Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Noam Chomsky on Trump's First 75 Days & Much More

Excerpted from the full interview: 
AMY GOODMAN: So, why don’t we start, on this 75th day, by your assessment of what has happened in these first few months? 
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, I think it was captured pretty well by a Los Angeles Timeseditorial, which simply called it a "train wreck." But it’s very consistent, very systematic. Anything that can be of assistance to ordinary people, working people, middle-class people, people on the street—any such program has to be decimated. Anything that adds to wealth and power or that increases the use of force, that we carry forward. 
And it’s done with—there’s kind of a two-tiered system working—I presume, consciously, so systematic it’s hard to question. The Bannon-Trump team wants to make sure that they dominate the headlines. So, whatever they do, that’s what people look at, and one crazy thing after another, the assumption apparently being you’ll forget the old ones by the time the new ones come in. So, no one talks anymore about the 3 million illegal immigrants who voted for Clinton. That one, we’ve forgotten. We’re on to the next one, and we’ll go on to the next one. While this is going on in front, the Paul Ryan-style budgetary and planning operations are going on quietly in the back, ripping to shreds any element of government that can help people either today or tomorrow. That’s the point of the destruction of the environmental system. It’s not just the EPA which was slashed. Most of the environmental programs were actually in the Energy Department. Their research and activist programs were slashed very seriously. 
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what do you make in terms of—when you’re talking about decimation, clearly, one of the big failures was their inability to end Obamacare. Could you talk about the—what you’re seeing now as the potential in terms of the healthcare system in the country, what they will try to do and what the potential is there? 
NOAM CHOMSKY: Actually, there was a pretty interesting poll about it that came out a couple of days ago, simply asking people what they preferred. The Republican proposal was the lowest of the choices available. I think about 15 percent of the population were willing to accept it. Somewhat higher was the existing system, so-called Obamacare. And on that, it’s worth bearing in mind that a lot of people don’t know that Obamacare is the Affordable Care Act. So you have negative attitudes towards Obamacare, thanks to lots of propaganda, but more positive attitudes towards the Affordable Care Act, because of what people see. 
Most popular of all—over half—was the so-called public option, a government-guaranteed healthcare program, which is pretty remarkable because no one publicly advocates that. But it’s been a consistent polling result for decades, that when people are asked what they want, they say that’s their choice. And, in fact, that’s about the only proposal that makes any sense. The U.S. healthcare system is an international scandal. It’s roughly twice the per capita costs of comparable countries, and some of the worst outcomes, mainly because it’s privatized, extremely inefficient, bureaucratized, lots of bill paying, lots of officials, tons of money wasted, healthcare in the hands of profit-seeking institutions, which are not health institutions, of course. And for decades people have preferred what every other country has, in some fashion: either straight national healthcare or heavily government-regulated healthcare like, say, Switzerland. Sometimes the support is astonishingly high. So, in the late Reagan years, for example, about 70 percent of the population thought that guaranteed healthcare should be a constitutional guarantee, because it’s such an obvious desideratum. And about 40 percent thought it already was in the Constitution. The Constitution is just this holy collection of anything reasonable, so it must be there. 
But it just doesn’t matter what people think. When Obama put through his own program, I think support for the public option was almost two-thirds, but it was simply dismantled. When this is—occasionally, this is discussed in the press, New York Times, others. And they mention it. They say it’s a possibility, but it’s called politically impossible, which is correct, which means you can’t pass it through the pharmaceutical corporations and financial institutions. That’s politically possible in what’s called democracy. Sometimes they say "lacking political support," meaning from the institutions that really matter. There’s kind of this population on the side, but we can dismiss them, yeah. 
AMY GOODMAN: Do you think there could be a kind of "Nixon in China" moment with Trump? He has, in the past, expressed support for single payer. He’s extremely angry right now at the Freedom Caucus. He can’t decide which more—which are the villains in this more, the Freedom Caucus or the Democrats. He goes back and forth. Do you think he could sort of throw it all out? Or is it going to just go as we’re seeing in these past few days, where it looks like they’re going to revive it to what the Freedom—so-called Freedom Caucus wants? 
NOAM CHOMSKY: I think they’ll probably revise it. Trump is all over the place. You don’t know what he believes. He says almost anything that comes to his mind at 3:00 a.m. But the people who are really setting the policy in the background—essentially, the Ryan ultra-right Republicans—they understand what they’re doing. And they want to destroy the—any—the aspects of the healthcare system that are beneficial to the general public, that’s systematic policies. Probably what will happen is the kind of compromise that’s already being discussed, with states having the right to opt out of whatever the federal program is, which might satisfy the ultra-right Freedom Caucus, make it even worse than the current Republican proposal. 
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to turn to— 
NOAM CHOMSKY: Just today, incidentally, one—I think Kansas—turned down expansion of Medicaid. I mean, anything that’s going to help people in need has got to be wiped out. 
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Noam Chomsky, I’d like to ask you about something that’s been in the news a lot lately. Obviously, all the cable channels, that’s all they talk about these days, is the whole situation of Russia’s supposed intervention in American elections. For a country that’s intervened in so many governments and so many elections around the world, that’s kind of a strange topic. But I know you’ve referred to this as a joke. Could you give us your view on what’s happening and why there’s so much emphasis on this particular issue? 
NOAM CHOMSKY: It’s a pretty remarkable fact that—first of all, it is a joke. Half the world is cracking up in laughter. The United States doesn’t just interfere in elections. It overthrows governments it doesn’t like, institutes military dictatorships. Simply in the case of Russia alone—it’s the least of it—the U.S. government, under Clinton, intervened quite blatantly and openly, then tried to conceal it, to get their man Yeltsin in, in all sorts of ways. So, this, as I say, it’s considered—it’s turning the United States, again, into a laughingstock in the world.

Please go here for the full transcript and video interview: https://www.democracynow.org/2017/4/4/full_interview_noam_chomsky_on_democracy

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