John Lanchester (The Bat Segundo Show)

John Lanchester appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #471. He is most recently the author of Capital.

Condition of Mr. Segundo: Wondering if he should stop sending postcards to random people.

Author: John Lanchester

Subjects Discussed: Mysterious postcards, stalkers, Ron Charles’s review, Muriel Spark’s Memento Mori, people who live in close geographical terms who don’t talk with each other, parallel private lives that barely touch, “community” as a cant term, postcards as a plot device, planning out Capital, using Scrivener, E.M. Forster and Nabokov, the relationship between I.O.U. and Capital, anticipating a fictitious economic meltdown before the real one, the problems with explanation within fiction, Booth Tarkington, novels about money, describing economic phenomena within fiction, how explanation breaks fiction, the “Tell me professor” problem, audience expectation, what you can do with nonfiction that you can’t do with fiction, the problems with unlikeliness, William Goldman, why bubbles and busts are all the same story and how they can be different in fiction, the virtues of obliviousness, Christian Lorentzen’s “Fictitious Values,” Adam Haslett’s Union Atlantic, why lawyers, cops, and writers can’t watch television, Californication, irreducibly complex vocations, people who work in the finance sector who have no idea what they’re doing, John Banville, cutting yourself off at the bar of curiosity, working out rules for what you could make up and what you cannot, how different novels generate their own sets of rules, whether or not the adverb gets a needlessly bad rap in fiction, whether or not American writing has converged in voice in recent years, getting a filtered view of another nation’s literary output, the influence of Wes Anderson on younger writers, self-conscious quirkiness, omnidirectional irony, David Foster Wallace’s “E Unibus Pluram,” New Sincerity, Sam Sacks’s review, why we don’t see the Banksy-like Smithy at work, deciding who to depict working within a novel, throwing out characters, why Capital required a large canvass, the virtues of a gap between drafts, Paul ValĂ©ry, and writing a novel “as exactly as intended.”


Correspondent: To go to the “We Want What You Have” campaign, the Washington Post‘s Ron Charles made a comparison that also struck with me, that the postcard harassment in this book is not unlike the anonymous phone calls in Muriel Spark’s Memento Mori. So I’m wondering, because this is such a pivotal narrative element upon which the book rests, where did this come from? I’m guessing this book was a little early — before the London riots. So was it Spark? Were you the recipient of too much junk mail? How did this exactly happen?

Lanchester: No. I was thinking about — I love that book, by the way. And if there is a literary referent, that’s a good one. But I was thinking about the fact that you get — and I don’t know whether this is a London thing, a UK thing, a big city thing, or a thing about modernity or maybe a thing just about some cities as opposed to others. But the sense that people living in very close geographical and physical proximity don’t actually know each other at all. They don’t know anything about each other’s lives. They have nothing in common. And the term much beloved of politicians — “community” — is actually a cant term, I think. It really describes something that people pretend exists, but a lot of the time doesn’t. Communities in a geographical sense, in my experience living in cities, just simply don’t exist. It’s certainly true of my experience in London life. And I wanted to have a novel that had the sense of these parallel private lives that barely touch, and then to have something that forced them into contact with each other and gathered up these strands of these different lives. And the idea of these postcards came from thinking about what people in the street actually have in common. And, in a sense, the main thing they have in common is that they live in a place other people want to live.

Correspondent: It’s rather ironic, in light of the fact that here in the United States we’re seeing our postal service decline. It will get to the point where what we get in the post — well, we’re not going to get much, if anything at all. So I think you’ve reached that possible maximum window of what could unite a community. But this does beg the question of, well, can you, in fact, use a plot device like this to unite a community composed of a Muslim family, a soccer player. You have a “Polish plumber” type. I’m curious as to whether communities really are united around the lines of a plot device or if it takes a plot device now for us to consider the great cosmos of Pepys Road in this or London or anything right now. Can the novel unite community in a way that, say, other forms cannot?

Lanchester: I think one of the basic movements you get in a story, or in stories in general, is that thing of strands being gathered together. And I think that sense of these things that seem to be disparate that actually do have a cohesion — that’s a very kind of fundamental underlying dynamic of lots of stories. It’s also a kind of story I really like. I like that feeling of gathering together. I mean, I suppose there’s a melancholy undercurrent to the thought that without those cards, these people actually don’t really know each other. And without an effort of weathering the imagination, I think, a lot of the time we don’t know each other. And I did want that sense in which they knew each other to feel slightly fragile. Because actually it would be very easy for it not to happen. And, as I said, that’s my personal experience of the city. That there is this thing about immensely close physical proximity being sort of shadowed by the fact that actually we don’t want to know too much about each other.

