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Chomsky writes: "We don't use the term 'working class' here because it's a taboo term. You're supposed to say 'middle class,' because it helps diminish the understanding that there's a class war going on."

America's leading intellectual, Professor Noam Chomsky. (photo: MIT)
America's leading intellectual, Professor Noam Chomsky. (photo: MIT)


Business Elites Are Waging Brutal Class War in America

By Noam Chomsky, Zuccotti Park Press

24 November 13

 

The business classes are constantly fighting a bitter class war to improve their power and diminish opposition.

n article that recently came out inRolling Stone, titled “Gangster Bankers: Too Big to Jail,” by Matt Taibbi, asserts that the government is afraid to prosecute powerful bankers, such as those running HSBC. Taibbi says that there’s “an arrestable class and an unarrestable class.” What is your view on the current state of class war in the U.S.?

Well, there’s always a class war going on. The United States, to an unusual extent, is a business-run society, more so than others. The business classes are very class-conscious—they’re constantly fighting a bitter class war to improve their power and diminish opposition. Occasionally this is recognized.

We don’t use the term “working class” here because it’s a taboo term. You’re supposed to say “middle class,” because it helps diminish the understanding that there’s a class war going on.

It’s true that there was a one-sided class war, and that’s because the other side hadn’t chosen to participate, so the union leadership had for years pursued a policy of making a compact with the corporations, in which their workers, say the autoworkers—would get certain benefits like fairly decent wages, health benefits and so on. But it wouldn’t engage the general class structure. In fact, that’s one of the reasons why Canada has a national health program and the United States doesn’t. The same unions on the other side of the border were calling for health care for everybody. Here they were calling for health care for themselves and they got it. Of course, it’s a compact with corporations that the corporations can break anytime they want, and by the 1970s they were planning to break it and we’ve seen what has happened since.

This is just one part of a long and continuing class war against working people and the poor. It’s a war that is conducted by a highly class-conscious business leadership, and it’s one of the reasons for the unusual history of the U.S. labor movement. In the U.S., organized labor has been repeatedly and extensively crushed, and has endured a very violent history as compared with other countries.

In the late 19th century there was a major union organization, Knights of Labor, and also a radical populist movement based on farmers. It’s hard to believe, but it was based in Texas, and it was quite radical. They wanted their own banks, their own cooperatives, their own control over sales and commerce. It became a huge movement that spread over major farming areas.

The Farmers’ Alliance did try to link up with the Knights of Labor, which would have been a major class-based organization if it had succeeded. But the Knights of Labor were crushed by violence, and the Farmers’ Alliance was dismantled in other ways. As a result, one of the major popular democratic forces in American history was essentially dismantled. There are a lot of reasons for it, one of which was that the Civil War has never really ended. One effect of the Civil War was that the political parties that came out of it were sectarian parties, so the slogan was, “You vote where you shoot,” and that remains the case.

Take a look at the red states and the blue states in the last election: It’s the Civil War. They’ve changed party labels, but other than that, it’s the same: sectarian parties that are not class-based because divisions are along different lines. There are a lot of reasons for it.

The enormous benefits given to the very wealthy, the privileges for the very wealthy here, are way beyond those of other comparable societies and are part of the ongoing class war. Take a look at CEO salaries. CEOs are no more productive or brilliant here than they are in Europe, but the pay, bonuses, and enormous power they get here are out of sight. They’re probably a drain on the economy, and they become even more powerful when they are able to gain control of policy decisions.

That’s why we have a sequester over the deficit and not over jobs, which is what really matters to the population. But it doesn’t matter to the banks, so the heck with it. It also illustrates the consider- able shredding of the whole system of democracy. So, by now, they rank people by income level or wages roughly the same: The bottom 70 percent or so are virtually disenfranchised; they have almost no influence on policy, and as you move up the scale you get more influence. At the very top, you basically run the show.

A good topic to research, if possible, would be “why people don’t vote.” Nonvoting is very high, roughly 50 percent, even in presidential elections—much higher in others. The attitudes of people who don’t vote are studied. First of all, they mostly identify themselves as Democrats. And if you look at their attitudes, they are mostly Social Democratic. They want jobs, they want benefits, they want the government to be involved in social services and so on, but they don’t vote, partly, I suppose, because of the impediments to voting. It’s not a big secret. Republicans try really hard to prevent people from voting, because the more that people vote, the more trouble they are in. There are other reasons why people don’t vote. I suspect, but don’t know how to prove, that part of the reason people don’t vote is they just know their votes don’t make any difference, so why make the effort? So you end up with a kind of plutocracy in which the public opinion doesn’t matter much. It is not unlike other countries in this respect, but more extreme. All along, it’s more extreme. So yes, there is a constant class war going on.

The case of labor is crucial, because it is the base of organization of any popular opposition to the rule of capital, and so it has to be dismantled. There’s a tax on labor all the time. During the 1920s, the labor movement was virtually smashed by Wilson’s Red Scare and other things. In the 1930s, it reconstituted and was the driving force of the New Deal, with the CIO organizing and so on. By the late 1930s, the business classes were organizing to try to react to this. They began, but couldn’t do much during the war, because things were on hold, but immediately after the war it picked up with the Taft-Hartley Act and huge propaganda campaigns, which had massive effect. Over the years, the effort to undermine the unions and labor generally succeeded. By now, private-sector unionization is very low, partly because, since Reagan, government has pretty much told employers, “You know you can violate the laws, and we’re not going to do anything about it.” Under Clinton, NAFTA offered a method for employers to illegally undermine labor organizing by threatening to move enterprises to Mexico. A number of illegal operations by employers shot up at that time. What’s left are private-sector unions, and they’re under bipartisan attack.

They’ve been protected somewhat because the federal laws did function for the public-sector unions, but now they’re under bipartisan attack. When Obama declares a pay freeze for federal workers, that’s actually a tax on federal workers. It comes to the same thing, and, of course, this is right at the time we say that we can’t raise taxes on the very rich. Take the last tax agreement where the Republicans claimed, “We already gave up tax increases.” Take a look at what happened. Raising the payroll tax, which is a tax on working people, is much more of a tax increase than raising taxes on the super-rich, but that passed quietly because we don’t look at those things.

