Class mobility has forever been at the root of “The American Dream”. Really, this has been the dream of most people who have not found themselves gulping on the infamous silver spoon. Like the never quitting greyhound, futiley chasing a rabbit, democracy is dangled before the eyes of the poor and middle classes. It often seems so close, but then evaporates before it can be attained. To make it worse, those most desperate for it’s fruits seem to accept that the race itself is democracy.
The article below found on ALTERNET, by C.J. Polychroniou of Truthout, contains an interview with one of my favorites, Noam Chomsky (he should be a favorite of anyone believing in truth and democracy). Polychroniou asks Chomsky several questions related to the decline of the “US’s economy and its dysfunctional political system”. Here is my recap of these:
- Q1 – Do you view the United States as an archetypical capitalist economy: “Every time there is a crisis, the taxpayer is called on to bail out the banks and the major financial institutions. If you had a real capitalist economy in place, that would not be happening. Capitalists who made risky investments and failed would be wiped out. But the rich and powerful do not want a capitalist system. They want to be able to run the nanny state so when they are in trouble the taxpayer will bail them out. The conventional phrase is ‘too big to fail’.”
- Q2 – Is economic inequality in the contemporary capitalist era very different from what it was in other post-slavery periods of American history? “Inequality has always come from the wealthy … but the current period is extreme because inequality comes from super wealth. Literally, the top one-tenth of a percent are just super wealthy. This is not only extremely unjust in itself, but represents a development that has corrosive effects on democracy and on the vision of a decent society.”
- Q3 – What does all this mean in terms of the American Dream? Is it dead? “The ‘American Dream’ was all about class mobility. You were born poor, but could get out of poverty through hard work and provide a better future for your children … It’s all collapsed — and we shouldn’t have too many illusions about when it was partially real. Today social mobility in the US is below other rich societies.”
- Q4 – Is the US then a democracy in name only? “The US professes to be a democracy, but it has clearly become something of a plutocracy … let’s be clear … democracy means … the public influences policy and then the government carries out actions determined by the public. For the most part, the US government carries out actions that benefit corporate and financial interests … privileged and powerful sectors in society have never liked democracy … (it) places power in the hands of the population and takes it away from them (privileged) … (who) have always sought to find ways to limit power from being placed in the hands of the general population — and they are breaking no new ground in this regard.”
- Q5 – Since capitalism always leads in the end to concentration of wealth, doesn’t it follow that capitalism is antithetical to democracy? “Concentration of wealth leads naturally to concentration of power, which in turn translates to legislation favoring the interests of the rich and powerful and thereby increasing even further the concentration of power and wealth … (most of our political policies) are designed to increase the concentration of wealth and power. And that’s what we’ve been seeing during the neoliberal era. … the state is there to provide security and support to the interests of the privileged and powerful sectors in society while the rest of the population is left to experience the brutal reality of capitalism. Socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor.”
- Q6 – Regarding The American Dream … wasn’t the American Dream built at least partly on a myth? “American history, there’s been an ongoing clash between pressure for more freedom and democracy coming from below and efforts at elite control and domination from above … when you read the debates of the Constitutional Convention. As Madison said, a major concern of the political order has to be ‘to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority’. … (Aristotle) felt that democracy was the best. But he saw the same problem that Madison saw in a true democracy, which is that the poor might organize to take away the property of the rich. The solution that he (Aristotle) proposed, however, was something like a welfare state with the aim of reducing economic inequality. The other alternative, pursued by the ‘founding fathers,’ is to reduce democracy … The American Dream was always based partly in myth and partly in reality.”
- Q7 – After WWII … up to the mid-1970s, there was a movement in the US in the direction of a more egalitarian society and toward greater freedom, in spite of great resistance and oppression from the elite and various government agencies. What happened afterward? “The view that democracy had become too widespread, an enormous, concentrated, coordinated business offensive was begun to try to beat back the egalitarian efforts of the post-war era, which only intensified as time went on … A vicious cycle between concentrated capital and politics accelerated, while increasingly, wealth concentrated in the financial sector. Politicians, faced with the rising cost of campaigns, were driven ever deeper into the pockets of wealthy backers … throughout this period, we have a renewed form of class warfare directed by the business class against the working people and the poor, along with a conscious attempt to roll back the gains of the previous decades.”
- Q8 – Now that Trump is the president-elect, is the Bernie Sanders political revolution over? “That’s up to us and others to determine. The Sanders ‘political revolution’ was quite a remarkable phenomenon … we should remember that the term “revolution” is somewhat misleading … (Sanders) policies would not have surprised Eisenhower very much. The fact that he’s considered ‘radical’ tells us how far the elite political spectrum has shifted to the right during the neoliberal period … There could, and should, also be efforts to develop a genuine independent left party, one that doesn’t just show up every four years but is working constantly at the grassroots, both at the electoral level (everything from school boards to town meetings to state legislatures and on up) and in all the other ways that can be pursued … the stakes are substantial, particularly when we turn attention to the two enormous shadows that hover over everything: nuclear war and environmental catastrophe, both ominous, demanding urgent action.”
Read the entire interview to get a more complete feel, but I think I summarized the heart of it. One of my passions, that I felt was left out, was the role of “Corporate Personhood” in enabling corporations and the wealthy to so effectively implement the agenda that began and has become the game plan since 1970. As long as the wealthy, through corporations, are able to glide unchecked, “We The People” have little chance.