Third World America?

Leo Kolivakis's picture

Via Pension Pulse.

Huffington was interviewed on Tech Ticker on Wednesday discussing America's
shrinking middle class

In a Wall
Street Journal op-ed
today, former “Car Czar” Steve Rattner, a
multi-millionaire from decades as an investment banker, says Wall Street
is ignorant to the dangers of America’s growing wealth disparity.

rattles off some shocking stats in the piece:

  • -- “Incomes
    of the average American worker (after adjustment for inflation) was
    lower in 2008 (let alone 2009) than it was in 1999.”
  • --
    "30,000 Americans command a full 6% of income in this country (a higher
    percentage than at even the end of the Roaring '20s)"

Ticker discussed the growing income divide with Arianna Huffington,
co-founder and editor in chief of The Huffington Post.


are in danger of becoming an America with a rich and the poor,"
Huffington tells Aaron in this clip, taped at Tuesday’s CM Summit in New York City. "And at the
heart of America has always been a middle class,” the erosion of which
threatens to upset our democracy, she says.


At the heart of the problem is high unemployment. The broadest
measure of unemployment (U6) stands at 16.6% and a record 46% of
America's unemployed have been out of work 6 months or longer.


of that “the American dream has been reduced to luck… and the odds
right now are against people,” notes Huffington, author
of several books
, including the forthcoming "Third World America".


But we are not hopeless or helpless, she
says: “There’s a lot we can do both at the government level and at the
individual level.”


In an update on the old "think global, act
local" campaign of the greens, Huffington promotes getting involved in
local causes, be it working in a food kitchen, unemployed white collar
workers volunteering their skills, or trying to start a business.

income inequality isn't just an American problem, it's pretty much a
global problem. Nowhere is poverty growing more rapidly than among
elderly population, and the problem is getting worse. Consider this:

As you listen to the interview below, you get a sense that
we're heading down the wrong path. When foreclosure lawyers are busier
than manufacturers, it's the sign of a sick economy. And while
fundamentals are improving, serious long-term structural issues remain.
Pension poverty is one of the issues that far too many will struggle
with. Wonder if it will be discussed at the G-20 (don't hold your

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Citizen of an IKEA World's picture

Third World America has arrived.

Just you wait for Fourth World America.

stev3e's picture

Very dumb  but telling.  Fundamentals are improving (CNBC like) yet an overwhelming long term demographic economic lousy trend is in the making.


Suisse's picture

Of course we're turning third world. I was reading a report from some regional federal reserve bank which showed that in 2000 18% of the workforce of Texas had no high school education, and in 2040 it is expected that 30.1 percent will have no high school diploma.

Why would anyone want to even live in a place like that? What does a place look like when nearly a third of the workforce has less than a high school education?

RockyRacoon's picture

It's worse than you outline.  Keeping in mind "education inflation", a high school education today is no better than an 8th grade education 20 or 30 years ago.  My Dad always lamented the fact that he only had an 8th grade education (in the 1930s) but his education was better than my high school diploma in the late 1960s.  When I got out of the Air Force in 1971 and went back to college I was amazed at how little actual, functional education my classmates had.  A full blown 4-year college education today is not much better than a high school diploma when I graduated high school.  Really.  How many students have been graduated from high school who can't even read!  I have a couple of friends who are teachers and they are very discouraged at anything getting better.  They spend most of their time doing administrative functions rather than teaching.   It ain't getting any better.

I have been in the remodeling business and well recall doing work on a small apartment building in Little Rock.  The building was just a block from the famous (infamous) Little Rock Central High School.   The apartments were small efficiency units built in the 1930s.  It was called "High School Apartments".  An actual lentil over the front door with the name chiseled into it.  This was built for high school students.  The average age of those students was in their 20s!  There was no provision for parking, we had to build a parking lot behind the building.  Students walked to classes.  High School was "higher education" -- duh.   College level education was reserved for a very few.   I found old text books and school papers in the building from its early days.  The curriculum was astounding!  Calculus, foreign languages, government and civics, and old tests that I could not have passed with my college education.  There you have it.