The same is happening across the board. There are major efforts being made to dismantle Social Security, the public schools, the post office—anything that benefits the population has to be dismantled. Efforts against the U.S. Postal Service are particularly surreal. I’m old enough to remember the Great Depression, a time when the country was quite poor but there were still postal deliveries. Today, post offices, Social Security, and public schools all have to be dismantled because they are seen as being based on a principle that is regarded as extremely dangerous.

If you care about other people, that’s now a very dangerous idea. If you care about other people, you might try to organize to undermine power and authority. That’s not going to happen if you care only about yourself. Maybe you can become rich, but you don’t care whether other people’s kids can go to school, or can afford food to eat, or things like that. In the United States, that’s called “libertarian” for some wild reason. I mean, it’s actually highly authoritarian, but that doctrine is extremely important for power systems as a way of atomizing and undermining the public.

That’s why unions had the slogan, “solidarity,” even though they may not have lived up to it. And that’s what really counts: solidarity, mutual aid, care for one another and so on. And it’s really important for power systems to undermine that ideologically, so huge efforts go into it. Even trying to stimulate consumerism is an effort to undermine it. Having a market society automatically carries with it an undermining of solidarity. For example, in the market system you have a choice: You can buy a Toyota or you can buy a Ford, but you can’t buy a subway because that’s not offered. Market systems don’t offer common goods; they offer private consumption. If you want a subway, you’re going to have to get together with other people and make a collective decision. Otherwise, it’s simply not an option within the market system, and as democracy is increasingly undermined, it’s less and less of an option within the public system. All of these things converge, and they’re all part of general class war.

Can you give some insight on how the labor movement could rebuild in the United States?

Well, it’s been done before. Each time labor has been attacked—and as I said, in the 1920s the labor movement was practically destroyed—popular efforts were able to reconstitute it. That can happen again. It’s not going to be easy. There are institutional barriers, ideological barriers, cultural barriers. One big problem is that the white working class has been pretty much abandoned by the political system. The Democrats don’t even try to organize them anymore. The Republicans claim to do it; they get most of the vote, but they do it on non-economic issues, on non-labor issues. They often try to mobilize them on the grounds of issues steeped in racism and sexism and so on, and here the liberal policies of the 1960s had a harmful effect because of some of the ways in which they were carried out. There are some pretty good studies of this. Take busing to integrate schools. In principle, it made some sense, if you wanted to try to overcome segregated schools. Obviously, it didn’t work. Schools are probably more segregated now for all kinds of reasons, but the way it was originally done undermined class solidarity.

For example, in Boston there was a program for integrating the schools through busing, but the way it worked was restricted to urban Boston, downtown Boston. So black kids were sent to the Irish neighborhoods and conversely, but the suburbs were left out. The suburbs are more affluent, professional and so on, so they were kind of out of it. Well, what happens when you send black kids into an Irish neighborhood? What happens when some Irish telephone linemen who have worked all their lives finally got enough money to buy small houses in a neighborhood where they want to send their kids to the local school and cheer for the local football team and have a community, and so on? All of a sudden, some of their kids are being sent out, and black kids are coming in. How do you think at least some of these guys will feel? At least some end up being racists. The suburbs are out of it, so they can cluck their tongues about how racist everyone is elsewhere, and that kind of pattern was carried out all over the country.

The same has been true of women’s rights. But when you have a working class that’s under real pressure, you know, people are going to say that rights are being undermined, that jobs are being under- mined. Maybe the one thing that the white working man can hang onto is that he runs his home? Now that that’s being taken away and nothing is being offered, he’s not part of the program of advancing women’s rights. That’s fine for college professors, but it has a different effect in working-class areas. It doesn’t have to be that way. It depends on how it’s done, and it was done in a way that simply undermined natural solidarity. There are a lot of factors that play into it, but by this point it’s going to be pretty hard to organize the working class on the grounds that should really concern them: common solidarity, common welfare.

In some ways, it shouldn’t be too hard, because these attitudes are really prized by most of the population. If you look at Tea Party members, the kind that say, “Get the government off my back, I want a small government” and so on, when their attitudes are studied, it turns out that they’re mostly social democratic. You know, people are human after all. So yes, you want more money for health, for help, for people who need it and so on and so forth, but “I don’t want the government, get that off my back” and related attitudes are tricky to overcome.

Some polls are pretty amazing. There was one conducted in the South right before the presidential elections. Just Southern whites, I think, were asked about the economic plans of the two candidates, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Southern whites said they preferred Romney’s plan, but when asked about its particular components, they opposed every one. Well, that’s the effect of good propaganda: getting people not to think in terms of their own interests, let alone the interest of communities and the class they’re part of. Overcoming that takes a lot of work. I don’t think it’s impossible, but it’s not going to happen easily.

In a recent article about the Magna Carta and the Charter of the Forest,*you discuss Henry Vane, who was beheaded for drafting a petition that called the people’s power “the original from whence all just power arises.” Would you agree the coordinated repression of Occupy was like the beheading of Vane?

Occupy hasn’t been treated nicely, but we shouldn’t exaggerate. Compared with the kind of repression that usually goes on, it wasn’t that severe. Just ask people who were part of the civil rights movement in the early 1960s, in the South, let’s say. It was incomparably worse, as was just showing up at anti-war demonstrations where people were getting maced and beaten and so on. Activist groups get repressed. Power systems don’t pat them on the head. Occupy was treated badly, but not off the spectrum—in fact, in some ways not as bad as others. I wouldn’t draw exaggerated comparisons. It’s not like beheading somebody who says, “Let’s have popular power.”

How does the Charter of the Forest relate to environmental and indigenous resistance to the Keystone XL pipeline?

