Chomsky: Republicans Are Willing To Destroy Democracy To Retake Power

Noam Chomsky

Today’s Republican Party is an extremist force that no longer qualifies as a mainstream political party and is surely not interested in participating in “normal” politics. In fact, today’s GOP is so wrapped around extreme and irrational beliefs that even Europe’s far-right parties and movements, including Marine Le Pen’s National Rally, seem conventional in comparison.

The GOP’s political identity has been dramatically shaped by former President Donald Trump, but these recent shifts would not have been possible if there weren’t already an array of groups across U.S. society and culture (including white supremacists, right-wing Evangelical Christians and Second Amendment activists, to name just a few) that have long embraced extremist and “proto-fascist” views about the way the country should be governed and the values that it should hold. For them, Trump was and remains America’s “great white hope.” In this context, Trump’s voting base — which continues to believe in the idea of a stolen election and to support Trump-led GOP efforts to stamp critical race theory out of schools and restrict voting rights — speaks volumes about the anti-democratic and threatening nature of today’s GOP.

In the interview that follows, world-renowned scholar and activist Noam Chomsky explains what has happened to the Republican Party and why even more than democracy is at stake if the “proto-fascist” forces inspired by Trump return to power.

C.J. Polychroniou: Over the course of the past few decades, the Republican Party has gone through a series of ideological transformations — from traditional conservatism to reactionism and finally to what we may define as “proto-fascism” where the irrational has become the driving force. How do we explain what has happened to the GOP?

Noam Chomsky: Your term “neoliberal proto-fascism” seems to me quite an accurate characterization of the current Republican organization — I’m hesitant to call them a “Party” because that might suggest that they have some interest in participating honestly in normal parliamentary politics. More fitting, I think, is the judgment of American Enterprise Institute political analysts Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein that the modern Republican Party has transformed to a “radical insurgency” with disdain for democratic participation. That was before the Trump-McConnell hammer blows of the past few years, which drove the conclusion home more forcefully.

The term “neoliberal proto-fascism” captures well both the features of the current party and the distinction from the fascism of the past. The commitment to the most brutal form of neoliberalism is apparent in the legislative record, crucially the subordination of the party to private capital, the inverse of classic fascism. But the fascist symptoms are there, including extreme racism, violence, worship of the leader (sent by God, according to former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo), immersion in a world of “alternative facts” and a frenzy of irrationality. Also in other ways, such as the extraordinary efforts in Republican-run states to suppress teaching in schools that doesn’t conform to their white supremacist doctrines. Legislation is being enacted to ban instruction in “critical race theory,” the new demon, replacing Communism and Islamic terror as the plague of the modern age. “Critical race theory” is the scare-phrase used for the study of the systematic structural and cultural factors in the hideous 400-year history of slavery and enduring racist repression. Proper indoctrination in schools and universities must ban this heresy. What actually happened for 400 years and is very much alive today must be presented to students as a deviation from the real America, pure and innocent, much as in well-run totalitarian states.

What’s missing from “proto-fascism” is the ideology: state control of the social order, including the business classes, and party control of the state with the maximal leader in charge. That could change. German industry and finance at first thought they could use the Nazis as their instrument in beating down labor and the left while remaining in charge. They learned otherwise. The current split between the more traditional corporate leadership and the Trump-led party is suggestive of something similar, but only remotely. We are far from the conditions that led to Mussolini, Hitler, and their cohorts.

On the driving force of irrationality, the facts are inescapable and should be of deep concern. Though we can’t credit Trump entirely with the achievement, he certainly has shown great skill in carrying out a challenging assignment: implementing policies for the benefit of his primary constituency of great wealth and corporate power while conning the victims into worshipping him as their savior. That’s no mean achievement, and inducing an atmosphere of utter irrationality has been a primary instrument, a virtual prerequisite.

We should distinguish the voting base, now pretty much owned by Trump, from the political echelon (Congress) — and distinguish both from a more shadowy elite that really runs the Party, McConnell and associates.

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John O’Mill en de macaronische traditie

Er is een tijd geweest, lang vóór de Ryam- en de Beyoncé-agenda de klassen vrolijk kleurden, dat de agenda voor het nieuwe schooljaar door de school zelf werd verstrekt. Andere modellen waren uit den boze. Het waren dan ook saaie, grijzige notitieboekjes, zonder opsmuk.