DosZap's picture

A four yr degree now, MIGHT get you an interview.Even in good times.

A HS Diploma from 30-35yrs ago, was about the same, or superior to four yr degrees now.(depending on the subject matter).But, won't get you the interview.

Just because of Revisionist history, and the intentional dumbing down of the sheeple.

Reductio ad Absurdum's picture

You both are absolutely right about how weak the educational system has become and how strong high school education used to be 50+ years ago. I was so happy to read these comments because I've realized for decades how bad things have gotten in education but it seemed like I was the only one that was aware of it.

Fact is almost nobody needs a university-level education. Scientists, engineers, medical doctors...yes. Lawyers? Not really (for example, "[Abraham] Lincoln's formal education consisted of about 18 months of schooling; but he was an avid reader and largely self-educated."). What else is there? Writers? Shakespeare had a 6th grade level education. Business leaders? Many of the best business leaders never completed or even went to college (Steve Jobs and Bill Gates are both college drop outs; Henry Ford never went to college).

What is really needed is, first and foremost, a culture that demands a certain level of intellectual competence. People should be embarrassed when they misspell a word or are unfamiliar with geography or history or current events. Second, we need a (junior) high school system that teaches the basics extremely well: reading, writing, basic arithmetic. Kids that are exceptionally bright should be fast tracked into advanced topics.

Try looking at the French "baccalauréat" test, taken at the end of high school to enter college ( It's mind blowing, and this thing goes back to Napoleon's time.

RockyRacoon's picture

Most cannot even read the requirements, let alone meet them.  When being educated became a profane word the system went to hell.  We've always had those who would rather play hooky, but they got commensurate grades.  Now, one gets a grade without doing any work to speak of.  We can't have a student's self-esteem damaged, you know.

johnnynaps's picture

Full employment is not wanted here in the US anymore. Think about how devalued the 4 yr degree is. Now, throw in background checks, Credit checks, and drug tests in a contrived "over-saturated" job market and you over-whelming amount of unemployed people.



mkkby's picture

Leo, if you don't want to be junked stop being so

schizophrenic.  One day you pound the table on Chinese solar and/or tech stocks.  The next day it's a secular bearish call, like this one.  If you don't realize how those are opposites then you must be a 14 year old kid with no finance background.

Hammer59's picture

Ah, Leo....misplace your rose colored glasses today? 

George Soros just insinuated that the financial crisis is beggining it's viral phase, and last Friday's employment report was a significant tell. The food stamp stats cannot be ignored either. Mr. Market is just waking up to the truth, yet Pimco is buying UST's???

Bernanke is using the words "likely" and "maybe"---hardly inspiring! 

Hopefully this climate of fear and uncertainty is overblown. When Ariana says that Obama's ".....who's ass to kick" comment was not "organic"....

she loses credibility with me.


BumpSkool's picture  mentioned before ... seems like she's interested in power per se ... regardless of political slant

BumpSkool's picture

She met oil millionaire Michael Huffington, a family friend of the Bushes, at a 1985 party hosted by Ann Getty in San Francisco. The couple was married in 1986 at a wedding paid for by Getty, who had declared that she needed to find Arianna a husband. They moved to Washington, D.C., when he was appointed to serve as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Negotiations Policy. They later established residency in Santa Barbara, California, in order for him to run in 1992 as a Republican for a seat in theU.S. House of Representatives, which he won by a significant margin. He was a political conservative on most issues. Arianna campaigned for her husband, courting religious conservatives, arguing for smaller government and a reduction in welfare.

divide_by_zero's picture

Michael Huffington was a RINO, a purported fiscal conservative but no hard evidence of that and he supported/supports the progressive agenda as do the Gettys and Arianna.

JR's picture

There is a point where using the positive statements that certain personalities use can be damaging to overall truth because it camouflages the baggage of their overall philosophy.  It’s entrapment.  To read columnists such as Huffington is a dangerous occupation if you are not well acquainted with the truth going in.

When Obama favorably quotes Ronald Reagan, it draws the uninformed to an overall philosophy that is more anti-Reagan than any viewpoint in politics.

