The words United States of America (USA) and Third World are two that I never expected to see side by side in my lifetime. But that changes with Arianna Huffington, the co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of 13 books, who has dared to title her book ‘Third World America’.
So what, exactly, does it mean? She says it’s a warning: “A shimmering foreshadow of a possibly grim future. It is the flipside of the American Dream – A nightmare of our own making.”
Her shocking story is about the middle class in the USA, which she says is fast shrinking. “The USA could “become a Third World nation— a place where there are only two classes: The rich… and everyone else. Think Mexico or Brazil, where the wealthy live behind fortified gates, with machinegun-toting guards protecting their children from kidnapping.”
“A place that failed to keep up with history. A place not taken down by a foreign enemy, but by the avarice of our corporate elite and the neglect of our elected leaders,” Huffington says.
“The warning lights on our national dashboard are flashing red: Our industrial base is vanishing, taking with it the kind of jobs that have formed the backbone of our economy for more than a century; our education system is in shambles, making it harder for tomorrow’s workforce to acquire the information and training it needs to land good 21st century jobs; our infrastructure – our roads, our bridges, our sewage and water and transportation and electrical systems – are crumbling.”
The book says that America’s middle class, which drove the country’s economic success, and stood as the foundation of its democracy is rapidly disappearing, and that it is “taking with it a key component of the American Dream: The promise that, with hard work and discipline, our children will have the chance to do better than we did, just as we had the chance to do better than the generation before us.”
Luck. That’s what the American Dream now rests on. It used to be about education, hard work, and perseverance, but today the system is rigged to such an extent that the middle class life is the prize on a scratch-off a lottery ticket, says Huffington.
A grim story, indeed; when it is the dream of so many across the world to live in America. It is more like a nightmare and if it sounds like I am on some trip to bash the USA, please note that I say a vehement ‘no’. I too believe in that American dream, although it is not my dream to live there. On my many sojourns there, mostly thanks to the US Government itself, I have seen this dream in broad daylight.
The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States, in which freedom includes a promise of prosperity and success. But beyond that the idea of the American Dream is rooted in the second sentence of the United States Declaration of Independence which states that “all men are created equal” and that they are “endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights” including “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”.
As we dwell deeper into this, we know that it is a dream for the whole world to follow, an international formula for democracy. But somewhere down the line, something went wrong. There are many who give reasons for it, and at the foremost they say is the failure of the Keynesian theory (which is another story), but the long and short of it is that the busting of the American dream is a matter that concerns the whole world.
I recently read an article in TIME magazine which said: “...the White House is in over its head, isolated, insular, arrogant and clueless about how to get along with or persuade members of Congress, the media, the business community or working-class voters.” The tile of the story was ‘Why Obama is Losing the Political War’. ( http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,2024718,00.html#ixzz127QiIPiq )
Here is a man who epitomised the American dream now in danger of becoming a will-o’-the-wisp in America’s political history. Obama was a man that the American middle class believed in; and his intentions were certainly good. But was he too naive to know that mere slogans alone were not enough to win the race he acknowledged was filled with obstacles at the time he took it on?
It was reported that after the release of the latest bleak unemployment data in the USA – the last major jobs figures before the midterms – Obama said: “Putting the American people back to work, expanding opportunity, rebuilding the economic security of the middle class is the moral and national challenge of our time.”
TIME said: “...but elites feel the President has failed to meet that challenge and are convinced he will be unable to do so in the remainder of his term. Moreover, there is a growing perception that Obama’s decisions are causing harm — that businesses are being hurt by the Administration’s legislation and that economic recovery is stalling because of the uncertainty surrounding energy policy, healthcare, deficits, housing, immigration and spending.”
This leaves us wondering about the one who was projected as the greatest change agent of our times; has he failed completely? If so what can the USA hope for?
(The writer, a PR consultant and head of Media360, was previously a mainstream journalist in print and electronic media. He also edits a new media website.)