Thursday, November 3, 2016

EVICTED, a nasty thing that happens to poor people every day, also my vote for 2016 Goodreads Choice Awards in Nonfiction

EVICTED: Poverty and Profit in the American City

$18.00 trade paper, available now

Rating: 5* of five

The Publisher Says: In this brilliant, heartbreaking book, Matthew Desmond takes us into the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee to tell the story of eight families on the edge. Arleen is a single mother trying to raise her two sons on the $20 a month she has left after paying for their rundown apartment. Scott is a gentle nurse consumed by a heroin addiction. Lamar, a man with no legs and a neighborhood full of boys to look after, tries to work his way out of debt. Vanetta participates in a botched stickup after her hours are cut. All are spending almost everything they have on rent, and all have fallen behind.

The fates of these families are in the hands of two landlords: Sherrena Tarver, a former schoolteacher turned inner-city entrepreneur, and Tobin Charney, who runs one of the worst trailer parks in Milwaukee. They loathe some of their tenants and are fond of others, but as Sherrena puts it, “Love don’t pay the bills.” She moves to evict Arleen and her boys a few days before Christmas.

Even in the most desolate areas of American cities, evictions used to be rare. But today, most poor renting families are spending more than half of their income on housing, and eviction has become ordinary, especially for single mothers. In vivid, intimate prose, Desmond provides a ground-level view of one of the most urgent issues facing America today. As we see families forced into shelters, squalid apartments, or more dangerous neighborhoods, we bear witness to the human cost of America’s vast inequality—and to people’s determination and intelligence in the face of hardship.

Based on years of embedded fieldwork and painstakingly gathered data, this masterful book transforms our understanding of extreme poverty and economic exploitation while providing fresh ideas for solving a devastating, uniquely American problem. Its unforgettable scenes of hope and loss remind us of the centrality of home, without which nothing else is possible.

My Review: I voted for this book in the 2016 Goodreads Choice Awards. Why? Because I'm a radical who wants to re-rig the system and change the course of the Ship of State 180 degrees.

“Every condition exists,” Martin Luther King Jr. once wrote, “simply because someone profits by its existence. This economic exploitation is crystallized in the slum.” Exploitation. Now, there’s a word that has been scrubbed out of the poverty debate—and there it is, simply and baldly put: The poor are exploited mercilessly by every single sector of capitalist society. Landlords charge small fortunes for horrendous living conditions. The Feds give counties money for Section 8 housing, but there is never any such housing available and the agencies don't maintain lists...or the wait is decades long. What happens to that money? Where does it go? Someone's pockets are fatter and the poor, the elderly, the disabled are no better housed.

“If poverty persists in America, it is not for lack of resources"—the author just made, in one short sentence, the only real and relevant case for Universal Basic Income.

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