“A truth that’s told with bad intent Beats all the lies you can invent.” –William Blake

Chupacabra's picture

Does anyone take Arianna Huffington seriously about anything?  Especially when it comes to economics?

WaterWings's picture

That was a sexist comment. I take offense, demand an apology, and your resignation.

Kreditanstalt's picture

Can we quit this searching for villains?  And playing victim?

I'll only listen to the "it's not our fault we're in this mess!" brigade IF no fingers are pointed. 

I'm getting tired of reading endlessly here that the bankers, Wall Street, Obama, Bush, big business, big government, multinationals, corrupt mortgage brokers, FNMA, the Fed, Bernanke, Greenspan, liberlas, Republicans, Bilderberg, CNBC or Soylent Green is reponsible for the suffering of the middle classes and for stealing their wealth... 

...because that wealth wasn't real in the first place.

I want to hear what we as individuals are doing to stay ahead.

John_Coltrane's picture

Yes, the "wealth" created by the FIRE (finance, insurance, and RE) economy and its phony (FNM) and fraudy (FRE) institutions and make work employment were never real.  Does anyone really believe a nation which produces 10x more lawyers than scientists/engineers can be considered productive?   Lawyers and most working in finance are parasites.  They create friction on the real economy, destroying real work in a type of heat death.  This is not a new phenomena, it didn't just occur in 2007-2008.  Its been happening for over 40 years!

On the other hand for those bemoaning/whining about our economic collapse remember we have indoor plumbing, clean water and sanitation, antibiotics and electricity (even the poor) which is more than any economic class had prior to 1900.  We all live like kings used to for one reason:  science and technology.  Unfortunately, technology, coupled with the reality of the Gaussian IQ distribution means modern economies have much less use for a signficant segment of the population.  Thus, the emergence of the FIRE economy with its ability to soak up excess workers with various sorts of paper pushing and arranging.

ArmchairRevolutionary's picture

I agree with this.  It would be great of ZH had a section just for ideas to change this situation: not big ideas that require assistance of the political elite, but ideas that can be implemented without their permission / approval.

I have some ideas.  I have heard others talking about having ideas.

Hammer59's picture

That is a good idea. But the only time in recent memory that situations were changed required civil disobedience and marching. Instead of people like Rosa Parks and MLK, we have Sarah Palin and Glen Beck.

The American public is too sated to do anything but vote. And it is the same self-serving people who keep running for office.

The armchair revolution will not be televised.

Go Celtics!

ArmchairRevolutionary's picture

Civil disobedience and marching is a form of asking for permission.  It is just a lot of people together asking for permission.  I think we can create the change we want by doing certain things. 

For example: I have been thinking about creating an online bank for the purpose of the "Move Your Money" crowd.  The Move Your Money movement has a problem: where should people move their money?  Just because you move your money out of a TARP bank does not mean you are putting with a bank that is not just as dirty or not participating in the process by storing your funds in one of the TARP banks.  If there was a bank that guaranteed to its customers that it would not participate in the ponzi scheme by investing their funds or placing their funds in one of the larger money center banks; this would provide an easy choice for people wondering where to put their money and it would take one leg out from underneath the ponzi schemers.  This same concept could be applied to other areas in the financial arena as well as other sectors.

I believe there are ways to alter the dismal course that we are on.  I also think this is a perfect venue for discussing these ideas.

AnAnonymous's picture

To what avail? I dont understand the benefit of your idea.

What is it supposed to provide? An answer to a simple taste? or something else?

JR's picture

Hey, can’t we all just get along--our side with no political chips and the other side controlling the entire casino…?

Gully Foyle's picture

America lyrics

Puerto Rico
My heart's devotion
Let it sink back in the ocean
Always the hurricanes blowing
Always the population growing
And the money owing
And the sunlight streaming
And the natives steaming
I like the island Manhattan
Smoke on your pipe
And put that in!

I like to be in America
Okay by me in America
Everything free in America

For a small fee in America

Buying on credit is so nice

One look at us and they charge twice

I have my own washing machine

What will you have though to keep clean?

