- Dean Baker: Statement from Dean Baker on President Obama's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform
- Report: from "Citizens’ Commission on Jobs, Deficits and America’s Economic Future"
- Nader: Missing the Mark on Deficits
- Kuttner on DN!: Obama Deficit Commission Criticized for Proposals to Slash Social Security, Medicare
- Greenwald & Roberts: Fabricating Terror Through Entrapment
- Quigley, DN! & Chomsky on WikiLeaks & More
- Chomsky on Post-Midterm America (Video)
- Bill Maher on The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear (Video)
Statement from Dean Baker on President Obama's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform
Simpson-Bowles' Violation of Charter is Characteristic of Their Approach
[Both the Democratic co-chair, Erskine Bowles, a Wall Street insider, and Alan Simpson, Republican former Senator, are "conservatives" with agendas reflecting their social place and perspective.]
For Immediate Release: November 30, 2010
Contact: Alan Barber, (571) 306 2526
Washington, D.C.- CEPR co-director Dean Baker released the following statement today regarding the national Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform:
"The charter that created President Obama's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform explicitly states that: 'a vote on the approval of a final report is required not later than December 1, 2010.' Former Senator Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, the co-chairs of the commission, have now said they intend to directly violate the commission's charter by delaying a vote until Friday, December 3rd.
"This changing of the rules, which further reduces the time for Congress to consider any recommendations from the commission, is typical of a commission that was ill-conceived from the onset. The fundamental premise of the commission is that the country suffers from serious deficit problems that Congress is unable to address through its normal processes. This view does not correspond with the facts as can be easily shown.
"There has been no explosion of spending whatsoever. This is entirely an invention of those with their own agenda. The Congressional Budget Office shows that non-interest spending was 19.8 percent of GDP in 1980. Its analysis of President Obama's 2011 budget projects that non-interest spending will be 21.1 percent of spending in 2020. This means that in 40 years, spending other than interest will have increased by just 1.3 percentage points of GDP.
"Rather than being a cause for concern, the rise in the deficit in the downturn has been essential for sustaining demand in the economy. Annual demand in the private sector has fallen by more than $1.2 trillion as a result of the collapse of the bubbles in residential and non-residential real estate. This led to a plunge in construction and also consumption that was driven by housing bubble wealth. Remarkably, the co-chairs of the commission never seemed to have considered a tax on the financial sector as a source of revenue (a policy that is even recommended by the IMF), in spite of the fact that it was largely responsible for the current crisis.
"The projections of longer-term budget problems are almost entirely due to a projected explosion in health care costs. The United States already pays more than twice as much per person for its health care as other wealthy countries with the same or longer life expectancies. This ratio is projected to rise to three and four to one in the decades ahead.
"However, rather than honestly discuss the problems of the U.S. health care system, Simpson and Bowles have used the projections of exploding health care costs as an argument for gutting Medicare and Medicaid, leaving tens of millions at risk of not being able to afford health care.
"It is time to impose some honesty on the commission's co-chairs. Under the law, the report is due tomorrow. If they don't have a report on December 1, the commission will have violated it's own charter and Simpson and Bowles should look for another vehicle to pursue their agenda."
NEW RELEASE: Report Warns Austerity Will Block Recovery, Risk Recession. Launches Campaign on Real Causes of Deficit
Members of “Citizens’ Commission on Jobs, Deficits and America’s Economic Future” Demand Equal Media Coverage for Middle Class Economic Agenda, Growth Strategy for Deficits
For Immediate Release: November 30, 2010
Contact: Alan Barber, (571) 306-2526
Washington, D.C.- A new report from the Citizens’ Commission on Jobs, Deficits and America’s Economic Future demonstrates that the White House deficit commission proposals are “fundamentally misguided” and take the economic debate in the dangerous direction of austerity. The group of well-known experts and leaders of civic organizations released their own “Report and Recommendations of the Citizens’ Commission on Jobs, Deficits and America’s Economic Future,” on Tuesday, November 30.
The report, written by Jeff Madrick, a member of the commission and Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, with contributions from Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Roger Hickey, Robert Borosage and Richard Eskow of the Institute for America’s Future, Robert Kuttner of The American Prospect and Demos, and Robert Pollin of the Political Economy Research Institute, and additional work by other members of the commission.
The 36-page report contains a plan to maintain investments needed to speed up economic growth and produce jobs while lowering the federal deficit to a sustainable level in the long term. The report and links to related materials are posted at ourfuture.org/citizenscommission.
[From the Report:
"Much, if not most, of the current public discourse is misleading and poorly informed.
The federal deficit tripled between 2008 and 2009, reaching $1.5 trillion and 10 percent of GDP in 2009. This was the culmination of a process that began with the passage of the first Bush tax cuts, accelerated with the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, and peaked with the economic collapse of 2008. It therefore follows that any reasonable short-term plan should focus the causes of our current deficit. Yet most of the measures currently being debated fail to do so. Despite the role that tax cuts played in creating today's deficits, many such plans would lower taxes for the wealthiest Americans while increasing them for the middle class. They would also restrict government efforts to bring us out of our current economic crisis, weakening the economy and reducing future government revenues.
