This book started with a bus tour (The Poverty Tour: a Call to Conscience) and ended with a symposium held in Washington D.C., staring West, Smiley, Michael Moore, Barbara Ehrenreich (Nickel and Dimed, our Community Read a few years ago), and others. If you’re into the Occupy Wall Street movement, you will like this book. It’s a look into poverty, a political call to action, a history of poverty in America, and a manifesto for poor people. It's also critical of Obama.
The Problem in Numbers
- 1 in 2 (48%): of Americans are either poor or near poor (low income, paycheck to paycheck).
- 33%: increase in incomes for the richest 1% in the last 20 years, compared to stagnant incomes for 90% of Americans ($33,400 in 1988 compared to $33,000 in 2008)
- 28%: increase in homeless people since 2007
- 50 million: Americans in poverty now
- 1% owns 42% of the wealth
- 38.2%: of African American children living in poverty, compared to 12.4% white
- 27.4%: poverty rate for African Americans; compared to 9.9% white, 26.6% Hispanics
- Over 90%: of so called Entitlement Benefits (e.g. Welfare) go to elderly, disabled, or working people. In other words if you think poor people are just lazy, you would have to look at a small 9% of non-working, non-elderly, non-disabled people getting welfare.
- Jobs should have living wages
- Invest in workplace day care and Head Start so moms can work
- Community-based infrastructure projects to create jobs (e.g. “green the ghetto” projects)
- Adjust mortgages to reflect true-market value: if you bought a house for $100,000 ten years ago, what could you sell it for now? Maybe $70,000? Their point is that you should be paying for a $70,000 mortgage then, not a $100,000 mortgage.
- Universal food delivery system to end hunger: they don’t really explain how this would work
- Stop incarcerating so many people of color: read The New Jim Crow for more on this
- Don’t privatize education or prisons, and give health care a public option
- More lobbyists in Washington D.C. for the poor
- Tax the rich more and close loopholes for corporations
- Make the people who caused the recession pay for their crimes by paying money to the victims (restitution)
- Health care public option (mentioned in #7)
- The White House should create an actual plan to end poverty
They argue that poverty should be a national security concern; it’s not an external threat, but rather an “internal rot.” Countries can be destroyed from the inside-out, sort of like what happens in the Hunger Games or the Detroit Race Riots.
The Rich and the Rest of Us