Arianna Huffington, founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, the sixth most popular online news source, details the state of the country’s middle class. His new book is titled “Third World America: How Our Politicians Are Leaving the Middle Class and Betraying the American Dream.” Read your perspective and see if you agree.
Third world america It is presented in five sections, where Chapter One echoes the title of the book. It’s packed with stories and statistics highlighting the decline of the American middle class. How do you define “middle class”? Turn to self-definition, Huffington says. “If you consider yourself middle class, is it so middle class. “
The nation’s fading industrial base, the erosion of the educational system, and the decaying infrastructure all contribute to the decline; as is high unemployment, where one in six Americans is unemployed or underemployed. Meet Dean B., who, at age 35, was fired from his IT job in February 2009 and is still unemployed. Kimberly B. sold her wedding ring on Craigslist to pay her family’s utility bills.
Huffington further explores the plight of the middle class, citing fear as a predominant emotion. Destroyed 401 (k) s, dwindling pensions, prolific foreclosures, and signs of a future Social Security collapse; feed the anxieties. Reaching the middle class is now believed by many to be a lucky draw, not unlike a prize on a scratch off lottery ticket.
America’s infrastructure is crumbling, Huffington says, with insufficient state and federal funding. Roads, electrical networks, waterways, railways and bridges are some of the victims. Some water pipes, originally laid during the Civil War, are working dangerously.
Think of August 2007, when the Interstate 35W steel truss bridge collapsed over the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis; killing 13 people and wounding 145. Previous patchwork repairs were insufficient.
The nation’s school system is anemic, with the United States ranking 25th in mathematics and 21st in science among 30 developed countries; according to the classification of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. In 2009, the United States broadband connection ranked 15th among industrialized countries.
The decline of the middle class in America has been brewing for decades. In the late 1980s, technology, outsourcing, and the loss of manufacturing jobs started a middle-class economy with stagnant wages.
The election of Ronald Regan saw the proliferation of free-market beliefs: less government intervention could better determine society’s winners and losers. Regan also ushered in the era of the great divide between rich Americans and the middle class; which continues today.
Huffington says that an unregulated free market is corrupted sooner or later by fraud and excess. Witness the bank bailouts and the Wall Street debacle of 2008.
American politics is broken, as powerful lobbyists and American corporations rule Washington. In 2010, three examples of regulatory failures due to corporate cuddles were the explosion at the Upper Branch mine in West Virginia; the BP oil explosion in the Gulf of Mexico; and the ongoing aftermath of the financial collapse, including fraud charges against Goldman Sachs. The voice of the middle class is nothing more than an echo in the Capitol chambers.
Huffington writes animated analogies to make his points. When he speaks of influential lobbyists, he says: “And like a swarm of termites reducing a house to sawdust, wealthy interests and their lobbyists are building on the foundations of our democracy.”
Each chapter concludes with a profile of a once successful middle-class American who is now struggling financially. Their stories offer gems of 21st century vision, such as “Stability is long gone, so you better be doing something you love!”
Third World America The title is extreme, Huffington admits, used to emphasize the possible future of our nation, without serious reform. He optimistically concludes that our descent into a Third World nation “is not a done deal.”
Americans are known for being positive, forward thinking, and positive people. Stopping the descent into a Third World nation will not be easy. You will take bold initiatives from the public and private sectors and personal responsibility. Now, more than ever, we must extract the most underused leadership resource available to us: ourselves. We will still need the raw energy that only big governments and appropriations can provide.
Ultimately, change happens at the local and personal level. Today it is up to us to help each other and ourselves. She advocates breaking out of her big bank. Executives accepted the government bailout, paid themselves record bonuses; however, they do not sympathize with Americans facing foreclosure. Instead, work with community banks and credit unions. The greatest antidote to despair is action; and resilience is key to surviving and thriving in the 21st century.
Huffington reflects the message of Robert B. Reich, stated in his concurrently published book, Replica: The nextEconomy and future of the United States. Reich, a former Labor Secretary in the Clinton administration, also backs Third World America.
A book, presents a single voice. Although some will argue Huffington’s perspective, Third world america It is a reading that invites reflection on the present and future state of the nation.
To stay up-to-date on Huffington’s American Third World point of view, visit http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/third-world-america/