THE RICH AND THE REST OF US: A POVERTY MANIFESTO By Cornel West and Tavis Smiley “Our intent with The rich and the rest of us is to make [people] think about the pervasiveness of poverty, its real causation, and the threat it poses to our democracy. We want to raise awareness about poverty and discuss how best to end it- in out lifetime. “(Excerpted from the introduction, page 10-11) When I started with this book, I had expected it to be a book on how depressing poverty is and maybe how to become rich. What I came across was none of that but a realistic approach with some new ideas of how to deal with poverty.
The authors have explained everything in simple language that is discernable by everyone and no necessarily economists. It is based on the US economy and not poverty all over the world. It deals with the situation of poverty in the US. Recently with the Presidential election campaign, a lot was said about the difference between the middle class and the rich. Especially with the tax cuts issue where tax cuts are being wanted for the middle class and the wealthy shall not be given any cuts. Any household that is earning anything more than $1 million per year should not be paying lesser income tax than what a middle class family does.
This book has historical backgrounds, personal stories and statistics to say to us that poverty is not just a big issue but also a national threat along with bringing shame upon USA. It seems that the citizens of America as a whole does not choose to solve this problem. Cornel West and Tavis Smiley are crying out for help to speedily address the growing poverty before it forever distorts the US democracy, values and economic future. The great recession has affected a large number of people who have been forced into poverty and also deepening the poverty that already exists.
United States census declares that 50% of all Americans are now in the low income or close to low-income bracket. When the biggest economic institutions fell due to the recession, they went to the Government for help, which was given to them. But, in turn, the majority of Americans suffered. There were no more jobs and place to live. One-third of the American middle class has fallen into poverty. This book is a fast read that encapsulates current issues with the historic past and obvious advocacy. This book shows how every president has handled the problem of poverty and the change of political and popular attitude towards the poor.
They also talk about a “new poor” that has been added to the homeless, food insecurity and unemployment. They use Martin Luther King as a major example who immersed himself in the subject of poverty before his demise. Though, he saw it as an issue that only affected the African-American population. The new poverty is not like the poverty we associate with wrongdoing. This new poverty is the “working poor” who have jobs and sometimes more than one person in d family is earning. Just they are not being paid enough to sustain themselves and their families.
They have no unions to protect their interests, no benefits like medical or retirement and long working hours. There is no surety of jobs and no guarantee so every worker is one salary away from poverty and also one lay off away. Basically Smiley and West has started a War for the poor. They are trying to give a voice to those less fortunate. For them, their ultimate goal is to try and give back the American dream, which has now been down sized and outsourced. They say that during the presidential elections on 2012 both the parties never said the word poor or poverty.
Another important aspect of the book is the Occupy movement. It was what marked the state of their inequality in economics and an ongoing change in America’s policies and priorities. Tavis Smiley says in the book “We wanted people who are struggling in this current economy to know that they are not alone and not forgotten. ” It tells us about a imperfect system where there is no economic equality. Even though America is changing into a nation of major minority, it does not have the market unity to ensure success. The poverty manifesto talks about twelve points about what steps to be taken to help the situation.
First and foremost fair wages should be given to the people so that they are enough to live on. Then the Government needs to introduce more jobs; the prison and mass incarceration rates need to be looked at, tax codes, fair inflation rates. The most imperative of all is to release a call for a conference at the White House on the abolition of poverty and for that a sample letter must be sent to the President. This book says that USA is in a state of emergency, and that they should stand up and take some action. They need to work towards sustaining solutions and jobs with living wages.
Unless they do that, they will not get the status of a great nation back. The efforts have to come from bottom up and will need brave leadership at the top most level to get back America in old form. Politics is run by money, and people with substantial amounts can actually affect the public policy. It is how the democracy of USA was designed and not much has changed since it was founded. The only major difference is that now corporations influence more than individuals now. The power of money is the same no matter whether you are a republican or a democrat.
I find that the first part of the book is very good. It gives us a good look into poverty and backing it up by statistics and graphs. West and Smiley delve in deeper and examine the emotions comprised in poverty. I enjoyed the way it is written and how the authors provide us with two different voices. Personally I think that the book lacks where the solutions are concerned. No doubt hay have given some ideas on how to take on the problem but most seems repetitive and doesn’t seem like they are thorough. After reading the book I have a much better understanding of the poverty situation in America.
I had heard the presidential debates and the speeches but never really understood the seriousness till I read this book. This book is highly recommended for all those to want to face problems by smart public policy, which would end up getting work for people and also providing the structure and services needed. A new economy can be created that will be supportable and progressive. One that will put the citizens on America back to work, just, the right leadership is needed. A Review by Ritika Malhotra 1153 words [Turnitin similarity: 5%]
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