A lot. The Charter of the Forest, which was half the Magna Carta, has more or less been forgotten. The forest didn’t just mean the woods. It meant common property, the source of food, fuel. It was a common possession, so it was cared for. The forests were cultivated in common and kept functioning, because they were part of people’s common possessions, their source of livelihood, and even a source of dignity. That slowly collapsed in England under the enclosure movements, the state efforts to shift to private ownership and control. In the United States it happened differently, but the privatization is similar. What you end up with is the widely held belief, now standard doctrine, that’s called “the tragedy of the commons” in Garrett Hardin’s phrase. According to this view, if things are held in common and aren’t privately owned, they’re going to be destroyed. His- tory shows the exact opposite: When things were held in common, they were preserved and maintained. But, according to the capitalist ethic, if things aren’t privately owned, they’re going to be ruined, and that’s “the tragedy of the commons.” So, therefore, you have to put everything under private control and take it away from the public, because the public is just going to destroy it.

Now, how does that relate to the environmental problem? Very significantly: the commons are the environment. When they’re a common possession—not owned, but everybody holds them together in a community—they’re preserved, sustained and cultivated for the next generation. If they’re privately owned, they’re going to be destroyed for profit; that’s what private owner- ship is, and that’s exactly what’s happening today.

What you say about the indigenous population is very striking. There’s a major problem that the whole species is facing. A likelihood of serious disaster may be not far off. We are approaching a kind of tipping point, where climate change becomes irreversible. It could be a couple of decades, maybe less, but the predictions are constantly being shown to be too conservative. It is a very serious danger; no sane person can doubt it. The whole species is facing a real threat for the first time in its history of serious disaster, and there are some people trying to do some- thing about it and there are others trying to make it worse. Who are they? Well, the ones who are trying to make it better are the pre-industrial societies, the pre-technological societies, the indigenous societies, the First Nations. All around the world, these are the communities that are trying to preserve the rights of nature.

The rich societies, like the United States and Canada, are acting in ways to bring about disaster as quickly as possible. That’s what it means, for example, when both political parties and the press talk enthusiastically about “a century of energy independence.” “Energy independence” doesn’t mean a damn thing, but put that aside. A century of “energy independence” means that we make sure that every bit of Earth’s fossil fuels comes out of the ground and we burn it. In societies that have large indigenous populations, like, for example, Ecuador, an oil producer, people are trying to get support for keeping the oil in the ground. They want funding so as to keep the oil where it ought to be. We, however, have to get everything out of the ground, including tar sands, then burn it, which makes things as bad as possible as quickly as possible. So you have this odd situation where the educated, “advanced” civilized people are trying to cut everyone’s throats as quickly as possible and the indigenous, less educated, poorer populations are trying to prevent the disaster. If somebody was watching this from Mars, they’d think this species was insane.

As far as a free, democracy-centered society, self- organization seems possible on small scales. Do you think it is possible on a larger scale and with human rights and quality of life as a standard, and if so, what community have you visited that seems closest to an example to what is possible?

Well, there are a lot of things that are possible. I have visited some examples that are pretty large scale, in fact, very large scale. Take Spain, which is in a huge economic crisis. But one part of Spain is doing okay—that’s the Mondragón col- lective. It’s a big conglomerate involving banks, industry, housing, all sorts of things. It’s worker owned, not worker managed, so partial industrial democracy, but it exists in a capitalist economy, so it’s doing all kinds of ugly things like exploiting foreign labor and so on. But economically and socially, it’s flourishing as compared with the rest of the society and other societies. It is very large, and that can be done anywhere. It certainly can be done here. In fact, there are tentative explorations of contacts between the Mondragón and the United Steelworkers, one of the more progressive unions, to think about developing comparable structures here, and it’s being done to an extent.

The one person who has written very well about this is Gar Alperovitz, who is involved in organizing work around enterprises in parts of the old Rust Belt, which are pretty successful and could be spread just as a cooperative could be spread. There are really no limits to it other than willingness to participate, and that is, as always, the problem. If you’re willing to adhere to the task and gauge yourself, there’s no limit.

Actually, there’s a famous sort of paradox posed by David Hume centuries ago. Hume is one of the founders of classical liberalism. He’s an important philosopher and a political philoso- pher. He said that if you take a look at societies around the world—any of them—power is in the hands of the governed, those who are being ruled. Hume asked, why don’t they use that power and overthrow the masters and take control? He says, the answer has to be that, in all societies, the most brutal, the most free, the governed can be controlled by control of opinion. If you can con trol their attitudes and beliefs and separate them from one another and so on, then they won’t rise up and overthrow you.

That does require a qualification. In the more brutal and repressive societies, controlling opinion is less important, because you can beat people with a stick. But as societies become more free, it becomes more of a problem, and we see that historically. The societies that develop the most expansive propaganda systems are also the most free societies.

The most extensive propaganda system in the world is the public relations industry, which developed in Britain and the United States. A century ago, dominant sectors recognized that enough freedom had been won by the population. They reasoned that it’s hard to control people by force, so they had to do it by turning the attitudes and opinions of the population with propaganda and other devices of separation and marginalization, and so on. Western powers have become highly skilled in this.

In the United States, the advertising and public relations industry is huge. Back in the more honest days, they called it propaganda. Now the term doesn’t sound nice, so it’s not used anymore, but it’s basically a huge propaganda system which is designed very extensively for quite specific purposes.

First of all, it has to undermine markets by trying to create irrational, uninformed consumers who will make irrational choices. That’s what advertising is about, the opposite of what a market is supposed to be, and anybody who turns on a television set can see that for themselves. It has to do with monopolization and product differentiation, all sorts of things, but the point is that you have to drive the population to irrational consumption, which does separate them from one another.

