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Chomsky: Only a Massive Uprising Will Change Our Politics

Chomsky: "What has to be done is what's happening in Madison, or Tahrir Square. If there's mass popular opposition, any political leader is going to have to respond.

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For a large part, especially maybe the lower half of the population, they’re basically living in the Depression. Not quite. I mean, I’m old enough to remember the Depression. My family was mostly unemployed working class. It was objectively worse than now, if you count, you know, objective standards. On the other hand, it was hopeful. There was a sense that something is going to happen. You had a government which was doing things that helped the population, because they were under pressure. In fact, Roosevelt famously talked to the labor leaders and said, "Make me do this. You know, so you go have sit-down strikes and you protest and so on, then we’ll push this legislation through." Well, it happened. So you had WPA. You had—Social Security was coming in. There was a sense that we’re going to get out of this somehow. There was hope for the future. Now there isn’t. The industrial workforce is living in the Depression. Unemployment is at Depression levels.

And the jobs aren’t coming back, because policy is designed, by the man in charge of jobs for the Obama administration and others like him, to send production abroad. It’s cheaper. It’s more profitable for the banks and the management. Or to move from investment in production to investment in finance, which does nothing for the economy, probably harms it, but it is very profitable and has the nice feature that when it crashes, as it’s going to do, the taxpayer will come in and bail you out. It’s a great system. It’s a real racket. We will—the regulations are such so that we can take very risky transactions, make a lot of money, it’s going to crash, but no problem, there’s that nice taxpayer. They will come in and bail us out. We’ll be richer than before. And each time it gets worse than it was the last time. Now, this one is really bad. So whatever the growth figures show, for the population, that’s not happening, except for a small sector. So the numbers could be right, but that’s not what it means for people’s lives.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you quickly about Vermont. You have Madison, Wisconsin. You have all of Wisconsin now, Scott Walker saying they’ll break the unions, bring out the National Guard if the teachers and other union workers protest. In Vermont, the new governor, Peter Shumlin, has run on a platform of instituting single-payer healthcare immediately. And in January, a landmark measure was introduced to revoke the granting of personhood rights to U.S. corporations. The bill calls for a constitutional amendment declaring corporations are not persons under the laws of the United States. you live next door in Massachusetts. How significant is this whole movement?

NOAM CHOMSKY: The movement is significant, but of course it has to take root and spread. I mean, take, say, the personhood goes back a century, and it was not by law. No legislation saying corporations are persons. That was by court decisions, a series of court decisions over time which have given these fictitious legal entities—established by the state, incidentally, and protected by the state; they’re basically state-based organizations—giving these entities more and more rights. It was bitterly attacked by conservatives when—because it was a big attack on the classical liberal ideals a century ago. Citizens United, which you mentioned, is just the last state of it. So that’s quite right.

The other thing about single payer is extremely significant. I mean, you know, we’re supposed to be upset about the deficit. Whether we should be or not is another question. You should have a deficit in a recession. But let’s say we’re worried about the deficit. Where is the deficit coming from? About half of it is military spending, which is out of sight. You know, it’s as much as the rest of the world combined. It’s not for defense. In fact, it probably increases dangers to the United States. But it’s there. The other half is our totally dysfunctional healthcare system. I mean, it costs about twice as much per capita as comparable countries and doesn’t have—has pretty poor outcomes, plus 50 million uninsured and other scandals. And it’s the only privatized, virtually unregulated healthcare system. So costs are out of sight. Administrative costs are very high. You have profits. You have cherry picking, all sorts of things that cost money. That’s about half the deficit. In fact, if we had a healthcare system like comparable countries, we’d problably have a surplus.

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