A successful effort to humanize the devastating effects of poverty by presenting case histories of the poor, from neonatal crisis to nursing-home holding pattern. According to Pulitzer-winning journalist Freedman, more than 37 million Americans live below the poverty line--the highest number since the late 60's, when the Great Society programs kicked in. At that point, senior citizens suffered twice the poverty rate of children--but since then, seniors have gained and children have lost. To combat poverty, Freedman advocates government programs from womb to tomb, from prenatal care that will offset the staggering cost of treating crack babies to hospice care that will ease dying. But he sees government dollars as building a railing, not a safety net--a railing that will lend support to people trying to climb out of poverty. Freedman builds his case with stories of success and failure from every stage of life: Kenya Williams lost her first baby because of her crack addiction; her second child was born healthy and strong because of a drug-treatment program that cost $60 a day. Meanwhile, keeping Cindy Miller's premature son alive in a neonatal unit cost $2,000 a day, using up a lifetime of health insurance and driving the middle-class Millers (both of whom worked) to the edge of bankruptcy. And so on through the life span, with tales of abuse, teenage pregnancy, deadbeat dads, unemployment, and dying. Freedman offers a number of concrete suggestions to help those struggling out of poverty, including a children's trust fund subsidized by estate taxes (one generation helping another), and payroll deductions for child support. An eloquent plea that creative help to the ``have-nots'' will save money in the long run--but, sadly, unlikely to change the powerful agendas of the ``haves.''