In the Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx critiques capitalism as not benefiting the Proletariat class at all. According to Marx, Proletarian are exploited through basic pay low wages work and the working classes unable to afford property even through work so hard. In Nickel and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich examines the low wages of the working class in America while attempting to make a living. She works in low earning and underappreciated jobs in order to figure out how the common people in this country make a living. She works at Hearthside and Jerry's in Florida waitressing, with The Maids in Maine cleaning houses, and with Wal-Mart in Minnesota, serving their 'guests', all while earning the minimum wage. She endures so many problems as a low wage laborer. All the basic living needs become problems for the low wage workers who earn $5.15-$6.50 an hour. Moreover, the low earning jobs are dirty, lack prestige, and there is no protection like health insurance. Although The Communist is radical on some points, Marx’s critique of the exploitation of proletarians remains in existence. The corporate bourgeois’ greed, miserliness, inequitable distribution of profits result in terrible, inhumane working and living conditions of the low wage workers, dehumanizing them like machine, and abolition them from family as Marx criticized, which is illustrated by Ehrenreich in her own experience of working and living as a low wage laborer as a waitress and the maid.
Ehreneich illustrates Marx’s critique of wage labors were lacking of personal development and become mechanization of work as tool. In the Communist Manifesto, Marx critique “ Owing to the extensive use of machinery, and to the division of laborer, the work of the proletarians has lost all individual character, and consequently, all charm of the workman”(18) The laborer are lost their individual character, like a machine to the owner. A machine is easy to replace, and lack of value. All the low wage works doesn’t require skills and education. They are all simple to learn. Workers are like machines, just repeating the same function day after days. When Ehrenreich works as restaurant waitress, she was told “No chatting for you, girl. No fancy service ethic allowed for the serfs….My job is to move orders from tables to kitchen and then tray from kitchen to tables.” (35) They don’t even need to please the customers, because they are just a tool, just a machine that transferring the food to the customers. These result the unimportance of the workers in their position. The low wage workers are treated as a machine that can be thrown away at any time. And these become the reason of their low wages.
Ehreneich illustrates Marx’s critique of wage labors are working under terrible working conditions. In the Communist Manifesto, Marx critique “The modern labourer, on the contrary, instead of rising with the process of industry, sinks deeper and deeper below the conditions of existence of his own class. He becomes a pauper, and pauperism develops more rapidly than population and wealth.”(20) The low wage workers, have become unimportant in the company because of their low value in the position. Since they are unimportant, nobody cares about their working condition. People think they are deserving such working condition because their invaluable, unskilled work and unimportant position. Even the workers themself cannot revolt about this because they afraid of losing their jobs. When Ehrenreich works as Maid, this job entails at $6.65 an hour. This is the best paid and nicest maid job she found. However, she has to do not only doing dusting, vacuuming, bathroom, kitchen, also “encountered shit-stained toilet”, and pick up pubic hairs which is disgusted and unwanted (92). “In my interview, I had been promised a thirty-minute lunch break, but this turns out to be a five-minute pit stop at a convenience store.”(77) Ehrenreich doesn’t even have time for the lunch. For the breakfast and lunch, she can only afford to have something comes fast like fast food, sandwich, or pizza. These foods are nothing healthful. Although the workers are aversive about this, but they cannot complaint, revolt or refuse; because they want to keep the job and afraid to lose the job, they have to absorb everything which the employer provided. They also have to encounter the customer’s despises. Every house Ehrenreich goes to as maid, the homeowners are rude, and often very standoffish. They seem to want no part of a maid, the class of workers that is below all others, in their eyes. "Were nothing to these people...nor are we much to anyone else," one of her coworkers explained.(100) And worse thing is, all of the jobs she work at, which were all low wages job, didn’t provide any benefit like a health insurance. But the low wage workers can’t afford the medical insurance by their little income.
