Noam Chomsky talking:
I think it was captured pretty well by a Los Angeles Times editorial, which simply called it a “train wreck.” But it’s very consistent, very systematic. Anything that can be of assistance to ordinary people, working people, middle-class people, people on the street—any such program has to be decimated. Anything that adds to wealth and power or that increases the use of force, that we carry forward.
And it’s done with—there’s kind of a two-tiered system working—I presume, consciously, so systematic it’s hard to question. The Bannon-Trump team wants to make sure that they dominate the headlines. So, whatever they do, that’s what people look at, and one crazy thing after another, the assumption apparently being you’ll forget the old ones by the time the new ones come in. So, no one talks anymore about the 3 million illegal immigrants who voted for Clinton. That one, we’ve forgotten. We’re on to the next one, and we’ll go on to the next one. While this is going on in front, the Paul Ryan-style budgetary and planning operations are going on quietly in the back, ripping to shreds any element of government that can help people either today or tomorrow. That’s the point of the destruction of the environmental system. It’s not just the EPA which was slashed. Most of the environmental programs were actually in the Energy Department. Their research and activist programs were slashed very seriously.
– Privatized U.S. Healthcare Program is an “International Scandal”
Actually, there was a pretty interesting poll about it that came out a couple of days ago, simply asking people what they preferred. The Republican proposal was the lowest of the choices available. I think about 15 percent of the population were willing to accept it. Somewhat higher was the existing system, so-called Obamacare. And on that, it’s worth bearing in mind that a lot of people don’t know that Obamacare is the Affordable Care Act. So you have negative attitudes towards Obamacare, thanks to lots of propaganda, but more positive attitudes towards the Affordable Care Act, because of what people see.
Most popular of all—over half—was the so-called public option, a government-guaranteed healthcare program, which is pretty remarkable because no one publicly advocates that. But it’s been a consistent polling result for decades, that when people are asked what they want, they say that’s their choice. And, in fact, that’s about the only proposal that makes any sense. The U.S. healthcare system is an international scandal. It’s roughly twice the per capita costs of comparable countries, and some of the worst outcomes, mainly because it’s privatized, extremely inefficient, bureaucratized, lots of bill paying, lots of officials, tons of money wasted, healthcare in the hands of profit-seeking institutions, which are not health institutions, of course. And for decades people have preferred what every other country has, in some fashion: either straight national healthcare or heavily government-regulated healthcare like, say, Switzerland. Sometimes the support is astonishingly high. So, in the late Reagan years, for example, about 70 percent of the population thought that guaranteed healthcare should be a constitutional guarantee, because it’s such an obvious desideratum. And about 40 percent thought it already was in the Constitution. The Constitution is just this holy collection of anything reasonable, so it must be there.
But it just doesn’t matter what people think. When Obama put through his own program, I think support for the public option was almost two-thirds, but it was simply dismantled. When this is—occasionally, this is discussed in the press, New York Times, others. And they mention it. They say it’s a possibility, but it’s called politically impossible, which is correct, which means you can’t pass it through the pharmaceutical corporations and financial institutions. That’s politically possible in what’s called democracy. Sometimes they say “lacking political support,” meaning from the institutions that really matter. There’s kind of this population on the side, but we can dismiss them, yeah.
Trump is all over the place. You don’t know what he believes. He says almost anything that comes to his mind at 3:00 a.m. But the people who are really setting the policy in the background—essentially, the Ryan ultra-right Republicans—they understand what they’re doing. And they want to destroy the—any—the aspects of the healthcare system that are beneficial to the general public, that’s systematic policies. Probably what will happen is the kind of compromise that’s already being discussed, with states having the right to opt out of whatever the federal program is, which might satisfy the ultra-right Freedom Caucus, make it even worse than the current Republican proposal.
Just today, incidentally, one—I think Kansas—turned down expansion of Medicaid. I mean, anything that’s going to help people in need has got to be wiped out.
– American government basically as in the service of the capitalist class
they’ve run it all the time. The simple measures, like campaign funding alone, simple measure like that, is a very close predictor, not only of electoral victory, but even of policies. That’s been true for a century. And if you take a look at the analysis of public attitude—a major topic in academic political science is comparing popular attitudes with public policy. It’s pretty straightforward. Public policy, you can see. Popular attitudes, we know a lot about from extensive polling. And the results are pretty startling. Turns out that about 70 percent of voters, which is maybe half the electorate—about 70 percent of voters are literally disenfranchised, the lower 70 percent on the income scale, meaning that their own representatives pay no attention to their—to their attitudes and preferences. If you move up the income scale, you get a little more correlation, more—a little more influence. The very top, which is probably a fraction of 1 percent, if you could get the data, it’s where policy is set. Now, the Trump administration is kind of a caricature of this. It’s always pretty much true. But here they’re—it’s as if they’re kind of purposely trying to flaunt the fact that this country is run by Goldman Sachs and billionaires, and nobody else counts.
