I finished Lou Dobbs’ War on the Middle Class: How the Government, Big Business, and Special Interests Are Waging War on the American Dream and How to Fight Back.
I decided to read this book after Arianna Huffington’s Third World America because in reading Arianna’s book I was not entirely clear about how U.S. government policies hurt the middle class. Arianna’s book came after the economic crisis, and so she largely focused on that, but I knew that there were people who argued that the war on the middle class occurred even before then. Arianna herself contended that the policies of the 1980’s had a lot to do with it! I wanted to learn more about this, and so I proceeded to read Lou Dobbs’ book, which was published before the economic crisis.
Dobbs identifies some of the same problems that Arianna does: outsourcing of jobs, a decline in education, high health care costs, the oppressive bankruptcy bill that passed during the Presidency of George W. Bush, and the fact that lobbies and special interests inhibit real reform from taking place, as politicians rely on special interests for campaign contributions, and in many cases even join their ranks after leaving office. Unlike Arianna, however, Dobbs talks about illegal immigration being a part of the war on the middle class—-as it drives wages down and health care costs up, since illegal immigrants (who lack preventive care and work in high-risk jobs) take advantage of emergency rooms and often cannot pay.
In terms of solutions, I thought that Arianna and Dobbs differed, in areas. My impression was that Arianna supported more of a bottom-up approach—-individuals need to take the initiative to support smaller banks rather than bigger banks, individuals need to cultivate empathy, etc. But Dobbs seemed to favor more of a governmental approach—-he notes that local governments are fighting outsourcing by rejecting companies that outsource, and that states are taking the initiative in fighting illegal immigration (and, if I’m not mistaken, Dobbs’ book was written prior to Arizona’s controversial law). Dobbs also praises Mitt Romney’s health care and educational policies as governor. Regarding where Arianna and Dobbs overlapped, both were strongly in favor of campaign finance reform.
I guess where I was disappointed in reading Dobbs’ book was that he did not talk about how the 1980’s led to the current dismal state of the middle class. If I’m not mistaken, outsourcing really took off after the trade agreements under the Clinton Administration. How were Ronald Reagan’s policies part of the problem, though? I have read that his cuts in the social safety net were part of the problem, but that affects the lower economic classes, not the middle class. Some have suggested that his reduction in spending on higher education discouraged people from going to college—-since that came at a time when tuitions were high. Did Reagan also undermine labor unions, in some manner? I can envision that leading to disparities of wealth. I’m just throwing out ideas, and I do not have full knowledge about the accuracy of what I am saying. That’s why I continue to read!