Non-profit organization Writer's Bloc launched it's 15th season on Wednesday, October 20, by bringing together Arianna Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post, and Adam McKay, writer, director and founder of FunnyOrDie.com. The two discussed Huffington's latest book, Third World America: How Our Politicians Are Abandoning The Middle Class And Betraying The American Dreamin front of a packed audience at Beverly Hills' Temple Emanuel, and was followed by a brief question and answer period and book-signing.
Huffington and McKay's conversation focused on America's disappearing middle class and the government's failure to properly address and solve increasing unemployment throughout America, as politicians focus more on lobbyists and bailing out Wall Street. Huffington boldly wrapped up her discussion of the current economic climate by stating, "what we have is not a free market economy. What we have is an oligarchy." Huffington argued that promises of a better future will no longer be attainable for millions unless we change as a society. Both writers agreed that there is hope however, and Huffington suggested that individuals can begin changing their communities by utilizing their time, skills, and resources to assist in rebuilding the middle class.
On Media Coverage in general:
McKay quipped that economic and political issues that directly affect the public are often overlooked everyday by the mainstream media or dismissed as too "complicated," when they are in fact rather simple and very relevant. He used the "Made in America" Act--a bill that would encourage government to invest in goods made in America and thus promote job creation--as an example of a piece of legislation extremely relevant to the recession that very few media outlets discuss.
On the decay of American infrastructure:
McKay and Huffington discussed America's shockingly lax attitude towards maintenance of its own infrastructure, noting that there are systems of pipes dating back to the Civil War. Huffington pointed out the irony that the creation of much of America's infrastructure dates back to FDR's administration, and noted that creating more rebuilding programs would fix decaying infrastructure as well as create more jobs.
On the shortcomings of the current stimulus package:
Huffington noted that the problem with Obama's stimulus package "was not that it didn't do good. It did good. It just wasn't enough." She reasoned that the government picked the concerns of Wall Street over the concerns of middle class America by favoring the issue of health care over unemployment. In focusing on health reform, Huffington argued that Obama's stimulus package missed America's biggest lingering economic and political problem (unemployment) by assuming the mantra, "save Wall Street, and then the jobs will come."
On remaining positive:
McKay was quick to point out that despite Huffington's warning that America is in danger of losing the American Dream altogether, her latest book does end on a hopeful note. Huffington noted that by using creativity and social media, people are beginning to make a living out of their hobbies and of helping others. She also said, "we focus on deficits. How about we start focusing on our surpluses?" reminding the audience that in a recession there is a surplus of people's time and skills, and even money. Using various examples from her book, Huffington pointed out that individuals who had lost their jobs as well as wealthy people were willing to utilize their time, skills and money to help others see their American dreams come to fruition. McKay likened this to the idea of "cottage communities" in the nineteenth century, noting that people were willing to help trade goods and services, thus keeping the middle class alive despite the government's failure to protect it.