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Noam Chomsky Talks about Inequality

By James Hoyle
On March 9, 2016

Noam Chomsky is very concerned with the political state of this country and of the current election.
                    Photo Courtesy of The 

    Renowned professor of linguistics Noam Chomsky spoke to Concord University students on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016 via a Skype call. Though he was a little late for the conference call, the fact that he is a very busy man at the age of 87 years makes such a thing forgivable. Chomsky, known as one of the greatest political theorists and social critics of the 20th century, is concerned with the state of American politics and what the United States is becoming. He began his lecture by stating that though the issues at hand in this election year may seem isolated, the fact is that these same issues are being played out across the First World. In other words, the issues of social and economic inequality are universal, and not reserved to just America.

    Chomsky continued by saying that despite the promises made by new liberalism (the form of liberalism embraced by much of the west after World War II) it has not solved the problems of worldwide income inequality. According to an annual report from Oxfam entitled “Even it Up,” they found that 90 individuals hold half of the world’s wealth. In 2015, that number decreased to 62. Chomsky said that there are “…many very ugly consequences to this.” The report says that 5 million children are dying of starvation every year, which means roughly 500 children had died in the time it took for Chomsky to speak to the students about income inequality. Chomsky added that this could easily be fixed, but that the policy decisions made at the top are not considering the lowest, but instead are designed to have the rich and the powerful stay rich and powerful, and this is shown in the United States in a report from the OECD, an organization made up of 31 of the most developed countries in the world. According to the report, “The share of top incomes increased in the United States sharply more than any other country. The top incomes meaning the top one percent, by now a fraction of one percent.”

    Needless to say, poverty remains at extraordinarily high levels in America as a developed nation. It is alarming, as Chomsky says that, according to articles like the one written for the New York Times entitled “Death Rates Rising for Middle-Aged White Americans,Study Finds,”mortality rates are on the rise in white, middle-aged, male Americans. “Unlike every other age group, unlike every other racial and ethnic group, unlike their counterparts in other rich countries, death rates in this group have been rising, not falling.” the article says. Chomsky said that is something unheard of in rich societies. He added to this by saying that while there’s tremendous growth, it has reached “…very few pockets…” and that a lot of that wealth has been primarily focused in financial institutions, and these institutions know this “…Citigroup,” he said, “a few years ago released a report for their investors, and it urged them to direct their investment to what is called the plutonomy index. The plutonomy is a worldwide system of wealthy people…and that’s where the real investment opportunities lie, and you can disregard the rest.” He added by saying that the world is being divided up into two categories: the rich and the poor. Some would argue that this is the result of the economy, and that this is a side effect of the recession. However, Chomsky sees it as the policymakers looking out for the rich rather than looking out for those that they represent. He said that the reason why citizens do not vote is because they feel like nothing represents them, as according to a recent study from Gilens and Page at Princeton University, the economic elites have the most influence, and that America is slowly becoming a plutocracy, or a government controlled by the very wealthy. He concluded that this is the reason why candidates like Donald Trump are doing so well. According to Chomsky,, he is playing on the fears of the disenfranchised

in order to obtain votes. Despite this, the picture is not entirely bleak. America remains the richest nation on earth, and if we as an American voting populace can vote for people that align with issues we care about, then this situation of income inequality can be turned around. Chomsky’s lecture is available for free via Concord’s Youtube Page: Concord University West Virginia.

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