Correspondent: Well, speaking of knowing about one another, the feeling I got when reading this book was that often a chapter would spring forth from another chapter. That a particular character such as Parker would then get his own little hotel room chapter and that sometimes that narrative tension produced a desire or curiosity or a need to explore another angle of this vast community. I know that you planned much of Capital in advance. But I’m wondering to what degree you strayed from the map that you laid down when writing this novel? IF you drift away from your map in the act of writing and revising, do you need to go back and modify the floor plan? How does this work for you?

Lanchester: Well, you’re right. I did spend a lot of time thinking about what I’ve sort of described to myself as the architecture of it. The structures of the story and who goes what when. My memory is that I had — it was the equivalent of index cards. I say the equivalent because it was actually this software program called Scrivener. I write in longhand.

Correspondent: Oh, you used Scrivener.

Lanchester: I’ve been using Scrivener. I’ve never used a computer program to write a novel before, but Scrivener was very helpful because of this index card thing that I could then move around. The chapters or the scenes too. And I kept running through that rhythm of what when. And I think I had it pretty thoroughly mapped. But only I think on a very granular level of exactly what I’d say for the first quarter or third. And then once I’d got through that, the chapters further ahead did keep changing order as I was coming closer to them. In order to have that sense of “Oh, actually, no, I’m going to need that bit there just to change the tone.” Or “It’s been too long since we last had so and so back now.” And there was a lot of juggling and a lot of jiggling and a lot of swapping A with B and C with D and X with Y. But not very much going outside the framework of it. But in my view, it’s a pretty accommodating framework. There was quite a lot of room for the characters inside it. But I think in terms of genuine things — the E.M. Forster thing about characters escaping. That didn’t really happen. But I’ve always rather liked Vladimir Nabokov’s reply to this.

Correspondent: Yes.

Lanchester: “Forster’s books are so boring that you couldn’t blame his characters for wanting to escape” And I actually think both parts of that — the structure is pretty determined in my books, but the things that the characters do and say within that structure I find constantly surprising. I find both halves of that to be the case.

Correspondent: The questions I have though is that if a character is going to act in a certain way or behave in a certain way that is in defiance of the plan — and it’s interesting that you use A, B, C, D in this answer because in the course of the book we often get these little A, B, Cs of the character mind and so forth. Do you have a situation where you lose the thread of a character because a character’s going to act in a particular way when you’re laying it down on the page? And the other question I had, sort of related to this, is, well, we do know that you wrote a book called I.O.U., Whoops! in the UK. And if you are writing in some sense in response to the 2008 economic meltdown, and if you are to some degree enslaved by newspaper headlines, what does that do to you from a novelist’s standpoint to corral this, what I would presume to be, tightly enmeshed plan? That if you stray from it, it causes more time, more difficulty, and so forth.

Lanchester: Well, it was the other way around. Because I started in 2005, early 2006. And I felt certain that there was a bust coming. I mean, certain enough to bet years on writing the book. And it was very important that, right from the start, the reader knows something that the characters don’t. That the reader could see this thing coming that they’re all oblivious of. And partly I was just very interested in obliviousness. And I had a very strong sense that there was this kind of implosion or meltdown, that things had gone out of hand. And so I started writing the book with that kind of shape in mind. And if there hadn’t been a crash, it would almost be the other way around. If there hadn’t been a crash, I really would be in trouble.

The Bat Segundo Show #471: John Lanchester (Download MP3)

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The Bat Segundo Show: Louis Hyman

Louis Hyman appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #443. He is most recently the author of Borrow.

Condition of Mr. Segundo: Wondering why the banks don’t cut him off like the bartenders do.