As I said, consumption is individual, so it’s not done as an act of solidarity—so you don’t have ads on television saying, “Let’s get together and build a mass transportation system.” Who’s going to fund that? The other thing they need to do is undermine democracy the same way, so they run campaigns, political campaigns mostly run by PR agents. It’s very clear what they have to do. They have to create uninformed voters who will make irrational decisions, and that’s what the campaigns are about. Billions of dollars go into it, and the idea is to shred democracy, restrict markets to service the rich, and make sure the power gets concentrated, that capital gets concentrated and the people are driven to irrational and self-destructive behavior. And it is self-destructive, often dramatically so. For example, one of the first achievements of the U.S. public relations system back in the 1920s was led, incidentally, by a figure honored by Wilson, Roosevelt and Kennedy—liberal progressive Edward Bernays.

His first great success was to induce women to smoke. In the 1920s, women didn’t smoke. So here’s this big population which was not buying cigarettes, so he paid young models to march down New York City’s Fifth Avenue holding cigarettes. His message to women was, “You want to be cool like a model? You should smoke a cigarette.” How many millions of corpses did that create? I’d hate to calculate it. But it was considered an enormous success. The same is true of the murderous character of corporate propaganda with tobacco, asbestos, lead, chemicals, vinyl chloride, across the board. It is just shocking, but PR is a very honored profession, and it does control people and undermine their options of working together. And so that’s Hume’s paradox, but people don’t have to submit to it. You can see through it and struggle against it.


 

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-170 # Penn 2013-11-24 22:42
What a pant load, The writer has to keep spreading class warfare to keep the ignorant parasites fighting against the successful in this nation. Otherwise, the poor would wake up and take responsibility for themselves and stop voting for the parasitic class of Democrats. How about this novel idea: The rich do NOT care about the poor because the rich are working to better themselves. Along the way, the rich are planning on their futures, their children's futures, and their grandchildren's futures; while the poor only care about themselves and this weekends parties and TV line up.

This writer just wants to reinforce the "victim of the rich" lie. Here's a hint: The poor do not have anything the rich want.
 
 
+19 # brux 2013-11-25 00:21
Who are your "successful" and what are they "successful" at?
 
 
+27 # Rita Walpole Ague 2013-11-25 07:54
My 'successful' is Noam Chomskey, and our other so intelligent, braver than brave truthtellers (a.k.a. prophets) like him, such as today's Uncle SAM's - Snowden, Assange, Manning and all who honor, support, protect them.
 
 
+18 # EverythingSolidMeltsIntoAir 2013-11-26 04:05
'This writer' is an internationally recognized scholar, and his overarching meta-narrative calls your bluff and forces you to confront the basic Marxist dialectic of a wealthy class exercising control over a poor class.

So which class are we in? Are we all temporarily embarrassed millionaires?

The so-called 'rich' do not work to better themselves. Their efforts to rig the system destroys their soul daily in a relentless and utterly abject process of increasing emptiness. Their children are similarly destroyed. Humanity and the earth are destroyed in the same process.

Divest now, Penn. Leave the so-called 'rich' to defend themselves, if it is ever possible to do so.

Value is produced by the class of laborers.

Writing computer programs to break up mortgages into securities does not produce value. These algorithms are not successful.

Culture is historically produced by the class of laborers. Good art is not born out of the removal of the estate tax, it would seem.

So who does more for humanity, culture, God and Country? People removing value to sequester it from circulation for their own private consumption? Or people that produce value via their labor?

Marx and Chomsky might like to know your insights.
 
 
+1 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2013-11-27 20:52
Penn is just a loser. Wny bother replying. If you do reply, he loves it.
 
 
+82 # WestWinds 2013-11-25 00:29
Part one of two:

Talk about "pant load"! In the first place, the real parasites are the rich. They want all the things the "poor" have paid for, like bridges, toll roads (eg NY Thruway), libraries, public parks, arenas and stadiums.

The rich take all the hard work of the working class, steal and hoard all the profits from it and expect the poor to go on and do it again for them. Those "ignorant parasites" are also graduates of top name schools like Harvard and Columbia. The only difference is that the poor parasites don't lie, cheat and steal to get rich.

The rich parasites will do ANYTHING to make themselves rich, even slitting the economic throats of every person around them. You said it in a nutshell: "The rich do NOT care about the poor because the rich are working to better themselves." Exactly. But what you fail to say is that their "work" is intellectually and morally corrupt. This is why they get involved with politics; take the time away from their businesses, because they buy off honesty, morals and ethics to put in place laws that slant the playing field in their favor like the latest redistricting debacle. And somehow you are around here touting this as some kind of honorable thing to do. The only difference between poor thieves and rich thieves is that the rich thieves are buying their way out of jail. (see part two below.)
 
 
+75 # WestWinds 2013-11-25 00:32
Part two of two:

Now, here's a REAL pants-on-fire lie: "The poor do not have anything the rich want." The poor have EVERYTHING the rich want, like labor and property (homes;being taken by crooked mortgages,) warm bodies to fill the ranks of their war machines, 401K monies, pension funds, all the money in our Social Security insurance fund, and a share in the commons like those bridges, parks and stadiums I mentioned above.

You're a big fat liar. Only these days, some of us know it. Beware the turning tides; we aren't done, yet, in fact, we haven't really begun!
 
 
-55 # MidwesTom 2013-11-25 07:57
[quote name="WestWinds "]Part one of two:

Talk about "pant load"! In the first place, the real parasites are the rich. They want all the things the "poor" have paid for, like bridges, toll roads (eg NY Thruway), libraries, public parks, arenas and stadiums.

Tou forget that only the upper 48% in income pay taxes, which are used to build the things you refer to.
 
 
+28 # Anarchist 23 2013-11-25 11:29
MidwesTom: It has been shown that the poor pay more in Payroll taxes than they do in income taxes while the rates on the rich have been so reduced that they play less than their employees! and their incomes have grown exponentially while the incomes of the lower 80% have grown hardly at all or for the lower 20 actually declined. The system works for some but for an ever growing number, it is becoming a third world economy!
 
 
+28 # NOMINAE 2013-11-25 12:32
Quoting MidwesTom:
[quote name="WestWinds"]

In the first place, the real parasites are the rich.....

Tou forget that only the upper 48% in income pay taxes, which are used to build the things you refer to.


