Broke, USA

Broke, USA
Gary Rivlin

James Baldwin once observed that it was very expensive being poor. Since then, the cost of living-on-less has been going up. This isn’t due to inflation but is rather the result of poverty being where the money is. Poor people tend to be less financially sophisticated, more desperate for immediate cash, and more vulnerable generally due to old age, illness, or variable employment. This makes them easy marks for the industry Gary Rivlin dubs Poverty, Inc.: payday loan offices, pawnbrokers, check cashers, mortgage financers, tax refund businesses, and a host of other predators who roam the rusting wastelands of the fringe economy. Immoral? A lot of it, definitely. Illegal? No (though this is a legislative battleground). More can and should be done to protect the truly innocent. But can the rest, and they are legion, be protected from themselves?