Future deficits will be driven almost exclusively by the explosive growth in health care costs. Those who advocate for increased austerity are failing to address true the causes of government spending. Furthermore, there is no evidence that implementing policies to reduce government deficit would increase private spending. As we note (see Appendix I), there is ample evidence that such spending cuts would create more unemployment, making a second recession possible and even likely." added by Chris]
The release of the paper coincides with the announcement of a nationwide campaign to oppose the job-killing, middle-class-devastating austerity measures proposed by Republicans in Congress, President Obama's deficit commission co-chairs, and perennial deficit hawks such as Peter G. Peterson, and some Democrats.
Published on Tuesday, November 30, 2010 by CommonDreams.org
Missing the Mark on Deficits
by Ralph Nader
The recent reports by the two deficit commissions -- one appointed by President Obama and the other from the private Bipartisan Policy Center -- do not lack specifics. In fact, they are so specific that they obscure the need for a more explicit public philosophy that reveals both their value biases and their establishment thinking.
The compositions of the two task forces clearly are designed to achieve a legislative consensus on Capitol Hill. There are self-styled centrists, moderates, conservatives and liberals. There are no paradigm-busters, few challengers of assumptions, no backgrounds from unorganized labor, elderly or youth activists. Even Trade Unions advocates are rare. About the only eyebrow raisers are provided by the relentlessly wise-cracking co-chair of Obama's Commission-former Wyoming Republican Senator, Alan K. Simpson.
It is true that both panels do include very modest cuts in the vast bloated military budget whose empire takes half of the entire federal government's discretionary spending (not including the insurance programs Medicare and Social Security). Already a tentative suggestion by the Commission's Co-Chairs to "save" $100 billion in the Pentagon budget by 2015 was called "catastrophic" by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates. The two reports make no mention of ending the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, or stopping contractor lobbies from bleeding the Pentagon dry, which would be a solid rejoinder to Gates.
That's the problem throughout these reports. They do not come to grips with the need for fundamental changes to expand the economy as if people matter first, to locate new revenues, launch long-overdue public works programs with their jobs throughout communities in America, and reduce the kind of deficits which are empty calories that create no real wealth, such as corporate welfare bailouts and giveaways.
For example, there is much reference to tax reform that rearranges tax rates. The private task force-chaired by Alice Rivlin and former Senator Pete Domenici (R- NM)-would eliminate special tax rates for capital gains and dividends. Fine. But why not also shift the incidence of some taxes from workers to a Wall Street tax or what may be called a tiny sales taxes on purchases of speculative derivatives, as well as stocks and bonds that economists Dean Baker and Robert Pollin say would raise several hundred billion dollars a year?
The Rivlin-Domenici report noted but did not recommend a carbon tax-another major revenue-raiser that would reduce pollution, greenhouse gases and advance solar energy and energy conservation. An added humane and economic benefit is that less coal burning would also save thousands of lives a year from air pollution, according to the EPA. Instead the Task Force proposed a sizable regressive national sales tax.
Under health care, both reports go for what they call medical malpractice reform. What they mean is not doing anything about the 100,000 Americans who die and many more sickened every year from hospital malpractice, not to mention adverse affects from drugs and hospital-clinic infections. No, by reform they mean cutting back on judicially-decided damages now being awarded to far less than the one-out-of-ten victims who even file a claim. Grotesque! A Business Week editorial years ago said the medical malpractice crisis is malpractice. Prevention is the way to save lives and money-a policy entirety ignored by the two commissions.
There is no mention in either report about ending notorious foreign corporate tax havens for U.S. companies that would bring in nearly $100 billion a year. And, remarkably, though some mention is made of tax compliance, they ignore the regular estimate by the Treasury Department of $300 billion a year in uncollected taxes.
Not surprisingly, the two establishment reports did not consider the enormous economic savings from adopting a single payer-full Medicare for all-health insurance system. (See: here)
Three other large areas were ignored. First is cracking down on corporate crime, including at least $250 billion dollars in annual health care billing fraud and abuse. (See: here). Both the fines, the disgorgement back to the defrauded and the deterrence to corporate crime amount to large sums of money.
Second, the commission-co-chairs and the task force avoided recommending the proper pricing of our commonwealth assets that are regularly given away free (eg. the public airwaves and hard rock minerals, such as gold and silver, on federal land) or at bargain basement fees (the national forest timber and other minerals).
Third, although both reports emphasize the need for economic growth (which produces more tax revenues to reduce red ink), there was no reference to revising global trade agreements that have left our country's huge trade deficits and its workers in dire straits. Keeping industries and jobs from moving to repressive regimes like China for reexport to the U.S. should not have been ignored. But then, look at the composition of these Task Forces and you'll see why.
Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His most recent book - and first novel - is, Only The Super-Rich Can Save Us. His most recent work of non-fiction is The Seventeen Traditions.
From Democracy Now!
Obama Deficit Commission Criticized for Proposals to Slash Social Security, Medicare
. . . .
ROBERT KUTTNER: Well, the only thing worse than the economics is the politics. The economics are totally perverse. Bowles talks about being on a path to an economic crisis. Of course, we’re in an economic crisis. We’re in a prolonged recession that bears more resemblance really to a depression. And you cannot get out of a depression by austerity. The idea that you should have an arbitrary set of cuts in the deficit at a time when you need more public spending is totally perverse. It’s the economics of Herbert Hoover. It’s the politics of the Republican right. And it’s one more indication of the capture of the Obama administration by Wall Street.