First: This comment obviously uses the fantasy math offered by Mitt Romney's campaign geniuses. It was laughed away then, it remains equally hilarious now. 48% my a$$.

Second: Most people who do not pay income taxes (due to having too little income TO BE taxed), ARE STILL TAXPAYERS.

They pay gasoline taxes, they pay sales taxes on everything they ever buy, including, in many States, food itself. They pay hotel taxes. They pay restaurant taxes, they pay road taxes, some pay property taxes, they pay vehicle taxes, ad infinitum.

Only the childishly unsophisticated fall for B.S. insinuating that half of the country is "freeloading off of" the other half.

This is simply a very clumsy, and very transparent effort at the "divide and conquer" strategy employed BY those committed to stealing *all* the goodies.

These comments, then, echo the very propaganda machine that Chomsky describes above, and shares with that machine the same feeble-minded attempt to blame the poor for being poor.

Amazing is the number of people who can't see themselves in an article about people being controlled by other people via propaganda, and leading them to step on their own feet.

Thanks for the illuminating example.
 
 
+4 # bigkahuna671 2013-11-26 23:20
Actually, MidwesTom, while the upper 48% pay income taxes, everyone pays taxes. Sales taxes and gasoline taxes pay for most of our infrastructure, not income taxes. Income taxes pay for the police, fire, and other emergency services, as well as governance. Who benefits most from these? I'd say the rich who have the most to lose if there's a fire, catastrophe, or criminal activity. I don't think burglars could find much to steal in a working class home, but they'd find a lot in someone with a lot of bucks. Also, the bottom 52% also have to pay for their own Social Security and Medicare taxes, that's not something the rich give them. Further, the wealthy have bought the politicians who have created a tax structure that allows the wealthy a variety of tax breaks while at the same time reducing tax breaks for the rest of us to mortgage interest, a nearly invisible medical deduction, and a similarly nearly invisible charitable deduction. So don't go saying the upper 48% pays for things like bridges, toll roads, libraries, public parks, arenas, and stadiums. That's BS!!!
 
 
+14 # Cassandra2012 2013-11-25 13:25
When misguided public opinion honors what is despicable and despises what is honorable, punishes virtue and rewards vice, encourages what is harmful and discourages what is useful, applauds falsehood and smothers truth under indifference or insult, a nation turns its back on progress and can be restored only by the terrible lessons of catastrophe.
–Frederic Bastiat
 
 
+56 # Agricanto 2013-11-25 00:49
Ayn Rand redux from a vehement right winger who is the first to post on this thread. I am left to wonder about the legions of trolls who try to jam Noam Chomsky, Robert Reich, Krugman, Taibi, Cole, Hedges, and everyone else with a brain who is featured on RSN. They have a lot of time and resources to do that. Note the disapproves. Indeed we despise them. I will take a thousand Chomsky's over a single minute with a conservative or Ayn Rand acolyte any day.
 
 
+13 # NOMINAE 2013-11-25 12:49
Quoting Agricanto:
Ayn Rand redux from a vehement right winger who is the first to post on this thread. I am left to wonder about the legions of trolls who try to jam Noam Chomsky, Robert Reich, Krugman, Taibi, Cole, Hedges, and everyone else with a brain who is featured on RSN.....


Great comment ! And isn't it just *amazing* the way that such apparent trolls seem often to *BE* the first commenters in a string ? Almost as if they had a computer program that sets off an alarm to get them to the keyboard ?

And, number of "thumbs down" be damned, that's really how they measure their success. It irritates me to notice that their B.S. *does* have the effect (no doubt intended) of commandeering the entire discussion and dancing it down the road to irrelevance.

Notice the way that reaction to their inanity fills so much of the comment thread that we have very little commentary on the essence of the article itself, which in this case, was one of *the* most important articles that I, in recent memory, have read.

It annoys me that so many of "we the commenters" allow the trolls to rob us of so much of our own power by spinning our wheels in response to transparent B.S. that they likely don't even believe themselves, but for which they just enjoy (or get paid for) provoking responses which pre-empt discussion of the actual article.

An yet, the bilge is hard to allow to stand unchallenged.
Maybe we need an: "Ignore as B.S." icon for such posters.
 
 
+23 # hoodwinkednomore 2013-11-25 02:35
Put a sock in it, Penn. No one is taking your rant seriously. Get a life...
 
 
+11 # hd70642 2013-11-25 05:19
Speaking of Pant loads
Yeah I guess we are lucky silver spooned self inheritors can wipe their own behinds !!!. Yeah some wealthy folks do it on their own but most do not and say they do ! And constantly vilifying the poor , and just what they would do with out them .? Who would do the work the rich are far too lazy and too stupid to do themselves and fight the wars they start but are too cowardly and stupid to fight themselves ../??Selfish ness is not a virtue but are a lazy cowardly and retarded way of cruelty . It never fails when things go south the rich bastards are first to collect all those Draconian socialist benefits They never turn down government contracts or employment especially when it is some lucrative privatized swindle to bilk the tax payers
 
 
+21 # ericlipps 2013-11-25 05:24
Quoting Penn:
This writer just wants to reinforce the "victim of the rich" lie. Here's a hint: The poor do not have anything the rich want.

Because the rich have stolen it all already, and will do whatever it takes to keep it?
 
 
+10 # hd70642 2013-11-25 07:45
Current Conservatism in the end is a vile concoction of ass kissing the dominant players like some soulless reinfield and idle self worship and monetary masturbation (Gambling )and endless's self aggrandizement ! Bettering your at other peoples expense is like Walmart McDonalds or other sweat shop organization is not self sufficiency but exploitation , Folks that rely on cheap labor and have everything handed to them are not self starters . Most of small business people you claim to be allied with are put out of business by huge chain stores where they can fix both wages and prices and stifle and suffocate competition


http://www.the-peoples-forum.com/cgi-bin/readart.cgi?ArtNum=34945&Disp=1#C1
 
 
+5 # RMolineaux 2013-11-25 07:50
The working por, on average, do have something that the rich envy - happiness and a tranquil home and community life.
 
