An intense first week as Broke, USA saw its official release on Tuesday. It was a thrill to start the week talking about the book on "Fresh Air" with Terry Gross, who uttered some of the sweetest words an author can ever hear: "We'll continue talking with our guest, author Gary Rivlin, in the second half of the show." Also this week: I did a taping with Marketplace's Kai Ryssdal (tentatively scheduled to air Tuesday, June 15th) and also had a chance to talk about the book on a slew of radio shows, including Bloomberg Radio, "Money Matters" with Gary Goldberg, KERA-FM (the Dallas public radio station) , and an Internet-based show called "Dresser After Dark." This weekend, CSPAN-2 will be airing an interview I taped a few weeks back with a conservative commentator intent on blaming the poor for the subprime meltdown, or at least those Democrats and activists who pushed lenders to make home loans to those of modest means. Absurd--it was the advocates for the poor, for example, who were screaming the loudest about subprime abuses, dating back to the 1990s -- but hopefully it makes for good TV. The episode airs Saturday June 12th from 10 to 11 pm and then June 13 (from 6:30 to 7:30pm and then again from 9 to 10 pm) and at 12 noon on June 20th.
The strangest development of the week, though, was becoming semi-famous in Cleveland, Tenn. I had spent the better part of a week in Cleveland at the start of 2009 for research on my book, including two days with Allan Jones, the founder of the modern-day payday industry. I took some outtakes from the book and wrote a piece about Jones for The Huffington Post. And then suddenly I'm hearing from all sorts of people living in the southeast corner of Tennessee, including a newspaper reporter in Chattanooga and a reader linking me to this piece from "News Channel 9." The local NAACP president voiced his protest. And Allan Jones made a public statement about me.
Actually, Jones released a written statement through a spokesman. He didn't deny anything I quoted him as saying, only that I had "rearranged" some of his remarks. But he also knew I had tape recorded our conversations. He then went on to say, "I deeply regret if any comments attributed to me have offended anyone."
My favorite line from the Jones statement has him describing payday's customers as "middle-income working" people. Studies show that the typical payday customer has a household income of about $30,000 a year. Only a guy who spends money like Jones (read the HuffPo piece or click on this link to his home while it was still under construction) would be so clueless as to sum up as "middle class" someone earning $30,000 a year and so desperate for quick cash they'd be willing to pay fees that work out to an annual interest rate of 390 percent.