Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Poverty Business

Hear a great public radio discussion (also linked below) about the struggles of America's poor, and how entire industries have been built around this segment of the population. The discussion centers around a cover story in Business Week entitled "The Poverty Business". The report focuses on how companies target the poor as a business model. In fact, many believe that these companies take advantage of the plight of the working poor. Examples of these companies would be predatory sub-prime lenders, pay day loans, certain types of used car lots (offering high interest rate financing and inflexible payment plans, and playing games with prices, etc), rent-to-own companies, insurance for so called "high risk" customers, and more. The authors of the report examine the experiences of a few low wage workers, to gain insight on why and how they struggle through day to day life.

I have had experiences with most of the above in my lifetime. I particularly recall dealing with one of those insurance companies- with the Sales manager telling me that I would have to pay a different rate because of the zip code listed with my address. I lived in North St. Louis with family at the time (many years ago). To translate what the Sales manager was telling me- He was basically saying that because I was poor and Black, my rate would be different from most of his other clients. The high rate was the best rate that he could offer me, because after all, I was different. I was not being judged as an individual....by my driving record, but instead, I was being judged by my circumstances and by the zip code I lived in.

I had similar experiences when I tried to purchase my first vehicle. I had one offer for a 30+% interest rate. This was after I was lied to over the phone by the salesman as a way to get me to come in (wasting my money on the cab fare). It's a bitch being poor.... Luckily...I am slowly but surely pulling myself up by my own bootstraps.... that's despite not having much of a bootstrap to pull on to begin with.

Hear the Discussion (RealPlayer option seems to work best)

1 comment:

I am not Star Jones said...

thanks for this post...the war on the poor is heartbreaking.