De enige frivoliteit die de ontwerpers zich veroorloofden, waren korte, lichtvoetige versjes, gewoonlijk rechtsonder op de zaterdag. Populair waren bijvoorbeeld C. Buddingh’, Daan Zonderland en Kees Stip; volwassenen kunnen dankzij die saaie agenda’s vaak nog klassieke regels uit het hoofd reciteren als

Ik ben de blauwbilgorgel,
Mijn vader was een porgel,
Mijn moeder was een porulan

van Buddingh’, of

Er zijn hier heel wat maden bij
die made zijn in Germanij

van Kees Stip, in de gedaante van Trijntje Fop.

Favoriet waren de rijmpjes van John O’Mill, het pseudoniem van de Brabantse docent Engels Jan van der Meulen (1915-2005). Ze waren grappig, eenvoudig te onthouden en dus altijd makkelijk te citeren. Een voorbeeld:

Rot young
A terrible infant, called Peter
sprinkled his bed with a gheter.
His father got woost,
took hold of a cnoost
and gave him a pack on his meter.

Of

Drents adrift
A hot headed Drent in Ter Apel
who always ran too hard from staple
forsplintered his plate
when the waitress was late
and gave her a lell with the laple.

Ze verschenen, behalve in die sombere agenda’s, in kleine boekjes met olijke titels als Lyrical Laria of Rollicky Rhymes, Bonny Ballads, an O’Mill medley of Verse & Worse, Curious Couplets, in Waals en Koeterwaals of – de mooiste – Popsy Poems. Pre-Popsylated Poetry. Rispe Rijmen in Dutch and double Dutch.
(Korte taalles: double Dutch is Engels voor “onzin uitkramen”. Risp komt niet voor in het Nederlands en lijkt vooral door de dichter gekozen vanwege de mooie alliteratie met “rijmen”.

Pre-Popsylated wordt in een inleiding door de dichter zelf als volgt toegelicht: “All the verse in this bundle has been carefully and critically pre-popsylated by the author himself, so that any resemblance to art or poetry is purely accidental”. Het zal geen verbazing wekken, dat popsylated niet in de Engelse woordenschat voorkomt. Met wat goede wil kan nog gedacht worden aan een woordspeling met preposterous, volgens het woordenboek te vertalen met “ongerijmd”.)

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To Address Increasing Inequality And Global Poverty, We Must Cancel Debt

Éric Toussaint – Photo: cadtm.org

Massive debt levels are a feature of contemporary capitalism that cannot be eradicated without radical change, says political scientist Éric Toussaint.

“The indebtedness of the working classes is directly connected to the widening poverty gap and increasing inequality, and to the demolition of the welfare state that most governments have been working at since the 1980s,” says Toussaint in this exclusive interview for Truthout.

 

Toussaint — a historian and international spokesperson for the Committee for the Abolition of Illegitimate Debt (CADTM), and author of several books on debt, development and globalization — shares his thoughts on debt, inequality and contemporary socialist movements in the conversation that follows.

C.J. Polychroniou: Over the past few decades, inequality is rising in many countries around the world, both across the Global North and the Global South, creating what UN Chief António Guterres called in his foreword to the World Social Report 2020 “a deeply unequal global landscape.” Moreover, the top 1 percent of the population are the big winners in the globalized capitalist economy of the 21st century. Is inequality an inevitable development in the face of globalization, or the outcome of politics and policies at the level of individual countries?

Éric Toussaint: Rising inequality is not inevitable. Nevertheless, it is obvious that the explosion of inequality is consubstantial with the phase that the world capitalist system entered into in the 1970s. The evolution of inequality in the capitalist system is directly related to the balance of power between the fundamental social classes, between capital and labor. When I use the term “labor,” that means urban wage-earners as well as rural workers and small-scale farming producers.