I mean, Erskine Bowles gets over $300,000 a year for attending a few meetings of Morgan Stanley, the investment bank, on whose board he sits, so he gets more money in board fees than 99 percent of Americans earn. And you’ve got three privately funded commissions by the Peterson Foundation, Pete Peterson, proposing the same stuff. It’s intended to create a drumbeat to carry out a wish list that has long been the goal of fiscal conservatives, that has nothing to do with this crisis. Social Security is in surplus for the next 27 years. So, the idea that you can somehow get the budget closer to balance by cutting Social Security is perverse. It’s politically insane.
And if the President had the kind of spine that we hoped he had when we elected him, he would be saying, "No way are we going to balance the budget on the backs of working people." Instead, I think the risk is that the President is going to embrace some version of this. And the hope is that the four progressives on the commission, three of whom have already said "no way," plus Max Baucus, the chair of the Senate Finance Committee who’s on the commission, will view this as a threat to his prerogatives as a Senate committee chairman. The best thing about this commission is that maybe it will deadlock.
. . . .
ROBERT KUTTNER: I think the problem is that the editorialists of this country—if you read this morning’s New York Times editorial—are saying, "Well, gee, anything that the left and the right don’t like must be pretty good." And that’s exactly wrong. I mean, this is a case where the so-called center just completely has it wrong. You cannot get out of a depression by having deeper cuts in spending. And I think if you look at the criticism of the Federal Reserve policy of buying treasuries because it doesn’t know what else to do, in the hope that that will lower interest rates and somehow stimulate recovery, the Fed is doing that as a last resort because Congress is opposed to increasing social investment. The only way you can really get out of a prolonged slump like this is to increase social investment in job creation, in the infrastructure, in the clean energy that the country needs. And yet that path seems to be blocked. And instead of fighting for some degree of public investment, Obama, who, after all, appointed this commission, is at risk of embracing at least some of its proposals.
So I think the only thing that’s going to block this—and we heard some of this from Rich Trumka—the progressive movement needs to put forward its own version of a budget that would cut defense spending, cut tax loopholes, insist on suspending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, and dramatically increase social investment, and explain to the American people why that’s a better route out of the real crisis that we’re in. There’s one resource I want to commend to all of your viewers and listeners. It’s a new website, ourfiscalfuture.org, which proposes a counter-strategy for getting the economy out of this mess. That’s a coalition of progressive think tanks—Demos, where I’m a fellow, Economic Policy Institute, Century Foundation. And we have a huge fight on our hands, because the other side is investing tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions, of dollars in a propaganda effort on behalf of austerity. It’s backed by Wall Street. And all we can do is try and argue that this whole set of proposals is bad economics and bad politics for the Obama administration and the Democrats. . . . .
And the other thing that’s deceptive is that at the same moment that the Republicans on the panel are proposing this deal, they’re also demanding that the Bush tax cuts from 2001, which expire at the end of this year, be extended not just for the 98 percent of Americans who make less than $250,000 a year, as President Obama proposes, but for very, very rich people. Now, continuing those tax cuts for very rich people would add almost a trillion dollars to the deficit over the next ten years, and yet the commission is treating that as absolutely untouchable, because there’s no way the Republicans would buy into that. So, you’re absolutely right. I mean, if we want to do something about the deficit in the long run—and we should not be doing anything about it in the short run. In the short run, with the economy in the condition that it’s in, we need more deficit spending, not less. But if we want to deal with the deficit in the long run, restore higher tax rates on the people who got us into this mess, who are still making an absolute killing and, unlike working people, who can afford to pay higher taxes.
Fabricating Terror Through Entrapment
From Democracy Now!
Somali-Born Man Pleads Not Guilty to Bomb Plot
In Oregon, the Somali-American man accused of trying to detonate a bomb at a crowded Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland has pleaded not guilty. Nineteen-year-old Mohamed Osman Mohamud was arrested Friday after an FBI sting operation. Lawyers for Mohamud suggested in court that the government may have manufactured a crime. Undercover FBI agents orchestrated much of the bomb plot—supplying Mohamud with money, providing materials to construct the fake bomb and blocking Mohamud from leaving the Portland area to take a job in Alaska. Attorney Stephen Sady accused FBI agents of “basically grooming the individual” to commit a crime. In Washington, Attorney General Eric Holder denied that Mohamud was a victim of entrapment.
SUNDAY, NOV 28, 2010 06:29 ET
The FBI successfully thwarts its own Terrorist plot
BY GLENN GREENWALD (Salon.com)
The FBI is obviously quite pleased with itself over its arrest of a 19-year-old Somali-American, Mohamed Osman Mohamud, who -- with months of encouragement, support and money from the FBI's own undercover agents -- allegedly attempted to detonate a bomb at a crowded Christmas event in Portland, Oregon. Media accounts are almost uniformly trumpeting this event exactly as the FBI describes it. Loyalists of both parties are doing the same, with Democratic Party commentators proclaiming that this proves how great and effective Democrats are at stopping The Evil Terrorists, while right-wing polemicists point to this arrest as yet more proof that those menacing Muslims sure are violent and dangerous.See link above for rest of article.
What's missing from all of these celebrations is an iota of questioning or skepticism. . . . .
From Information Clearinghouse:
By Paul Craig Roberts
November 30, 2010
When the US government has to go to such lengths to create “terrorists” out of hapless people, an undeclared agenda is being served. What could this agenda be?
The answer is many agendas. One agenda is to justify wars of aggression that are war crimes under the Nuremberg standard created by the US government itself. One way to avoid war crimes charges is to create acts of terrorism that justify the naked aggressions against “terrorist countries.”
