From the author of the New York Times Notable Book of the Year Drive By comes a unique and riveting exploration of one of America’s largest and fastest-growing industries—the business of poverty. Broke, USA is a Fast Food Nation for the “poverty industry” that will also appeal to readers of Barbara Ehrenreich (Nickel and Dimed) and David Shipler (The Working Poor).
Journalist Rivlin (Fire on the Prairie) offers a superb expos of the poverty business the flock of companies that cater to (and prey on) the working poor. For people living paycheck to paycheck and sometimes falling behind with rent, car payments, and grocery bills, fringe financing and the ubiquitous Rent-A-Centers, Jackson Hewitt, payday lenders, pawnshops, and check cashers may seem like their only safety net. These businesses may tout themselves as a necessary service and force for economic development in low-income communities, but Rivlin reveals their dark underbelly: punishing rates of interest and customer service reps explicitly trained to mislead customers who appear gullible. He delves into the effect of financial deregulation on fringe financing, predatory subprime lending, and the major players in this unsavory world, including Allan Jones, a debt collector, worth $200 million, and the activists and advocates like Bill Brennan who ve faced them down in the courts. A timely, important, and deeply disturbing look at the cycle of debt of the nation s most vulnerable.