Democracy Now! and Gary Rivlin: How the Working Poor Became Big Business

Back in July, Democracy Now!, the national, independent news program hosted by journalists Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, spoke to Gary Rivlin, NY Times reporter and author of Broke, USA: From Pawnshops to Poverty, Inc. How the Working Poor Became Big Business.”

During the interview they asked Rivlin what he thought about the argument that payday loans are a necessary “emergency product” for those without access to mainstream lending institutions. Rivlin’s response exposes the dangerous techniques lurking behind the argument:

You know, I went into this thinking, a payday loan, it’s a necessary evil. It’s a lot of money, but it’s an emergency loan. What really struck me is the aggressiveness with which they sell these things. They’re creating a lot of the demand. The big chains, or some of the big chains, if you haven’t been in their store in thirty days, sixty days, they will call you and try to induce you to an emergency loan, but they’re actually calling you to get you in. Most of the chains, the first loan free—it reminds me of what drug dealers do, like get you—kind of hook you with that first loan, and then you’re stuck, because it’s going to take you a long time to get out. They upsell you. You come in, “I need need $200 quickly.” “Well, you know, you qualify for $500.” And they’ll repeat over and over, “You can have $500.” So, again, it’s their techniques, more than the product itself, that bothers me, and, of course, the fees they charge.

Listen to the entire interview at


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