Another agenda is to create a police state. A police state can control people who object to their impoverishment for the benefit of the superrich much more easily than can a democracy endowed with constitutional civil liberties.
Another agenda is to get rich. Terror plots, whether real or orchestrated, have created a market for security. Dual Israeli citizen Michael Chertoff, former head of US Homeland Security, is the lobbyist who represents Rapiscan, the company that manufactures the full body porno-scanners that, following the “underwear bomber” event, are now filling up US airports. Homeland Security has announced that they are going to purchase the porno-scanners for trains, buses, subways, court houses, and sports events. How can shopping malls and roads escape? Recently on Interstate 20 west of Atlanta, trucks had to drive through a similar device. Everyone has forgotten that the underwear bomber lacked required documents and was escorted aboard the airliner by an official. . . . .
What is it really all about? Could it be that the US government needs terrorist events in order to completely destroy the US Constitution? On November 24, National Public Radio broadcast a report by Dina Temple-Raston: “Administration officials are looking at the possibility of codifying detention without trial and are awaiting legislation that is supposed to come out of Congress early next year.” Of course, the legislation will not come out of Congress. It will be written by Homeland Security and the Justice (sic) Department. The impotent Congress will merely rubber-stamp it.
The obliteration of habeas corpus, the most necessary and important protection of liberty ever institutionalized in law and governing constitution, has become necessary for the US government, because a jury might acquit an alleged or mock “terrorist” or framed person whom the US government has declared prior to the trial will be held forever in indefinite detention even if acquitted in a US court of law. The attorney general of the United States has declared that any “terrorist” that he puts on trial who is acquitted by a jury will remain in detention regardless of the verdict. Such an event would reveal the total lawlessness of American “justice.”
The United States of America, “the city upon the hill,” “the light unto the world,” has become Nazi Germany. It was the practice of the Gestapo to ignore court verdicts and to execute or hold indefinitely the cleared defendant in the camps. The Obama regime is in the process of completing Dick Cheney’s dream by legislating the legality of indefinite detention. American law has collapsed to the dungeons of the Dark Ages.
This Nazi Gestapo policy is now the declared policy of the US Department of Justice (sic).
Anyone who thinks the United States is a free society where people have liberty, “freedom and democracy” is uninformed.
The Tortured and Manipulated 'Terrorist Threat' Evidence
Published on Tuesday, November 30, 2010 by CommonDreams.org
Why Wikileaks is Good for Democracy
by Bill Quigley
Information is the currency of democracy.--Thomas Jefferson.
Since 9-11, the US government, through Presidents Bush and Obama, has increasingly told the US public that “state secrets” will not be shared with citizens. Candidate Obama pledged to reduce the use of state secrets, but President Obama continued the Bush tradition. The Courts and Congress and international allies have gone meekly along with the escalating secrecy demands of the US Executive.
By labeling tens of millions of documents secret, the US government has created a huge vacuum of information.
But information is the lifeblood of democracy. Information about government contributes to a healthy democracy. Transparency and accountability are essential elements of good government. Likewise, “a lack of government transparency and accountability undermines democracy and gives rise to cynicism and mistrust,” according to a 2008 Harris survey commissioned by the Association of Government Accountants.
Into the secrecy vacuum stepped Private Bradley Manning, who, according to the Associated Press, was able to defeat “Pentagon security systems using little more than a Lady Gaga CD and a portable computer memory stick.”
Manning apparently sent the information to Wikileaks – a non profit media organization, which specializes in publishing leaked information. Wikileaks in turn shared the documents to other media around the world including the New York Times and published much of it on its website.
Despite criminal investigations by the US and other governments, it is not clear that media organizations like Wikileaks can be prosecuted in the US in light of First Amendment. Recall that the First Amendment says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or of the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Outraged politicians are claiming that the release of government information is the criminal equivalent of terrorism and puts innocent people’s lives at risk. Many of those same politicians authorized the modern equivalent of carpet bombing of Baghdad and other Iraqi cities, the sacrifice of thousands of lives of soldiers and civilians, and drone assaults on civilian areas in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. Their anger at a document dump, no matter how extensive, is more than a little suspect.
Everyone, including Wikileaks and the other media reporting the documents, hopes that no lives will be lost because of this. So far, that appears to be the case as McClatchey Newspapers reported November 28, 2010, that ‘US officials conceded that they have no evidence to date that the [prior] release of documents led to anyone’s death.”
The US has been going in the wrong direction for years by classifying millions of documents as secrets. Wikileaks and other media which report these so called secrets will embarrass people yes. Wikileaks and other media will make leaders uncomfortable yes. But embarrassment and discomfort are small prices to pay for a healthier democracy.
Wikileaks has the potential to make transparency and accountability more robust in the US. That is good for democracy.
Bill is Legal Director at the Center for Constitutional Rights and a law professor at Loyola University New Orleans. He is a Katrina survivor and has been active in human rights in Haiti for years with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. Quigley77@gmail.com
From Democracy Now! (Watch Video on DN!)
U.S. Facing Global Diplomatic Crisis Following Massive WikiLeaks Release of Secret Diplomatic Cables
Noam Chomsky: WikiLeaks Cables Reveal "Profound Hatred for Democracy on the Part of Our Political Leadership"
AMY GOODMAN: What are your thoughts today? For example, we just played this clip of New York republican congress member Peter King who says WikiLeaks should be declared a foreign terrorist organization.
