Award-winning broadcaster Tavis Smiley and one of the nation's leading intellectuals, Dr. Cornel West, recently released a new book called The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto (SmileyBooks, April 17, 2012), which challenges our assumptions about poverty. I got a chance to listen in on a teleconference with Tavis Smiley earlier this month, and here are 10 things you need to know about the book:
1. One out of every two Americans classify as poor. That's about 150 million people!
2. West and Smiley have written 40 books total. This book is their first collaboration.
3. The Rich and the Rest of Us was made for paperback in order to keep the price down. It's only $12.
4. The book talks about poverty as a societal crisis, not a black or brown issue.
5. The book approaches poverty from a moral and spiritual angle. Smiley believes poverty is not just political, social, and cultural.
6. To all the haters who say Smiley's in no positions to speak on behalf of the 99%? "I've been poor longer than I've had money," he said.
7. One of the ways to combat poverty is to give back. "If you've been blessed with much, you should give much," Smiley said.
8. Smiley and West's solutions for eradicating poverty include public policies that support living wages, single mothers, and training for low-skilled and unskilled workers.
9. "Budgets are moral documents," Smiley said before quoting Jay-Z: "You can say what you say, but you are what you are."
10. The book concludes with a call to action for grassroots support for a White House Conference on the Eradication of Poverty, which will address income inequality, stagnant wages, and the ever-increasing costs of food, housing, transportation, health care, and education.