Huffington Post editor-in-chief Arianna Huffington draws a dark picture of America's standing in the world in her latest book, "Third World America: How Our Politicians Are Abandoning the Middle Class and Betraying the American Dream."
Read an excerpt from the book below and head to the "GMA" Library to find more good reads.
It's a jarring phrase, one that is deeply contrary to our national conviction that America is the greatest nation on Earth? as well as the richest, the most powerful, the most generous, and the most noble. It also doesn't match our day- today experience of the country we live in? where it seems there is, if not a chicken in every pot, then a flat- screen TV on every wall. And we're still the world's only military superpower, right?
So what, exactly, does it mean?"Third World America"?
For me, it's a warning: a shimmering foreshadowing of a possible future. It is the flip side of the American Dream?an American nightmare of our own making.
I use it to sum up the ugly facts we'd rather not know, to connect the uncomfortable dots we'd rather not connect, and to articulate one of our deepest fears as a people? that we are slipping as a nation. 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 everyone else. Think Mexico or Brazil, where the wealthy live behind fortified gates, with machine- gun-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.
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 twenty- first-century jobs; our infrastructure? our roads, our bridges, our sewage and water and transportation and electrical systems? is crumbling.
And America's middle class, the driver of so much of our creative and economic success? the foundation of our democracy?is rapidly disappearing, 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.
Nothing better illustrates the ways in which we have begun to travel down this perilous road than the sorry state of America's middle class. So long as our middle class is thriving, it would be impossible for America to become a Third World nation. But the facts show a different trajectory. It's no longer an exaggeration to say that middle- class Americans are an endangered species. "The middle class has been under assault for a long time," President Obama said early in 2010 while announcing a series of modest proposals to bolster what he called "the class that made the twentieth century the American century."