NOAM CHOMSKY: I think that is outlandish. We should understand- and the Pentagon Papers is another case in point- that one of the major reasons for government secrecy is to protect the government from its own population. In the Pentagon Papers, for example, there was one volume- the negotiations volume- which might have had a bearing on ongoing activities and Daniel Ellsberg withheld that. That came out a little bit later. If you look at the papers themselves, there are things Americans should have known that others did not want them to know. And as far as I can tell, from what I’ve seen here, pretty much the same is true. In fact, the current leaks are- what I’ve seen, at least- primarily interesting because of what they tell us about how the diplomatic service works.
AMY GOODMAN: The documents’ revelations about Iran come just as the Iranian government has agreed to a new round of nuclear talks beginning next month. On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the cables vindicate the Israeli position that Iran poses a nuclear threat. Netanyahu said, "Our region has been hostage to a narrative that is the result of sixty years of propaganda, which paints Israel as the greatest threat. In reality, leaders understand that that view is bankrupt. For the first time in history, there is agreement that Iran is the threat. If leaders start saying openly what they have long been saying behind closed doors, with can make a real breakthrough on the road to peace," Netanyahu said. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also discussed Iran at her news conference in Washington. This is what she said:
HILARY CLINTON: I think that it should not be a surprise to anyone that Iran is a source of great concern, not only in the United States. What comes through in every meeting that I have- anywhere in the world- is a concern about Iranian actions and intentions. So, if anything, any of the comments that are being reported on allegedly from the cables confirm the fact that Iran poses a very serious threat in the eyes of many of her neighbors and a serious concern far beyond her region. That is why the international community came together to pass the strongest possible sanctions against Iran. It did not happen because the United States said, "Please, do this for us!" It happened because countries- once they evaluated the evidence concerning Iran’s actions and intentions- reached the same conclusion that the United States reached: that we must do whatever we can to muster the international community to take action to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear weapons state. So if anyone reading the stories about these, uh, alleged cables thinks carefully what they will conclude is that the concern about Iran is well founded, widely shared, and will continue to be at the source of the policy that we pursue with like-minded nations to try to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Secretary to Hillary Clinton yesterday at a news conference. I wanted to get your comment on Clinton, Netanyahu’s comment, and the fact that Abdullah of Saudi Arabia- the King who is now getting back surgery in the New York- called for the U.S. to attack Iran. Noam Chomsky?
NOAM CHOMSKY: That essentially reinforces what I said before, that the main significance of the cables that are being released so far is what they tell us about Western leadership. So Hillary Clinton and Benjamin Netanyahu surely know of the careful polls of Arab public opinion. The Brookings Institute just a few months ago released extensive polls of what Arabs think about Iran. The results are rather striking. They show the Arab opinion holds that the major threat in the region is Israel- that’s 80. The second major threat is the United States- that’s 77. Iran is listed as a threat by 10%.
With regard to nuclear weapons, rather remarkably, a majority- in fact, 57–say that the region would have a positive effect in the region if Iran had nuclear weapons. Now, these are not small numbers. 80, 77, say the U.S. and Israel are the major threat. 10 say Iran is the major threat. This may not be reported in the newspapers here- it is in England- but it’s certainly familiar to the Israeli and U.S. governments, and to the ambassadors. But there is not a word about it anywhere. What that reveals is the profound hatred for democracy on the part of our political leadership and the Israeli political leadership. These things aren’t even to be mentioned. This seeps its way all through the diplomatic service. The cables to not have any indication of that.
When they talk about Arabs, they mean the Arab dictators, not the population, which is overwhelmingly opposed to the conclusions that the analysts here- Clinton and the media- have drawn. There’s also a minor problem; that’s the major problem. The minor problem is that we don’t know from the cables what the Arab leaders think and say. We know what was selected from the range of what they say. So there is a filtering process. We don’t know how much it distorts the information. But there is no question that what is a radical distortion is- or, not even a distortion, a reflection–of the concern that the dictators are what matter. The population does not matter, even if it’s overwhelmingly opposed to U.S. policy.
There are similar things elsewhere, such as keeping to this region. One of the most interesting cables was a cable from the U.S. ambassador in Israel to Hillary Clinton, which described the attack on Gaza- which we should call the U.S./Israeli attack on Gaza- December 2008. It states correctly there had been a truce. It does not add that during the truce- which was really not observed by Israel- but during the truce, Hamas scrupulously observed it according to the Israeli government, not a single rocket was fired. That’s an omission. But then comes a straight line: it says that in December 2008, Hamas renewed rocket firing and therefore Israel had to attack in self-defense. Now, the ambassador surely is aware that there must be somebody in the American Embassy who reads the Israeli press- the mainstream Israeli press- in which case the embassy is surely aware that it is exactly the opposite: Hamas was calling for a renewal of the cease-fire. Israel considered the offer and rejected it, preferring to bomb rather than have security. Also omitted is that while Israel never observed the cease-fire- it maintained the siege in violation of the truce agreement- on November 4, the U.S. election 2008, the Israeli army invaded Gaza, killed half a dozen Hamas militants, which did lead to an exchange of fire in which all the casualties, as usual, were Palestinian. Then in December, Hamas- when the truce officially ended- Hamas called for renewing it. Israel refused, and the U.S. and Israel chose to launch the war. What the embassy reported is a gross falsification and a very significant one since- since it has to do the justification for the murderous attack- which means either the embassy hasn’t a clue to what is going on or else they’re lying outright.
