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Third World America: How Our Politicians Are Abandoning the Middle Class and Betraying the American Dream

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Overview

It’s not an exaggeration to say that middle-class Americans are an endangered species and that the American Dream of a secure, comfortable standard of living has become as outdated as an Edsel with an eight-track player.  That the United States of America is in danger of becoming a third world nation.
 
The evidence is all around us:
 
Our industrial base is ...
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Third World America: How Our Politicians Are Abandoning the Middle Class and Betraying the American Dream

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Overview

It’s not an exaggeration to say that middle-class Americans are an endangered species and that the American Dream of a secure, comfortable standard of living has become as outdated as an Edsel with an eight-track player.  That the United States of America is in danger of becoming a third world nation.
 
The evidence is all around us:
 
Our industrial base is vanishing, taking with it the kind of jobs that have formed the backbone of our economy for more than a century; our education system is in shambles, making it harder for tomorrow’s workforce to acquire the information and training it needs to land good twenty-first century jobs; our infrastructure—our roads, our bridges, our sewage and water, our transportation and electrical systems—is crumbling; our economic system has been reduced to recurring episodes of Corporations Gone Wild; our political system is broken, in thrall to a small financial elite using the power of the checkbook to control both parties.
 
And America’s middle class, the driver of so much of our economic success and political stability, is rapidly disappearing, forcing us to confront the fear that we are slipping as a nation – that our children and grandchildren will enjoy fewer opportunities and face a lower standard of living than we did.
 
It’s the dark flipside of the American Dream – an American Nightmare of our own making.
 
Arianna Huffington, who, with the must-read Huffington Post, has her finger on the pulse of America, unflinchingly tracks the gradual demise of America as an industrial, political, and economic leader.  In the vein of her fiery bestseller Pigs at the Trough, Third World America points fingers, names names, and details who’s killing the American Dream.
 
Finally, calling on the can-do attitude that is part of America’s DNA, Huffington shows precisely what we need to do to stop our freefall and keep America from turning into a third world nation.
 
Third World America is a must-read for anyone disturbed by our country’s steady descent from 20th century superpower to backwater banana republic.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Remember the old American Dream about your children living better than you? If you can, you're probably also wondering why that once prevalent expectation is dissolving. Arianna Huffington's Third World America paints a picture of a country where the rich get richer and the middle class has slipped into freefall; a nation with a crumbling infrastructure and an educational system in chronic disrepair. She argues that this downward spiral is not just the temporary result of a cyclical meltdown, but is fast becoming an irrevocable condition that could permanently undermine our nation's future. Not simply a jeremiad, this book offers real world solutions. (Hand-selling tip: As the creator and keeper of the net's Huffington News, this author is famous, influential, and articulate.)
From the Publisher
“A voice of conscience in a time when we need conscience more than ever. . . Arianna Huffington is right: it’s not too late for citizens to wake up politicians or to take matters into their own hands.  Time is short: read this book now.”
--Elizabeth Warren -- Harvard Law School professor and author of The Two-Income Trap
 
“Luckily for Congress, the White House, and Corporate America, no one reads anymore, because if people discover this book, America will become a very different place.”
--Bill Maher
 
“Restoring the values that have made America strong – a thriving middle class and a sense of basic fair play – are of crucial importance to all Americans, left and right.   Third World America is a powerful plea for our country to wake up so that we can change course -- before it’s too late.”
 --Joe Scarborough
 
“Politicians talk endlessly about “protecting the middle class,” yet, over the last 30 years, the middle class has taken a relentless pounding. In precise, graphic, and shocking terms that will bring the crisis home to everyone, Arianna Huffington explains why: special interests have become too powerful, money dominates our politics, and there is no sense of empathy or even shame amongst our elite.  The national spirit that built America. . . lies in tatters. Turning this situation around will require strong new leadership.  How long will that take?  That depends on you - read this book and push hard for change”
--Simon Johnson –  professor of economics at MIT Sloan School of Business and co-author of 13 Bankers
 
“Arianna Huffington is one of the very few people in America committed to say things the way they are and to expose the monstrous elephants in the room ignored by the dominant discourse. Even rarer, she does so in a lively,  engaging, and, mostly, charming way.” 
--Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author The Black Swan
 
