In Newly Published Book, Stephen Pimpare Says Helping the Poor Shouldn’t Just Be During Crisis

Dec 3, 2008 — Politicians, media and other influencers pay attention to poverty only during times of economic crisis and only when the “crisis is sufficiently broad and deep enough to affect the middle class,” asserts Yeshiva University professor Dr. Stephen Pimpare in his latest book, “A People’s History of Poverty in America.”

In the book, Dr. Pimpare, who teaches American politics and social welfare policy at both Yeshiva College and Wurzweiler School of Social Work, offers compelling, and often surprising, stories of those less fortunate, from Colonial America through today.

“With a little luck, the longer-term poor will benefit from efforts now being undertaken to protect the newly poor, such as expanded unemployment insurance and food stamps and jobs programs,” Dr. Pimpare says. “But it will largely be by accident.”

In giving a voice to the people, he creates a genuine portrayal of what life lived as an American in poverty is really like and overturns many assumptions about how the disadvantaged see themselves or what it feels like to be poor.

He notes that there is only now serious talk of action because “we think that those affected by the unfolding economic crisis are ‘deserving,’ whereas people who are poor and unemployed during ‘normal’ times are considered unfit or immoral, and are blamed for their own poverty…This is the story of the Great Depression: when enough people suffer, we turn away from moral explanations and look to other causes – from corporate greed and bad management to poor regulation, failing industries, and dependence on foreign oil – as well as to other solutions.”

Dr. Pimpare’s book has been well received by the press. “Kirkus Reviews” calls it an “illuminating history of America’s poor…A useful counter against those who blame the poor for their bad luck.” It has also been featured on the Leonard Lopate Show on WNYC, the Progressive Radio Show, “Democracy Now” on WBAI, and in “Book Forum” and the “Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.”

Dr. Pimpare’s first book was titled “The New Victorians: Poverty, Politics, and Propaganda in Two Gilded Ages,” published by the New Press in 2004.

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