Skyscrapers bloom in America

Cadillacs zoom in America

Industry boom in America

Twelve in a room in America

Lots of new housing with more space

Lots of doors slaming in our face

I'll get a terrace apartment

Better get rid of your accent

Life can be bright in America

If you can fight in America

Life is all right in America

If you're all white in America

Here you are free and you have pride

Long as you stay on your own side

Free to be anything you choose

Free to wait tables and shine shoes

Everywhere grime in America
Organized crime in America
Terrible time in America

You forget I'm in America

I think I'll go back to San Juan

I know a boat you can get on

Everyone there will give big cheer!

Everyone there will have moved here

Ripped Chunk's picture

Please quantify the statement "fundamentals are improving" with verifiable statistics.

(hint: that would be ones not published by the government or any corporate owned media outlets)

Leo Kolivakis's picture

Are you serious? By the way, fundamentals improving doesn't mean I am a permabull. It just means that things aren't half as bad as you might think they are. No use arguing here, you will see.

Nihilarian's picture

By the way, fundamentals improving doesn't mean I am a permabull.


a) Define Fundamentals.

b) Using metrics in answer A, would you qualify American/World economy from 2004-2007 as in a state of improvement?

Ripped Chunk's picture

Like the March "jobs report"

I really liked last weeks job report where 99% of the jobs created were temporary census workers. 

Gully Foyle's picture

 Ripped Chunk 

I think he means shit like this

Rail Roads Are Running Out Of Spare Cars

This chart from Goldman Sachs shows how U.S. spare railroad capacity is dropping fast. Excess freight cars dropped to 23.8% of the total fleet in May. This is a substantial reduction in under capacity and another tangible sign of continued economic strength from the ground.

April saw a substantial decline as well, which means that so far Q2 U.S. activity is looking healthy from the perspective railroads.


And ignoring shit like this

More Than 1 In 5 American Children Are Now Living Below The Poverty Line


Perhaps the greatest victims of the economic nightmare that is unfolding right in front of our eyes are our children.

The overall economic numbers are really bad, but when you examine the impact that this economy is having on children things get really horrifying.  Today, 1 in 5 American children live in poverty and 1 in 4 American children are on food stamps.  Experts tell us that about 50 percent of all U.S. children will be on food stamps at some point before they reach the age of 18.  Up to half a million American children are homeless even as you read this.

And yet we continue to insist that we are the wealthiest nation in the world.  Well, if we are so wealthy, then why are so many millions of our children suffering so desperately? 

Part of the reason is because an increasing number of parents can't find work.  According to a U.S. Labor Department report, the average duration of unemployment in the United States hit 34.4 weeks in May, which was a big increase from 33 weeks during April.  To give you some perspective how incredibly bad that is, the average duration of unemployment was only 16.5 weeks in December 2007.

The truth is that when U.S. workers lose their jobs they are finding it exceedingly difficult to find new ones.

So is there much hope that things will turn around soon?In fact, 45.9% of those currently unemployed in America have been out of work longer than six months.  That is the highest percentage since the Labor Department began keeping track of this statistic back in 1948.

No, not really.

In fact, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says that unemployment is likely to remain "high for a while".

That means a lot of children are going to continue to suffer.

According to one shocking new study, 21 percent of all children in the United States are living below the poverty line in 2010. 

That means that more than 1 in 5 American children are now living in poverty.

That is a national disgrace.

Not only that, but the same report estimates that up to 500,000 children may currently be homeless in the United States.

Perhaps we should all think about that while we are enjoying our nice dinners tonight.

But most of us don't think that it is our job to do anything about it.  Most of us have been trained that it is the job of the government to fix people's problems.

We have created a monolithic welfare state and record numbers of Americans are now dependent on it.

In fact, for the first time ever, more than 40 million Americans are on food stamps.

40.2 million Americans received food stamps in March, which was a whopping 21 percent increase from a year earlier.

But it is bad enough that 1 out of every 8 Americans is on food stamps.  What is far more tragic is that one out of every four U.S. children is now on food stamps.  In fact, as mentioned previously, experts tell us that half of all U.S. children will be on food stamps at some point before they turn 18.

