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Chomsky: Is There Truth in Obama's Advertising?

In a fascinating speech, Chomsky warns, "Changes and progress very rarely are gifts from above. They come out of struggles from below."
 
 
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Let's begin with the elections. The word that the rolls off of everyone's tongue is historic. Historic election. And I agree with it. It was a historic election. To have a black family in the white house is a momentous achievement. In fact, it's historic in a broader sense. The two Democratic candidates were an African-American and a woman. Both remarkable achievements. We go back say 40 years, it would have been unthinkable. So something's happened to the country in 40 years. And what's happened to the country --  which is we're not supposed to mention --  is that there was extensive and very constructive activism in the 1960s, which had an aftermath. So the feminist movement, mostly developed in the 70s -- the solidarity movements of the 80's and on till today. And the activism did civilize the country. The country's a lot more civilized than it was 40 years ago and the historic achievements illustrate it. That's also a lesson for what's next.

What's next will depend on whether the same thing happens. Changes and progress very rarely are gifts from above. They come out of struggles from below. And the answer to what's next depends on people like you. Nobody else can answer it. It's not predictable. In some ways, the election -- the election was surprising in some respects.

Going back to my bad prediction, If the financial crisis hadn't taken place at the moment that it did, if it had been delayed a couple of months, I suspect that prediction would have been correct. But not speculating, one thing surprising about the election was that it wasn't a landslide. By the usual criteria, you would expect the opposition party to win in a landslide under conditions like the ones that exist today. The incumbent president for eight years was so unpopular that his own party couldn't mention his name and had to pretend to be opposing his policies. He presided over the worst record for ordinary people in post-war history, in terms of job growth, real wealth and so on. Just about everything the administration was touched just turned into a disaster. [The] country has reached the lowest level of standing in the world that it's ever had. The economy was tanking. Several recessions are going on. Not just the ones on the front pages, the financial recession. There's also a recession in the real economy. The productive economy, under circumstances and people know it. So 80% of the population say that the country's going in the wrong direction. About 80% say the government doesn't work to the benefit of the people, it works for the few and the special interests. A startling 94% complain that the government doesn't pay any attention to the public will, and on like that. Under conditions like that, you would expect a landslide to a opposition almost whoever they are. And there wasn't one.

So one might ask why wasn't there a landslide? That goes off in an interesting direction. And other respects the outcome was pretty familiar. So once again, the election was essentially bought. 9 out of 10 of the victors outspent their opponents. Obama of course outspent McCain. If you look at the -- and we don't have final records yet from the final results, but they're probably going to be pretty much like the preliminaries a couple of months ago. Which showed that both Obama and McCain were getting the bulk of their financing from the financial institutions and for Obama, law firms which means essentially lobbyists. That was about over a third a few months ago. But the final results will probably be the same. And there is a -- the distribution of funding has over time been a pretty good predictor of what policies will be like for those of you who are interested, there's very good scholarly work on this by Tom Ferguson in Umass Boston, what he calls the investment theory of politics. Which argues essentially that elections are moments when groups of investors coalesce and invest to control the state and has quite the substantial predictive success. Gives some suggestion as to what's likely to happen. So that part's familiar. The -- what the future is as I say, depends on people like you.

 
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