AMY GOODMAN: And the latest report that just came out- from Oxfam, from Amnesty International, and other groups- about the effects of the siege on Gaza? What’s happening right now?
NOAM CHOMSKY: A siege is an act of war. If anyone insists on that, it is Israel. Israel launched two wars- '56 and ’67- in part on grounds its access to the outside world was very partially restricted. That very partial siege they considered an act of war and justification for- well, one of several justifications- for what they called "preventive"- or if you like, preemptive- war. So they understand that perfectly well and the point is correct. The siege is a criminal act, in the first place. The Security Council has called on Israel to lift it, and others have. It's designed to- as Israeli officials have have stated- to keep the people of Gaza to minimal level of existence. They do not want to kill them all off because that would not look good in international opinion. As they put it, "to keep them on a diet." This justification, this began very shortly after the official Israeli withdrawal. There was an election in January 2006 after the only free election in the Arab world- carefully monitored, recognized to be free- but it had a flaw. The wrong people won. Namely Hamas, which the U.S. did not want it and Israel did not want. Instantly, within days, the U.S. and Israel instituted harsh measures to punish the people of Gaza for voting the wrong way in a free election.
The next step was that they- the U.S. and Israel- sought to, along with the Palestinian Authority, try to carry out a military coup in Gaza to overthrow the elected government. This failed- Hamas beat back the coup attempt. That was July 2007. At that point, the siege got much harsher. In between come in many acts of violence, shellings, invasions and so on and so forth. But basically, Israel claims that when the truce was established in the summer 2008, Israel’s reason for not observing it and withdrawing the siege was that there was an Israeli soldier- Gilad Shalit- who was captured at the border. International commentary regards this as a terrible crime. Well, whatever you think about it, capturing a soldier of an attacking army- and the army was attacking Gaza- capturing a soldier of an attacking army isn’t anywhere near the level of the crime of kidnapping civilians. Just one day before the capture of Gilad Shalit at the border, Israeli troops had entered Gaza, kidnapped two civilians- the Muammar Brothers- and spirited them across the border. They’ve disappeared somewhere in Israel’s prison system, which is where hundreds, maybe a thousand or so people are sometimes there for years without charges. There are also secret prisons. We don’t know what happens there.
This alone is a far worse crime than the kidnapping of Shalit. In fact, you could argue there was a reason why was barely covered: Israel has been doing this for years, in fact, decades. Kidnapping, capturing people, hijacking ships, killing people, bringing them to Israel sometimes as hostages for many years. So this is regular practice; Israel can do what it likes. But the reaction here and the rest of the world of regarding the Shalit kidnapping- well, not kidnapping, you don’t kidnap soldiers- the capture of a soldier as an unspeakable crime, justification for maintaining and murders siege... that’s disgraceful.
. . . .AMY GOODMAN: What do you think the United States should do in this case?
NOAM CHOMSKY: What the United States should do is very simple: it should join the world. I mean, there are negotiations going on, supposedly. As they are presented here, the standard picture is that the U.S. is an honest broker trying to bring together two recalcitrant opponents- Israel and Palestinian Authority. That’s just a charade.
If there were serious negotiations, they would be organized by some neutral party and the U.S. and Israel would be on one side and the world would be on the other side. And that is not an exaggeration. It should not be a secret that there has long been an overwhelming international consensus on a diplomatic, political solution. Everyone knows the basic outlines; some of the details you can argue about. It includes everyone except the United States and Israel. The U.S. has been blocking it for 35 years with occasional departures- brief ones. It includes the Arab League. It includes the Organization of Islamic States. which happens to include Iran. It includes every relevant actor except the United States and Israel, the two rejectionist states. So if there were to be negotiations that were serious, that’s the way they would be organized. The actual negotiations barely reach the level of comedy. The issue that’s being debated is a footnote, a minor footnote: expansion of settlements. Of course it’s illegal. In fact, everything Israel is doing in the West Bank and Gaza is illegal. That hasn’t even been controversial since 1967.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to come back to this in a minute. Noam Chomsky, author and institute professor emeritus at MIT, as we talk about WikiLeaks and the state of the world today.
AMY GOODMAN: Our guest is Noam Chomsky, world-renowned dissident, author of more than 100 books, speaking to us from Boston. Noam, you wrote a piece after the midterm elections called Outrage Misguided. I want to read for you now what Sarah Palin tweeted – the former Alaskan governor, of course, and Republication vice presidential nominee. This is what she tweeted about WikiLeaks. Rather, she put it on Facebook. She said, “First and foremost, what steps were taken to stop WikiLeaks’ director Julian Assange from distributing this highly-sensitive classified material, especially after he had already published material not once but twice in the previous months? Assange is not a journalist any more than the editor of the Al Qaeda’s new English-language magazine “Inspire,” is a journalist. He is an anti-American operative with blood on his hands. His past posting of classified documents revealed the identity of more than 100 Afghan sources to the Taliban. Why was he not pursued with the same urgency we pursue Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders?” Noam Chomsky, your response?
NOAM CHOMSKY: That’s pretty much what I would expect Sarah Palin to say. I don’t know how much she understands, but I think we should pay attention to what we learn from the leaks. What we learned, for example, is kinds of things I’ve said. Perhaps the most dramatic revelation, or mention, is the bitter hatred of democracy that is revealed both by the U.S. Government – Hillary Clinton, others – and also by the diplomatic service.
