Is America really turning into a third world country? Arianna appeared on WBUR's "On Point With Tom Ashbrook" Monday to discuss her new book, Third World America: How Our Politicians Are Abandoning the Middle Class and Betraying the American Dream, about the erosion of the middle class. From empathizing with Tea Partiers to scolding the president, Arianna discusses the factors that have led to the rapid disappearance of the middle class -- and what we can do to salvage it.
Listen to the interview:
• On the Importance of the Middle Class: The middle class is what has made us a first-world nation in the sense that we didn't have what you see in Mexico and Brazil, which is the rich and everyone else.
The middle class has always been aspirational in this country, as opposed to vengeful and envious. Because there's always been the assumption that, 'I can work hard and play by the rules and I can be rich too.' That's been the American Dream, right? And that's why people have not even objected to tax cuts for the rich... Right now... people are feeling... we're not all in the same game, there are two games going on. There's the Wall Street game, where you get bailed out if you fail, and you do very well. And there's the game for the rest of us.
• On Homer Simpson: Homer Simpson -- he couldn't do it today! ... Split house, wife not working, all those kids. Do you know anybody who can live like that now?
• On Tea Partiers: The Tea Party is a fascinating phenomenon because at the heart of it is that sense of unfairness, that sense that 'we're not all in the same game'. Sure they blame government, but for the first time we have something that we can all blame government for, and that is the bailout of Wall Street, which was really the product of all establishments coming together -- Republican, Democratic political establishments -- led by George W. Bush, but with Obama and the Democratic leadership following on. They bailed out Wall Street without any conditions, without any strings attached. It is really extraordinary because it is so against the capitalist system.
• On Obama's Role in the Recession: The single most important thing that happened is that he brought the wrong people to run economic policy. He brought in Larry Summers, who was one of the architects of Glass-Steagal which basically ended protections put in place by the New Deal. He brought in Tim Geithner... these are smart people, but they are completely Wall Street-centric and they completely underestimated the economic crisis...
When you're the President of the United States, personnel is policy. If you put the wrong people in control -- and he did that -- you're in trouble.