Broke, USA: From Pawnshops to Poverty, Inc. - How the Working Poor Became Big Business

Broke, USA: From Pawnshops to Poverty, Inc. - How the Working Poor Became Big Business

by Gary Rivlin
     
 

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For most people, the Great Crash of 2008 has meant troubling times. Not so for those in the flourishing poverty industry. 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

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Overview

For most people, the Great Crash of 2008 has meant troubling times. Not so for those in the flourishing poverty industry. 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. Timely, shocking, and powerful, it 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.

Editorial Reviews

Fortune
"[A] fascinating book."
Fast Company
"Gary Rivlin rivets readers."
New York Times Book Review
"Rivlin strives to portray the people behind Poverty Inc. in a fair light…but his sympathy and the reader’s steadily evaporate with his well-chosen tales of the industry’s coercive tactics and it’s leaders’ astonishing wealth….Rivlin is the consummate tour guide, quick with a memorable anecdote or telling statistic."
Washington Post
"An exhaustive exposé."
Cleveland Plain Dealer
"[An] incisive, important new expose, Broke, USA...is enraging, but Rivlin’s work also is scrupulously fair.... [W]hat makes Broke, USA so readable is Rivlin’s skill at telling a complex story through engaging characters."
Booklist
"This is a powerful analysis, detailing how the financial sector has come to its current state of crisis and including personal stories of some among the millions of working Americans who have been exploited along the way."
Newsweek
"Gary Rivlin’s Broke, USA is a necessary companion..."
Wall Street Journal
"Mr. Rivlin brings to his subject a genuine gift for storytelling."
Associated Press Staff
"Broke, USA is vital reading for those seeking to deepen their understanding of the economic crash of the past few years."
Bloomberg News
"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."
Charlotte News & Observer
"In Broke, USA, Rivlin lays out this depressing story in rich detail.... [H]is riveting look at the calamitous effects on America demands attention."
Joe Nocera
"[A] scathing, important book, Broke, USA... includes one shocking anecdote after another."
Ezra Klein
"To understand American finance, you need to understand Ace Cash Express as much as you need to understand Goldman Sachs. Which is why Gary Rivlin’s "Broke, USA" is a necessary companion."
James Fallows
"A fascinating and very important work of investigation and explanation, which I hope gets the wide attention it deserves.... This is a book with the potential to stimulate outrage—and political reform."
David Cay Johnston
"With revealing stories, Gary Rivlin spotlights the systematic, widespread economic abuse of the poor by supposedly respectable corporations whose predatory conduct breeds misery and undoes many efforts by taxpayers to alleviate poverty."
Alex Kotlowitz
"Broke USA will leave you mad as hell. Thanks, Gary Rivlin, for introducing us to folks like Bill Brennan, who early on saw it coming: the predatory lending that has destroyed communities. If only we had listened."
—Joe Nocera
“[A] scathing, important book, Broke, USA... includes one shocking anecdote after another.”
—Wall Street Journal
“Mr. Rivlin brings to his subject a genuine gift for storytelling.”
—New York Times Book Review
“Rivlin strives to portray the people behind Poverty Inc. in a fair light…but his sympathy and the reader’s steadily evaporate with his well-chosen tales of the industry’s coercive tactics and it’s leaders’ astonishing wealth….Rivlin is the consummate tour guide, quick with a memorable anecdote or telling statistic.”
—Washington Post
“An exhaustive exposé.”
—Fortune
“[A] fascinating book.”
—Fast Company
“Gary Rivlin rivets readers.”
—Cleveland Plain Dealer
“[An] incisive, important new expose, Broke, USA...is enraging, but Rivlin’s work also is scrupulously fair.... [W]hat makes Broke, USA so readable is Rivlin’s skill at telling a complex story through engaging characters.”
—Booklist (starred review)
“This is a powerful analysis, detailing how the financial sector has come to its current state of crisis and including personal stories of some among the millions of working Americans who have been exploited along the way.”
—Ezra Klein
“To understand American finance, you need to understand Ace Cash Express as much as you need to understand Goldman Sachs. Which is why Gary Rivlin’s “Broke, USA” is a necessary companion.”
—Newsweek
“Gary Rivlin’s Broke, USA is a necessary companion...”
—Associated Press
“Broke, USA is vital reading for those seeking to deepen their understanding of the economic crash of the past few years.”
—Bloomberg News
“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.”
—Charlotte News & Observer
“In Broke, USA, Rivlin lays out this depressing story in rich detail.... [H]is riveting look at the calamitous effects on America demands attention.”
—James Fallows
“A fascinating and very important work of investigation and explanation, which I hope gets the wide attention it deserves.... This is a book with the potential to stimulate outrage—and political reform.”
—David Cay Johnston
“With revealing stories, Gary Rivlin spotlights the systematic, widespread economic abuse of the poor by supposedly respectable corporations whose predatory conduct breeds misery and undoes many efforts by taxpayers to alleviate poverty.”
—Alex Kotlowitz
Broke USA will leave you mad as hell. Thanks, Gary Rivlin, for introducing us to folks like Bill Brennan, who early on saw it coming: the predatory lending that has destroyed communities. If only we had listened.”
Justin Moyer
…an exhaustive exposé of pawn shops, check-cashing rip-offs, payday loans, auto title loans, rent-to-own schemes, subprime mortgages and other "equity stripping" means of getting poor people into debt they can't carry, then taking their houses and cars while derivatives backed by those bad loans are sold to investors.
—The Washington Post
Megan Buskey
It's easy to lose one's bearings amid all the legislative fights activists have waged against this sector, but Rivlin is the consummate tour guide, quick with a memorable anecdote or telling statistic to engage even the most ­policy-averse reader.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Journalist Rivlin (Fire on the Prairie) offers a superb exposé 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. (June)
Booklist (starred review)
“This is a powerful analysis, detailing how the financial sector has come to its current state of crisis and including personal stories of some among the millions of working Americans who have been exploited along the way.”

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061733208
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
06/07/2011
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
368
Sales rank:
507,617
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.82(d)

Meet the Author

Gary Rivlin is the 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 been a reporter for the New York Times, Chicago Reader, and other publications, and his articles have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Newsweek, Wired, and elsewhere.

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