Author: Louis Hyman

Subjects Discussed: How common American notions of cash and credit shifted in less than a hundred years, an alarming Freddie Mac ad involving magical gnomes, the history of mortgages, the 1930s mortgage crisis, mortgage-backed securities, whether American citizens can be held responsible for permitting corporations to seize control of the financial system, Jack Welch’s mass firing of employees and restructuring of GE, why the postwar economy was prosperous on credit, middle-class aspirations, top tax rates throughout American history, the reasonableness of a 91% tax rate on the wealthy, the rise of discount stores in the 1960s, the beginnings of Kmart and Target, Macy’s early resistance to credit, the inability to fight the revolving credit system during the 1960s, how specialty stores like Ann Taylor catered to the middle-class, why credit cards became necessary for the newly distributed economy in the 1960s, department store credit and credit cards, the beginnings of Master Charge (later Mastercard) and BankAmericard (later VISA), how the need to dress up if you wanted to go to a department store in 1961 helped encourage the rise of the discount store, the early cash-only success of The Gap in the 1970s through computer inventory, why college students should not have credit cards, how the Maruqette Supreme Court decision paved the way for credit cards, the near total decimation of anti-usury laws, the Constitution’s commerce clause, RICO, why Congress is reluctant to protect consumers, how South Dakota became the center for finance, market regulation, protecting consumers from bad decisions, the inability for most people to do the math on exorbitant credit rates, working people who become reliant upon credit cards, living paycheck to paycheck, William H. Whyte and budgetism, the difficulty of introducing regulatory mechanisms when so many people believe in unfettered personal responsibility, the creation of the Federal Housing Authority, the housing battle between James A. Moffett and Harold Ickes in the 1930s, marshaling the business class to fulfill social ends, Henry Ford’s opposition to the extension of credit, Ford vs. GMAC in the early days of auto loans, regulation and property rights, the duty CEOs say they have to maximize profit for their shareholders, Jack Welch’s invented heroism, investing pension in the right areas, the rise of the aerospace industry, the Chicago debacle of 1966 where bankers flooded the market with credit cards without thinking, the beginnings of FICO, desperate efforts by bankers to make banks exciting, John Reed risking his career at Citibank on credit cards, Joseph Miraglia‘s pioneering efforts to scam the credit card industry, the present social stigma on using cash instead of credit, credit cards and securitization, the savings and loans crisis, fair and transparent forms of securitization, why Murray’s Cheese can’t get a bank loan, and acceptable forms of Wall Street wizardry.


Correspondent: You start this book with a late 19th century image of the fat and prosperous man who sold in cash and the skinny man who sold on credit. I think that more than a century later, it’s safe to say that those roles have now been flip-flopped. You also write, “In the era of the CMO, the smart bank could be like the Skinny Man, its vaults nearly empty, with a pile of IOUs in a nearby basket.” I have to ask you, Louis. You are the debt man. Why were so many people willing to place their faith in the supernatural qualities of the collateralized mortgage obligation? Your book describes a Freddie Mac ad that appeared in a 1984 issue of the American Bankers Association Journal which contained magical gnomes. And they frightened me when I saw that picture.

Hyman: As well they should.

Correspondent: So why were people willing to believe in gnomes? Is it possible for you to explain in plain English what in the hell a CMO is? And why did Freddie Mac even need a new financial instrument? Just to get this party started.

Hyman: Well, that’s about fifteen different questions.

Correspondent: Yes!

Hyman: I will start with the most important question.

Correspondent: Okay.

Hyman: Which is why did people want to put money into these mysterious supernatural instruments.

Correspondent: Gnomes!

Hyman: Yeah. Only the gnomes know. It’s hard to describe it over the radio. But it’s an image of gnomes advising the head chief financial officer of Freddie Mac and saying even he does not understand how these things work. Only gnomes know. It’s terrifying to comprehend that no one understood what they were doing. But the truth of the matter was that they knew what they were doing in that what they thought that they were doing. What they thought they were doing was taking together a bunch of risky things, combining it in different ways using magical alchemical transformations, and in the process they thought they were reducing the overall level of risk. And then they were making those sellable in the form of bonds to people who ordinarily would not buy them. To understand this, you need to understand the back history of mortgages and how they were financed and sold in America, which I’m very happy to talk about.

Correspondent: Feel free!

Hyman: And it’s what I talk about in the book before the time of the gnome hegemony.

Correspondent: Pre-gnome. More level-headed times.

Hyman: Yeah. Before the dwarven under kingdom began to rule us in the night.

Correspondent: Before investment bankers cleaved to the Return of the King appendix and started speaking in Elvic langauge.

