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EXPOSÉ on THE JOURNAL: The Business of Poverty
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August 8, 2008

As more companies view low-income Americans as opportunities for profit, the "poverty business" is booming. BILL MOYERSJOURNAL and EXPOSÉ: AMERICA'S INVESTIGATIVE REPORTS follow a team of BUSINESSWEEK reporters as they track new corporate practices that some say exploit the working poor.

BUSINESSWEEK's coverage of the burgeoning poverty industry goes beyond the currently much debated practices of the sub-prime mortgage industry to other credit providers — for auto, consumer goods, and even student loans. A second part of the investigation delves into the way that a "growing number of hospitals, working with a range of financial companies, are squeezing revenue from patients with little or no health insurance."

Read the original BUSINESSWEEK coverage:

The Blame Game

Many major news organizations are collecting their coverage of the mortgage crises and credit crunch under titles like "Mortgage Mess," "Credit Crunch" and "Debt Trap." Some of the analysis touches on the issue of who is to blame for the mess — greedy bankers, rapacious real estate agents or incautious or just plain dishonest, consumers. In August 2008, THE NEW YORK TIMES published a major series stating "Given a Shovel, Americans Dig Deeper Into Debt." But the subtitle of the series contained some nuance "A series about the surge in consumer debt and the lenders who made it possible." BUSINESSWEEK itself has long been on the story, publishing on August 13, 2001 a story on the growth of sub-prime lending entitled "Have Banks Been 'Giving Tequila to a Drunk'"?

The debate over who is at fault will undoubtedly continue — as will the problem. When a Web user searches most news outlets for "credit," "sub-prime," "mortgage," "debt" or many other financial terms, the relevant articles are returned surrounded by ads served by Google or other companies — ads promising to repair credit, provide cheap financing, or too-good-to-be-believed mortgage rates.

The BUSINESSWEEK reporters who broke the stories featured in EXPOSÈ on THE JOURNAL: The Business of Poverty — Brian Grow, Paul Barrett, Keith Epstein, and Robert Berner — will answer viewer questions on The Moyers Blog.

The series won awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, Society of American Business Editors and Writers, National Press Club, Association of Health Care Journalists and Hunter College's James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism.

Related Media:
home on cashMortgage Meltdown
THE JOURNAL travels to ground zero of the mortgage meltdown — Cleveland, Ohio. Correspondent Rick Karr takes viewers to Slavic Village, one of the hardest hit neighborhoods in the nation when it comes to the spate of foreclosures caused by the subprime mortgage crisis. (July 18, 2008)

FBI Domestic Spy PosterGretchen Morgenson
Financial columnist Gretchen Morgenson on the SEC, the mortgage crisis and other matters fiscal. (June 29, 2007)

Katherine Newman, photo by Robin HollandThe Downturn on the Homefront
Sociologist Katherine Newman on the global markets' effect on kitchen table issues. (January 25, 2008)

ElephantEXPOSÉ on THE JOURNAL: Worker Safety
EXPOSÉ and THE JOURNAL go inside America's poultry industry, which employs almost a quarter million workers nationwide, to show the reality of working conditions and to investigate how official statistics showing a drop in workplace injuries may have been the result of deceptive reporting.
References and Reading:
BBC: Credit Crunch
Read the BBC's extensive ongoing coverage of the credit crisis. The BBC approached several economists and asked "who is to blame for the global credit crunch?"

NEW YORK TIMES Topics: Credit
Among the recent stories covered by the TIMES: "Danger Lurks When Shopping for Student Loans," "Given a Shovel, Americans Dig Deeper Into Debt"

Read the TIMES's extensive ongoing coverage of the foreclosure crisis. In addition, the TIMES maintains profiles and up-to-date news collections on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

FRONTLINE: The Secret History of the Credit Card
The acclaimed 2004 joint investigation by THE NEW YORK TIMES and FRONTLINE. You can watch the full show online. The site includes an update on new bankruptcy legislation.

OP-ED, "The Color Of Credit," Charles Steele, THE WASHINGTON POST, June 23, 2008.
"For African Americans and Latinos — the primary victims of the debacle — the mortgage meltdown may widen the considerable gap in wealth that already exists between whites and people of color. Even worse, some proposals to fix the problem of limited access to credit may end up doing more harm than good.

"Civil Rights Groups Defending Predatory Lenders: Priceless," Stephanie Mencimer, MOTHER JONES, August 1, 2008
"What does Martin Luther King Jr. have to do with payday lenders? Nada, but that hasn't stopped African American leaders from invoking his name as they shill for the credit industry."

Published August 8, 2008

Also This Week:

As more companies view low-income Americans as opportunities for profit, the "poverty business" is booming. Bill Moyers Journal and EXPOSÉ: AMERICA'S INVESTIGATIVE REPORTS follow a team of BUSINESSWEEK reporters as they track new corporate practices that some say exploit the working poor.

>Ask the reporters: The BUSINESSWEEK reporters answer viewer questions.

Bill Moyers talks with economist Dean Baker and journalist Bob Herbert about the economic challenges facing the government and the populace.

Delve deep into the offshore drilling debate.

Take part in our Web-only project that features essays and videos of some of Moyers' notable guests laying out their vision for the future of the American dream.

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