- Noam Chomsky
world-renowned political dissident, linguist and author. He is institute professor emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he has taught for more than 50 years. His new book comes out today, titled Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power.
President Trump threw his weight behind the Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. But he failed to muster enough support to pass the Republican plan, which would have stripped up to 24 million people of health insurance while giving the rich a massive tax break. For more, we speak with world-renowned political dissident, linguist and author Noam Chomsky. His new book, out today, is titled “Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power.”
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what do you make in terms of—when you’re talking about decimation, clearly, one of the big failures was their inability to end Obamacare. Could you talk about the—what you’re seeing now as the potential in terms of the healthcare system in the country, what they will try to do and what the potential is there?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Actually, there was a pretty interesting poll about it that came out a couple of days ago, simply asking people what they preferred. The Republican proposal was the lowest of the choices available. I think about 15 percent of the population were willing to accept it. Somewhat higher was the existing system, so-called Obamacare. And on that, it’s worth bearing in mind that a lot of people don’t know that Obamacare is the Affordable Care Act. So you have negative attitudes towards Obamacare, thanks to lots of propaganda, but more positive attitudes towards the Affordable Care Act, because of what people see.
Most popular of all—over half—was the so-called public option, a government-guaranteed healthcare program, which is pretty remarkable because no one publicly advocates that. But it’s been a consistent polling result for decades, that when people are asked what they want, they say that’s their choice. And, in fact, that’s about the only proposal that makes any sense. The U.S. healthcare system is an international scandal. It’s roughly twice the per capita costs of comparable countries, and some of the worst outcomes, mainly because it’s privatized, extremely inefficient, bureaucratized, lots of bill paying, lots of officials, tons of money wasted, healthcare in the hands of profit-seeking institutions, which are not health institutions, of course. And for decades people have preferred what every other country has, in some fashion: either straight national healthcare or heavily government-regulated healthcare like, say, Switzerland. Sometimes the support is astonishingly high. So, in the late Reagan years, for example, about 70 percent of the population thought that guaranteed healthcare should be a constitutional guarantee, because it’s such an obvious desideratum. And about 40 percent thought it already was in the Constitution. The Constitution is just this holy collection of anything reasonable, so it must be there.
But it just doesn’t matter what people think. When Obama put through his own program, I think support for the public option was almost two-thirds, but it was simply dismantled. When this is—occasionally, this is discussed in the press, New York Times, others. And they mention it. They say it’s a possibility, but it’s called politically impossible, which is correct, which means you can’t pass it through the pharmaceutical corporations and financial institutions. That’s politically possible in what’s called democracy. Sometimes they say “lacking political support,” meaning from the institutions that really matter. There’s kind of this population on the side, but we can dismiss them, yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you think there could be a kind of “Nixon in China” moment with Trump? He has, in the past, expressed support for single payer. He’s extremely angry right now at the Freedom Caucus. He can’t decide which more—which are the villains in this more, the Freedom Caucus or the Democrats. He goes back and forth. Do you think he could sort of throw it all out? Or is it going to just go as we’re seeing in these past few days, where it looks like they’re going to revive it to what the Freedom—so-called Freedom Caucus wants?
NOAM CHOMSKY: I think they’ll probably revise it. Trump is all over the place. You don’t know what he believes. He says almost anything that comes to his mind at 3:00 a.m. But the people who are really setting the policy in the background—essentially, the Ryan ultra-right Republicans—they understand what they’re doing. And they want to destroy the—any—the aspects of the healthcare system that are beneficial to the general public, that’s systematic policies. Probably what will happen is the kind of compromise that’s already being discussed, with states having the right to opt out of whatever the federal program is, which might satisfy the ultra-right Freedom Caucus, make it even worse than the current Republican proposal.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to turn to—
NOAM CHOMSKY: Just today, incidentally, one—I think Kansas—turned down expansion of Medicaid. I mean, anything that’s going to help people in need has got to be wiped out.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break and then come back to this discussion with the world-renowned political dissident, linguist, author, Noam Chomsky. This is Democracy Now! We’ll be back with him in a minute.