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A Times Critic Takes Liberal Line, Blaming Employers for Poverty

Anita Gates: "But [the PBS documentary] 'Waging a Living' does not argue that the solution to the plight of the working poor lies wholly in government's hands. Employers who pay less than a living wage because the minimum wage laws allow it are a significant part of the problem, too."

Liberal critic Anita Gates reviewsa left-leaning PBS special "P.O.V. - Waging a Living," airing tonight, and finds it "affecting" but discouraging.


"Jean Reynolds is 51 and earns $11 an hour. Jerry Longoria, 42, earns $12. Mary Venittelli, 41, earns $2.13 plus tips. Barbara Brooks, 36, earns $8.25.


"These are the values the market places on the men and women who care for our infirm elderly, guard our office buildings and juvenile offenders and serve our restaurant meals. Roger Weisberg's affecting documentary 'Waging a Living,' which has its premiere on the PBS series 'P.O.V.' tonight, follows the struggles of these four working poor for more than a year. Their stories present a discouraging picture."


Gates disingenuously claims "Waging a Living" isn't a full-fledged paean for more government programs, yet in the next sentence suggests that a government-imposed hike in the minimum wage would solve problems: "Viewers who oppose welfare reform may complain that Mr. Weisberg has chosen four particularly sympathetic subjects, rather than focusing on deliberate abusers of government aid. But 'Waging a Living' does not argue that the solution to the plight of the working poor lies wholly in government's hands. Employers who pay less than a living wage because the minimum wage laws allow it are a significant part of the problem, too."


Gates forwards another liberal statistic as fact: "'Waging a Living' punctuates its stories with statistics, most of them doleful (e.g., 'Approximately 18,000 Americans die every year because they don't have health insurance')."


Writing at National Review Online, journalist Cathy Seipp has sympathy for the four people profiled, but criticizes the PBS show's "true believer Lefty conclusion that all low-paying jobs are inherently unfair and exploitative unless the government steps in and takes charge. Affecting and compelling as the film is, I also can't buy its basic (if tacit) premise, so obviously influenced by the [left-wing author Barbara] Ehrenreichs of this world, that every tragic aspect of the human condition is a policy issue that can and should be corrected through legislation."