Book Review: Poverty, By America

Poverty, By America

By Matthew Desmond

Crown, New York, a Division of Random House


Matthew Desmond’s book is eminently well researched and sets forth the irrefutable proposition of just how easy it is to become poor and stay poor in America. There is a dark underside to the reality of America being the richest nation in the world—it’s called poverty. 

Everywhere in America we encounter poverty and it’s growing worse. We are seeing an unprecedented rise of tent cities, makeshift encampments, and throngs of unsheltered people dragging their meager belongings through the streets. Why are there so many?

America is indeed a rich nation, but only for a minority of one-percenters and the corporations. All the rest of us face a real and constant threat of poverty. Consider how easy it is to become poor. Consider how easy it would be for anyone among the working classes and the working poor to end up with nothing.

A third of Americans live with scant economic security, working as bus drivers, farmers, teachers, cashiers, cooks, nurses, security guards—the essential workers who we praised during the pandemic, but we forgot them soon after. Essential workers are not officially counted among the poor, yet they live paycheck to paycheck, one step away from losing it all. It only takes a bad sequence of events: a health episode coupled with the loss of a job, a few bounced checks, and a couple of months of late rent payments. 

The statistics are staggering. One in eighteen Americans lives in deep poverty, barely carving out an existence for themselves or their children. In fact, the United States allows a much higher proportion of its children—over five million of them— to endure deep poverty than any of its peer nations. There are millions of Americans whose suffering through material poverty and poor health is as bad or worse than that of people in Africa or Asia.

If you think there is a lack of progress in the war against poverty, consider the following: There is no war against poverty. The financial system is rigged against the American working classes. Banks, money lenders and corrupt landlords are enriched by an egregious profit-making machine that squeezes our every dollar. 

It all boils down to one reality—the rich, individuals and corporation, enjoy an embarrassingly shocking mountain of wealth without paying taxes. If they did pay taxes, America could afford a robust health care system, high quality education and affordable housing for all —and that’s just for starters.  One-percenters and corporations must be held accountable. They must pay their fair share of taxes. 




Patricia Vaccarino

Patricia Vaccarino is an accomplished writer who has written award-winning film scripts, press materials, articles, essays, speeches, web content, marketing collateral, and ten books.

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