In seems to me that the fundamental problem of Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed has always been that many of the people in whom she hopes to ignite a flame of righteous anger are unwilling to validate her experiences in attempting to live as someone in poverty.

More plainly put, “Sure, she had a terrible time living on minimum wage, but I’ll bet I could do it–did you see the choices she made?”

Well, someone gave it a go and succeeded, the caveat being that his hard work, optimism, frugality, and sacrifice were joined with good health, a decent upbringing and a college education.

Admittedly, that’s one hell of a caveat, but it provides a good baseline: America has enough economic opportunity that healthy college graduates have no room for complaint. They can succeed financially if they want to, even if they have to work a minimum wage job to do it.

But the United States doesn’t give out free healthcare (except in emergency rooms, which is hardly preventative or the same thing as having decent coverage) and only provides free education through high school. (There’s not a lot the government can do about providing a decent upbringing–if your parents were crap, sorry that’s the way life rolls.)

Could a high school graduate with medical issues achieve the American Dream? Maybe. But if not, I’d contend we owe everyone in America high quality, affordable healthcare coverage and an inexpensive (if not free) college education.