The evolution of capitalism can be divided into broad periods according to the evolution of inequality and the social balance of power. Inequality increased between the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the first half of the 19th century and the policies implemented by the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt in the United States in the 1930s, and then decreased up to the early 1980s. In Europe, the turn towards lower inequality lagged 10 years behind the United States. It was not until the end of World War II and the final defeat of Nazism that inequality-reducing policies were put in place, whether in Western Europe or Moscow-led Eastern Europe. In the major economies of Latin America, there was a reduction in inequality from the 1930s to the 1970s, notably during the presidencies of Lázaro Cárdenas in Mexico and Juan D. Perón in Argentina. In the period from the 1930s to the 1970s, there were massive social struggles. In many capitalist countries, capital had to make concessions to labor in order to stabilize the system. In some cases, the radical nature of social struggles led to revolutions, as in China in 1949 and Cuba in 1959.

The return to policies that strongly aggravated inequality began in the 1970s in Latin America and part of Asia. From 1973 onward, the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet (advised by the “Chicago Boys,” the Chilean economists who had studied laissez-faire economics at the University of Chicago with Milton Friedman), the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines, and the dictatorships in Argentina and Uruguay are just a few examples of countries where neoliberal policies were first put into practice.

These neoliberal policies, which produced a sharp increase in inequality, became widespread from 1979 in Great Britain under Margaret Thatcher, from 1980 in the United States under the Reagan administration, from 1982 in Germany under the Kohl government, and in 1982-1983 in France after François Mitterrand’s turn to the right.

Inequality increased sharply with the capitalist restoration in the countries of the former Soviet bloc in Central and Eastern Europe. In China from the second half of the 1980s onward, the policies dictated by Deng Xiaoping also led to a gradual restoration of capitalism and a rise in inequality.

It is also quite clear that for the ideologues of the capitalist system and for many international organizations, a rise in inequality is a necessary condition for economic growth.

It should be noted that the World Bank does not consider a rising level of inequality as negative. Indeed, it adopts the theory developed in the 1950s by the economist Simon Kuznets, according to which a country whose economy takes off and progresses must necessarily go through a phase of increasing inequality. According to this dogma, inequality will start to fall as soon as the country has reached a higher threshold of development. It is a version of pie in the sky used by the ruling classes to placate the oppressed on whom they impose a life of suffering.

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Renske Visser – En zijn ogen kan ik lezen. Veertien negentiende eeuwse brieven uit Parijs, Den Haag en Domburg 1891 – 1894

Na de les stelde Thomas de koetsier voor een rijtoer door de stad te maken. We trokken een kleed over onze benen en in de beslotenheid van de koets begon hij te vertellen. Charcot had hem meegenomen naar een zaal waar zich zo’n dertig in donker kostuum geklede artsen bevonden. Hij moest vooraan plaatsnemen op een stoel. Charcot stond naast hem en gaf met welluidende stem een betoog over sclérose latérale amyotrophique. Hij noemde het een degeneratieve neurologische ziekte en herinnerde zijn gehoor eraan dat hij deze zeventien jaar geleden in 1874 voor het eerst beschreven had. Hij pakte Thomas’ arm en liet zien dat de verlamming gepaard ging met contracties. De spiermassa’s waren geatrofieerd, kwijnden weg. Omdat deze geen zenuwimpulsen meer ontvingen, maakten ze trillende bewegingen. 

Najaar 2021 verschijnt Renske Visser – En zijn ogen kan ik lezen. Veertien negentiende eeuwse brieven uit Parijs, Den Haag en Domburg 1891 – 1894
Rozenberg Publishers, Amsterdam, 2021

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Sustainable Peace Must End Israeli Apartheid. Anything Else Is Just A Ceasefire

Richard Falk

After four elections in less than two years, Benjamin Netanyahu’s record 12-year rule comes officially to an end on Sunday.
The government to replace him consists of a coalition of eight parties from across Israel’s political spectrum and will be led by the ultranationalist Naftali Bennett who will serve for the first two years.

Indeed, indicative of the direction of Israeli politics and society over the course of the last 15 years or so, the end of the corrupt and much-maligned Netanyahu reign may be no reason for celebration, as it will be replaced not simply by a coalition government built around numerous structural contradictions, but by one that may potentially prove to be far more reactionary and dangerous.

The situation is grave for Palestinians, who only a few weeks ago experienced under Netanyahu’s orders yet another massive assault on Gaza, which ended in the death of more than 200 people including dozens of children, and widespread damage to the enclave’s infrastructure. The person to replace Netanyahu as prime minister is a religious extremist who has been a vocal advocate of Israeli settlements and a fervent opponent of a Palestinian state.

