Washington Post Book Club: Friedman, Ehrenreich, Singletary on the Financial Crisis
Many months ago, before there was a scintilla of evidence that the global economy would take the nosedive that it did, we at Book World decided to invite Thomas Friedman (The World Is Flat), Barbara Ehrenreich (Nickel and Dimed) and Michelle Singletary (Spend Well, Live Rich) to The Washington Post Book Club to talk about the financial state of the world.
Little did we know.
Three months ago (still no evidence of the current money rout) Ehrenreich stopped by to see us after taping a podcast about her new book and declared, "I've got a thing or two to say to Tom Friedman!," giving us a feisty look that told us we might get more than we'd bargained for.
And so, last week, when we finally gathered in The Post auditorium's green room, we feared we were in for a mud fight. Would Ehrenreich (This Land Is Their Land), who is famous for her working class defense, go up against Tom Friedman, who is famous for his "let's get beyond the class thing," and run full tilt into financial columnist Michelle Singletary, who just wants us to pay our bills and listen to Big Mama?
Minutes before the proceedings began, we suggested to our panelists that they might follow their presentations by asking each other pertinent and provocative questions. One of them said: "Okay, so we ask each other stuff until we work ourselves up into a fight, right?" It sounded dangerous, and kind of thrilling.
And yet, once the microphones were on, Barbara Ehrenreich spoke movingly about America's infuriating blindness to our poor. Tom Friedman (Hot, Flat, and Crowded) spoke rousingly about our crucial need to be as imaginative about ET (environmental technology) as we've been about IT (information technology). And Michelle Singletary implored us to do the three basic things every responsible citizen should do: pay what's owed, save the rest, and avoid credit like a bad disease.
So. There was no fight. There was not even a hint of conflict or hostility.
We heard from Ehrenreich about our urgent problems of class. We heard from Friedman about our urgent problems of the environment. We heard from Singletary about our urgent problems of personal responsibility. And the big news was: These are far more interconnected than we thought.
If such different thinkers and authors can agree that we're all in this financial thing together -- that there is much we can work cooperatively to fix, much we can still build -- why can't Wall Street? Why can't our legislators? Why can't our presidential candidates?
You tell me.
-- Marie Arana
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