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Noam Chomsky on How the Military Is Bankrupting Us and Why Corporate Interests Want to Destroy Public Programs

Noam Chomsky discusses US military adventurism abroad and domestic economic catastrophe.

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I think my—I should say, first of all, that this latest jobs plan is one of the better things he’s done. I don’t think it goes anywhere near far enough, but at least it has elements that are going in the right direction. There was, when the—during the lame-duck session, the serious question was whether—what to do with the Bush tax cuts. The Bush tax cuts were carefully designed so that, at the beginning, everyone got a little, and you had a feeling taxes were being reduced. But they were designed so that, as the 10-year period ended, it was overwhelmingly going to the very rich. Now, the population is strongly opposed to that. You take a look at polls during the lame-duck session, when this was coming up: very strong support for increasing taxes for those with incomes over, say, quarter-million dollars a year. Well, Obama didn’t push that. If he had appealed to the public, they, I think, could have overcome the opposition of the financial institutions, you know, the Republican—the new Republican congressional delegation and so on. But he didn’t even try. And that should be done.

Now, the current proposal goes partially in that direction by indirectly increasing taxes through elimination of deductions. But the tax code simply has to be revised. It’s become highly regressive. In fact, the share of GDP, you know, national income by—of taxes, is probably lower than it’s ever been, far lower than 20 or 30 years ago, particularly for the rich. All of that should be adjusted. There is a stimulus in the program, which is a good idea, but it’s much too small. And the concentration on deficit reduction, when the serious problem is massive unemployment, I think that’s a very serious error. You can understand why the banks and insurance companies, and so on, like it, but it’s completely wrong for trying to extricate ourselves from quite a serious economic crisis. The deficit itself, if you want to take it seriously—I don’t think it’s the major issue, by any means. In fact, I don’t even think it’s a serious issue, at least in the short term. But if you do want to take it seriously, it’s pretty easy to trace it to the roots.

Dean Baker, very good economist, has done the calculations which show that if the United States had a healthcare program similar to other industrial countries, which is not a utopian dream, not only would there be no deficit, but there’d be a surplus. And the military budget is probably half the deficit. It’s way out of line with anything needed, certainly for any defensive purpose, but for any justifiable purpose. Ron Paul, who you heard before, was quite right about that. The U.S. is spending about as much as the rest of the world combined almost on military spending, technologically very advanced, new destructive techniques developing far beyond what any other country has. First of all, it shouldn’t be done, on principle, but it also ends up being harmful to us, essentially for the reasons that Paul mentioned. And very expensive of course. That plus the hopelessly dysfunctional healthcare system -- those are fundamental problems that have to be addressed.

Now, that could have been addressed. At the time of the healthcare reform, depending on how the question was asked, either the large plurality, often a majority, of the population was in favor of some form of national healthcare, which would be incomparably more efficient and more humane. But Obama just dropped that. The public option remained as a possibility. That was supported by, I think, maybe almost two-thirds of the population. Obama just dropped it. So, everything is in the hands of the insurance companies. We continue to have roughly twice the per capita healthcare costs of comparable countries, some of the poorest outcomes. And it’s the only large, almost unregulated, privatized system. Yes, it’s highly inefficient; it’s also very inhumane—not to speak of tens of thousands of people without insurance or many more with not enough insurance. Well, that can be changed. It should be changed. If it could, the deficit issues, such as they are—I think they’re secondary—would largely disappear.

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