Whatever one thinks of Trump, he is a highly skilled politician, with a good sense of how to gain popular approval, even virtual worship in some circles. His job approval just passed 50 percent for the first time, according to the latest Zogby poll.
He certainly has taken control of the GOP, to quite a remarkable extent. Heâs been very successful with his two constituencies: the primary one, wealth and corporate power; and the voting base, relatively affluent fairly generally, including a large bloc of Christian evangelicals, rural whites, farmers, workers who have faith in his promises to bring back jobs, and a collection of others, some not too admirable.
Itâs clear why the primary constituency is mostly delighted. Corporate profits are booming. Wealth continues to be concentrated in very few hands. Trumpâs administration is lavishing them with gifts, including the tax bill, the main legislative achievement, across-the-board deregulation, and rapidly increasing fossil fuel production. He and McConnell â in many ways the evil genius of the administration â are packing the judiciary with reactionaries, guaranteeing the interests of the corporate sector and private wealth even after these âglory daysâ are past. They donât like his trade wars, which are causing disruption of global supply chains, but so far at least thatâs outweighed by his dedicated service to their welfare.
To keep the rest in line is sometimes easy, among them the Christian right, white supremacists, ultranationalists and xenophobes, and those in terror of âhordesâ of immigrants. It is easy to throw them occasional chunks of red meat. But sometimes maintaining their allegiance takes the kind of demagoguery at which he is expert. Thus many who are understandably aggrieved by the economic policies of the neoliberal years still seem to feel that heâs the one person standing up for them by shaking his fist at those they blame for taking away their jobs: immigrants and âthe scheming Chinese,â primarily.
Numerous press reports reveal how the scam works. Thus, in The New York Times, Patricia Cohen investigates the attitude of owners of large farms to Trumpâs trade wars, which sharply cut their exports to China and cause severe financial hardships. In general, she finds, they continue to support the president. âI get why heâs doing it,â her major informant says: âAmerica has been bulliedâ by China. And if the trade war persists through the 2020 election, âI would be OK with that.â Heâs sure that Trump will do everything possible to help. Furthermore, âIt makes me feel really good to hear Trump say farmers are important to this country. Thatâs what makes me want to stick with the president.â
Shaking a fist at the âYellow Perilâ and a little sweet talk carry the day, helped by $16 billion to compensate for export losses.
The gift is largely paid by a new hidden tax on the general public. Tariffs are in effect a tax on consumers (contrary to Trumpâs pretenses about China paying for them). The New York Fed estimates the cost to consumers at $1.6 billion annually, a tax of $831 for the average American household. Hence Trumpâs tariffs tax the general public to maintain the loyalty of a prime constituency. (...)
Edward S. Herman, an economist who collaborated with scholar and political activist Noam Chomsky on blistering critiques of U.S. foreign policy and the mass media, most influentially with their book “Manufacturing Consent,” died Nov. 11 at a hospital near his home in Penn Valley, Pa. He was 92.
Dr. Herman had bladder cancer, said his wife, Christine Abbott. The disease was not diagnosed until after his death.
An emeritus professor of finance at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, Dr. Herman was known as a soft-spoken, cat-loving pianist, fond of donning a T-shirt that read “Thank God for Mozart” during times of political tumult.
Yet his tenderness in person was belied by a ferocious rhetorical style in his prose, where he criticized “humanitarian wars” in Iraq and Vietnam, and lambasted mainstream media outlets. (...)
In brief, the Global War on Terror sledgehammer strategy has spread jihadi terror from a tiny corner of Afghanistan to much of the world, from Africa through the Levant and South Asia to Southeast Asia. It has also incited attacks in Europe and the United States. The invasion of Iraq made a substantial contribution to this process, much as intelligence agencies had predicted. Terrorism specialists Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank estimate that the Iraq War “generated a stunning sevenfold increase in the yearly rate of fatal jihadist attacks, amounting to literally hundreds of additional terrorist attacks and thousands of civilian lives lost; even when terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan is excluded, fatal attacks in the rest of the world have increased by more than one-third.” Other exercises have been similarly productive. (...)
(This piece, the first of two parts, is excerpted from Noam Chomsky’s new book, Who Rules the World? (Metropolitan Books). Part 2 will be posted on Tuesday morning.)
When we ask “Who rules the world?” we commonly adopt the standard convention that the actors in world affairs are states, primarily the great powers, and we consider their decisions and the relations among them. That is not wrong. But we would do well to keep in mind that this level of abstraction can also be highly misleading.
States of course have complex internal structures, and the choices and decisions of the political leadership are heavily influenced by internal concentrations of power, while the general population is often marginalized. That is true even for the more democratic societies, and obviously for others. We cannot gain a realistic understanding of who rules the world while ignoring the “masters of mankind,” as Adam Smith called them: in his day, the merchants and manufacturers of England; in ours, multinational conglomerates, huge financial institutions, retail empires, and the like. Still following Smith, it is also wise to attend to the “vile maxim” to which the “masters of mankind” are dedicated: “All for ourselves and nothing for other people” — a doctrine known otherwise as bitter and incessant class war, often one-sided, much to the detriment of the people of the home country and the world.
