On the side of the road of Mendota, a small farming town in California’s Central Valley, more than half of the population lives below the poverty line and unemployment tops 40 percent. Known as the “Cantaloupe Capital of the World,” it has gotten more attention lately for the severe drought that has all but shut down the agricultural production on which most of the town’s 10,000 residents depend. Adding to the town’s troubles, strict environmental regulations have cut the amount of irrigated water local farms can receive from the state of California. The water shortages along with years of political bickering and neglect haven’t hurt everyone in the region’s $20 billion crop industry, but it has had a noticeable effect on the mostly Hispanic migrant laborers, who are out of work and increasingly lining up at food distribution sites, or leaving town to find opportunities elsewhere.

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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

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