.
Also this chapter outlines what people did in the past for welfare, and what people have done recently for welfare. In 1964 Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty. He stated in his State of the Union address “many americans live on the outskirts of hope--some because of poverty, and some because of their color, and all too many because of both”(12). Johnson started going on “poverty tours”. He went all over the United States going to poverty stricken cities. Johnson created many welfare programs. Including making the “Food Stamp Program” permanent, the “increased federal funds for schools breakfasts and lunches, making them free to children from poor families”(13). He also expanded Social Security, Head start was started. He also started Medicare and Medicaid. “Americans were suspicious of welfare because they feared that it sapped the able bodied of their desire to raise themselves up by their own bootstraps”(15). In 1988 when Ronald Reagan was president 10.6 million people were recipients of welfare, four years later in 1992 13.8 million people were receiving welfare.
Chapter two “Perilous Work”. Perilous means full of danger or risk. In this chapter we are introduced to the third family. Jennifer Hernandez and her two children. She escaped poverty in two years, had gotten a job as a house cleaner for the city of the Chicago. She was paid $8.75 and hour. Her paychecks after taxes were $645.00. A two bedroom apartment in Chicago is $960.00 a month. Before Jen got her job her and her children lived in three homeless shelters, did not receive welfare, had no cash income and she relied greatly on SNAP. Susan Brown was talked about more in this chapter. Susan Brown was a high school senior when she got pregnant. Major complications with her pregnancy had her going to the doctors a lot, so she dropped out of school. She ended up giving birth to a stillborn at eight months. She went and got her GED after her stillborn, and also started to go to college for early childhood education. Within a year of her starting her college career, she became pregnant again. She again had to have a ton of doctors appointments, which led to her dropping out of school for the second time. Now a year and a half later Susan, Devin and her daughter are living with three other people who don’t have a job, and are barely making it on a day to day basis. Devin gets a job towards the end of this chapter. The grocery store pays 8.50 an hour and guarantees 30 hours a week. Lastly we are introduced to Rae McCormick. She also is a single mother living with her “aunt and uncle” who aren’t blood. They are Rae’s father's friends. Her father died when she was 11 of a brain aneurysm. She worked nine hour shifts at walmart. In the first six months she worked there she got cashier of the month two times. Rae too got fired from her long time job when she got into her uncle's truck to go to work; after she gave them $50 dollars for gas. The truck had no gas in it and the aunt and uncle did not have money to give her for gas. Rae called her manager and told her what was happening and asking if someone could give her a lift, her boss told her “if you can’t find a way to get to work on time, she shouldn’t bother coming in again”(60). Rae got out of the truck, went into her aunt and uncle's house and said “I love you guys, but fuck you”(60). She took her daughter Azaria and went on to live with many different friends and family members, and started her journey of finding another job and making their lives better.