Synopses & Reviews
For most people, the Great Crash of 2008 has meant troubling times. Not so for those in the flourishing poverty industry, for whom the economic woes spell an opportunity to expand and grow. These mercenary entrepreneurs have taken advantage of an era of deregulation to devise high-priced products to sell to the credit-hungry working poor, including the instant tax refund and the payday loan. In the process they've created an industry larger than the casino business and have proved that pawnbrokers and check cashers, if they dream big enough, can grow very rich off those with thin wallets.
Broke, USA is Gary Rivlin's riveting report from the economic fringes. From the annual meeting of the national check cashers association in Las Vegas to a tour of the foreclosure-riddled neighborhoods of Dayton, Ohio, here is a subprime Fast Food Nation featuring an unforgettable cast of characters and memorable scenes.
Rivlin profiles players like a former small-town Tennessee debt collector whose business offering cash advances to the working poor has earned him a net worth in the hundreds of millions, and legendary Wall Street dealmaker Sandy Weill, who rode a subprime loan business into control of the nation's largest bank. Rivlin parallels their stories with the tale of those committed souls fighting back against the major corporations, chain franchises, and newly hatched enterprises that fleece the country's hardworking waitresses, warehouse workers, and mall clerks.
Timely, shocking, and powerful, Broke, USA offers a much-needed look at why our country is in a financial mess and gives a voice to the millions of ordinary Americans left devastated in the wake of the economic collapse.
"In Broke, USA, Rivlin lays out this depressing story in rich detail....[H]is riveting look at the calamitous effects on America demands attention." Charlotte News and Observer
"This thorough and thoughtful piece of reporting has much to teach us about the challenges the U.S. faces today, especially when it comes to improving financial literacy. It should be required reading for legislators and lenders across the land." Bloomberg News
"The poor we may always have with us, but must they always get a raw deal? That's the question award-winning journalist Gary Rivlin poses in Broke, USA
. "Poverty, Inc." is the somewhat loaded term he uses to describe financial services firms that cater to the working poor — people in American households making up to about $30,000 a year.... Rivlin reports scrupulously on both sides of the fight over the ethics of payday lending and other financial services for the poor. Ultimately, however, he concludes that the poor are being exploited... But exploited compared to what?... Rivlin might say we were exploited — but it beat the hell out of the alternative." Jeremy Lott, The Wilson Quarterly
(Read the entire Wilson Quarterly review
A veteran New York Times reporter chronicles and dissects the voracious, often predatory poverty business that has flourished over the past two decades at enormous cost to our economy, our society, and our democratic institutions.
From the author of the New York Times Notable Book of the Year Drive By comes a unique and riveting exploration of one of Americas 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).
About the Author
Gary Rivlin is the award-winning author of Fire on the Prairie; Drive By (a New York Times Notable Book of the Year); and The Plot to Get Bill Gates. A two-time Gerald Loeb Award winner, he has worked as a writer and reporter for the New York Times, Industry Standard, East Bay Express, and the Chicago Reader, and his articles have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, GQ, Salon, Newsweek, and Wired, among other publications.