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“[A] startling and absorbing exposé . . . Required reading for fans of muckraking authors like Barbara Ehrenreich.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review “Exceptional . . . thorough, and even gut-wrenching. A significant contribution.”—American Prospect Why Americans are fleeing our broken banking system in growing numbers, and how alternatives are rushing in to do what banks once did What do an undocumented immigrant in the South Bronx, a high-net-worth entrepreneur, and a twenty-something graduate student have in common? All three are victims of our dysfunctional mainstream bank and credit system. Nearly half of all Americans live from paycheck to paycheck, and income volatility has doubled over the past thirty years. Banks, with their high monthly fees and overdraft charges, are gouging their lower- and middle-income customers while serving only the wealthiest Americans. Lisa Servon delivers a stunning indictment of America’s banks, together with eye-opening dispatches from inside a range of banking alternatives that have sprung up to fill the void. She works as a teller at RiteCheck, a check-cashing business in the South Bronx, and as a payday lender in Oakland. She looks closely at the workings of a tanda, an informal lending club. And she delivers engaging, hopeful portraits of the entrepreneurs reacting to the unbanking of America by designing systems to creatively serve many of us.
An estimated 45 million adults in the U.S. lack a credit score at time when credit invisibility can reduce one’s ability to rent a home, find employment, or secure a mortgage or loan. As a result, individuals without credit—who are disproportionately African American and Latino—often lead separate and unequal financial lives. Yet, as sociologists and public policy experts Frederick Wherry, Kristin Seefeldt, and Anthony Alvarez argue, many people who are not recognized within the financial system engage in behaviors that indicate their credit worthiness. How might institutions acknowledge these practices and help these people emerge from the financial shadows? In Credit Where It’s Due, the authors evaluate an innovative model of credit-building and advocate for a new understanding of financial citizenship, or participation in a financial system that fosters social belonging, dignity, and respect. Wherry, Seefeldt, and Alvarez tell the story of the Mission Asset Fund, a San Francisco-based organization that assists mostly low- and moderate-income people of color with building credit. The Mission Asset Fund facilitates zero-interest lending circles, which have been practiced by generations of immigrants, but have gone largely unrecognized by mainstream financial institutions. Participants decide how the circles are run and how they will use their loans, and the organization reports their clients’ lending activity to credit bureaus. As the authors show, this system not only helps clients build credit, but also allows them to manage debt with dignity, have some say in the creation of financial products, and reaffirm their sense of social membership. The authors delve into the history of racial wealth inequality in the U.S. to show that for many black and Latino households, credit invisibility is not simply a matter of individual choices or inadequate financial education. Rather, financial marginalization is the result of historical policies that enabled predatory lending, discriminatory banking and housing practices, and the rollback of regulatory protections for first-time homeowners. To rectify these inequalities, the authors propose common sense regulations to protect consumers from abuse alongside new initiatives that provide seed capital for every child, create affordable short-term loans, and ensure that financial institutions treat low- and moderate-income clients with equal respect. By situating the successes of the Mission Asset Fund in the larger history of credit and debt, Credit Where It’s Due shows how to prioritize financial citizenship for all.
The fascinating untold story of digital cash and its creators—from experiments in the 1970s to the mania over Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies Bitcoin may appear to be a revolutionary form of digital cash without precedent or prehistory. In fact, it is only the best-known recent experiment in a long line of similar efforts going back to the 1970s. But the story behind cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and its blockchain technology has largely been untold—until now. In Digital Cash, Finn Brunton reveals how technological utopians and political radicals created experimental money to bring about their visions of the future: protecting privacy or bringing down governments, preparing for apocalypse or launching a civilization of innovation and abundance that would make its creators immortal. The incredible story of the pioneers of cryptocurrency takes us from autonomous zones on the high seas to the world’s most valuable dump, from bank runs to idea coupons, from time travelers in a San Francisco bar to the pattern securing every twenty-dollar bill, and from marketplaces for dangerous secrets to a tank of frozen heads awaiting revival in the far future. Along the way, Digital Cash explores the hard questions and challenges that these innovators faced: How do we learn to trust and use different kinds of money? What makes digital objects valuable? How does currency prove itself as real to us? What would it take to make a digital equivalent to cash, something that could be created but not forged, exchanged but not copied, and which reveals nothing about its users? Filled with marvelous characters, stories, and ideas, Digital Cash is an engaging and accessible account of the strange origins and remarkable technologies behind today’s cryptocurrency explosion.
Life improves under the economic system often called "entrepreneurial capitalism" or "creative destruction," but more accurately called "innovative dynamism." Openness to Creative Destruction: Sustaining Innovative Dynamism shows how innovation occurs through the efforts of inventors and innovative entrepreneurs, how workers on balance benefit, and how good policies can encourage innovation. The inventors and innovative entrepreneurs are often cognitively diverse outsiders with the courage and perseverance to see and pursue serendipitous discoveries or slow hunches. Arthur M. Diamond, Jr. shows how economies grow where innovative dynamism through leapfrog competition flourishes, as in the United States from roughly 1830-1930. Consumers vote with their feet for innovative new goods and for process innovations that reduce prices, benefiting ordinary citizens more than the privileged elites. Diamond highlights that because breakthrough inventions are costly and difficult, patents can be fair rewards for invention and can provide funding to enable future inventions. He argues that some fears about adverse effects on labor market are unjustified, since more and better new jobs are created than are destroyed, and that other fears can be mitigated by better policies. The steady growth in regulations, often defended on the basis of the precautionary principle, increases the costs to potential entrepreneurs and thus reduces innovation. The "Great Fact" of economic history is that after at least 40,000 years of mostly "poor, nasty, brutish, and short" humans in the last 250 years have started to live substantially longer and better lives. Diamond increases understanding of why.

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