So is anyone still not convinced that the U.S. economic system is broken?

So who is doing well these days?

The wealthy.

In 2009, the number of millionaires in the United States rose 16 percent to 7.8 million.

Wall Street bonuses for 2009 were up 17 percent when compared with 2008.

The rich are getting richer as the poor are getting poorer.  According to the United Nations, the United States has the highest level of income inequality of all of the highly industrialized nations.

The poor are left with an increasingly smaller slice of the pie to divide among themselves.  In fact, those in the bottom 40 percent now collectively own less than 1 percent of the nation’s wealth.

But the truth is that as the U.S. economy continues to fall apart, we are all going to experience some very difficult times.

In particular, when the U.S. economy finally completely implodes, it is those who are almost entirely dependent on the "system" that will suffer the most pain.  The vast majority of Americans live month to month, don't grow any of their own food and could only last a couple of weeks on the food that they currently have in their homes.  So what will happen to those people when the system fails?

And in case you think that this kind of talk is fearmongering, perhaps you should start listening to what some of the top financial analysts around the world are saying. 

For example, Anthony Fry, the senior managing director at Evercore Partners, recently told CNBC that things are getting so bad out there that he is "considering investing in barbed wire and guns".

Yes, things are really getting that bad.

Years ago the old timers would warn us that someday we would see Americans standing in bread lines.

Well, today food stamps are the new bread lines, and 40 million Americans a month find themselves dependent on the U.S. government for the food that they need to survive.

If that doesn't send a chill down your spine perhaps you should check your pulse.

When a government has to feed 40 million people a month that means that the system is badly broken.

How many tens of millions of people have to be on food stamps before we can all agree that we are in a complete and total economic nightmare?

If you know of family or friends that are hurting, please consider helping them out.  The truth is that in the end we are all in this together.  The government is not going to save us.  The collapsing U.S. economy is not going to save us.  But if we all roll up our sleeves and work together perhaps we can make it through the difficult years that are coming.



DosZap's picture


"And yet we continue to insist that we are the wealthiest nation in the world.  Well, if we are so wealthy, then why are so many millions of our children suffering so desperately? "

WE don't the Gv't shills do..............

As for the food stamps, brother, we have 4th and 5th Generation Welfare fams, that have been/were mostly capable of some form of work.(Thank you LBJ).

Until this crap hit, and one of the main reasons for it, is what we are still seeing in D.C.,Politicans, and the WH, spending more fiat crap, to keep the jobless, and homeless from rising up.

Talk about 33 milion plus USED to be taxpayers, on up to 96 weeks of unemployment, and 40 million on foodstamps.....WHY?.


They have to keep the natives placated while they RUN their game...............when they get what they want (and closing fast on the goal),all this free shit will dissapear..................the take over will be complete.............the Republic will be dead.

WE will not like what takes it's place.............

There is no reason(wasn't for sure), for anyone to be underfed, or homeless,or with out a job of some kind,(that were able/wanted one) PRIOR to now.............

The reason we were, likely statistically still are considered the Worlds wealthiest nation, was/is based on income levels per capita, compared to the rest of the world.(that's a LOW bar).

When we have a nation of 300 million plus, and less than a 120 million paying taxes, who supports the rest?.

That's obvious.

But, I do agree with you, it's a damned shame, and a sin, and if your able(as I am sure 98% here are), help others who truly are in need.


 "In 2009, the number of millionaires in the United States rose 16 percent to 7.8 million."

MOST of these people are your next door neighbors, who worked their ass off, and were not in debt, and lived within their means, and saved....personaly I am damned glad they did, likely that fit's a lot on this site.

Playing by the rules, caring for your own, and exercising  prudent fiscal displine, home ownership, and no DEBT, caused one HANDED it to them/us.

Ripped Chunk's picture

My request was directed to Leo. I don't assume an answer will be forthcoming.

zaknick's picture

The Huffington Post is just another fascist rag which censors truth. I would know having been censored myself:


All I did was provide some documented insight to our smoke and mirrors politics and society.


