In the Grapes of Wrath, the Joad family gets a hard lesson in economics, when they follow a handbill for jobs to California—only to find there are no jobs. Why, he asks, did they put out the handbills? A fellow homeless man replies that if you’ve but one man for a job, you must pay him what he wants. “But s’pose they’s a hundred men wants that job. … Jus’ offer ‘em a nickel—why they’ll kill each other fightin’ for that nickel." One might dismiss that as another time and/or fiction, but Ezra Klein sees a modern example right in Pennsylvania.
Writing for Bloomberg, Klein says he was reminded of that scene as he read a recent exposé (summarized here) about the horrific conditions in Amazon’s Pennsylvania warehouses, which paints “a picture of life in the Lesser Depression that looks more like The Grapes of Wrath than anything we expect to see in 21st century America.” Amazon treats its workers horrifically, but gets away with it because jobs are so scarce. “The Joads would surely recognize the men and women competing to work in that hundred-degree heat, climbing over one another for the chance to support their kids." (Read more Ezra Klein stories.)