Arianna Huffington: Politicians are "Abandoning the Middle Class"

Arianna Huffington knows the title of her new book "Third World America: How Our Politicians Are Abandoning the Middle Class and Betraying the American Dream" is "jarring," but she says there needs to be a sense of urgency about the disappearing middle class.

In an interview with Bob Scheiffer on "Washington Unplugged" Monday, Huffington said the urgency Americans experienced to bail out Wall Street should be replicated to create jobs now.

"Upward mobility has been replaced by downward mobility," Huffington said. "We have a 100 million people right now who are doing less well than their parents were at their same age. Two-thirds of the American people now believe their children will not do as well as they are doing. The data are stunning."

In her new book Huffington doesn't point fingers at any one party but says "politicians are abandoning the middle class" and campaign finance reform has to be part of the solution. "Right now powerful public interests buy public policy," she said today.

"This is beyond left and right, everybody, even the richest Americans should want a thriving middle class," Huffington said to Schieffer. "Otherwise we become Mexico and Brazil with people living behind gates and the rest of the population in a state of anger and resentment. That's not America."

While opponents criticize the progress of the stimulus bill and comprehensive health care reform, Huffington says the Obama administration may not have accomplished enough, giving his foes the ammunition they need as November quickly approaches.

"The stimulus bill wasn't big enough, the health care bill isn't going to really kick in until 2014, so the solutions were inadequate to the magnitude of the problems," Huffington said. "As a result, the other side can easily demonize them and say they were in fact the problem."

Huffington told Schieffer it's up to "we the people" to turn around the economy. "We also need to take personal responsibility," she said. "Many Americans bought into this idea that you could have a shortcut to the American dream, no down payment, no proof of income for a mortgage."

Besides job creation, Huffington noted another way President Obama could "get his groove back" is with personnel changes. White House senior adviser David Axelrod will leave the White House to return to the campaign trail, and there is speculation that chief of staff Rahm Emanuel may run for mayor of Chicago -- and there may be more moves to come.

During the campaign, the president "appealed to what we can do," Huffington said, and while she still calls Obama "very eloquent and inspiring," she said Monday there was a "very real" enthusiasm gap.

Watch Washington Unplugged above also featuring CBS News Chief Political Consultant Marc Ambinder and CBS News Political Analyst John Dickerson with a look-ahead to the week in Washington. Plus; CBS News Chief Foreign Correspondent Lara Logan interviews journalist Lawrence Wright on his new film "My Trip to al-Qaeda."


Christine Delargy is an associate producer for CBSNews.com. You can read more of her posts here. For more of Washington Unplugged, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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