Wilbur Ross, Betsy DeVos, all of them. I mean, it’s almost like a shocking parody, as if they’re trying to show, “Yeah, what we all know is true is dramatically true, and we’re going to show it to you.”
The interesting—an interesting question, the one you raise, is: How are they maintaining support among the people they’re kicking in the face? That’s not uninteresting. And if you look into it, there’s a number of factors. One—first of all, many of the Trump voters, white working-class voters, quite a few of them voted for Obama in 2008. You go back to the Obama campaign, the exciting words were “hope” and “change.” I don’t usually agree with Sarah Palin, but when she asked, “Where’s this hopey-changey stuff?” she wasn’t talking nonsense. It quickly became clear there’s no hope and there’s no change. And the working people were significantly disillusioned. You could see it right in Massachusetts, where—when Kennedy died, you know, the “liberal lion.” There was going to be a vote for—to replace him, 2010. Amazingly, a Republican won, in Democratic Massachusetts, Kennedy’s seat. And union voters didn’t vote for the Democrats. They were very upset by the fact that they had been cheated, they felt, rightly, by the Obama campaign of promises. And they turned to their bitter class enemy, who at least talks the words. The Republicans have mastered the technique of talking words as if you’re sort of an ordinary guy, you know, kind of guy you’d meet in a bar, that sort of thing. It goes back to Reagan and his jellybeans, and Bush, you know, mispronouncing words, and so on and so forth. It’s a game that’s played. And it’s a con game. But in the absence of any opposition, it works.
And what happens when there is an opposition? That’s very striking. The most astonishing fact about the last election, which is the Sanders achievements, that’s a break from a century of American political history. As I said, you can pretty well predict electoral outcomes simply by campaign funding alone. There’s other factors that intensify it. Here comes Sanders, somebody nobody ever heard of. No support from the wealthy, no support from corporations. The media ignored or disparaged him. He even used a scare word, “socialist.” Came from nowhere. He would have won the Democratic Party nomination if it hadn’t been for the shenanigans of the Obama-Clinton party managers who kept him out. Might have been president. From nothing. That’s an incredible break. It shows what can happen when policies are proposed that do meet the general, just concerns of much of the population.
there was a Fox News poll, couple of days ago—Fox News—asking who’s the—trying to ask who’s your favorite political figure. Sanders was way ahead, far ahead of anybody else, with no vocal, articulate support among the concentrations of power—media, corporations, elsewhere. In fact, if you look at policy preferences, you see something similar. We already mentioned the health issue. That’s—and on issue after issue, much of the public that is actually voting for their bitter class enemy, if you look at the policies, actually favor social democratic policies, even environmental policies.
– Russian Hacking Claims is Laughable
first of all, it is a joke. Half the world is cracking up in laughter. The United States doesn’t just interfere in elections. It overthrows governments it doesn’t like, institutes military dictatorships. Simply in the case of Russia alone—it’s the least of it—the U.S. government, under Clinton, intervened quite blatantly and openly, then tried to conceal it, to get their man Yeltsin in, in all sorts of ways. So, this, as I say, it’s considered—it’s turning the United States, again, into a laughingstock in the world.
So why are the Democrats focusing on this? In fact, why are they focusing so much attention on the one element of Trump’s programs which is fairly reasonable, the one ray of light in this gloom: trying to reduce tensions with Russia? That’s—the tensions on the Russian border are extremely serious. They could escalate to a major terminal war. Efforts to try to reduce them should be welcomed. Just a couple of days ago, the former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Jack Matlock, came out and said he just can’t believe that so much attention is being paid to apparent efforts by the incoming administration to establish connections with Russia. He said, “Sure, that’s just what they ought to be doing.”
So, meanwhile, this one topic is the primary locus of concern and critique, while, meanwhile, the policies are proceeding step by step, which are extremely destructive and harmful. So, you know, yeah, maybe the Russians tried to interfere in the election. That’s not a major issue. Maybe the people in the Trump campaign were talking to the Russians. Well, OK, not a major point, certainly less than is being done constantly. And it is a kind of a paradox, I think, that the one issue that seems to inflame the Democratic opposition is the one thing that has some justification and reasonable aspects to it.
world-renowned political dissident, linguist and author. He is institute professor emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he has taught for more than 50 years. His new book comes out today, titled Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power.
— source democracynow.org