 
+6 # Kootenay Coyote 2013-11-25 10:49
Your 'successful' are the parasites (& predators). What do they contribute?

'The poor do not have anything the rich want.'

The rich want everything, even what's the poor's. For a very old story illustrating this from a fairly respectable source, see: II Samuel 12/1-12.
 
 
+3 # EverythingSolidMeltsIntoAir 2013-11-26 04:02
'This writer' is an internationally recognized scholar, and his overarching meta-narrative calls your bluff and forces you to confront the basic Marxist dialectic of a wealthy class exercising control over a poor class.

So which class are we in? Are we all temporarily embarrassed millionaires?

The so-called 'rich' do not work to better themselves. Their efforts to rig the system destroys their soul daily in a relentless and utterly abject process of increasing emptiness. Their children are similarly destroyed. Humanity and the earth are destroyed in the same process.

Divest now, Penn. Leave the so-called 'rich' to defend themselves, if it is ever possible to do so.

Value is produced by the class of laborers.

Writing computer programs to break up mortgages into securities does not produce value. These algorithms are not successful.

Culture is historically produced by the class of laborers. Good art is not born out of the removal of the estate tax, it would seem.

So who does more for humanity, culture, God and Country? People removing value to sequester it from circulation for their own private consumption? Or people that produce value via their labor?

Marx and Chomsky might like to know your insights.
 
 
+1 # neohip 2013-11-26 14:38
Quoting Penn:
What a pant load, The writer has to keep spreading class warfare to keep the ignorant parasites fighting against the successful in this nation. Otherwise, the poor would wake up and take responsibility for themselves and stop voting for the parasitic class of Democrats. How about this novel idea: The rich do NOT care about the poor because the rich are working to better themselves. Along the way, the rich are planning on their futures, their children's futures, and their grandchildren's futures; while the poor only care about themselves and this weekends parties and TV line up.

This writer just wants to reinforce the "victim of the rich" lie. Here's a hint: The poor do not have anything the rich want.


Because they stole it all and made the planet such a great place for their grandchildren to die. Thanks for looking out for us granddad!
 
 
+5 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2013-11-27 10:10
TO:PENN A comedian recently said, "never offer Ex-Lax to a man who has a cork up his butt. If you were offered Ex-Lax, you would explode. On the other hand, if the cork were somehow dislodged, you would be the first person to "send a cork to the moon." Being successful has as its cenral meaning, "mutual enrichment." I really doubt you as a sociopath would understand that meaning. All depressions and major recessions are engineered by the wealthy. The next time you see a bank evicting a family from their home due to predatory lending practices, ask yourself, "was the intent, mutual enrichment?" Or, drive past a grave yard. Ask yourself how many of those dead got there before their time because of the predatory practices of the Capitalistic (without mutual enrichmwent) health insurance industry which sell worthless polices, but do not sell health care. You are simply an uneducated American jackass redneck.
 
 
+3 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2013-11-27 10:12
You are the typical American redneck.
 
 
+4 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2013-11-27 10:28
TO:Penn
A book was published some time ago, "The Ugly American." No matter what country you may live in, you will always be referred to as the ugly socio-path.
 
 
+3 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2013-11-27 10:45
TO:Penn you are the typical "Ugly American."
 
 
+1 # Rita Walpole Ague 2013-11-27 13:24
Time you took off the blinders, Penn, and said bye bye to living in your La La Land.

Evil ain't nothin' new, and not caring about and for humans, be they poor, rich, and everything in between, is most certainly addicted greed and power over all evil.

Pride is the biggie of all evil, and greed certainly has weighed in also, since history of mankind began being recorded. Sorry, but you, Penn, are the one with a pant load. Think you may have set a record of highest ever negative/damnin g responses. Fool you are.
 
 
+46 # brux 2013-11-24 22:46
Americans are just so stupid to refuse to see what Chomsky correctly calls a brutal class war against them. Everyone is so stupid and programmed to think they are just above to loser class cutoff point or that in their life they will be allowed to enter the upper class, or they are just too stupid to think about it. That is how they get away with this, plus over and over and over again talking about how taking from the rich and giving from the poor is something that is both immoral and affects everyone.

My catchphrase for this is that "America treats billionaires like millionaires" ... meaning that working people these days if they work hard and are lucky can make it to millionaire status, and they think that they are taxes at the top rate, which they are, but the people who make those millions and more in one year are taxed at the same rate leading to the Mitt Romney 11% tax rate.

Americans have to wise up and demand why is theirs for the working class, but they also have to be kind and good enough to do it for the rest of the world too. We need to get rid of the Nazi upper 0.001% overlords who think they are gods instead of men and seek to prove it by ruling over the rest of us - only bringing about misery, poverty, war and death.
 
 
+13 # WestWinds 2013-11-25 00:39
Well said, brux! Very well said!!!
 
 
+11 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2013-11-25 11:11
When Pul Ryan states, "the poor don't need food stamps, they need Jesus," you begin to see, understand how brutal the class war fare is. And how some people corrupt the intent of the bible.
 
 
+6 # Anarchist 23 2013-11-25 11:31
Paul Ryan forgot that Jesus told the disciples "Feed my sheep"
 
 
-1 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2013-11-25 15:32
Please do not regard my comment as a put down. When I attended a major university, we had discussions on whether or not "to refer to the human race as sheep." Not a very bright animal. (Sorry sheep!) But, I do understand your point. We concluded that the bible was, in this instance, corrupted. Calling human beings sheep is not exactly a compliment.
 
 
+25 # brux 2013-11-24 22:51
> Occupy hasn’t been treated nicely, but we shouldn’t exaggerate. Compared with the kind of repression that usually goes on, it wasn’t that severe.

That's because compared to the people in the 60's and civil rights movement the Occupy Movement never got that much traction. Americans are nice and more moral in the 60's. Part of what keep Americans on the side of the elite is the idea that everything and everyone is corrupt and many think they will be admitted to the elite at some point or that the elite will not harm them and indeed works for them.

