The young novelist, poet, critic and broadcaster Richard M. Elman here turns to sociological reportage; one suspects that his indictment of American welfare practices will have far-reaching effects. Basically, Elman criticizes the excessive red tape and the manners of the bureaucrats; he places blame less upon human evil than a system of mistakenly conceived rules which create needlessly difficult situations which, in turn, cause unfortunate behavior by both the bureaucrats and recipients. Many will agree with Elman's conclusion that America should legislate a Guaranteed Annual Income, but he avoids the problem of establishing what is a just minimum income in a society that has no conception of a respectably minimal existence--decent poverty. Regrettably, the book is not as well done as it could have been. Hastily compiled, sloppily written, it contains many vignettes describing at length the predicaments of welfare recipients; and as these longer doses of Neediest Cases become repetitious, they only blunt the indignation that Elman wants to instil. Also, too often Elman's remarks suggest that he is a middle class man from New York's Upper West Side slumming on its Lower East.