Arianna Huffington's new book "Third World America" (out this week) paints a bleak picture of the dismantling of the middle class. In it, she explains how and why the United States is allegedly becoming a third world nation. With respect to Arianna, I don't see the future as being so dismal.
Yes, we are in a financial crisis. Yes, plenty of families are struggling -- big time. And yes, more American kids are hungry and fewer are well-educated than in the last 50 years. But I also see the silver lining: Corporate America is becoming vibrant again, as we have entered the era of "compassionate capitalism." Companies now know that doing good not only benefits the needy, but also helps the bottom line. Savvy consumers are gravitating toward brands that promote social responsibility, and studies are showing that consumers tend to stay loyal to those brands.
Recently, I spoke with some executives at T.J. Maxx. The off-price retailer has teamed with Save the Children to make the back-to-school shopping season a philanthropic experience for parents this year. In an effort to promote green fundamentals, the company is selling reusable tote bags, and the total proceeds will go to Save the Children -- a veteran charity that operates in 14 states and focuses on education, literacy, nutrition and emergency response. (Last year, Save the Children helped 60,000 American kids.) In addition to the reusable shopping bags, T.J. Maxx has spearheaded a Facebook program, too: If you post an image of the shopping bag on your Facebook page, T.J. Maxx will donate a dollar to Save the Children.
Various celebrities at the Teen Choice Awards decorated bags that are being auctioned off right now on eBay. So: Is America becoming "third world"? My hunch is no -- not as long as compassionate capitalism replaces Wall Street greed. We have plenty of children in need in this country. It's up to us to become one giant village to mother them.