Tag Archives: inequality

(953) Evicted [Book review]

evicted
Evicted. Poverty and Profit in the American City

Matthew Desmond
Crown Publishers, NY
432 pages
CAN $37.00 hardcover
What a knockout.  The more we think about this book the more we have to admire it.  Matthew Desmond took on his subject in a way that very few authors can: by going and living it bodily for an extended period of time.
Ethnography is a discipline within anthropology and sociology that involves direct observation of social interaction from within, or very close to, that interaction.  Milwaukee’s slum apartments and a large, dumpy (yet lucrative) trailer park are the settings at hand.  They are representative ones, unfortunately, in an America still longing for recovery.
Evicted reads often like a novel.  Desmond’s presentation of a brace of poor people, and those who make a living off of them, with historical background and socioeconomic data is nearly seamless.  Without this phenomenon Evicted would have been pretty tough going.  There’s a lot of serious bullshit and misery in America these days.
Indeed, the constant churn of misfortune in this book is awful.  Bouncing from one crap apartment in some bad neighbourhood to the next, the individuals Desmond lived beside are constantly stretched, fighting to stay ahead of total disaster.  Eviction is something of a new force acting on the lives of America’s poor, falling particularly hard on top of African American lives.  Desmond describes eviction as a handmaiden to mass incarceration.  The worst part of it all is just how lucrative the poor are for landlords, property owners, moving-and-storage companies.
Eviction’s depressing panorama is contemporary America for a lot of people.  Desmond tells us that nearly one third of Milwaukee’s evicted population are black females even though they are only nine percent of the general population (page 98).  Stuff like this is crazy.  It makes for quite depressing reading.
To be truthful, we nearly gave up a couple of times on all the rough apartments and dodgy building owners that are encountered here. What do you think having your personal effects piled on the curb feels like because you fell behind on the rent?  Evicted is important, though.  Much of its reality remains unstudied, undocumented and ignored by society at large.  This is not good, Americans deserve better.
As optimistic Canadians we would have liked it if half of Evicted had been like the twenty-page epilogue: stronger on solutions and positive statements rather than the narrative of bad luck and systemic grief.  We could urge the proactive adoption of specific policies to protect Canada’s post-industrial communities.
Desmond believes an expanded housing voucher program would liberate people like those he wrote about.  If such a program were large enough and well-funded it would probably function almost like a universal basic income, helping to reinforce a socio-economic level that nobody need fall below.
Hard reading on an important topic for anyone interested in contemporary American life.  Almost made easy by the author’s level of commitment and writing skills.   Buy this book.
evictedbook.com for the book trailer, photos, links and other features
Will this new book change the national debate on poverty?
thenation.com

(861) Tom & Mary

2983227746_b222448175_zElection 42 is peaking as we write.  What a doozy: far too long and no attention for poverty.  Too much focus on personalities.  And wasn’t that a Tory Prime Minister flaunting his relationship to track-suited one-time wild man Rob Ford at some kind of rally in Etobicoke the other day?  We certainly heard about the economy a fair bit over the last several weeks.

Lowest point: the high level disinterest in the women’s issues debate.  Highest point: …uh, we’ll get back to you on that.

Setting aside the big picture, waiting for the polls to come in all across our very wide nation we can zoom in on one particular economic situation in search of Canadian reality.  Think we’ll forward this to the legal department. Tax evasion advice from a major newspaper?  Don’t know, maybe?

How a couple with a net worth of $10 million and annual income of $215,000 can pay $0 in income tax
financialpost.com

image: Philip Bond via FLickr/CC

(848) Election talk

8130059291_5b3821fefc_zCanada’s federal election and the American presidential election will overlap for a bit through the fall.  We Canadians are not talking about an important issue.  South of the border, they are talking about the wrong thing (you know, the thing with the hair).  Wages and inequality need a little more talk time, please.

Stephen Harper continues the Liberal war to drive down wages: Walkom. The war on wage-earners is one that even NDP leader Tom Mulcair doesn’t talk about
thestar.com

What candidates talk about when they talk about inequality
bilmoyers.com

image: Lindsay Bremner via Flickr/CC

(824) Fear and wisdom at the top

Bgx7qr7CcAAjnAyIn this New York Times piece a man benefitting from the lopsided nature of capitalism, who finds himself near the top of the pyramid, expresses concern for the future.  No, he isn’t worried so much about Islamic extremism, earthquakes or killer bees.  Anger generated by incredible levels of inequality, enough to tear apart the system that gave him so much, is his great fear.  Soon others may have this golden moment, hopefully in time, and in big enough numbers, to do something wise about inequality.

Capitalists arise: we need to deal with income inequality
The author of this piece is a chairman emeritus at a major Wall Street financial services corporation and currently writing a book about the expiration of the middle class