“Third World America is simultaneously hard-hitting and empathetic.  It makes the case that, as the world's largest economy fights to define its future, a viable middle-class is essential to our country's well-being and something we should all fight to ensure.”
--Rob Johnson -- Senior Fellow and Director of the Project on Global Finance at the Roosevelt Institute
 
“The quick wit and sharp critique of Arianna Huffington will now be heard where they are needed most -- in defense of our quickly disappearing middle class. Taking direct aim at the misguided policies that have protected the plutocracy at the expense of the middle class, Arianna explains in stark language where we will end up if we don't change course. A must-read for all concerned citizens and thinkers. “
 --Eliot Spitzer, former Attorney General and governor of New York.
 
 
“With great passion and insight, Arianna tells it like it is. Blending outrage and optimism – indignation at how America’s crony capitalists have wrecked the nation’s great middle class, and unremitting hope that our people will rise and put things right – she explains what’s happened and what must be done. Here, clearly, is a book for our times.”
 --Robert B. Reich, Professor of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, and former U.S. Secretary of Labor
 
 
 “An alarming account of the plight of the American middle class.”
--Joseph Stiglitz, professor of economics at Columbia University and Nobel Laureater

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307719966
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/30/2011
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 528,935
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON is the cofounder and editor in chief of the Huffington Post, a nationally syndicated columnist, and the author of thirteen books. She is also the cohost of Left, Right & Center, public radio’s popular political roundtable program. She was named to the Time 100, Time magazine’s list of the world’s one hundred most influential people, and to the Financial Times’s list of fifty people who shaped the decade. Originally from Greece, she moved to England when she was sixteen and graduated from Cambridge University with an MA in economics. 

From the Hardcover edition.

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Read an Excerpt

Third World America

How Our Politicians Are Abandoning the Middle Class and Betraying the American Dream
By Arianna Huffington

Broadway

Copyright © 2011 Arianna Huffington
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780307719966

Preface to the Paperback Edition

When I sat down to write “Third World America” in the spring of last year, my goal, as I put it in the Preface, was “to sound the alarm” so the United States could course-correct while there was still time.
In the year since, much has happened in America, including a midterm election in which the still-struggling economy was front and center – and which resulted in what President Obama called a “shellacking” of the Democrats… and of the status quo.

So, has the alarm been heeded?
Any honest observer would have to say no – not with the urgency the ongoing decline of the middle class demands.

At the same time, the fact that the American Dream has turned into a nightmare for millions of middle-class families has finally entered the national conversation. Indeed, as I write this, the cover story of Time Magazine is a debate between the competing claims that "Yes, America Is in Decline,” and "No, America Is Still No. 1."

And in his State of the Union address in January, it was clear that the future of America's middle class was foremost in President Obama's mind.  "At stake," he said, “is whether new jobs and industries take root in this country, or somewhere else. It’s whether the hard work and industry of our people is rewarded...whether we sustain the leadership that has made America not just a place on a map, but a light to the world." We can chart our progress, he continued, "by the opportunities for a better life that we pass on to our children."

He also acknowledged that something profound has changed. "For many, the change has been painful," he said. "I've seen it in the shuttered windows of once booming factories, and the vacant storefronts on once busy Main Streets."

He ended by calling for a new "Sputnik moment," in which we "out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world." And we will do this, he said, because "we do big things."

It is certainly true that America has done big things, but if we're going to continue to do big things, we will have to have a much bigger debate than the one our leaders are currently engaging in.

Despite the suffering of the middle class, the terms of the current debate about how to, as the president put it during the State of the Union, "win the future" are fatally limited.

With 25 million people unemployed or underemployed, the economic debate in Washington – on both sides of the aisle – has focused almost entirely on spending cuts.

Time and time again we hear talk of the "hard sacrifices" and "tough choices" the American people are going to have to accept. And yet in December 2010 Congress passed and the president signed a tax cut for the richest Americans that will cost us $60 billion a year -- it was, once again, only the middle class and working families that had to make all these "tough choices."

