Chomsky on the possibility of fascism, and the importance of financial reform

Addressing 1,000 people in Madison, Wisconsin earlier this week, well respected MIT linguist and political critic Noam Chomsky reiterated that we should not underestimate the Tea Party movement. He also warned that fascism in the United States may be a distinct possibility. The following clip comes from The Progressive:

…“I’m just old enough to have heard a number of Hitler’s speeches on the radio,” he said, “and I have a memory of the texture and the tone of the cheering mobs, and I have the dread sense of the dark clouds of fascism gathering” here at home…

“The level of anger and fear is like nothing I can compare in my lifetime,” he said.

He cited a statistic from a recent poll showing that half the unaffiliated voters say the average tea party member is closer to them than anyone else.

“Ridiculing the tea party shenanigans is a serious error,” Chomsky said.

Their attitudes “are understandable,” he said. “For over 30 years, real incomes have stagnated or declined. This is in large part the consequence of the decision in the 1970s to financialize the economy.”

There is class resentment, he noted. “The bankers, who are primarily responsible for the crisis, are now reveling in record bonuses while official unemployment is around 10 percent and unemployment in the manufacturing sector is at Depression-era levels,” he said.

And Obama is linked to the bankers, Chomsky explained.

“The financial industry preferred Obama to McCain,” he said. “They expected to be rewarded and they were. Then Obama began to criticize greedy bankers and proposed measures to regulate them. And the punishment for this was very swift: They were going to shift their money to the Republicans. So Obama said bankers are “fine guys” and assured the business world: ‘I, like most of the American people, don’t begrudge people success or wealth. That is part of the free-market system.’ People see that and are not happy about it.”

He said “the colossal toll of the institutional crimes of state capitalism” is what is fueling “the indignation and rage of those cast aside.”

“People want some answers,” Chomsky said. “They are hearing answers from only one place: Fox, talk radio, and Sarah Palin”…

For what it’s worth, I couldn’t agree with Chomsky more. We laugh off the Tea Party movement, but we do so at our own peril. There is a rising tide of anger in the steadily eroding American middle class. They’re looking for easy answers, and they’re finding them with the Tea Party. As progressives, we need to better articulate what it is that we believe, and we need to stop toeing the line for corporate America. It may mean losing a few elections, but we need to get the money out of politics so that our legislators can forget about fundraising, and begin to focus on the long-term needs of the American people. And, we have a great opportunity right now to start with banking reform. The American people want it, and the Democrats have an opportunity to lead.

Hopefully, the charges of fraud just leveled by the Securities and Exchange Commission against the investment bank Goldman Sachs is just a start, and Obama will be able and willing to get behind some substantive regulatory change, which includes an independent Consumer Financial Protection Agency. Here, on that issue, is the wonderful and brilliant Elizabeth Warren.

Elizabeth Warren on Consumer Protection (MMBM) from Roosevelt Institute on Vimeo.

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  1. Posted April 17, 2010 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    The SEC civil suit against Goldman Sachs has nothing to do with real justice. At best, it’s a symbolic warning shot to galvanize support for financial reform. But most likely it’s the SEC trying to prove their relevance after being either in bed with the financial industry or asleep at the wheel for a very long time. A new agency would encroach on their turf — far more important in Washington than taking a principled stand — and they want to make sure that at the end of the day they have a big piece of the pie.

    Elizabeth Warren is a good speaker, equally at home speaking before Congress or on Oprah. She’s very nice in person, too. Though sometimes she mentions the phrase “hard-working Americans” so often that you want to interrupt and say “Uh, Ms. Warren, they’re not ALL hard-working”…just because she’s so convincing.

  2. Posted April 17, 2010 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    I think we’re in agreement on this, MCNB. The suit against Goldman is a civil suit, and it’s not likely to change anything in an of itself. As you mention, though, it is a warning shot shot across their bow, in an attempt to rally the troops for reform. I think there’s an opportunity here for the Democrats to get on the right side of this and push for real reform. Unfortunately, for reasons that Chomsky mentions, I doubt that it’s going to happen. I think it’s probably going to play out just like the debate over health care, and, just as we didn’t get a public option, I suspect that we won’t get a Consumer Financial Protection Agency her. I’m hoping that’s not the case, but I think Obama and our leaders in Washington will cave to the financial industry, even though they know that it’s not in the best interest of the country.

  3. outernet user
    Posted April 17, 2010 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    This Chomsky fellow has got it goin’ on, brain-wise.

  4. EOS
    Posted April 18, 2010 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    There’s a big difference between being well known and being well respected. Chomsky is a self described anarchist who loathes all things American. As one of the leading supporters of the IWW, is it any surprise that he’s trying to indict Tea Party members as being motivated by class resentment? Mark, you shouldn’t be so easily beguiled by such transparent propaganda.

  5. Posted April 18, 2010 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    EOS, I’ll agree with you that anarchy is stupid, but I;m not prepared to throw the baby out with the bath water. Chomsky, even if he might be wrong about some other things, isn’t wrong here. And, if you’d read it again, you’d see that he isn’t necessarily condemning the Tea Party folks. He’s saying that their concerns are legitimate. While it pains me to agree on that point, as so much of what they say is garbage, I do. There’s something at the root of it that deserves to be taken seriously.

  6. Kim
    Posted April 20, 2010 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    They have absolutely no shame either. I read yesterday that Goldman Sachs planned to distribute $5 billion in bonuses this quarter. They announced it the day after fraud charges were leveled against them.

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