DosZap's picture


+1000, she's a sell out bitch...............and her Blogspot is for no one except people that believe as she does NOW.

She's an Arlen Specter x's 10k.

BumpSkool's picture

PERFECT analogy!!! Arlen Specter! +100

Thoreau's picture

Is this part of your Third-World-no credit-stagflation-jobless recovery scenario?

Give us some real fundamentals that are not connected with increased gov't debt.

And the more you label us "idiots," the more folks drop off the let's-play-nice-with-Leo-even-though-we-disagree-with-him bandwagon.

Leo Kolivakis's picture

Most people are nice but other idiots are here just to insult and junk my every move. We are coming off a massive financial bubble that led to a full blown credit crisis, it's only normal that it will take time to repair the damage. A steep yield curve is allowing banks to print money, but more needs to be done to help the average Joe, not just the banksters. That's why I posted this.

RockyRacoon's picture

The most prescient statistical guide to the health of the U.S. economy is set to turn negative on Friday for the first time since early 2009, an event that is going to spook super-bulls and give comfort to super-bears.

But the keeper of the measure's flame says both sets of extreme views will be unwarranted, as it only means growth is about to slow noticeably -- not collapse.

The gauge is called the ECRI Weekly Leading Index, and for the past five decades it has been one of the few products of economic research that has risen above the level of tarot cards and necromancy.

While not considered mainstream due to its reliance on non-linear math to predict cycle turns rather than on regression formulas that extrapolate the past, the WLI has nevertheless forged an enviable reputation for accurately calling recessions and recoveries well in advance.

Rogerwilco's picture

"We are coming off a massive financial bubble that led to a full blown credit crisis, it's only normal that it will take time to repair the damage."

Coming off? No, we are making it larger with every passing second. The imbalances have been hidden, ignored, as policy makers find new ways to delay the inevitable. You are free to see this as "improving fundamentals", I see it as self-delusion.



Escapeclaws's picture

So Leo, what is your training in economics? Why should I put my money on your advice? What makes you so sure things are improving? Certainly quoting Huffington is not a persuasive way of establishing your bona fides. Instead of taking us for idiots that are only capable of responding to propaganda, why don't you lay some good quantitative arguments on us? Try to write for the highest common denominator--this is Zerohedge, after all.

BumpSkool's picture

I'll venture an answer to that: Leo + Arianna (nee Stassinopoulos) are both Greek - so they must be right. 

Canucklehead's picture

I don't think anyone is trying to sell you anything here.  I suspect no one gives a care who you are.  We are simply exchanging ideas like coffee-row-senators.

If you are not here to contribute, and you are not here to serve, why are you here?

aus_punter's picture

can you please give some examples of the cyclical fundamentals that are improving ? 

BumpSkool's picture

...and that repair you speak of is actually taking place??? Don't make me laugh ... there is NO REPAIR being performed. True "repair" would demand that banking system realize its bankruptcy ... damage is NOT being repaired... its being papered over and amplified... See you on the other end of $1.14 quadrillion in worthless OTC Derivatives and other paper assets.

akak's picture

Leo is nothing more than an officially-sanctioned troll.

Trying to respond logically and meaningfully to him will only result in silence or evasion.

Automatic "Junk" once again, Leo.

wyosteven's picture

Leo, the "average Joe" was burnt to a crisp decades ago by his boomer parents.

If the average joe were even in the conversation fraud street would be shut down immediately.   SEC would close it down until indictments are handed out.   Banking would be back to regional and honesty would be thrust upon every transaction.

Sadly we live in a world where failure is rewarded and the average joe is crucified.

I anticipate the utter and complete collapse of the American dream for the vast majority of boomers.   As a generation they will certainly get what greed and selfishness begets - no future for themselves or anyone else!

Demise of the middle class?  The only middle class the US has had is a fiat middle class, rich on paper but poor on principle. 

We've been a 3rd world country for decades.

The boomers retarded children (most of which poke you in the eyes, Leo) are indicative of boomer failure.   They will get to enjoy zero american dreams, no rights, no money, and couldn't find strong principle in themselves to save anything.