In 2013 Linda Tirado saw the following question on an online forum she followed:
Why do poor people do things that are so self-destructive?
Within a couple of days her response - This is Why Poor People's Bad Decisions Make Perfect Sense - went viral.
It was picked up by the Huffington Post and other publications and after a few million page views, Tirado got a book deal.
Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America expands on the original essay, covering the main points in more detail. The book is partly a memoir about her life, but mostly it's an angry protest over how poor people in American are treated.
It's also an excellent description of the impact economic uncertainty has on lower income Americans.
My favorite quote comes from the book's introduction and provides an excellent summary of the book:
I haven't had it worse than anyone else, and actually that's kind of the point. This is just what life if for roughly a third of the country ... It's not like anyone grows up and dreams of working two essentially meaningless part-time jobs while collecting food stamps. It's just that there aren't many other options for a lot of people.
The most depressing parts of the book are on health care, or the lack of it for poor Americans. Key quote:
Being healthy and being poor are generally mutually exclusive conditions.
Dental care in particular is expensive and hard to secure for the financially challenged. Tirado's personal dental problems and experiences are both fascinating and frightening to read.
Tirado blames herself and her choices for some of her problems. But it's clear a combination of health problems, bad luck and a lack of options were the larger reasons she lived in poverty.
To be honest, I don't think the book provides much more value to the reader than the essay does. So if you don't have the time, read the essay and skip the book. But everyone should read the essay.
Our research is showing that economic uncertainty is a powerful and disruptive trend whose impacts are not yet fully understood.
Our article The Lean Years describes this trend in more detail.