If the Occupy Movement made some progress I'd think we see targeted assassinations like we did in civil rights in the 60's. The military and the private sector have only gotten better at it.

The people have their work cut out for them, many of them think it works to just sign a few online petitions, go to work and shop on the weekends ... we need to be just as brutal in terms of our seriousness to impact the corporatocracy as they are in how they assassinated people in other countries, because that is what is about to happen here if we actually do get uppity.
 
 
+34 # wantrealdemocracy 2013-11-24 23:44
Where is the rage? The middle class is gone. We are all either in the top 1% or the 99% who are being screwed royaly. The bastards have sent the jobs 'off shore' (for slave labor wages) and this causes us to lose our homes, our children's chance for an education and our pensions. Now the corrupt government---no t one of our 'representative s' represent the 99%---they are all bought and paid for by the top pigs in the land. They are huring the people but also destroying the earth in their insane quest for ever more and more for themselves. So, here we are with 'austerity' and 'equester' which mean take from the people all we have worked for for generations. It is PAST time to meet this assult with rage! How can we sit by and not realise what is going on? Don't you get it yet? You are being attacked by the greedy few. We are many. They are few. Stand up and fight back. Your inertia will kill us all--and it won't take that much time. Wait till after the 'holiday' season when they want us to go further in debt. Scew them. Dont buy a damn thing. Make something yourself to show your love for family and friends. Don't squander what money you have for that bright colored shit that will only be good for a day or so. Black Friday is coming. The biggest shopping day of the year. STAY HOME!
 
 
+8 # brux 2013-11-25 00:17
We all were "agreed" to live under this system that is over 200 years old ... even though we know there has been tons of progress made since then, and none of us really had any choice. In accepting this BS social contract, we have accepted the status quo distribution of wealth and power, the same one that has been going on for over a thousand years more or less with many if not most of the same people/families . No one thinks they have a leg to stand on to demand change, and unless they want to face pain, guns, death and nasty people, they are probably right.
 
 
+20 # WestWinds 2013-11-25 00:45
And for pity sake, go HAVE A LOOK at the Green Party. It won't cost you a thing and you might just find what you are looking for. We have to stop supporting both arms of the same beast!

The Green Party does not accept ANY corporate contributions; NONE! They believe like you believe, in taking care of each other and the planet minus the insanity of the 1%. And, should the Green Party get in, they will put the corporations under regulation once again and close down the lid on Pandora's Box!
 
 
+2 # robcarter.vn 2013-11-24 23:49
Noam please note at first the middle class are shrinking faster than USA admit and there are few working class with well over 22% not working in fact Romney said 47% of workers don't work and those who do are bludging on automation.
 
 
+6 # robcarter.vn 2013-11-25 00:02
USA has numerous things askew, because they won't learn from former young brother British COMMONWEALTH... .. Is it Massachusetts understands that word not Republic of the Big "A" souls.

You mention " Canada has a national health program and the United States doesn't." so too Australia and UK, Singapore and Brunei another Monarchy.

You mention Unions colluding with Capitalist having destroyed their effectiveness. That's why we all don't use "Collective Bargaining system" we have labor courts of arbitration and real Union representatives in business, life and parliament party.
USA has only 50mn voting 100mn watching and abstaining, we have compulsory voting. USA has a stupid Senate election system we have proportional voting all count preferences and states have equal senate reps but population based representatives in the house. One watches people interest the other each State's different interests and governance over the whole.
Yanks are arrogant their "Excceptionalis m" they won't learn from anyone buy Harvard dollar school on how to get rich and influence people "Greed" is good makes more growth or some such rot.
 
 
+14 # WestWinds 2013-11-25 00:11
"An article that recently came out in Rolling Stone, titled “Gangster Bankers: Too Big to Jail,” by Matt Taibbi, asserts that the government is afraid to prosecute powerful bankers, such as those running HSBC. Taibbi says that there’s “an arrestable class and an unarrestable class.” What is your view on the current state of class war in the U.S.?"

--- Not only is this government afraid (DC speak for unwilling) to prosecute powerful banksters, but according to Richard Cordray, this government has hobbled his department from prosecuting ANY business or company caught up in nefarious doings and the buyer better beware that if they are snookered by any company for any reason, this government isn't going to do a damn thing about it; how very George W. Bush.

[Pssst. The crooks are running the hen house.]
 
 
+13 # brux 2013-11-25 00:20
The banisters have connections to assassins that are who knows where inside the system we all pay for and support and who can take it apart or use it for their own purposes anytime they want.

It's not less government we need, it's more government by the people of the people for the people ... or any government by the people of the people for the people.
 
 
0 # brux 2013-11-28 00:31
auto-correct banksters I meant to say, not banisters ;-)
 
 
+15 # kitster 2013-11-25 00:22
the problem with the rest of us is that we're too comfortable worrying about what team is going to the super bowl rather than who is robbing our boots and who is sending us off to fight unwinnable wars in crazystan. the true opiate of the people is stuff that the corporatists want us to buy on black friday so they can maintain their fenced-in community lifestyles and keep us in debt to the credit card companies. as long as we have stuff, who cares who has us by the short hairs? the people one paycheck away from poverty...which makes up 99% of the country...don't want freedom or democracy. we want stuff. and there you have it. stuff trumps sense every time.
 
 
+7 # Shorey13 2013-11-25 01:00
Just listen to Obama: all he ever talks about is the damned "middle class." Anybody know what that actually means? As Chomsky says, he can't talk about the "working class" (what there is left of it!) because that would be "class warfare." Today's NY TImes has a feature article about how careful Obama has been not to call his Healthcare reform "redistribution " because that would be called "class warfare" by the Republicans. Of course. Obama is now a charter member of the 1%. Coincidence? I think not.
 
 
+7 # WestWinds 2013-11-25 01:21
#Shorey 13:
"Obama is now a charter member of the 1%."

