Have you ever considered paying layaway, renting furniture, getting a 400% APR short term loan, or using a check-cashing service? If not, then congratulations, according to Tirado, you’re rich. This book can be cut up into three amalgamated parts. First is the description of poverty and the plight of being poor. Second is a tirade against the way poor people are treated in this country. And third is a set of recommendations and policy prescriptions for alleviating the problems of poverty.
The first part is amazing. Tirado does a fantastic job of showing that being poor is very very hard and that poor people are often mistreated in society or earn criticisms and abuse they don’t deserve. They go through hardships that are compounded by low expectations and unfairness, then they are summarily rejected or fired from positions from which they might improve their situation. The descriptions of the hardships are vivid and puts the problem in sharp relief. It is really very hard and miserable to live on minimum wage, especially if you’re white and not a college student and live in Ohio.
The second part gets a bit rocky. For one, Tirado is too angry and virtually encourages you to dislike her with her increasing shrillness and crudeness through the book, which turns preachy when she gets to recommendations. Her fury is also often misdirected as she overlooks her own contributions to her problems, such as glossing over why she deserves her low credit score, which disallows her from using banks. She actually tries to justify crapping out a bunch of kids and doesn’t even pretend that she is a good parent, instead insisting this on top of food stamps, welfare checks from two states, and government assisted housing doesn’t make her a welfare queen. Beyond a certain point, it’s hard to sympathize with her impoverishment when she drives a car and refuses public transportation or knowing that she never lacks for internet access or electricity. She struggles to hold down jobs but she admits she deserved or wanted to be fired.
Which leads to the third part, which is rubbish. Her talking points and especially her contempt for Republicans are cribbed entirely from Daily Show bits. In fact, it’s not clear she knows anything about politics outside of some Youtube videos of Jon Stewart. And for all her poverty, she concludes with recommendations that essentially says poor people good, rich people bad, an almost direct photo negative of the “Fox News” view she hates of rich people good, poor people bad. A lot of her caricatures of what rich people and Republicans supposedly think of the poor are basically straw men, although it is amusing that she also bemoans her despair that Democrats aren’t doing much for her either. Predictably, her final word can be summed up as “I’m not a welfare queen but give me more welfare”.
So I think the book is ultimately flawed in its moral but it does make good points along the way. Continuing the food analogies, this book is a fruit salad. The idea is great and there are some good bits of watermelon and some grapes in there, but ultimately it’s just a lot of big chunks of cantaloupe and sour pineapple. It becomes one of those books where everyone tells you that you should read it and you think it will be great too, but you won’t like it as much you should because it’s just not that good. Recommended.