Somehow, the conventional wisdom in Washington has shrunk the debate to a choice between disastrous cuts that would cripple the middle class and slow the long-term growth of the U.S. economy, and slightly less disastrous cuts that would cripple the middle class and slow the long-term growth of the U.S. economy.  We desperately need to enlarge that debate.

At the moving memorial service held in Tucson in the wake of the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the president called on us to "use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations" and "sharpen our instincts for empathy." And he went further still and defined the challenge ahead: "to constantly widen the circle of our concern so that we bequeath the American Dream to future generations."

But that dream will be harder to bequeath when so many of our children are able to get a good education only if their number pops up in a school entry lottery.  It will be harder to bequeath when millions of families are being forced out of their homes because of foreclosures that could have been avoided.  It will be harder to bequeath when children are left with mothers or fathers thrown into deep depression because they’ve lost their job and can’t get another one.

A look at the statistics tells a depressing tale:

According to the Casey Foundation, over 20 percent of children in America -- that's more than 14.5 million kids -- are living in poverty, facing conditions that undermine their health, their school performance, and their chances for the future.

More than 16.7 million children live in households that struggle to put food on the table -- and kids who are "food insecure" do worse in reading and math and have higher rates of anxiety and depression.

More than a million and a half American children are homeless, forcing them to endure, in the words of the National Center on Family Homelessness, "a lack of safety, comfort, privacy, reassuring routines, adequate health care, uninterrupted schooling, sustaining relationships, and a sense of community." And the problems are getting worse.
The percentage of children living in low-income families went from 37 percent in 2000 to 42 percent in 2009.

Using the president’s yardstick of charting our progress by the opportunities we pass on to our children, we’re certainly not winning the present. Not with 2.2 million homes in the process of foreclosure.  Not with consumer bankruptcies expected to exceed 1.5 million in 2011.  Not with a crumbling infrastructure that will require $2.2 trillion over 5 years to fix. And not while we’re still spending $2.5 billion a week on wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that are not essential to our national security.

But despite all this, the experience of writing this book – and then traveling around the country talking about it -- ultimately left me feeling hopeful.  It’s because I was again and again struck by the resilience, creativity, and acts of compassion that I discovered taking place all across America.

They convinced me that we can turn things around, as long as we demand more from our political and business leaders -- and more, much more, from ourselves.

And that’s why, since the book was published, in speeches and on HuffPost, I’ve focused much of my attention on the specific steps we – as individuals, as families, and as a country -- need to take to stop our free-fall.

I’ve met so many people who have gone beyond their own struggles and found ways to help others.  One of the surprising twists has been people discovering that by reaching out to help others – even when they themselves are suffering – they end up improving their own lives.

People like lawyer Cheryl Jacobs who, along with her work as a torts lawyer at a big firm, had been doing pro bono work as part of the highly successful Residential Mortgage Foreclosure Diversion Program in Philadelphia that helps homeowners facing foreclosure through the legal process. After being laid-off, Jacobs took on even more foreclosure cases, eventually opening her own practice dedicated to helping people keep their homes.

"I charge my clients very little or nothing at all," she says. "They can't afford to pay me. If you can't afford your mortgage, you probably can't afford a lawyer." Although she is working harder and earning much less, she says that she's never felt happier. "When I know I've kept somebody in their home, the feeling is so amazing. I know how I'd feel if I was in danger of losing my home and someone helped me stay in it."
Although a deep-seated cynicism is not an unreasonable response to the failure of Washington to address the problems we face, hundreds of thousands of Americans across the country are choosing to react by taking action. As a result, a parallel economy is being created by people who, finding there are no jobs, have decided to create their own. Of course, this burgeoning parallel economy doesn't mean the government is off the hook. But while millions of Americans are waiting for the government to do the right thing, many are taking matters into their own hands. And through the creative use of technology, social media, and a focus on community, this new wave of small businesses is making its mark in a true convergence of left and right.  Our government may be can't-do, but more and more of our citizens are solidly can-do – and irrepressibly American.

