The Rich and the Rest of Us: Book Review
Before I read the book “The Rich and the Rest of Us” written by Travis Smiley and Cornel West, I was anticipating the use of heavy negative wording and the rift between the rich and lower class. However, after my reading, I am glad to state that it is not even close to abuse, but rather an educative and useful book to read. Personally, I wish I could describe everything in details in this paper, but I will focus my attention only on some ideas that impressed me the most and had a great impact in creating enthuse for reading the book over and over. The book covers a vast section of business and economics, income distribution in the United States, political science and general philosophy, poverty and social science.
The title “The Rich and the Rest of Us” is well-phrased and one is tempted to consider the authors as poor. On the contrary we see them as rich citizens of the U.S. The title was chosen so that it renders the reader’s attention and is eye-catching, which stimulates the reader to get to know more about the rich and the poor. In addition, the title is not specific to certain citizens and is eligible for reading by any person. The authors tried to make the whole world as their targeted audience.
The authors’ key arguments and evidence are majorly on poverty issues. There is an argument that poverty does not appear to be the same as it was at the time of the Great Depression period or as we envision in our minds through the pictures. The book refers to the poor people who were surrounded by flies among other insects, who have the lack of food and other necessity, and the need for sharing. The authors though make it evident that in the 21st century and post manufacturing economy; poor people do certainly have comfort items such as cars, microwaves, ovens, flat screen televisions among others and seem to be doing fine.
The challenge in dealing with this new type of poverty is in its deceptive state by both individuals that are faced with it and by society in general. So the book refers them as “new poor,” ”near poor” and the “perennially poor” and breaks down the differences and history of attitude over the years (Smiley & West 129). This poverty level highlights that the working class people who at one time thought that they were in the middle class and secure maybe is not in that economy anymore. Poverty is a slippery slope and this book even illustrates cases of people they have met that went from one grand situation to heavily fall, into another where they have finished all means and are living in tents hence considered to be homeless. The book talks about values and unfair impressions of comfort where people seem to be comfortable due to the poverty level, but not according their needs. These people learn to adapt to any situation that arise, because they have no control of their future.
The authors also argue about the threat to democracy. Poverty threatens democracy since people lack information in order to make the right choices. One out of two Americans are low income, have no job and home, while 1% of Americans enjoys high level income in a year and it is a huge disparity that brings problems and especially caused by the time imbalance remaining. According to book, this is the longest period in five decades that the imbalance has remained. Data and tables analysis are given in support of the book. There is a notable quote in the book, “in a democracy the poor will have more power than the rich”. This is due to the argument that the majority of the people are poor, and in a democracy we consider the majority to rule. But in this country, the poor have no political power; therefore, they are demoralized and seen as lazy and are ignored by people and politicians. It points out the greed in the system of governance and hence unable to unravel the question of where the country is headed to. Greedy people are there for their personal desires and there is no poor representation, consequently the poor remain poor as the rich get richer.
Women, children and minorities are discussed as the most vulnerable people during the history. They are the marginalised groups in the society because they are considered as dependants on the working nation. Also they are given less privilege as compared to others in the society. This is a negative scene from the history which the authors try to eradicate and put all people at the same level of equal significance in the society.
The authors argue that people should change the way they look at the misfortunes of others and hence have readiness to help out in eradicating poverty. The authors propose twelve ideas in order to alienate poverty and reduce poverty levels. They vary from tax codes, reviving sectors of the economy, inflation to universal food delivery system etc. The authors conclude that complete poverty eradication is impossible, but the current situation can be changed, beginning with a change in personal attitude to the poor. The change of attitude to the poor will help the rich in placing the poor where they deserve to be and appreciating their presence.
The book, in comparison to other scholarly works, has more similarities than differences henceforward agreeing to the authors work in many ways. In Robert’s review, he states that the bulk of population with numbers can make a difference, but blinded by social aspects that do not have anything to do with their economic interests. He does not understand why Americans are driven by passion and not by educated choices. Sally’s review says that poverty is simply the lack of money, and it is not a system of the corrupted character. Christina explains in her review that authors are very categorical in describing poverty and give some useful solutions to reduce poverty levels. Moreover, she found the book very interesting and full of educative materials. In Barbara’s review, it is stated that she changed her thinking on the poor after reading the book. Hence, message was well-delivered and understood.
Artracer’s review considers the authors as those who have a good conversational style though he believes that the authors’ recommendations are not going to happen in the near future. The authors make a persuasive case for their central point. They urge the society at large to embrace change and reduce the levels of poverty. This could only be done by having a positive attitude to the poor by the society and helping them in times of need. If this fails then there will be an increase in the gap between the poor and the rich. It will eventually reach the critical point where the gap needs to be reduced and where the poor will demand for their rights. Unemployment and rampant corporate disparities, vacant houses but homeless families as vanishing opportunities in an increasingly stigmatised country are the realities of the 21st century in America. The authors state the importance of the major economic reforms in order to curb the arising disparities and to reduce the gap, but the society is ignorant because individuals seek their own wealth.
The evidence is adequate since it is the benefit for both the rich and the poor. Though the poor benefit is better if the optimal level is reached, and then the rich will lose more than they deserved. This too will be done by clear conscience than grabbing or forceful eviction of the rich by the poor. This may not be anticipated very soon but with time it will happen, because the poor will have no place to go and nothing to eat thus will do anything to feed their families. The authors use the evidence which they find in the other authors’ works. They even borrow some of the remedies from other authors and incorporate them in their persuasion. They incorporate business, economics, philosophy and social sciences hence treating other authors in a fair way.
The most effective parts of the argument are the implementation of the remedies to the curb poverty which is based on the attitude the rich have toward the poor. If the attitude is positive then the poor will have their own satiation where they can fulfil their limited needs and comfort themselves. Greed of political power should also be reduced; however, democracy should grow in the government. Everyone’s needs should be catered for whether rich or poor. Keeping inflation and unemployment at low levels is of great advantage to the poor too. With the help of a well-structured government concerned with the welfare of all its citizens, it would be easier to implement these over time.
The least effective argument is the redistribution of wealth to the poor and eradicating poverty completely. It is impossible to eradicate poverty completely thus a continuous process of reducing the levels of poverty should be started.
The implications of this argument for understanding politics and economics and the nexus of the two are diverse. Economics is the art which analyses production, distribution and consumption of commodities with a constraint of scarce resources. It is the art of using the limited resources to satisfy the unlimited human needs. Politics is the art of running state affairs. It also includes patterns in civil governments, institutions or a group of people. Politics and economics go together in order to achieve success for citizens. The authors are well-versed with both and thus argue from economic and political point of view.
The market and state are the devices through which cooperation is organized and made to happen. From the political point of view the authors are demanding for proper representation of the poor in the country’s governance. This will enable them to state their problems to the government and to address current failures. This will ensure democracy and hence eradication of political greed. Leaders should be seeking for employment equity as the rich tend to have more chances of employment compared to the poor irrespective of education level.
In economic point of view, the book talks about keeping inflation and unemployment low. The authors are well-conversant that a country cannot employ all of its labour force and thus cannot eradicate poverty fully, but the aim is to keep it at low levels. Moreover, the authors are conversant with equal distribution of resources. According to Smiley and West, economics and politics are strong tools to reduce the poverty to lower levels. It was mentioned that for equal distribution of resources the political system should be well-organized and the right government procedures should take place. Finally, microeconomic and macroeconomic tools should be used in order to correct the market systems and hence both politics and economics cannot be separated.