Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Book Review: Broke, USA

Broke USA: How the Working Poor Became Big Business chronicles the recent rise of predatory lending institutions such as payday loan stores, check cashing outfits and the misleading mortgage. Downwardly mobile people using these product find themselves trapped with unpayable debt and the sudden loss of equity in their homes.

Very often, these businesses spring up near economically distressed populations: rustbelt communities with high unemployment, rural communities left behind in the global economy, and army bases (a young population in need of money).

It's part of a rather unfortunate period of American economic history where credit masks economic decline. At least temporarily.

Rivlin includes memorable portraits of the users of these financial products but also profiles the entrepreneurs that start these businesses and their take on their social utility. There's also quite a lot of information on the influence of the financial industry on state legislatures.

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