Ehreneich illustrates Marx’s critique of capitalism exploited workers by inequitable distribution of profits, and their greed for such low wages. In the Communist Manifesto, Marx critique: “But does wage-labour create any property for the labourer? Not a bit. It creates capital, i.e., that kind of property which exploits wage-labour, and which cannot increase except upon condition of begetting a new supply of wage-labour for fresh exploitation.”(22). No matter how many work does the workers do, the capital it’s created is goes to the company owner’s pocket. Like what Gail said in Nickel and Dimed “They don’t cut you no slack. You give and you give, and they take” (22) Wage labors are working and working, giving and giving; spending their time and life on it; what they get is only the poor little wages. And these wages is not enough for to buy the property, it’s more than enough for the owners but less enough for the worker. All of the works that Enrenreich work are all paying low wages between $ 5.15 to $ 6.50. She didn’t say how much the workers should get in each jobs, but when Ehrenreich working as Maid. “The Maids charges $25 per person-hour. The company gets $25 and we get $6.65 for each hour we work” (72) The owner of the Maid business doesn’t do any cleaning work, but can get over 70% of the earning. But the Maids who are working hard and facing all the problems of living only get the scrap that can barely feed themselves. When the limit financial issue comes to the housing, it becomes big problem. “When the rich and the poor compete for housing on the open market, the poor don't stand a chance." (199). So wage-labor have to work hard to pay the high rental payment, and they cannot own a property belong by themselves forever because most of their income become the income of their landlord.
Ehreneich illustrates Marx’s critique of capitalism destructing wage labors’ family. In the Communist Manifesto, Marx critique “The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation.”(16). Money relation in the family become the most important issue instead of family relationship, which is cold and sad. . Ehrenreich’s coworker “Gail sharing a room in a well-known downtown flophouse for $250 a week. Her roommate, a male friend, has begun hitting on her, driving her nuts, but the rent would be impossible alone.” (25) Gail and her roommate’s relationship have no love inside, it’s only a relation of money. They are together only because of financial convenient. Even though, her roommate hitting on her, driving her nuts, she still need to bear about it, because she can’t afford to pay the rent alone. In the book, Ehrenerich visits Caroline, a friend’s aunt who lives in Minneapolis. Their house is three bedrooms in freestanding building for $825 a month. “The bedrooms are tiny; the block is infested with drug dealers; the dining room ceiling leaks whenever the bathroom above it is used; the toilet can be flushed only by pouring in a bucket of water. And why are they here? Because on her $9 an hour as an assistant bookkeeper at a downtown hotel, plus her husband’s $10 as a maintenance worker, minus utilities and $59 a week for health insurance (She is diabetic, the five year old asthmatic), this is what you get." (131).This is a good example of even husband and wife both are hard working for full time , they can only afford the most basic living, like a poor house and utilities. Under the financial pressure, they have no choice, even though the place is full of deficiencies. When Caroline introduces her family, she explains” that it’s her husband’s day off, which he is spending upstairs in bed.”(131) Because of the hardworking and pressures at work, her husband’s choose to spend his only day off in the bed instead of having fun with his wife and children. Under this kind of situation, I believe there are no satisfaction of love and happy in their family relation. Are the poor people afforded to have a satisfied love family? Well, when they meet up with reality, they force to put down their dream of family and face the truth. The truth is, they have to have somebody share the house rent and children support with them. Doesn’t matter if the person loves them or not, or doesn’t matter if they still love this person or not. They need somebody to share the heavy financial burden with them. Proletarians were force to yield under the reality. In proletarians’ family, both husband and wife have to go work. So their children were force to abolition from their parents. They were lack of care and love, which they are not deserved.
As Marx’s manifesto explains, the corporate bourgeois’ feed the most profits to the upper level management and the owners, but only distribute meager scrap to the workers. Their greed causes the working classes to live in an inhumane conditions, and does significant harm to the family structure. Ehrenreich exemplifies the injustice and inhumanity that Marx exposes in his critique of capitalism. Many people who are born into a comfortable position through no effort of their own often find it very easy to look down on those who were born into less pleasant circumstances. They also are unable to recognize that those people whom they perceive to be beneath them are contributing significant to the structure which generates the fortune to maintain their lifestyles. The wealthy in America comfort themselves by blaming the poor for their own circumstances, but in truth the rich are to be blamed because they are all too willing to devalue labor, even when it is required to produce their wealth, in order to protect their own comfort level. These circumstances cause a lot of social problems today. The grievances of low wage workers may grow bigger and bigger. One day, it may become a huge snow ball, which rolls over the country. For instance, the occupy Wall Street movement us a result to corporate greed. The occupy Wall Street movement has grown from a simple occupy protest movement in New York City to worldwide in just a month. People have so much anger at the financial and social inequality. Government has to make new rule to conform the low wage workers, to help them get a better live.