--- Exactly. And he always has been; even before he ran for president. Otherwise, Harry Reid never would have tapped him to run; Reid being a Corporate Demorat himself.
 
 
+13 # janie1893 2013-11-25 01:35
We are not at the tipping point. We are beyond it.the western world is on the verge of cataclysmic change, both environmentally and politically. The best we can do to cope with it is understand that it is going to happen and to educate ourselves and our families in methods of self-sufficienc y that we can utilize to sustain ourselves and our communities.
 
 
+14 # Patrice Ayme 2013-11-25 01:43
Propaganda has succeeded to make people believe, in the USA, that they are all potential billionaires. Stealing them of that hope, they view as a personal aggression. Also to realize that they have been naive to not realize they were led by the nose makes them hate those who brought this revelation.

These mechanisms supports the blindness Chomsky and many commenters point out.
 
 
+6 # Mrcead 2013-11-25 05:13
I ask again, what was the point of defeating Hitler and his raging Nazi's? It is as if the goal was not to stop Nazi Germany to preserve justice but to merely take it's place since they proved world domination was doable.
 
 
+2 # NOMINAE 2013-11-25 13:13
Quoting Mrcead:
I ask again, what was the point of defeating Hitler and his raging Nazi's? It is as if the goal was not to stop Nazi Germany to preserve justice but to merely take it's place since they proved world domination was doable.


It was Sunset on the British Empire. Succession had to be determined.

The "point" of defeating Hitler's Germany was that WE were determined to "rule the planet" - we were not going to accept German / Japanese, or later, Russian Rule.

Now we *are* the New Empire, and we are seeing that Empire, like any other false "good idea", is definitely a double-edged sword.

But I really don't know that many people who would trade what we have for German, Japanese, or Russian domination.

It's a House of Cards, and, fortunately we are now at a point where *all* Institutions of the Old Order are crumbling down to dust. From political, to religious, to economic institutions, they are all hitting the dirt from whence they arose. Look around. Try to find exceptions. Pretty challenging. We need not dismantle all of the old buildings that housed the old institutions, but the old practices are now clearly in the rear view mirror. That's why the 1% are frantic.

We are *now* in a new dynamic, but (in miniature) like being the village blacksmith back when the mass-produced automobile was first introduced to the country, our lives are now, and will continue, undergoing some very strenuous changes during the switch-over.
 
 
+15 # Charles3000 2013-11-25 05:52
I suggest reading this article more than one time to appreciate Chomsky's insight and ability to enunciate the features and problems in our society. His point about PR or more properly called propaganda, is and has been hugely successful in the USA. We are truly a brainwashed society. It is amazing how many obviously false things US citizens believe and support, all credits to the success of the US PR machines.
 
 
+4 # handmjones 2013-11-25 06:59
Surprised that Chomsky didn't refer to the predominance of Communists among our intellectual class during the period from the Russian Revolution through to the late fifties, including those fighting in Spain. These should have been our leaders to a more co-operative society but the anti-communist crusade ended that. As former colonies gained their freedom in the sixties they had a choice of support from the worst possible socialist country or the worst possible version of free enterprise. Now there is no choice.
 
 
+7 # fredboy 2013-11-25 08:51
The Vanderbilt MBA program shares a full-bore right wing Republican economics agenda. One student even said he was told "employees are nothing but expendable human capital. We owe them nothing." Amazing. But that what the MBA programs, aka the greed factories, spew.
 
 
+2 # Khidr 2013-11-25 11:44
The Achilles Tendon of all this lawlessness is 9/11. It gave a boost to all the lies, wars, breaking all domestic and international laws, bankster's corruptions, carpetbaggers, plain old looting and killings all over the world. Snatch natural resources from other countries, kill millions of people, pollute and frack the environment and nobody can stop them because Democracy is dead in the USA and other rich and greedy western nations. They are bloody, greedy crooks and nobody can stop them. Time for another social reformer who will kick the wicked Rich from Wall Street nad start another social revolution.
 
 
+2 # Cassandra2012 2013-11-25 13:35
Except that the ill treatment and exploitation of women is also evil. Crooks can steal more than land or money.
The war on women waged worldwide is repugnant and despicable.
'Honor' does not reside in a woman's PRIVATE parts.

'When misguided public opinion honors what is despicable and despises what is honorable, punishes virtue and rewards vice, encourages what is harmful and discourages what is useful, applauds falsehood and smothers truth under indifference or insult, a nation turns its back on progress and can be restored only by the terrible lessons of catastrophe.'
–Frederic Bastiat
 
 
+1 # bibi 2013-11-25 13:34
the so-called "upper class" have no class - just crass.
 
 
+1 # mainescorpio 2013-11-26 13:56
The poor, 99% of us, are in the twilight of our lives. Swallowing the propaganda that has been fed to us by the rich, we face an empty table, a dark night of a very bitter class struggle.

We will regurgitate our empty stomachs with a bile so vile it will threaten to throw up not only ourselves but the fragile planet on which we live.

Then and only then, comes the dawn of a new day... a table full delicacies we can now only just dream.

The struggle will be worth it my friends..our progeny will feast.
 
 
+2 # GreenBee 2013-11-26 14:34
"while the poor only care about themselves and this weekends parties and TV line up."
Penn

I am poor and I haven't watched TV for two decades at least, and I often work 60 hours a week. I got poisoned on the job, (Overuse of pesticides in excess of manufacturers labeling as witnessed by many of my coworkers- my employer fought my legal attempts to get Workers Comp and other the disability benefits.Co- workers would not come forward to testify in fear for their jobs) I now have neurological damage and can only do certain kinds of work. I started my own business from home which was just taking off, but the economy crashed and wrecked it.
Yes, there are deadbeats among the poor, but there is graft in every segment of the private sector, too. We don't throw away private insurance because there is a small percentage of people who engage in insurance fraud. Meanwhile my rates go up to pay for that as well as to rebuild the mansions of all the rich who choose to build in flood planes, hurricane prone beach fronts, California canyon ledge, etc.
 

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