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Interview With Peter Arno – Economics, Public Health, Aids And Covid-19

This is part of PERI’s economist interview series, hosted by C.J. Polychroniou.

 

C.J. Polychroniou: Why did you choose to become an economist, and focus on health policy?

Peter Arno: When I was in college in the 1970s I majored in economics because I felt it provided a useful perspective on how to view the world. I had always been interested in health issues and at that time I joined what was then called the Marxist Health Discussion Group, later renamed the East Coast Health Discussion Group. This group included a number of brilliant and inspirational thought leaders such as Vincente Navarro, Evan Stark, and David Kotelchuck, among others. Our irregular meetings over the course of a few years fueled my interest in health policy issues from a progressive, political economy perspective. I developed this perspective further while earning a doctorate in economics at the New School for Social Research, encouraged by my advisor David Gordon.

CJP: You have done an immense amount of research around the AIDS epidemic, which has resulted in hundreds of academic articles and a Pulitzer Prize-nominated book titled Against the Odds: The Story of Aids Drug Development, Politics @ Profit. How did you come to focus on this important issue?

PA:Upon completion of my doctorate, I received a postdoctoral fellowship at the Institute for Health Policy Studies at the University of California, San Francisco. At the time (1984-86), the AIDS epidemic was exploding in San Francisco, and I had the opportunity to study its economic impact with Dr. Phil Lee, the director of the Institute. I continued my AIDS-related focus when I returned to New York and found that the shortcomings in the local, state, and federal responses to the epidemic reflected many of the shortcomings in American healthcare. In particular, the AIDS crisis illustrated an Achilles heel of American healthcare—if you become ill and lose your job, you frequently lose your health insurance. Thus, at the point when you need it most, you lose access to health care.

I can trace the genesis of my book project directly to an academic paper on the economic impact of early HIV intervention in JAMA. In it, I wrote what seemed to me an innocuous sentence to the effect that the price of AZT (the first drug approved for AIDS treatment) did not reflect the production or development costs of the drug. This led to a letter from Burroughs Wellcome (the drug’s manufacturer) threatening legal action if I did not provide them with all the documentation on the production and development costs of the drug. With the help of my oldest friend, a partner at a major law firm in New York, and California Congressman Henry Waxman, I pointed out to the company that they were in a better position to provide the public with their own production and development costs. Additionally, I said that if they had a problem with my JAMA article, they should write a letter to the editor. The company backed off, but it was this alarming incident that led me to decide to write a book examining the historical development of AZT and the role of activists in the struggle to speed up the federal response to the AIDS epidemic.

CJP: In that book, you showed that the fight against AIDS encountered all sort of obstacles, including uncoordinated government policy and an ill-equipped health care system to respond to a national emergency. Firstly, where do things stand today with regard to AIDS? Secondly, why does the role of the U.S. government continue to be limited in health care in comparison to many other advanced countries?

PA: The treatment of HIV disease has progressed in quantum leaps over the past 40 years. It is now generally considered a chronic illness that can be held in check with appropriate medications. There are also effective preventive medications known as PrEP Therapy. However, tens of thousands of Americans are still infected each year and, like health care in general, the disease burden falls disproportionately on people of color and the poor. Moreover, the stigma and the high price of HIV drugs, particularly the PrEP therapy sold as Truvada (approximately $2,000 per month), discourage more widespread use.

Public funding for health care in the US is larger than most people think, comprising nearly 60 percent of all health care consumed. The main difference between the US and other developed countries is that our health care system is designed to extract private profits with few constraints on the pricing of health care services or products, rather than considering health care to be a public good.

CJP: Are there lessons you have learned in the fight against AIDS for what to do and what not to do in our current fight against Covid-19?

PA: The paramount struggle in the early days of the AIDS epidemic parallels what we have faced with the Covid-19 pandemic: the lack of a coordinated federal response. Our nation has failed this lesson twice, with devastating consequences. Hopefully, we can ensure it will not do so again.

CJP: The coronavirus pandemic has brought to surface once again the shortcomings of the U.S. health care system. In that context, you advocate Medicare For All as the only choice. Can you please outline the symptoms of the dysfunctional U.S. health care system, and briefly explain what an ideal universal health plan would look like?

