Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Fundamental Difference In The Right and The Left of American Politics

It is an ancient political tactic - the claim a candidate will "bring the Nation back" to something it was but is no more.

I've heard it so often from those on the Right in the last few years, but they are so delusional about what our nation is and was that I have no idea (and neither do they) where or when they want to take anyone to, other than a ride to the polls so the candidate can get elected.

So let me offer a view from the Left, and let's dive deep into the Left

What I like is that the pair of them do not view America or the rest of the world through ludicrous, limited lens of Washington politics and the sputtering media outlets of television and radio.


In a few short sentences, Chomsky nails exactly the status and nature of the political battle in America in 2011:

" ... there’s a more subtle reason why they’re opposed to [Social Security] it, and I think it’s rather similar to the reason for the effort to pretty much dismantle the public education system. Social Security is based on a principle. It’s based on the principle that you care about other people. You care whether the widow across town, a disabled widow, is going to be able to have food to eat. And that’s a notion you have to drive out of people’s heads. The idea of solidarity, sympathy, mutual support, that’s doctrinally dangerous. The preferred doctrines are just care about yourself, don’t care about anyone else. That’s a very good way to trap and control people. And the very idea that we’re in it together, that we care about each other, that we have responsibility for one another, that’s sort of frightening to those who want a society which is dominated by power, authority, wealth, in which people are passive and obedient."

Here's a few more expanded comments from Chomsky on our economic issues-


"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 problem is—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 the—for trying to extricate ourselves from quite a serious economic crisis. The other things are unfortunately—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—has pointed out, 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—that plus the huge military budget. 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. If the military—I mean, 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. This is all—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. The—and very expensive, of course. That plus the hopelessly dysfunctional healthcare system, those are fundamental problems that have to be addressed."

---

On Social Security;

"Social Security is not in any crisis. I mean, the trust fund alone will fully pay benefits for, I think, another 30 years or so. And after that, taxes will give almost the same benefits. To worry about a possible problem 30 years from now, which can incidentally be fixed with little—a little bit of tampering here and there, as was done in 1983—to worry about that just makes absolutely no sense, unless you’re trying to destroy the program. It’s a very successful program. A large number people rely on it. It doesn’t pay munificently, but it at least keeps people alive, not just retired people, people with disabilities and others. Very low administrative costs, extremely efficient, and no burden on the deficit, doesn’t add to the deficit. The effort to try to present the Social Security program as if it’s a major problem, that’s just a hidden way of trying to undermine and destroy it.

Now, there has been a lot of opposition to it since—you know, since the 1930s, on the part of sectors of extreme wealth and privilege, especially financial capital. They don’t like it, for several reasons. One is the rich don’t barely—for them, it’s meaningless. Anyone with—you know, who’s had a fairly decent income, it’s a tiny addition to your retirement but doesn’t mean much. Another is, if the financial institutions and the insurance companies can get their hands on this huge financial resource—for example, if it’s privatized in some way or vouchers—I mean, that’s a huge bonanza. They’ll have trillions of dollars to play with, the banks, the investment firms and so on.

But I think, myself, that there’s a more subtle reason why they’re opposed to it, and I think it’s rather similar to the reason for the effort to pretty much dismantle the public education system. Social Security is based on a principle. It’s based on the principle that you care about other people. You care whether the widow across town, a disabled widow, is going to be able to have food to eat. And that’s a notion you have to drive out of people’s heads. The idea of solidarity, sympathy, mutual support, that’s doctrinally dangerous. The preferred doctrines are just care about yourself, don’t care about anyone else. That’s a very good way to trap and control people. And the very idea that we’re in it together, that we care about each other, that we have responsibility for one another, that’s sort of frightening to those who want a society which is dominated by power, authority, wealth, in which people are passive and obedient. And I suspect—I don’t know how to measure it exactly, but I think that that’s a considerable part of the drive on the part of small, privileged sectors to undermine a very efficient, very effective system on which a large part of the population relies, actually relies more than ever, because wealth, personal wealth, was very much tied up in the housing market. That was people’s personal wealth. Well, OK, that, quite predictably, totally collapsed. People aren’t destitute by the standards of, say, slums in India or southern Africa, but very—suffering severely. And they have nothing else to rely on, but what they—the, really, pittance that they’re getting from Social Security. To take that away would be just disastrous."

2 comments:

Mooney said...

Mr. Powell... on the subject of Social Security; You hit the head of that nail... It is perhaps one of the only programs designed 'by a committee' which actually works the way it was intended to. And if anyone would actually care to do the simple math, they would find that as long as this country holds a recession-rate at a ten-percent-or lower level (we are nearing a 3% inflation rate, as of this morning... ) the system will continue to fully fund itself ad infinitum. TPM

Joe Powell said...

Chomsky said it - not me!