Sunday, October 3, 2010

Third World America How Our Politicians Are Abandoning The Middle Class And Betraying The American Dream by Arianna Huffington

Third World America How Our Politicians Are Abandoning The Middle Class And Betraying The American Dream by Arianna Huffington

Arianna Huffington is the founder of The Huffington Post which is a liberal news and opinion site. . This book is being used as a platform for change.

Third World America attacks lobbyists and financial institutions for destroying the American middle class. It is more vitriolic against the Republican party than the Democratic party, but does not spare either side.

Arianna Huffington's main focus of attack is the lobbyists and financial institutions which participated in creating the mortgage and financial crisis which drove many homes into foreclosure, eliminated jobs, and had devastating consequences for the middle class. She describes how foreclosures and credit card debt have created a poverty industry fueled by lobbyists.

She gives many examples of how it is harder and harder to stay part of the middle class. Now, the dream is to keep what you have; stay in your home, keep your job, and hold onto your assets. Wealth is being transferred out of public institutions into private companies.

Congress looks the other way when we bailout companies like AIG, pay massive amounts for contracts to polluters like British Petroleum, and don't monitor companies like Blackwater closely enough. She is describing a fusion of government with private industry that lacks transparency.

This is most apparent in our infrastructure which is crumbling. Our roads, schools, trains, bridges, dams, and electrical grid all need upgrading. It is obvious that things are not quite working right. Trains are slower, schools are worse, and government is entangled.

In my own industry, I have watched downsizing, layoffs, and cuts to libraries. Now, I am seeing for the first time corporate takeover of public institutions like libraries by private companies like LSSI  . It is an example of how companies will take over private institutions if possible, lower pay of people in communities, and be less transparent. What she is writing is very relevant to my own experience.

The answers which she gives are very liberal in nature. Have the government hire more people in public service, invest in infrastructure, stimulate green jobs, stop foreclosures, and regulate Wall Street. I am not sure this will work that well. It is a consistent liberal message. It feels very much like the consistent conservative message about what we should do about the economy. Both have pieces that have been tried to limited effect. There seems to be an unwillingness to acknowledge the world has changed and we might need to change and try a slightly different approach.

Where she most resonates with me is on the individual level. We can take money out of the banks and insurance companies which caused the crisis and invest in local banks and credit unions. We can start managing our personal finances better. We can also try to stay healthier, educate ourselves, and volunteer in our community. The personal steps which she suggests are not liberal or conservative, they are practical.

The book has an index and extensive notes. It is written as liberal opinion piece for the man on the street. The book is muckraking, expressive, and entertaining.

This is an excellent work. It is a call for change. It is a reminder that we should try and get the government to work for us, not lobbyists, financial institutions, or special interests. While many of Arianna Huffington's solutions on the national level seem impractical, her call to change on the individual level is very appropriate. This book is well worth reading.

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