Native Floridian Jennifer Rhoden, age 27, is living under the bridge with her boyfriend and army reservist Donald Monroe, who is from St. Louis. They’ve been homeless since June. He came to New Orleans and was soon put in jail for 5 months for collecting scrap metal. “I wasnt doing anything wrong. It was trash.” He had to plea or sit in jail for 9 months for trespassing, which he says is “unheard of.” Jennifer worked at a fast food restaurant in Florida but has not had any luck landing a job in New Orleans, where she hopes to become a chef. They are trying to get help through a non-profit organization but say it’s hard unless they are addicts or have mental disorders. “If you are healthy and dont have an addiction, they figure you should have a job,” says Donald. “But what if something happens, what are you supposed to do? All my jobs are manual work.” Donald broke his finger in a fight and is waiting for it to heal to try and find work as an automechanic. Meanwhile, they say bathing, finding a place to go to the bathroom, and finding food are daily struggles. “It’s the land of opportunity if you have it in front of you to begin with, if your mom and dad had opportunities. You don’t have nothing in front of you and just go out and get an opportunity handed to you. It don’t happen like that,” said Jennifer. Once you are in poverty, she says it’s extremely hard to get out.

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“In 1978, it might have been economically feasible and perfectly legal for an executive to award himself a multimillion-dollar bonus while shedding 40 percent of his work force and requiring the survivors to take annual furloughs without pay. But no executive would have wanted the shame and outrage that would have followed any more than an executive today would want to be quoted using a racial slur or photographed with a paid escort.”

- The Broken Contract: Inequality and American Decline by George Packe