Hyman: Exactly. So you need to understand that it used to be that it was very difficult to get loans in America of any kind. And that’s why I start the book off with that picture. Because the picture of the Skinny Man, who is nervous and afraid because he had lent on credit to his customers in his store. It was a picture that would be hung in a 19th century store. And the reason I start with that is because I think more than a graph, we are all besieged by numbers these days. More than a graph, it gets at the different mentality, the different practice of lending in the 19th century. That lending was something that was not profitable. It was something that in terms of cash loans wasn’t even legal. And yet today it’s the center of our capitalism. So how did that transformation happen?

So with mortgages, the story is a long one. And I’ll spare you the details. Though in the book, the details are quite intriguing, I hope. The basic idea is that, before the 1930s, you could get a mortgage from a local bank. They were very expensive and they tended to be funded by — they were balloon mortgages like we have today. We imagine that they were recent inventions. But they actually were commonplace in the 1920s. And they fueled the housing boom. Because they allowed people to pay only the interest every month on their mortgage. Which meant that they could buy more of a house. And the banks, in turn, would resell little bonds, mortgage bonds, to pay for all those mortgages going out. And so we have something like the mortgage-backed security is today. And with all that money from the investors, they could then lend to all these people to buy. Now the problem was, of course, that as soon as the stock market crash happened, all those panicked bonds people stopped buying bonds. All those panicked investors stopped buying bonds. And then suddenly the banks ran out of money to lend for mortgages and those balloon mortgages all came due.

Correspondent: We’re talking about the mortgage-backed securities period with the participation certificates.

Hyman: They were called participation certificates. That’s the technical term from the 1920s. And what happens is that suddenly they had to foreclose on all these houses and you have the housing crash of the Great Depression. It wasn’t because people lost their jobs as much as they lost their investors. Which I think is a really counterintuitive finding from what we think about when we think about the Great Depression. And so after this, the government creates the FHA. And the FHA and Fannie Mae together, what they do is they say, “Look, little bank. You can lend money to this home buyer. And then we will sell it to distant investors. Like in New York City.” So insurance companies, for the most part, bought these mortgages whole. The entirety of them. And then that money can be used to pay for a house in Texas. But these kinds of bonds, which fueled this wild, crazy, free-for-all kind of atmosphere in the 1920s — those went out of style. Investors didn’t want to buy them. Because they had all gone toxic. And the Fed actually prevented banks from using them at all. And so this period from the ’30s to the ’70s, they’re outside. They’re no longer in our economy. But the problem is that if you want to get more money into the housing market, you want people to have more money to invest in houses like they did in the late ’60s and early ’70s — predominantly to fund housing of the poor.

Correspondent: Section 235.

Hyman: Section 235. Correct. It’s as if you read a book recently on the topic.

Correspondent: Your book perhaps!

Hyman: Perhaps a book I am acquainted with. This money was to be used for that. And it was because they confused the cause for the effect in the postwar period. They looked around them. They saw on the one hand impoverished cities and, on the other hand, prosperous suburbs. And they thought, “Well, let’s make the cities like the suburbs.” And instead of realizing that the reason why the suburbs were prosperous was because of all the jobs that the well-to-do white people had, that made them prosperous, they thought, “Oh, it was just because of their houses.” They confused cause for effect. And they created this program to bring back the mortgage-backed security, which then these bonds could be sold to new kinds of investors. Not just insurance companies, but pension funds. To all kinds of people. And actually to these small banks, it turns out. They turned out to be the biggest buyers initially of these mortgage-backed securities. And so what you have is this system which actually collapses in a year or two under George Romney’s administration of the Housing and Urban Development. But the mortgage-backed security survives and becomes the new basis for our economy.

Correspondent: And they also use the term “participation certificate,” leaving one to wonder — at least this reader to wonder — why they would use the same name of a clearly failed idea.

Hyman: It had been several generations. And so they were vaguely…

Correspondent: People forget.

Hyman: People forget. They forgive. And they think that it would be different this time. Because they were tradeable in the secondary market, which the ones in the 1920s were not. They were born toxic almost in the 1920s. But they thought, “Well, these will be fine. They’ll be like FHA loans.” Which had worked for several generations. And actually they worked fine. The securitization worked fine for a long time. From the mid-1970s on for about thirty years. They worked fine.

Correspondent: Just as the participation certificates worked fine until things started to happen.

Hyman: Until things fall apart. Things work fine until they fall apart. That’s how it is. You survive every accident you have until the one that kills you.

