A good book is memorable and leaves readers satisfied when finished. A great book makes you want more, leaving readers craving a continuation of some sort.
And then we have the books written by Matthew Desmond. I am satisfied with what I read, I want more, and I also want to act. I want to take the information I learned, this time from his book “Poverty, by America,” and call out legislators, corporations, and then some. I also walked away, having finished his latest, with the knowledge I was previously ignorant of. The final stage of finishing a Matthew Desmond book is noticing my own biases and misconceptions.
Researcher and author Matthew Desmond’s book, “Poverty, by America,” looks deeper at poverty and the social structures that keep marginalized groups from achieving the “American Dream.” In it, Desmond argues that people living outside the poverty bubble actively contribute to it in a myriad of ways, including unfair banking policies, racialized politics, and unfair salaries and wages. The systems and procedures that bar people from leaving their impoverished circumstances that need to be addressed but are not. The activism seen in environmental fights, sustainability, and animal welfare is missing in the world of people experiencing poverty.
Matthew Desmond, a sociologist and one-time John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard University, is the Maurice P. During Professor of Sociology at Princeton University. In his 2016 book “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City,” Desmond lays out in astonishing prose the subject of evictions and how some profit off of the system, how people live within the system, and, of course, how we can address the matter and make things better.
Like “Evicted,” his latest book offers in-depth detail about the many levels of poverty and how middle-, upper-class, and wealthy corporations contribute to the continuation of poverty in the United States. One example is the author’s suggestion of a collective effort to abolish poverty by highlighting companies that pay workers unlivable wages and demand better employee pay. Another example is the complex tax laws that provide tax breaks to those who can afford to pay their fair share, while many below specific tax brackets make up the difference.
Similarly, Desmond notes unfair banking policies leave marginalized families in vulnerable positions. One example is the practice of penalizing account holders for everything from overdraft fees to threshold fees. Some financial institutions charge patrons for every day their account is over drafted. For a person or family living in poverty, this can lead to ballooning figures, quickly taking a situation from bad to worse.
“Poverty, by America” is a great read that explains and advocates for the end of poverty. American poverty is unique because becoming poor can happen through missed paychecks, a layoff, medical debt, student loan debt, and so much more. It doesn’t have to be this way; a simple solution would be voting for citizen-focused policies, which, I guess, starts with politicians.
Desmond’s book deserves far more accolades than I can scribble out; it’s far beyond perfect, in my opinion.