America: Still the Land of Opportunity

“In a test of the American Dream, Adam Shepard started life from scratch with the clothes on his back and twenty-five dollars. Ten months later, he had an apartment, a car, and a small savings.” So reports the Christian Science Monitor.

Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Nickel and Dimed” claims that advancing beyond the ranks of the working poor is no longer possible. Shepard’s story refutes that, showing that someone can still build wealth in America without relying on any educational credentials or connections.

So does my wife’s story, even though she faced more obstacles. Before coming to America with virtually no money, she had a choice: immigrate illegally and make perhaps $30,000 a year, or come to work legally (for low pay) at an embassy (the Embassy of Gabon offered her a job for a $12,000 a year, which later rose to $14,000).

My wife didn’t have a legal immigration visa or greencard, so she could only legally stay in the U.S. by working for an embassy as a legal “alien.” The $14,000 she was paid was about what writer Barbara Ehrenreich made in the series of low-paying jobs she took in order to write “Nickel and Dimed” — although Ehrenreich deliberately avoided any kind of promotion she might have been eligible for.

Despite her low pay, my wife saved about $4,000 per year, even while buying a computer, which she used to obtain a better-paying job at another embassy (which paid around $30,000) and a husband (we initially met on the Internet).