Sunday, October 31, 2010

Third World America by Arianna Huffington

Reading this book made me mad all over again.
Huffington is concerned our middle class is disappearing. The gap between the rich and the poor is widening. “In 2007, the top 10 percent pocketed almost half of all the money earned in America...” (18)

She notes that in 1950, manufacturing accounted for more than 30 percent of nonfarm employment. “As of last year, it's down to 10 percent.” (20) She says, “...in the absence of manufacturing, the only way to compete with Third World nations is to become a Third World nation, which is exactly what will happen if we allow our middle class to disappear.” (27)
Huffington says, “...one out of every six blue-collar workers has lost his or her job in the latest recession, a number commensurate with what happened during the Great Depression.” (26) The outlook is not bright. “ A June 2008 Harvard Business School study found that up to 42 percent of U. S. jobs – more than fifty million of them – are vulnerable to being sent offshore.” (28)
Just before the financial crisis, the financial industry's share of domestic corporate profit was 41 percent (when the highest it ever was between 1973 and 1985 was 16 percent). (21) Huffington calls this the “financialization of our economy.” Deregulation has been a problem. “Given how close we were in 2008 to the complete collapse of our economic and financial system, anyone who continues to make the case that markets do best when left alone should be laughed off his bully pulpit.” (51)
She doesn't pull any punches. She says, “When it came to the foreclosure crisis, Obama's audacity to win morphed into a timidity to govern.” (74) She soundly takes to task Bush and his tax cuts for the wealthy.
The nation's overall infrastructure (rated an appalling D by The American Society of Civil Engineers) is in need of expensive repair and update.
Lobbyists outnumber our elected officials almost 26 to 1. “In 2009, more than 13,700 registered lobbyists spent a record $3.5 billion swaying government policy the special interests' way...” (129)  It is highly unlikely that the financially rewarded members of congress will ever have our best interest on their minds.
Huffington ends her book with ideas of what we can do. She suggests moving money from big banks to sound local banks. She encourages us to help one another, using social media to find people and organizations needing your help. She supplies several websites to pursue. “Taken together, these efforts, and thousands of others like them, are helping turn the country around.” (233) We cannot rely on the government. “Change is going to have to come from outside Washington.” (234) “The good news:,” she says, “Real change, fundamental change, is possible, but only if we recognize that democracy is not a spectator sport – and get busy.” (234)
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