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Broke, USA: From Pawnshops to Poverty, Inc. - How the Working Poor Became Big Business
For most, the Great Crash of 2008 has meant troubling times. Not so for those in the flourishing poverty industry, for whom shrinking wages, pink slips, and other economic woes spell an opportunity to expand and grow. Over the years, any number of mercenary entrepreneurs have taken advantage of an era of deregulation to devise high priced products to sell...
For most, the Great Crash of 2008 has meant troubling times. Not so for those in the flourishing poverty industry, for whom shrinking wages, pink slips, and other economic woes spell an opportunity to expand and grow. Over the years, any number of mercenary entrepreneurs have taken advantage of an era of deregulation to devise high priced products to sell to the credit-hungry ranks of the working poor, from the instant tax refund to the payday loan. In the process, they've created an industry larger than the casino business and proven that even the pawnbrokers and check cashers, if they dream big enough, can grow very, very rich off those with thin wallets. Looking back across three decades, Gary Rivlin uncovers how the poverty industry actually invented the predatory subprime loan in the 1980s - eventually inspiring the likes of Countrywide and Wells Fargo to repurpose these toxic products for the USA's middle class. As Rivlin's tale reveals, these large chains are not only making fat profits and contributing to our current financial crisis - they are at the heart of it. "Broke, USA" is 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 neighbourhoods of Dayton, OH, it's a subprime Fast Food Nation featuring an unforgettable cast of characters and memorable scenes. As Wall Street and the White House struggle to save the economy from collapse, Rivlin travels across the country profiling players ranging from a former small-town Tennessee debt collector whose business offering cash advances to the country's working poor has earned him a net worth in the hundreds of millions, to legendary Wall Street dealmaker Sandy Weill, who rode a subprime loan business into control of the nation's largest bank. He parallels their stories with the tale of those committed souls fighting back against the major corporations, chain franchises, and newly hatched enterprises that are fleecing the country's hard-working 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 voice to the millions of ordinary Americans left devastated in its wake.
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