Third World America:
How Our Politicians Are Abandoning the Middle Class and Betraying the American Dream, by Arianna Huffington
(Click for Amazon book review)
Massscorecard.org BOOK REVIEW:
Arianna Huffington ran for Governor of California as the progressive alternative against Arnold Schwarzenegger and now runs the Huffington Post political blog. Hence she has the status of "national pundit" and undertook a national book tour with this book. It's a must-read for those interested in the progressive stance on ending the recession and on the foibles of the first half of the Obama administration. Progressives in general, and Huffington in particular, are disappointed that Obama has not wound down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but are willing to blame that on Bush; it's getting harder with each passing month of recession to not blame that on Obama. Huffington represents the current progressive level of blame for both Bush and Obama. In general, she blames the system more than she blames Obama.
Huffington is pessimistic about America's immediate future and America's longer-term future, but tries to present her pessimism in a framework of faith in the American spirit. She fails. The first half of the book reads like a hopeless morass of problems. By the time the reader gets to the second half, where Huffington offers a policy prescription for fixing the problems, it's too late. If the book were shorter, this arrangement might have worked. But the pessimism just goes on for so long that the later optimism is not plausible.
The later optimism is also unrealistic. Huffington's policy prescription is that we can't fix America's immediate problems until we fix the underlying cause of those problems, which is corruption in Washington. Her suggested means of fixing that is to overhaul the campaign finance system with a fully federally-funded system. In her view, the source of corruption is that politicians are beholden to their donors; hence the solution is to make their only donor be the American taxpayer, so then they're beholden to the general public.
That's a fine idea, but anytime a major overhaul is proposed, it suffers from the problem of being too big to do all at once. How would this plan pass Congress? Obama opted out of the partial public finance system in 2008; and it looks like most future presidential candidate will also. Without the president pushing it, who in Congress would push it, since the incumbents in Congress are the primary beneficiaries of the current campaign finance system? It's a Catch-22 for which Huffington offers no solution. So the reader is left to think, "Nice idea, but that's not going to happen anytime soon, so what do we do in the meantime?" And all that's left is the pessimism of the first half of the book.
Massscorecard' staff adore Arianna Huffington. She shares a rare place among unelected pundits of having her own Massscorecard page, alongside Rush Limbaugh, Noam Chomsky, and Milton Friedman. But this book is disappointing. We prefer Huffington's earlier books, which drop the pessimism and talk about real solutions.
-- Jesse Gordon, Massscorecard editor-in-chief, October 2010
| Massscorecard.org excerpts: (click on issues for details)
Budget & Economy|
Arianna Huffington: Real Misery Index: highest level ever in April 2010.
Arianna Huffington: Crisis was inevitable byproduct of maximizing profit.
Arianna Huffington: Switch from bank-centric to people-centric policy.
Chris Dodd: Bar bailed-out companies from awarding executive bonuses.
George W. Bush: OpEd: Bush free-market fundamentalism was defective theory.
George W. Bush: OpEd: "Ownership Society" inflated housing bubble.
Richard Durbin: Allow "cramdown" for homeowners in bankruptcy.
Ted Kaufman: $2.5T bailout saved corruptly concentrated financial power.
Timothy Geithner: OpEd: Funneled no-strings money to banks too-big-to-fail.
Arianna Huffington: AIG bank bailout would close all state budget gaps of $166B.
Arianna Huffington: Banks got 40% of all corporate profits, paid by middle class.
Arianna Huffington: Safety net protects those hurt by supply-and-demand.
Arianna Huffington: Offshore tax havens evade $100B taxes per year.
Arianna Huffington: 2005 Bankruptcy Bill protected bankers, not consumers.
Kay Hagan: Clamp down on $40B payday lending industry.
Robert Reich: Hedge-funds receive $1B each in tax loopholes.
Sheldon Whitehouse: Cap credit card interest rates.
Arianna Huffington: We can choose books or bars; we've built bigger prisons.
Arianna Huffington: Education as great equalizer has gone terribly wrong.
Arianna Huffington: Single-payer education: feds fund; parents choose.
Barack Obama: Jobs today require at least a bachelor's degree.
Barack Obama: Educate to Innovate campaign: make US top in math & science.
George Bush Sr.: Promised US 1st in math & science by 2000; we ended up 18th.
Energy & Oil|
Bill Nelson: Federal MMS was asleep at the wheel with BP oil spill.
Dick Cheney: OpEd: Staffed federal MMS with oil industry cronies.
Elaine Chao: 2000 slurry spill: $5600 fine; then $100,000 GOP donation.
Arianna Huffington: White-collar outsourcing has begun; 350,000 jobs by 2012.
Arianna Huffington: $6.5M worth of lobbying directed at each member of Congress.
Arianna Huffington: Full public financing of political campaigns.
Barack Obama: Citizens United decision: major victory for Big Oil.
George W. Bush: OpEd: Regulatory appointees protected their industries.
Ronald Reagan: Free market can best determine winners and losers.
Ted Kaufman: OpEd: Appointment & non-reelection allowed fierce honesty.
Arianna Huffington: Hallmark of nation in decline is increased military spending.
Condoleezza Rice: OpEd: pretended "Who could have known?" on 9/11 intel.
Arianna Huffington: Unemployment is 31% for the poor and only 3% for the rich.
Principles & Values|
Arianna Huffington: Third World America: we are slipping as a nation.
Barack Obama: 92% of Tea Partiers: "Obama is moving US toward socialism".
Michele Bachmann: I want my constituents armed and dangerous.
Arianna Huffington: Need $2.2T for infrastructure by 2015; only $975B budgeted.
Arianna Huffington: $8B stimulus for high-speed rail is a drop in the bucket.
Arianna Huffington: Broadband usage 46% among blacks; 65% among others.
Arnold Schwarzenegger: Teamed with Gov. Rendell on "Building America's Future".
Barack Obama: National broadband plan: increase access to 90% by 2020.
Ed Rendell: Building America's Future: begin infrastructure repair.
John Hall: 2007: Testified on levee and dam safety programs.
Mike Bloomberg: Teamed with Gov. Rendell on "Building America's Future".
War & Peace|
Arianna Huffington: $61B per year on wars of choice makes economy sputter.
Barney Frank: Military over-commitments devastate quality-of-life programs.
George W. Bush: Promised Iraq war would cost $1.7B; actual cost $750B.
The above quotations are from Third World America:
How Our Politicians Are Abandoning the Middle Class and Betraying the American Dream, by Arianna Huffington.
2010 Election Analysis:
- Against All Odds, by Scott Brown
- The Obamians, by James Mann
- Power to the People, by Gov. Tommy Thompson
- 2010: Take Back America, by Dick Morris
- 100 Innovative Ideas for Florida's Future, by Marco Rubio
- Courage and Consequence, by Karl Rove
- American Conspiracies, by Gov. Jesse Ventura
- Game Change, by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin
- The FairTax Book, by Neal Boortz and Rep. John Linder
- The Test of our Times, by Gov. Tom Ridge
- Saving Freedom, by Sen. Jim DeMint
- Giving, by Pres. Bill Clinton
- Going Rogue, by Gov. Sarah Palin
- Slouching Towards Gomorrah, by Robert Bork
- Abortion and the Conscience of a Nation, by Pres. Ronald Reagan
- Third World America, by Arianna Huffington
- Hopes and Prospects, by Noam Chomsky
- Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush's War Cabinet, by James Mann (March 2004)
- Earlier election analyses