To tell the world– well, they’re talking to each other- to pretend to each other that the Arab world regards Iran as the major threat and wants the U.S. to bomb Iran, is extremely revealing, when they know that approximately 80% of Arab opinion regards the U.S. and Israel as the major threat, 10% regard Iran as the major threat, and a majority, 57%, think the region would be better off with Iranian nuclear weapons as a kind of deterrent. That is does not even enter. All that enters is what they claim has been said by Arab dictators – brutal Arab dictators. That is what counts.
How representative this is of what they say, we don’t know, because we do not know what the filtering is. But that’s a minor point. But the major point is that the population is irrelevant. All that matters is the opinions of the dictators that we support. If they were to back us, that is the Arab world. That is a very revealing picture of the mentality of U.S. political leadership and, presumably, the lead opinion, judging by the commentary that’s appeared here, that’s the way it has been presented in the press as well. It does not matter with the Arabs believe.
AMY GOODMAN: Your piece, Outrage Misguided. Back to the midterm elections and what we’re going to see now. Can you talk about the tea party movement?
NOAM CHOMSKY: The Tea Party movement itself is, maybe 15% or 20% of the electorate. It’s relatively affluent, white, nativist, you know, it has rather traditional nativist streaks to it. But what is much more important, I think, is the outrage. Over half the population says they more or less supported it, or support its message. What people are thinking is extremely interesting. I mean, overwhelmingly polls reveal that people are extremely bitter, angry, hostile, opposed to everything.
The primary cause undoubtedly is the economic disaster. It’s not just the financial catastrophe, it’s an economic disaster. I mean, in the manufacturing industry, for example, unemployment levels are at the level of the Great Depression. And unlike the Great Depression, those jobs are not coming back. U.S. owners and managers have long ago made the decision that they can make more profit with complicated financial deals than by production. So finance – this goes back to the 1970s, mainly Reagan escalated it, and onward- Clinton, too. The economy has been financialized.
Financial institutions have grown enormously in their share of corporate profits. It may be something like a third, or something like that today. At the same time, correspondingly, production has been exported. So you buy some electronic device from China. China is an assembly plant for a Northeast Asian production center. The parts and components come from the more advanced countries – and from the United States, and the technology . So yes, that’s a cheap place to assemble things and sell them back here. Rather similar in Mexico, now Vietnam, and so on. That is the way to make profits.
It destroys the society here, but that’s not the concern of the ownership class and the managerial class. Their concern is profit. That is what drives the economy. The rest of it is a fallout. People are extremely bitter about it, but don’t seem to understand it. So the same people who are a majority, who say that Wall Street is to blame for the current crisis, are voting Republican. Both parties are deep in the pockets of Wall Street, but the Republicans much more so than the Democrats.
The same is true on issue after issue. The antagonism to everyone is extremely high – actually antagonism – the population doesn’t like Democrats, but they hate Republicans even more. They’re against big business. They’re against government. They’re against Congress. They’re against science –
AMY GOODMAN: Noam, we only have thirty seconds. I wanted ask if you were President Obama’s top adviser, what would you tell him to do right now?
NOAM CHOMSKY: I would tell him to do what FDR did when big business was opposed to him. Help organize, stimulate public opposition and put through a serious populist program, which can be done. Stimulate the economy. Don’t give away everything to financiers. Push through real health reform. The health reform that was pushed through may be a slight improvement but it leaves some major problems untouched. If you’re worried about the deficit, pay attention to the fact that it is almost all attributable to military spending and this totally dysfunctional health program.
Noam Chomsky on the Economy, US Midterm Elections, Climate Change, Haiti, and More
AMY GOODMAN: Noam, you were continuing your perscription- your advice that you would give to President Obama today.
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, the economy is a disaster. There is 10% official unemployment, probably twice that much actual unemplyment. Many people unemployed for years- this is a huge human tragedy, but it’s also an economic tragedy. These are unused resources which could be producing to make the things that this country needs. The United States is becoming kind of a third world country.
The other day, I took a train from Boston to New York- that’s the star of the Amtrak train system. It took about, maybe twenty minutes less than the train that my wife and I took sixty years ago from Boston to New York. In any European country, or really any industrial country it would have taken half the time. Plenty of non-industrial countries, too- Spain is not a super-rich country, it’s just introducing a 200-mile-an-hour railway. This is just one example. The United States desperately needs many things: decent infrastructure, a decent educational system, much more pay and support for teachers, all kinds of things. And the policies that are being carried out are designed to enrich primarily financial institutions; and remember that many of the major corporations like, say, GE and GM are also financial institutions, that is a large part of their activities. It’s very unclear that these financial institutions do anything for the economy. Some economists here- mainstream ones- are finally beginning to raise this question. They may harm it, in fact. What they do is enrich rich people, and that’s where policies are directed to.
An alternative would be to stimulate the economy. The demand is very low- those corporations have money coming out of their ears, they’ve got huge profits. But they don’t want to spend it, they don’t want to invest it. They would rather profit from it. Financial institutions don’t produce anything, they just shift money around and make money from various deals. The public has some consumer demands, but it’s very slight. We have to remember that there was an $8 trillion housing bubble that burst, destroying the assets for most people. Now they’re desperately trying to keep a little to save themselves. The only source of demand right now would be government spending. It doesn’t even have to affect the deficit- it can be carried out by borrowing by the FED which sends interest right back to the Treasury- if anyone cares about the deficit, which is actually a minor issue, I think. That should be the major issue.