In the contemporary global order, the institutions of the masters hold enormous power, not only in the international arena but also within their home states, on which they rely to protect their power and to provide economic support by a wide variety of means. When we consider the role of the masters of mankind, we turn to such state policy priorities of the moment as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, one of the investor-rights agreements mislabeled “free-trade agreements” in propaganda and commentary. They are negotiated in secret, apart from the hundreds of corporate lawyers and lobbyists writing the crucial details. The intention is to have them adopted in good Stalinist style with “fast track” procedures designed to block discussion and allow only the choice of yes or no (hence yes). The designers regularly do quite well, not surprisingly. People are incidental, with the consequences one might anticipate. (...)
When the Swedish Academy awarded Bertrand Russell a Nobel Prize, the philosopher was uneasy. I have always supposed, he wrote, that one cannot be respectable without being wicked. He conducted his life out of step with the creed of authority. Twice imprisoned and twice removed from his academic post for his broadsides against war and religion, the aristocratic radical actively courted the displeasure of an elite that made his grandfather prime minister of England. And when, of late, it was disclosed that the CIA had spied on Noam Chomsky, it was not much of a revelation that he too is a prime target for the respectable.
An extensive literature has grown up over the years that pegs him as, variously, a Holocaust denier, a neo-Nazi fellow traveller, a Stalin admirer, a Hezbollah adviser, a Saddam Hussein defender, and a Pol Pot sympathiser. These indictments come not just from the remote wilds of the rightwing media. They come from liberal sectors of the press.
What accounts for the obsession? One has long suspected that his critics work in teams to revile him. But the full extent of their collusion has remained unclear. Documents that have come to light reveal that it is a tightly orchestrated network of foreign policy hawks in the press, academia, and politics, some connected with the Henry Jackson Society (HJS), a neoconservative think tank with links to political officials in the United States and Great Britain. The remarks that follow will trace the connections between the key figures of this circle, past and present. (...)
Noam Chomsky's new film "Requiem for the American Dream" is a clear-eyed, easily accessible outline of how and why American idealism has been sabotaged. Although he doesn't detail the dream, Chomsky sketches its promise of mobility, an expectation of progress toward a better life through some sort of democratic polity.
These documentary interviews, filmed over four years, suggest that the destruction of the dream is not a natural, inexorable occurrence, but the result of choices made by people operating within certain belief systems and for self-enrichment. Could the dream have been realized through different circumstances, different people making different choices?
Regarded by many as America's most influential intellectual, Noam Chomsky is also a great story teller. Without overwhelming the viewer or the material, he marshals data, example and anecdote, cutting through 250 years of history to distill ten basic principles of wealth and power which have conspired against the American Dream. More than anything, the film is a well organized, thoughtful look at these forces and their consequences.
This is not an exhortative polemic. Although Chomsky is not dispassionate, he is more saddened than outraged, more intent on finding cause than inciting action. Unlike fellow system critics like ubiquitous former Labor Secretary cum political reformist Robert Reich, Chomsky neither suggests, nor pleads for saving capitalism through economic reshuffling or revitalized bourgeois democratic elections.
Chomsky finds the roots of the Requiem in how the United States was originally set up. The U.S. Constitution put power in the hands of the wealthy. The Constitution was written to prevent, not promote, democracy. Concentrations of wealth resulted in concentrations of political power. The course of our history has been defined by the struggles of this wealth and political power against upsurges in democratization, most notably in the 1930s labor movement and the 1960s peace, civil rights and women's movements.
Power and wealth fought back against these popular movements by trying to shape ideology and manufacture consent. Elections are engineered. Attempts to regulate the economy are undermined. Solidarity of the American dreamers is attacked. As Chomsky has shown through earlier work ("Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media" with Edward S. Herman, 1988) control was extended beyond the use of force into the domain of culture by marketing compliance and marginalizing dissent.
Chomsky himself provides an example of the extent to which dissent is marginalized when he chooses to avoid mentioning by name the great sources of ideas which help us understand how power and wealth function: socialists like Gramsci, Lukacs or even the scholar of the British Museum himself. Rather than end his dissertation in despair, Chomsky offers elements of hope, if not exactly a well lit path to redemption. Popular movements, efforts to dismantle illegitimate authority, freedom of speech and new forms of political action all offer hope. He cites philosopher John Dewey's admonition that institutions should be under participatory democratic control. What matters, relates Chomsky quoting his friend Historian Howard Zinn, is the countless deeds of unknown people who lay the basis for the events of human history. Ultimately, learning how the world works will greatly aid in changing it. For his great contributions to the latter, particularly the summary given in "Requiem for the American Dream," Noam Chomsky has helped lay the foundations for understanding and ultimately change.