In a major work of reportage--a timely, deeply informed call for change--a Pulitzer Prize winner shows precisely and dramatically how poverty hurts Americans at every stage of life, from infancy to old age. In addition, he tells of individuals and programs already working to eliminate suffering, and offers some innovative and informed proposals of his own. Photos.
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A successful effort to humanize the devastating effects of poverty by presenting case histories of the poor, from neonatal crisis to nursing-home holding pattern. According to Pulitzer-winning journalist Freedman, more than 37 million Americans live below the poverty line--the highest number since the late 60's, when the Great Society programs kicked in. At that point, senior citizens suffered twice the poverty rate of children--but since then, seniors have gained and children have lost. To combat poverty, Freedman advocates government programs from womb to tomb, from prenatal care that will offset the staggering cost of treating crack babies to hospice care that will ease dying. But he sees government dollars as building a railing, not a safety net--a railing that will lend support to people trying to climb out of poverty. Freedman builds his case with stories of success and failure from every stage of life: Kenya Williams lost her first baby because of her crack addiction; her second child was born healthy and strong because of a drug-treatment program that cost $60 a day. Meanwhile, keeping Cindy Miller's premature son alive in a neonatal unit cost $2,000 a day, using up a lifetime of health insurance and driving the middle-class Millers (both of whom worked) to the edge of bankruptcy. And so on through the life span, with tales of abuse, teenage pregnancy, deadbeat dads, unemployment, and dying. Freedman offers a number of concrete suggestions to help those struggling out of poverty, including a children's trust fund subsidized by estate taxes (one generation helping another), and payroll deductions for child support. An eloquent plea that creative help to the ``have-nots'' will save money in the long run--but, sadly, unlikely to change the powerful agendas of the ``haves.'' -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From Publishers Weekly:
In a work impressive for the compact and readable way it depicts government's failure to fully support the social needs of its citizens, Freedman, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, has interviewed people across the nation whose experiences he sees as emblematic of the way elected representatives--both federal and local--have not kept faith with their poorer constituents. Often the official answer to need was either indifference or the imposition of a cruel choice--as when a husband had to abandon his family so they could qualify for welfare, or when a family had to dispossess itself of its home to get Medicaid. Starting with prenatal care, the author illustrates how Americans have lacked social support at each stage of life. Freedman has a knack for uncovering the most telling statistics, nailing the legislative events that changed lives and finding the plucky, grassroots programs that have helped the people he describes. What America needs, argues Freedman, is not a safety net but rather a stair railing from birth to old age. Such a support system "can prevent people from having to fall all the way down the stairs before they get help." Freedman offers a sound list of steps governments can take to offer such a railing.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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