At the moment, real solutions are less likely to come from politicians than from the thousands of people in thousands of communities taking the initiative to connect, share, and create.  This movement is fueled by technology, but at its core is a real person connecting with another person.  As Twitter co-founder Biz Stone has said: “Twitter is not a triumph of tech. It’s a triumph of humanity.”

As we gear up for the long march leading to the 2012 election, I hope that this book will both turn a spotlight on that humanity and remind us of the very real consequences of not taking action.

We stand at a crossroads in our nation’s history.  We can choose connection rather than division.  Understanding rather than fear. Reaching out rather than turning away.

The anger we should all feel when looking at what is happening in America today can either lead us to tap into our baser instincts or into the better angels of our nature.  Nothing less than the future of our country rides on that choice.
 

Continues...

Excerpted from Third World America by Arianna Huffington Copyright © 2011 by Arianna Huffington. Excerpted by permission of Broadway, a division of Random House, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Preface to Paperback Edition ix

Preface xv

1 Third World America 1

2 Nightmare on Main Street 41

3 America the Beautiful Dilapidated 91

4 CSI USA: Who Killed the American Dream? 125

5 Saving Ourselves from a Third World Future 167

Acknowledgments 241

Notes 243

Index 271

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 57 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 57 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 13, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Good -- but Misses the Importance of Technology

    Adrianna Huffington does a good job of describing the ongoing destruction of the middle class. I found the real-life stories of individuals and families that have been impacted particularly compelling. The degree of income concentration in the United States is really quite shocking. My major complaint is that Huffington fails to indentify advancing technology as a primary driving force behind income inequality. This is an important point because if technology (along with globalization) is a major culprit, then in tells us something about the future: Things are very likely to get even worse. We're sure to see more advanced automation and also new technology that makes it even easier for companies to offshore work. Even the upper middle class is not going to escape this tend. The basic reality is that technology and globalization are making our labor worth much less and giving workers less and less bargaining power. For a great overview of this issue--and a focus on the future rather than the past--I'd strongly recommend this book: "The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future." It shows how advancing technology will very likely lead to structural uemployment and even more extreme concentration of income into the hands of the few. As someone who works in the technology field, I'm convinced that the trends described in this book are already well underway and explain, at least in part, the situation that Huffington describes. As "The Lights in the Tunnel" points out, this problem may ultimately be so big that it defies conventional solutions. I highly recommend that anyone concerned about the plight of middle class Americans check out this book and give these issues some serious thought.

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 17, 2011

    This....from her?

    Read it, got nothing that I didn't know. Suprised she is acting like she cares about the common folk, considering her radical left leaning/socialist likings and her love of this adminisration, who is destroying our country....top down, bottom up, inside out. Save your cash on this reaf.

    2 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 26, 2011

    Fast Read, Solid Info

    I'm too tired to write a great review, but just want to say it was an enjoyable read, awesome solid statistics and comparisons, very motivating, if you're into changing the world, or at least your town, then give this a read. I consider it a must read for anyone that wants to get involved with 2012 political debates and anyone interested in international relief work.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2011

    Very interesting book

    I really did not think I would agree with anything Arianna Huffington had to say but I think she was right on, everything she states you can see is happening now.

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  • Posted September 9, 2011

    Sad but true

    Informative. Confirms what most of us know already.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 31, 2011

    Common sense book about the erosion of the middle class.

    I loved A. Huffington's previous book, Right is Wrong, but this book seems to be missing much of the meat that made her previous book truly interesting. It seems like her commentary in this book is common sense and hardly packed with Earth shattering revelations. We all know that the middle class are the people that pay their taxes and get the shaft when times get tough. Huffington is preaching to the already converted, those that are not Republican. The book is filled with pages and pages of notes and bibliography that make up about a third of this book, so it isn't a very long book to read but it makes it difficult to justify the high ebook price. For a better read on the inequity of taxation and the erosion of the middle class, I'd recommend Linda McQuaig's "The Trouble with Billionaire's". It might have too much of a Canadian slant for some American readers though.

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  • Posted May 17, 2011

    Powerfull

    Great read, to the point and more importantly, Factual. It outlines the current crisis with a personal feel, full of real life accounts of how the perpetuators played a high stakes game keeping the profits and slimming away from all the consequences.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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