Chomsky: Only a Massive Uprising Will Change Our Politics
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Well, if you look at the debate that’s going on—you know, you read New York Times, anybody—they say the big problem is entitlements. Entitlements means Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Well, Social Security is just pure lies. I mean, Social Security doesn’t even add to the deficit. It’s funded by payroll taxes. And furthermore, it’s in quite good shape for decades. So that’s just mentioned in order to try to destroy Social Security. Social Security does nothing for the wealthy. It’s a means of survival for working people and poorer people, so therefore let’s get rid of it. Also, Social Security is dangerous. Social Security is based on a principle which is frightening: namely, we care about each other. So, Social Security is based on the idea that you care if a disabled widow across town has food to eat, and you have to drive that out of people’s heads. They’re supposed to care only about themselves, not anybody else, like part of the reason for attacking unions. So you’ve got to get rid of Social Security, so therefore lie about it. But what about Medicare and Medicaid? It’s true, those expenses are going through the roof, and they’re going to tank the federal budget. But that’s because of the healthcare system. I mean, Medicare—
AMY GOODMAN: So, what could Obama do right now?
NOAM CHOMSKY: He could do what the population has wanted for years: put in a national healthcare system like every other industrial country has in one form or another. That was just given up during the healthcare—they didn’t talk about it. There was one last residue of it in the healthcare reform: namely, the public option. The public was in favor of that by I think about five to three or something, substantially. That was just given away, you know? We’ve got to make sure that the rich—financial institutions are richer and richer—insurance companies, in this case.
Same with pharmaceutical corporations. Drug prices in the United States are much higher than comparable countries, with one exception: Veterans Administration. Veterans Administration has reasonable prices, and there’s a reason. The government is allowed to bargain with pharmaceutical corporations for the VA, but not for the rest of the population. So, of course, the prices are out of sight. Well, yeah, the public has views on this, too. In fact, actually, it’s only one poll. It showed about 85 percent opposition. But it’s not even discussed.
So, yes, entitlements are a problem, but not the entitlements. What’s a problem is paying off the insurance companies and paying off Big Pharma. That’s a problem. And unless we do something about that, that problem is going to get worse and worse, and you’ll have a bigger and bigger deficit, plus the military. So what Vermont is doing is picking the right problem. But, you know, it’s a small state. What they can do depends on how—if we have a popular uprising like, say, Tunisia or Egypt or Bahrain, yeah, then you could get somewhere.
AMY GOODMAN: We just had this breaking news that the Obama administration is making a call to Bahrain to use restraint. I mean, again, we have the U.S. military base there. But did you ever think you’d see, Noam, in your lifetime, what we are seeing now in the Middle East, this rolling revolution?
NOAM CHOMSKY: No, not really. But then, I never expected to see what’s happened in Latin America for the past 10 years. Over the past 10—what’s happened in Latin America is very dramatic. There’s 500 years of history here. And this is the first time, since the Spanish and Portuguese conquerors came, that Latin America has started to take its fate into its own hands. They’ve kicked out all the American military bases. The countries are integrating. They’re beginning to deal with the absolute scandal, that’s internal to each country, a tiny sector of extreme wealth, Western-oriented—