There should be massive infrastructure spending, there should be spending on simple things like weatherization. We should have a substantial program to reduce the very severe threat of global warming. But that’s unforunately unlikely with the new Republican legislatures and with the effects of the massive corporate propaganda to try to convince people that it’s a liberal hoax. The latest polls show that about a third of Americans believe in anthropogenic global warming- you know, human contributions to global warming. That’s almost a deathnail for the species. If the U.S. doesn’t do anything, nobody else will.
From The Real News Network:
Chomsky on Post-Midterm America
"What's happened over the past roughly 35 years is that both parties have drifted to the right, i don't think that the terms liberals and conservatives mean much . . . .
". . . most [conservative people] of them more or less have social democratic attitudes… they think their should be more money spent on health, more on education, more on assistance to the poor, but not welfare, uh Reagan succeeded in blackening the term welfare. . . . . "
. . . the attitudes of the population are quite different [from the elite]. In fact if you look over the years . . . the general will of the population is quite different from policy on major issues. . . ."
[See "The Foreign Policy Dis-connect: What Americans Want From Our Leaders But Don't Get" I.E.:"How can a U.S. president sustain a deeply unpopular foreign policy, seemingly uninfluenced by electoral setbacks or popular disapproval? Should the president be more responsive to public preferences? In [this] important and ambitious new book, Benjamin Page and Marshall Bouton bring to bear an impressive array of survey data in order to answer these and other questions central to the study of public opinion and U.S. foreign policy."—Matthew Baum, Perspectives on Politics: ]
"A considerable majority think that the United Nations ought to take the lead, not the United States in international crises . . . ."
". . . and remember, we have a business run propaganda system, I mean, it shouldn't be a secret, and business of course would like to have smaller government--would like to get the business off our back. . .because that means that they get on our back, . . . it gives concentrated private power even more power than it has now. So people call themselves Libertarians and say we don't want to be run by others--they're saying we want to be run by private tyrannies. . . that's the part that isn't expressed.
"When people are asked 'do you want more taxes--No--horrible' Here April 15th--that' s considered a date of mourning--some alien force is coming to steal your money. That's quite interesting--that's the result f decades of intense propaganda to try to get people to hate the government so that the corporate sector can run things without interference. And of course the corporate sector wants a big government--they don't want to cut the government--they just want a nanny state for themselves. . . . . If there was . . . a functioning democratic culture, people would celebrate April 15th. They would say April 15th is the day when we collaborate to implement the policies we chose, but they don't say that."
"I would drop the term left. I mean what we call THE LEFT in the media IS WHAT USED TO BE CALLED MODERATE REPUBLICANS…. AND THE REPUBLICANS ARE JUST RASHLY, OPENLY THE PARTY OF PRIVATE POWER, PRIVATE TYRANNY. I mean they talk about the common man and elites, but so does everyone. But if you look at the policies, that's what it is.
. . . .
Take say Obama. . . the core of his funding in the 2008 election was actually financial institutions, and a when groups of investors get together to control the state, what we call an election, they expect to be paid back, and they were.
. . .
[People] should be demanding a functioning democratic society in which decisions are actually made by the public inter own organizations, their own meetings. . . .
On the economy.
[share of financial sector corporate profits increased tremendously (I've seen number s that indicated they more than doubled from 17 to around 40%), hollowing out of productive industry (offshoring, and etc.)]
The consequences [of Republican and Democratic policies] are for . . .30 years, maybe a little more, wages for the majority, real wages, have pretty much stagnated, working hours have increased, people have been getting by by having two adults working, so a lot more women in the workforce at lower wages, and by debt, and by asset inflation, like say the housing bubble--well that's just not viable. And meanwhile these same people see that there is plenty of wealth around but it is going into very few pockets. The top 1% or even 0.1% of the population have been making out like bandits. So we now have this incredible inequality maybe back to the 20's. . . .and this is part of people's consciousness. I'm working harder, things are getting worse, I'm working more hours, benefits, which were never very good have declined, meanwhile other people are getting very rich, something's wrong--give me an answer. They were right to ask for an answer. They are not going to get it from the Democrats--the people who are called the left--because they are the ones who have been denying, and implementing the policies. . . they are not going to say yea, it's true that's what happens we participated [in your demise.] . . . a policy of setting working people in competition with each other throughout the world.
My point is the Democrats are not going to say this--obviously the Republicans won't say it, the press won't say it--so what comes along is George Will, the Tea Party, Rush Limbaugh, and others who say look I have an answer. . .I mean it is off the wall as far as reality is concerned, but . . . at least it's an answer. . . .
On Wall Street, banks, and the financial Institutions:
"a real question is to what extent do we need them? . . . Pul Volcker . . . said the only useful innovation in the financial sector for the last couple of decades is the ATM machine. . . ." [the context being that the financial sector was largely responsible for the financial collapse and our current economic woes]
"So instead of just saying ok we'll bail you out and then pay you off [with public taxpayer money], … we own you now and we'll reconstruct you in a socially useful way that would require the kind of mass popular organization that for example led to the new Deal--the New Deal didn't come out of no where. . . .instead Roosevelt said 'Force me to do it.. . .'"
"If we're going to pretend to be a democracy, let's become one."
Bill Maher on The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear