Global Health Justice

March 8, 2023

Poverty and Exploitation in Jobs, Housing, Banking

By Matthew Desmond from the NY Times Magazine

Desmond describes the structural role of exploitation in the persistence of poverty in the USA –  that is also highly relevant to poverty globally. While we try to promote programs to aid the poor, ‘we have not confronted the unrelenting exploitation of the poor in the labor, housing, and financial markets,” This simply means that we underpay the poor relative to the value they produce and overcharge them relative to the value of what they purchase. Such exploitation is endemic globally and has been made worse by national and global policy choices that have weakened labor power, increased housing costs for the poor, and facilitated predatory practices and exclusion of poor people by financial institutions.

“Poverty isn’t simply the condition of not having enough money. It’s the condition of not having enough choice and being taken advantage of because of that. When we ignore the role that exploitation plays in trapping people in poverty, we end up designing policy that is weak at best and ineffective at worst.” He adds that while “those who have amassed the most power and capital bear the most responsibility,” that “we the secure, the insured, the housed, the college-educated, the protected, the lucky — also contribute to the problem.” When we confront the poverty that surrounds us, we need to ask “Who benefits?” and “Who is feeding off this?

[To] “express solidarity with the poor could mean we pay more; anti-exploitative investing could dampen our stock portfolios. By acknowledging those costs, we acknowledge our complicity. Unwinding ourselves from our neighbors’ deprivation and refusing to live as enemies of the poor will require us to pay a price. It’s the price of our restored humanity and renewed country.”