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Third World America, Here We Come?

Arianna discusses her new book on how our politicians are abandoning the middle-class and betraying the American dream.

Democracy Now! Co-Host Juan Gonzalez: Are middle-class Americans becoming an endangered species? One out of every six Americans are in government anti-poverty programs. More than 50 million are on Medicaid. Forty million receive food stamps. And 10 million receive unemployment benefits. The prospects for a speedy recovery from the Great Recession appear dim.

Now President Obama has argued that his administration made the right decisions to move the country forward. He told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos Wednesday that he is going to keep working at it 'til he gets it right.

    Barack Obama: Our options are limited. I mean, the fact of the matter is, is that when we came in, the day I was sworn in, we were losing 800,000 jobs a month. The next month, 600,000. The month after that, 600,000. And across the political spectrum, what people said we had to do was make sure we don't have a complete financial meltdown and make sure that we prevent this economy from going into a deep depression. We succeeded in doing that. The economy is now growing. And for eight consecutive months, we have added jobs.

    Now, I am somebody who tends to not have a lot of pride of authorship. If people out there had a whole host of ideas that would allow us to accelerate this job growth faster and put more people to work faster, I would be happy to steal ideas from anybody—Republican, independent or Democrat. Part of the challenge we’ve got is that we are working through a very difficult time. And are there ways that I potentially could have explained the circumstances of our situation better, communicated those more effectively? I’m sure that there are. And, you know, I’m going to keep on working at it 'til I get it right.

Amy Goodman: Well, our next guest might argue otherwise. One of her recent columns is called "Memo to America's Middle Class: Obama Is Just Not That Into You." Arianna Huffington is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post , author of 13 books. Her latest is called Third World America: How Our Politicians Are Abandoning the Middle Class and Betraying the American Dream . Arianna Huffington joins us here in New York. Third World America -- why Third World America?

Arianna Huffington: I deliberately chose a title that is very jarring. You know, we don’t associate America with the third world. But I chose it because I really believe that we are on this trajectory, where the middle class is crumbling. And the middle class is the foundation not just of American prosperity, but American democracy and democratic stability.

And what I was seeing, since Cassandra has always been my favorite heroine growing up in Greece, is that there isn’t the sense of urgency that is needed if we really believe this is happening. And so, by using that title, Third World America , and by providing the data and the stories to back it up, I’m hoping that we will bring that sense of urgency that, as you saw from the interview with the President, is missing. You know, it was the sense of urgency that everybody had that famous weekend when they saved Wall Street, you know, when everybody, all the establishments—political, financial, Democratic, Republican—came together, and they said, "We simply cannot afford to allow the financial system to collapse. We don’t exactly know what will save it, but we’ll throw everything against the wall, because we can’t afford that." That has been completely missing. You know, we’ve had endless conversations about jobs are a priority, jobs will be our focus, but it’s not really happening. The President asks for all ideas. You know, we’ve all been screaming many ideas—you know, Republican, Democrats, you know—from the payroll tax holiday to a really serious infrastructure and jobs program, to a green bank, to an infrastructure bank, to tax credits for small businesses. You know, the ideas are out there. What is missing is that sense of urgency and the political will.

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