Correspondent: So why do these financial people, who should know this — because the historical examples repeat and repeat and repeat — why are they so short-term in their thinking when they consider credit ideas or debt ideas? Or even the extension of credit? I mean, this is what gets me. That nobody seems to have a memory longer than a few years. It’s like, “We’ve got some money! We’ll go ahead and blow it!” I’ll get into the hilarious Chicago credit card thing in a bit, which I thought was funny. But also remarkably short-sighted.

Hyman: No. It is really surprising. I think people are just intoxicated by reason. They think that if a model works, then it will work in the real world too. But the way things work on the ground and the way things ought to work can be quite different. And I think that’s one of the lessons of all of this. That we should trust our experience more than our thinking on some level. Our thinking can be wildly off. Everything made sense. But when you look at the models that people actually use for all this kind of lending, they only use three or five years of data. They don’t even use a full business cycle. And they did that because that was the data that they had.

Correspondent: Well, I guess the question here is: we are looking at this from the vantage point of financial people. The question I have is whether American citizens can be held accountable for some of the problems that occurred. To what degree should they be held responsible for borrowing, believing, going ahead and taking the extension of credit options that were given to them so that they could live their middle-class lifestyles? Does historical precedent reveal that our parents and our grandparents are victims of various strains of predatory lending? Or is it really these middle-class aspirations? How do we look at this?

Hyman: Our grandparents lucked out. So if you look at the actual Federal Reserve data, you see that people began to borrow like crazy after World War II. But what was different was that they actually had good jobs. And they were able to pay back all those debts. So the amount of borrowing goes up. But so does the amount of repayment. So it looks like no one’s borrowing.

Correspondent: Sure.

Hyman: But they’re actually using car payments for their big-finned cars. They’re using mortgages for the suburban housing. They’re using charge-a-plates at the mall. They’re doing all kinds of things that require debt. Now are they better people than us? No, they just live in a different time. So that today, it’s very difficult to have the same job over your entire life. That kind of job security is no more. Wages have stagnated for forty years for average people. And people get sick. They lose their job. And they’re stuck with these bills. So they have credit cards to fall back on. Though I don’t think it’s the people who have gotten dumb or become immoral. I think it’s that the world around them has changed.

Correspondent: But when one considers such transitions as Jack Welch’s decision to move GE’s resources from manufacturing capital to financial capital, and essentially eliminate jobs that give people money that allow them to purchase goods that allow them to perpetuate an economy, the question is…

Hyman: Are we responsible for that?

Correspondent: Are we responsible for that?

Hyman: Yeah. I think on some level we were fools to let this happen.

The Bat Segundo Show #443: Louis Hyman (Download MP3)

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The Bat Segundo Show: Gary Rivlin

Gary Rivlin appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #340. Mr. Rivlin is most recently the author of Broke USA: From Pawnshop to Poverty, Inc. — How the Working Poor Became Big Business.

Condition of Mr. Segundo: Considering the advances of a seductive loan shark.

Author: Gary Rivlin

Subjects Discussed: [List forthcoming]


Rivlin: One in every five customers is taking twenty or more payday loans a year. So suddenly this effective interest rate of 400% becomes the actual interest rate. I mean, if you’re taking out twenty payday loans a year, that’s pretty much a loan every two weeks. And so you’ve got a couple million people a year in this country who are essentially paying 400% for their money to put it into dollars and cents. For that $500 loan, they’re paying $2,000 in fees for the year. So it’s the trap that a payday loan becomes, that I focus in on.

Correspondent: I wanted to talk about Martin Eakes, the man behind Self-Help and the Center for Responsible Lending. He offers a more reasonable APR through his credit union. His crusading has helped to initiate reform in numerous states. High-interest loans. Mortgage premium penalties. He’s been on it. His opponents, they point to his self-interest in creating caps that are uniquely beneficial to Self-Help. I want to address this. I mean, what of a credit union’s interest fees on overdrafts? Just to give you an example, if a consumer gets a hit, the median overdraft fee is about $27 on a $20 debit card transaction. They repay the charge in two weeks. And, according to the FDIC, that’s a 3,250% APR. That far outshines that $33 per $100 cap in Indiana. That works out to 858% on a two week loan. So I’m wondering if credit unions are, in some way, just as problematic. Or perhaps even more problematic on the overdraft charge than payday lenders, when we consider this?

Rivlin: Right. You’re giving the argument that the payday lenders make that I was starting to make myself before. That you could look at our 400% interest rate. But go start doing the math. As you just did. On bounced checks or late credit card fees. And again, that’s a legitimate point. Martin Eakes is one of the main characters in my book. He’s just a really interesting, quirky fellow. A few fun facts. He claims he’s never had a sip of alcohol in his life. He testifies all the time before Congress. Gives speeches. He owns a single suit to save money. His wife cuts his hair. My favorite quote from him is “Half the people I know would take a bullet for me and the other half would fire the pistol.” And that’s accurate. He’s really been out there as a leading crusader, not the leading crusader, against subprime mortgage abuse. Against the payday lenders. Against some of the more abusive policies.

Correspondent: And the people who work for him have salary caps as well. It’s not exactly a lucrative prospect to work for him.

Rivlin: The payday lenders and others try to tar Martin Eakes. But he’s a little bit Ralph Naderish in that way. He’s hard to tar. There’s a rule within his credit union that no one can be paid more than three times more than the lowest paid employee. And that means that this guy, who runs essentially a billion dollar operation — they’ve done a lot of home loans — is getting paid $69,000 a year. I guess everybody roots for the receptionist to get a raise.

Correspondent: Yeah. Well, hopefully the MacArthur money was disseminated around. But you do have to make some kind of money. And as we’ve determined with this overdraft situation, that’s quite an interest.

Rivlin: Well, a few things. One way you misspoke was that his credit union doesn’t offer payday loans. His colleagues in North Carolina. The big North Carolina credit union for teachers and state employees. They offer a payday loan with an effective annual interest rate of 12%. 12% versus the 400%. And I met with the fellow who runs that credit union. And he called it the single most profitable loan that they offer. But getting back to the criticism that they level at Martin Eakes — that isn’t he just a competitor? Isn’t he just fighting the payday loan industry because he’s looking out for the bottom line of his own credit union? Well, one problem with that is — it was in 2001 that Martin Eakes and others in North Carolina kicked the payday lenders out of the state. Martin Eakes’s credit union — you’re only eligible to participate if you live in North Carolina. So he won the fight in 2001. Why is he still fighting the payday lenders across the country given that his bottom line is only affected in North Carolina? I find the argument — I heard it from every payday lender I met with — that Martin Eakes is just a competitor; it’s just very specious. He’s a crusader. He might see the world in black and white, where these things should be outlawed period. But I think he’s genuine in his criticism. I don’t think it has anything to do with his credit union. His credit union doesn’t even offer credit cards to rack up the late fees.

Correspondent: But how much does he charge for overdraft fees?

Rivlin: Twenty bucks.

Correspondent: Twenty bucks.

Rivlin: I was really curious about that question too.

Correspondent: I mean, that’s just — you’re still dealing with a pretty substantial APR. When does that $20 kick in?

Rivlin: Yeah. Well, you know, the problem with APRs on a bounced check is that it depends upon how long it takes for you to become whole again. I mean, there’s that $20 fee. But then there’s interest and other penalties when you’re late. But we can just say it’s enormous. It’s typically higher than 400% for the payday.

Correspondent: It’s below the median rate. That’s for sure.

Rivlin: Martin Eakes runs a not-for-profit credit union. He charges a bounced check fee like everybody charges a bounced check fee. It’s lower than the average, but still high. You know, I don’t know what to say about that. But I do think, as long as we’re talking about Martin Eakes, that this credit union he started, dating back to the 1980s, they’re a subprime mortgage lender. I mean, I hasten to add, given the association people have that he’s a different kind of subprime mortgage lender and started charging four or five or six or seven percent above the conventional rate. He charges 1%. You know, his loans didn’t have huge up-front fees. He made sure that you could pay it back. That if you make $25,000 a year, that you’re buying a house for $50,000, let’s say, rather than a $300,000 house that you’re never going to be able to afford. But this credit union is specifically for those of modest means. About half his customers are single moms. About half the people who bought homes using loans from him are people of color. He’s making loans in rural communities. People who live in trailers who can move into a modest-sized house and have, as he would put it, a bricks-and-mortar savings account. A home. He is doing a lot of good. Thousands and thousands of North Carolinans are living in a home who wouldn’t otherwise.

The Bat Segundo Show #340: Gary Rivlin (Download MP3)

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