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Barbara Ehrenreich: America's Tragic Decline -- Resistance Bursts Out All Over the World, While We Do Nothing to Fight Corporate Takeover

Barbara Ehrenreich discusses the sorry state of the American economy and how it impacts real people.

Editor's note: In the following Democracy Now! interview, journalist Barbara Ehrenreich and Amy Goodman talk about the human cost of the economic meltdown.

AMY GOODMAN: Standard & Poor’s announced Friday it’s downgraded the U.S. credit rating for the first time in history. The move by S&P, one of three leading credit rating agencies, came just days after Congress approved a $2.1 trillion deficit-reduction plan. S&P called the outlook "negative," indicating that another downgrade is possible in the next 12 to 18 months. Lowering the nation’s rating to one notch below  AAA, the credit rating company said "political brinkmanship" in the debate over the debt had made the U.S. government’s ability to manage its finances, quote, "less stable, less effective and less predictable." It said the $2.1 trillion bipartisan agreement reached last week "fell short" of what was necessary to reduce the nation’s debt over time.

In its report, S&P explicitly blamed the political process in Washington and the refusal by Republicans to raise taxes as part of last week’s agreement to raise the debt ceiling, writing, quote, "We have changed our assumption on this because the majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues, a position we believe Congress reinforced by passing the act," they said.

Speaking to reporters Sunday, Democratic Senator John Kerry blamed Tea Party Republicans who refused to sign on to any deal that raised taxes.

SENJOHN KERRY: I believe this is, without question, the Tea Party downgrade. This is the Tea Party downgrade because a minority of people in the House of Representatives countered even the will of many Republicans in the United States Senate, who were prepared to do a bigger deal, to do $4.7 trillion, $4 trillion, have a mix of reductions and reforms, in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, but also recognize that we needed to do some revenue.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, to talk more about the state of the American economy and how it impacts the American people, we go to Washington, D.C., to talk to bestselling author Barbara Ehrenreich.

On her Facebook page, Ehrenreich writes, quote, "My patriotic pride is not offended by S&P’s downgrade of the US credit rating, but by the fact that while resistance bursts out everywhere—Tel Aviv, Santiago, Tottingham, not to mention No. Africa and Middle East—we do  NOTHING."

The 10th anniversary edition of Barbara Ehrenreich’s book  Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America has just been published. In the book, she tells the story of life in low-wage America, and she herself tries to earn a living working as a waitress, a hotel maid, a nursing home aide and a Wal-Mart associate. The book, over the last 10 years, has sold more than two million copies.

She’s also the author of many other books, including  Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking is Undermining America and Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream, a frequent contributor to  Harper’s and The Nation and has also a columnist at the  New York Times and Time Magazine.

Barbara Ehrenreich, welcome to  Democracy Now!

BARBARA EHRENREICH: Good to be with you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s great to have you with us. Before we get to  Nickel and Dimed, let’s talk about Standard & Poor’s—and perhaps then we’ll go into poor is the standard in America today—but the significance of this for everyday people in the United States, the downgrading of America’s credit rating?

BARBARA EHRENREICH: I don’t know. I’m not sure. I mean, it’s part of a general sense of decline that I think we’ve gotten in many ways and that people like Tom Friedman have been writing about in the  New York Times for some time. But, you know, in some ways, that is in another world from most Americans and their day-to-day struggles. What is it going to mean to you if you have no job now? Or if you have a job and you have no health insurance? Or if you are trying to get through college while working full time? It just seems very distant and abstract. When we’re talking about the economy in this country, we seldom talk about real people’s lives.

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