In Poverty, by America by Matthew Desmond, the Pulitzer prize-winning Princeton Sociologist explains how, in a capitalist society based on consumption, profit, and greed, wealthy people benefit from the poverty created by labor exploitation, as well as the tax breaks and credits that are part of the government dole. Contrary to media-generated popular belief, capitalism does not reduce poverty – especially if the redistributive element moves money upward into the middling and upper classes, rather than downward toward wage-earners, the working poor, and people who are in dire precarious situations, living the consequences of organized abandonment.
Medical debt can devastate a family. Educational debt has shackled a generation of consumers. Wages kept low through government intervention, combined with insurance attached to employment, union-busting, skyrocketing rents (which is another way of saying Blackstone is cashing in), and a cult of possessive individualism that has justified commodifying and destroying the earth – to name a few dominant characteristics of contemporary society – are never the reasons for poverty. People are poor, without a house to live in, jobless or underemployed, and undereducated with lousy health care because they are lazy and their cultures do not cultivate aspirations and success.
In Poverty, By America Mathew Desmond takes on these ideological myths weaponized as policy, cultural logic, and justifications for policing by a political force Alberto Toscano characterizes as racial fascism.
"The United States, the richest country on earth, has more poverty than any other advanced democracy. Why? Why does this land of plenty allow one in every eight of its children to go without basic necessities, permit scores of its citizens to live and die on the streets, and authorize its corporations to pay poverty wages?
In this landmark book, acclaimed sociologist Matthew Desmond draws on history, research, and original reporting to show how affluent Americans knowingly and unknowingly keep poor people poor. Those of us who are financially secure exploit the poor, driving down their wages while forcing them to overpay for housing and access to cash and credit. We prioritize the subsidization of our wealth over the alleviation of poverty, designing a welfare state that gives the most to those who need the least. And we stockpile opportunity in exclusive communities, creating zones of concentrated riches alongside those of concentrated despair. Some lives are made small so that others may grow…. Desmond builds a startlingly original and ambitious case for ending poverty. He calls on us all to become poverty abolitionists, engaged in a politics of collective belonging to usher in a new age of shared prosperity and, at last, true freedom."
Desmond has been making the rounds on podcasts and radio segments.
Check out this short NPR podcast.
The New York Times published this review.
The New Yorker offers this extensive discussion.
Here is the Atlantic Monthly's perspective.
WBUR, the Boston NPR station, has this more extended interview with Desmond.
Click here for Barnes and Noble's podcast interview from Poured Over.