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She maintains that the middle class -- "the driver of so much of our creative and economic success" and "the foundation of our democracy" -- is "teetering on the brink of collapse." Just like AIG in 2009. Wall Street has been propped up, she argues, but the middle class is experiencing a "plummeting free fall." Her critique is not revolutionary. She lays out the stats: the Bush and Obama administrations devoted hundreds of billions of dollars to financial firms, while millions of Americans lost their jobs and hard-pressed states cut social services (precisely when they are needed the most):I use it to sum up the ugly facts we'd rather not know. . . . It's a harbinger, a clanging alarm telling us that if we don't correct our course, contrary to our history and to what has always seemed to be our destiny, we could indeed become a Third World nation -- a place where there are only two classes: the rich . . . and everybody else. Think Mexico or Brazil.
That's a direct poke at the guy in the White House. And Huffington goes on to suggest that he's not a super-agent of change. Noting that unemployment for people making over $150,000 annually was a mere 3 percent in 2009, she writes:The human consequences of the financial collapse are largely missing from our national debate. I'm referring especially to the people who had steady jobs; people with college degrees; people who were paying their bills, saving for retirement, doing the right thing -- and who have, in many instances lost everything. The daily miseries being visited upon them are unfolding across the country.
So why is there no sense of urgency coming out of Washington?
Instead, she observes, "we get policy Band-Aids -- timid moves that will do little to abate a crisis that threatens to change the very fabric of our society." Readers -- especially those facing hard times -- can decide for themselves if Huffington's populist, doomsdayish prognostication is on target. Ditto regarding her recipe for avoiding American Third Worldism (a mix of mostly progressive proposals, including public financing of elections, education reform that focuses on teacher performance, single-payer health care insurance, a modern-day Works Progress Administration, federal assistance to state and local governments, incentives for green jobs and manufacturing, mortgage reform that makes it easier for homeowners facing foreclosure to renegotiate, and tighter restrictions on Wall Street's wheelers and dealers.) But Huffington, an old friend, is quite acute at sniffing out trends (except when she mounted at not-very-successful bid to become California's governor in 2003).Does anyone believe that the sense of urgency coming out of Washington wouldn't be wildly different if the unemployment rate for the top 10 percent of income earners was 31 percent [as it was for the bottom 10 percent in 2009]? If one-third of television news producers, pundits, bankers, and lobbyists were unemployed, would the measures proposed by the White House and Congress still be as anemic? Of course not -- the sense of national emergency would be so great you'd hear air-raid sirens howling.
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