PA:A single payer Medicare for All program is not the only choice, but it is the best choice. Our current system, the most expensive in the world, is riddled with administrative waste, high prices and, perhaps worst of all, denies access to care to tens of millions of Americans. Under a single payer framework the relentless increase in health expenditures can be brought under control and health care made available to all Americans.

CJP: In a study you co-authored with Jeanette Wicks-Lim, it is argued that certain anti-poverty measures, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), can have a direct impact on health outcomes not simply on an individual level but across a geographic unit such as the neighborhood. How so, and, given that this study analyzed data only from New York City, would it be safe to conclude that anti-poverty policies such as the EITC can have more generalized effects on public health?

PA:The findings from our study—that increased income derived from the EITC improves certain health outcomes—has been underscored by dozens of other studies at the state and federal levels. Thus, it is highly likely that enhanced anti-poverty policies including the EITC have a positive impact on health outcomes.

Our ecological argument that a broad-based policy such as the EITC affects not only individuals but also the communities within which they live is based on the spillover affect of millions of dollars generated and then spent within these communities. As we stated, these spillover or multiplier effects occur “when EITC recipients spend their EITC dollars at neighborhood businesses. These EITC dollars then go into the paychecks of those businesses’ workers who, in turn, spend their earnings at other businesses (and thus, their dollars go into the paychecks of those businesses’ workers and so on), generating new rounds of increased spending. Thus, through the multiplier effect, EITC benefits can measurably improve the overall economic environment in low-income neighborhoods, not just the lives of EITC recipients.”

CJP: Are you optimistic about the prospects of the United States of America adopting eventually a system of universal health care? Do you think that our experiences with Covid-19 has affected the chances for the adoption of universal health care in the U.S.?

PA: I do believe that we will eventually join the rest of the developed world by adopting a universal health care system in the US. The timing however is unclear. Over the past few years there has been growing public support for transformational change of our health care delivery system. However, given the current political environment, this is more likely to happen first at the state level—e.g. New York or California. If one of these two big states were to implement a universal single payer plan, it would likely lead to a cascade of state efforts that should ultimately result in a national program. This is a process similar to what Canada went through to achieve its national universal health care system.

As millions of us get vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2, we will obtain a first-hand glimpse of what a single-payer, Medicare-for-All approach to health care might look like. This is because many of the features of a single-payer system are present in the vaccination program.

First, the vaccine’s development and the process of vaccination have characteristics that set it apart from the normal business of health care, which is based on costs and profits, consumer choice, and administration.

On the cost/profit side, vaccines have historically been the least profitable products for pharmaceutical companies. The development of this vaccine has been largely subsidized by the federal government. Several of the participating pharmaceutical companies have announced that they will not make profits from the vaccine during the pandemic. There are many benefits due to this single-payer feature including that none of us will have to pay at the point of care for the vaccine itself. Additionally, haggling with insurance companies should be greatly diminished.

When it comes to consumer choice, often heralded by defenders of our current health care structure, the only choice will be whether or not to get vaccinated and where to do so. And not can we afford to pay for it.

The driving force to vaccinate the American people en masse parallels that of Medicare for All: to provide universal, affordable healthcare to everyone. The primary goal of both the vaccination program and Medicare for All is the public good, not the extraction of private profit. One of the most significant outcomes of the pandemic may be increased political momentum for Medicare for All.

Peter S. Arno is a health economist, and a Distinguished Fellow at the City University of New York Institute for Health Equity. He is a member of the National Academy of Social Insurance and serves on the Board of Directors of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare Foundation. He was the founding director of the Center for Long Term Care Research & Policy and the doctoral program in health policy at New York Medical College and director of the Division of Public Health and Policy Research in the Department of Epidemiology and Population Health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center. He received his doctorate in economics at the New School for Social Research. His 1992 book, Against the Odds: The Story of AIDS Drug Development, Politics & Profits, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

Dr. Arno’s recent work includes studies on the impact of Social Security and the Earned Income Tax Credit on population health, food insecurity and the elderly; economics of caregiving; social and geographic determinants of obesity; and regulation and pricing practices of the pharmaceutical industry.

 

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