The May issue of The Atlantic is online today, April 19—with key pieces summarized below.
Features & The Money Report:
“My Secret Shame” (Cover): A recent Fed survey found that nearly half of Americans would have trouble finding $400 to pay for an emergency. Neal Gabler begins this piece with an eye-opening confession: “I’m one of them.” Despite his upper-middle-class existence—Manhattan apartment, private schools, five books, and hundreds of published articles—Gabler writes that, due to a mix of personal choices and what he describes as financial ignorance, he and his wife have no savings, have had to borrow money from their adult children, and often juggle creditors to make it through a week. In a revealing account of circumstances that affect more people than many realize (and that many are unwilling to talk about), Gabler labels this financial impotence. He writes: “It has many of the characteristics of sexual impotence, not least of which is the desperate need to mask it and pretend everything is going swimmingly. In truth, it may be more embarrassing than sexual impotence ... America is a country, as Donald Trump has reminded us, of winners and losers, alphas and weaklings. To struggle financially is a source of shame, daily humiliation—even a form of social suicide. Silence is the only protection.”
“Loan Shark Inc.”: Payday lending is a scam, a scourge, an abomination—and as the backlash against it grows, it is slowly being regulated out of existence. Will anything better replace it? Bethany McLean writes that for all the predatory pitfalls and exorbitant interest rates of storefront lenders, it’s a service that a growing number of Americans (one in six households) rely upon. Most agree that regulation is a necessity, but what’s a cash-strapped borrower—the typical payday-lending customer is a white woman age 25 to 44—left to do? McLean looks at solutions: from banks and credit unions offering smaller loans, to having the postal service partner with banks to offer short-term loans, to less drastic reforms of payday lending. She writes: “The problem isn’t just that people who desperately need a $350 loan can’t get it at an affordable rate, but that a growing number of people need that loan in the first place.”
“How Warren Buffett’s Son Would Feed the World”: Despite his father’s immense wealth, Howard G. Buffett has spent most of his life living modestly as a commercial farmer in Decatur, Illinois. That is, until a surprise gift in the form of $2.5 billion transformed him into one of the world’s leading philanthropists. Nina Munk spent time with Howard Buffett, the second of Warren Buffett’s three children, to learn more about his newfound efforts to end global hunger.
"The Hell After ISIS": Reporting from Iraq, Anand Gopal tells the story of the Sabar family, one of many Sunni families who have experienced the unimaginable after escaping the Islamic State. Gopal writes that after ISIS seized their village in the Sunni heartland of Iraq, the Sabars considered themselves lucky to have landed in Baghdad, a city solidly under the control of anti-ISIS forces. But they soon realized that their new home would offer little security. The Shiite anti-ISIS forces would be the arbiters of unthinkable violence. Many Sunni families have found themselves in a similar spot: escaping from the brutalities of ISIS only to face comparable danger at the hands of U.S.-allied forces: the Iraqi government, its army, and Shiite militias. NGOs and human-rights workers allege that these anti-ISIS forces may have killed as many Sunnis as ISIS has in some areas, with rarely publicized instances even matching ISIS in gruesome violence and propaganda. In recounting their horrific experiences, Gopal also investigates the convoluted chain of events that created the situation as it is today.