Sep 17, 2022 • 10M

Celebrating One Year of Crime and Punishment

A Huge Thanks! And Where We Go From Here...

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Joan DeMartin
A Podcast for those who are fed up with the inequality baked into America's system and want to collectively make change.
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“We are all just walking each other home.” Ram Das

The author with the cutest research assistant ever.

I can’t tell you (but I’m going to try), how thrilled I am to have found Substack, a unique and welcoming platform for writers, and that I decided to create Crime and Punishment: Why the Poor Stay Poor in America and publish my first post one year ago yesterday. I have been incredibly grateful for your interest and support over this last year—thank you!

See the multiple book giveaway for new paid subscribers at the end of this post!

I’ve explored a variety of topics through about 80 posts this past year, all relating in some fashion, to the issue of poverty, and why it remains pervasive in the United States, supposedly the richest nation on Earth. Although I am embarrassed to admit this, I have spent way too long navigating in and out of the poverty trap myself, since I left my full-time job as a state attorney. I guess I had a mid-life crisis, of sorts, and wanted to pursue freelance writing and generally, more creative endeavors. I realized when I turned 40, that I don’t have the “personality type” to be locked in an office for 45-plus hours a week for a paycheck, and 30 plus years for retirement. I gave it fifteen years, and for at least the last 10 of those years, I was miserable.

Fortunately, I have been able to pull off multiple creative projects in the last couple of decades, and this newsletter is my most recent and favorite — the research, analysis and writing I do to produce this newsletter is exactly what I am supposed to be doing and at exactly the right time. I am particularly excited about the deeper, broader research I will produce in the near future on a number of issues that directly impact you and your families. Whether you are always short of money, comfortable, with a steady income or comfortably wealthy, I guarantee that the unfairness in our society impacts you directly. My goal for this newsletter is for you to better understand how a few created this unfairness and to urge you to question the underlying assumptions that keep the status quo in place.


I’m glad I learned firsthand, a few hard truths about our system because now I can write about it! Here are just two of the injustices that continue to embed poverty in our economy and culture:

— The three-digit numbers that rule our lives, credit scores, are only lightly regulated (the three major credit score companies are for-profit) and their calculations lack the transparency necessary for consumers to understand them in any meaningful way. Despite the endless “tips” for improving your score and the costly charges to say, report your on-time rent payments to the credit reporting agencies, it seems to be a matter of whimsy whether your score rises or plummets. Although I have already written about this topic, I am planning a more deeply researched piece by the end of the year.

— Usury interest rates with no federal law to regulate their stratospheric climb. I wrote about this issue in my first few months writing this newsletter, and it’s only gotten worse as the Federal Reserve continues to raise interest rates in an attempt to dampen inflation. Although high interest rates are an annoyance for the wealthy, it devastates the working class and those living at or below the poverty level. Should anyone pay 300 percent interest for a short term loan because they are desperate for cash? I’ll write about this issue again after gathering original sources from Congress on why usury rates continue to be legal and what changes are necessary to stop this outright theft.

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Here are a few additional topics I plan to cover in upcoming posts and podcasts…plus much more:

— a personal story of a long ago acquaintance’s recent Covid death, and why universal health care is a necessity and a right;

— The legacy of HAMP , the Making Home Affordable Program, and its disappearing pledge to help underwater mortgage holders with principle reduction;

— How and why lending institutions find it so easy to violate the law, settle the ensuing lawsuits for almost nothing and then go right back to violating the law. It’s an abusive pattern that keeps on taking…

Buy the way, I think that our society should allow us the freedom to pursue our dreams without punishing an out-of-the-mainstream choice, like switching to a lower paying career or simply wanting to work less. And I’m not alone in this thinking. The late Barbara Ehrenreich was, and will remain one of the most prominent voices for the working class, through her writing, speaking and founding of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project (EHRP). Her writings have influenced my thinking tremendously, particularly her best selling book, “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America”. It’s a tour de force of her undercover work as a maid, waitress and Walmart worker, as she tries to survive on minimum wage jobs. She can’t, and she explains exactly why with empathy and incredible wit. See how you can win a copy of this book, below!

Robert Reich, the former Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration and professor at the University of California, Berkley, has a phenomenal Substack newsletter and dozens of well-researched books to help you understand the great divide between the have and have nots, the power structure that creates and props up this divide, and what we must do to reverse course. I consider myself lucky that Mr. Reich is one of my subscribers (flabbergasted, really), and especially appreciate his support because I learn so much from him. One of his books that I recommend on my home page under “Resources” is, “The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It”. It exposes the hypocrisy in our system and names the names behind it. See how you can win a copy of this book, below!

And the last of this trio, but certainly far from least, is the brilliant writer, Sherman Alexie, whose work has inspired me for decades. He writes a magical Substack newsletter, Sherman Alexie, where he publishes poetry, essays, short stories and whatever creative musings his brain and pen put out that day. I’m also super lucky to count Mr. Alexie as a subscriber to my newsletter along with his official recommendation of Crime and Punishment (I’m both flabbergasted and flummoxed) by his support! Learn how you can win a copy of “Blasphemy: New and Selected Stories” below!

I am grateful that you have given me the opportunity to research and write about what I think is one of the most important issues our country faces: the widening gap in income and wealth inequality, what has caused it and what we can collectively do to significantly narrow that gap and guide our country to a better and more just place. Your support through both free and paid subscriptions, and engagement through your thoughtful comments are what keep me going. In that vein, I’d like to give a special shout-out to three additional and incredible Substack writers: Jan Peppler from Finding Home, Audrey Hood, author of The Civic Librarian and Marlon Weems, writer of The Journeyman. I special thanks to each of you for your early and continued support of Crime and Punishment!

The first three, new paid subscribers (either a yearly, $50) subscription or a Founding Member ($100 subscription) will win their choice of one of the three books listed above. Note: you can upgrade from free to paid to win!

I’d love for you to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below. What topics have I written about that you thought were important? What topics would you like me to cover in the coming year? Please do tell…

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And as always, I’d love to have you and your friends as members of our community. There’s no time like the present to sign up—thanks!

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