I have two items for my write-up today on Arianna Huffington’s Third World America: How Our Politicians Are Abandoning the Middle Class and Betraying the American Dream.
1. Arianna advocates campaign finance reform as a way to address the impending problem of a Third World America. She mentions Senator Ted Kaufman of Delaware, a bold critic of Wall Street. Why was he so bold? Arianna offers two reasons. First, Kaufman did not get his post through election, for he was appointed to replace Joe Biden when Biden became Vice-President. Second, Kaufman did not intend to run for re-election. Consequently, Kaufman did not have to appease special interests to get money for an election campaign.
I agree with Arianna that campaign finance reform is important, but I also think that Arianna could have done a better job in detailing how special interests’ influence on government has hurt the middle class. She refers to the bankruptcy law that was passed during George W. Bush’s Administration, a law that credit-card companies supported that (according to critics) was oppressive towards people who were in debt (and Arianna notes that some people these days actually have to use their credit-cards for necessities). And she made a brief reference to Democratic ex-Senator Tom Daschle’s job with an insurance company, which (according to her) seeks to hinder health care reform. These are important points, but I wish I saw more examples in Arianna’s book of how the influence of special interests undermines the middle class. Arianna focuses a lot on the recent economic crisis and how lax oversight led to that, so perhaps she feels that’s an example. Perhaps it is, but, as she notes, the undermining of the middle class occurred before the economic crisis. Perhaps to get what I want to know, I should read Lou Dobb’s War on the Middle Class, which was written prior to the economic crisis.
2. I’ve remarked before that Arianna sometimes breaks out of the left-wing box that some may put her in. She especially did that in my latest reading, in which she endorsed school choice. Arianna’s proposal is for the government to give parents money so that they can send their kids to the school of their choice, and the schools would have to be approved by the government. She compares this educational policy to the Canadian health care system, in which people see private doctors of their choice, and the government pays for their treatment. That was pretty cool: appeal to something that conservatives hate and that many progressives love (the Canadian health care system) to promote an idea that (on some level) is touted primarily by conservatives.