Requiem for the American Dream. Americans wonder in sadness at our current reality. How did it happen? Thinkers have analyzed and documented how we arrived at this point in our history. When “we the people” face growing existential threats of an unlivable world, increasing inequality, and political bondage, we need a clear understanding of how this happened to the American Dream.
Noam Chomsky’s “Requiem for the American Dream.” In a book and a film, Prof. Chomsky describes how 10 principles of concentration of wealth and power have been applied to bring us all, our democracy, and the American dream to death’s door. 1, 2
Prof. Chomsky notes at the heart of our problem are the “masters of mankind” and their “vile maxim” of “All for ourselves and nothing for anyone else.” As I write this, the Washington Post published two cartoons by Ann Telnaes and Tom Toles that illustrate some current masters of mankind. 3, 4
Chomsky lists 10 Principles followed by the “masters of mankind”.
- Reduce Democracy. Chomsky notes that “in our Constitution power was placed in the hands of the wealthy.” Originally, until about a century ago, the Senate was not elected. The constitutional system was set up to prevent democracy – “the tyranny of the majority” – to ensure that the property of the opulent was not interfered with.
- Shape Ideology. Chomsky cites a Lewis F. Powell, Jr. 1971 memo. 5 “…the most persecuted class in the United States is the capitalist class. The owners, the very rich, were totally persecuted. Everything’s been taken over by raving leftists – Herbert Marcuse, Ralph Nader, the media, the universities – but we have the money so we can fight back.”
- Redesign the Economy. Chomsky notes the decrease in manufacturing as a percentage of GDP from 28% in 1950 to 11% in 2010 while finance grew from 11% to 21% – and 40% of all corporate profits. He notes the increase in offshoring of jobs to places of cheaper labor, and no health, safety, and environmental standards.
- Shift the Burden. Chomsky cites the shift in tax rates from corporations and the rich downward. “The major American corporations shifted the burden of sustaining the society onto the rest of the population.”
- Attack Solidarity. Chomsky writes about the attack on public education, privatization of programs such as Medicare, and reducing government agencies.
- Run the Regulators. He notes the Revolving Door, Lobbying, Too Big to Jail, Letting the Market Prevail, and more.
- Engineer Elections. Chomsky describes how the 14th Amendment, used by the Supreme Court in 2009, allows the buying of elections in its Citizens United decision. How the Court allowed corporate personhood and corporate-sponsored elections is also noted.
- Keep the Rabble in Line. This chapter describes how business interests have waged war for decades against unions and other citizen groups.
- Manufacture Consent. The rise of the PR industry is described, including its leading proponent Edward Bernays, and his book Propaganda. Chomsky notes that Bernays advocated the fabrication of consumers such as getting women to smoke, convincing consumers to make irrational choices, and selling candidates. The most notable was the election of President Obama.
- Marginalize the Population. Here, Chomsky describes the “disconnect” between polls of policies with strong public support and the policies with strong corporate support. The latter policies prevail. He notes the growing unfocused anger of the population is resulting in hate and self-defeating results. The election of Trump and control of the three branches of the government by the Republican Party has occurred at a critical time when the survival of the human species is at stake.
Application of these ten “principles” by the corporate class has brought us to this grim time in history. Under the present Administration, the government continues to be viewed as Reagan said, “the problem.” The latest attack on governance is called “destruction of the administrative state.” 6
The ability of government to be “by and for the people” has not been lower in the 50 years I have worked in Washington. One slim ray of hope is that latest polls, by state, show more people disapprove of Trump now than when he was elected. 7
Latest records on money flows, however, show Trump voters are increasing their small donations. 8 The Washington Post reports that:
“Fueled by a string of fundraising appeals from President Trump to his supporters, the Republican Party is on track to raise more money from small-dollar contributions than it has collected in more than a decade.
The influx of cash from Trump’s base is helping the GOP amass a major advantage as the parties prepare to battle for control of Congress in the 2018 elections, with the Republican National Committee pulling in nearly twice as much money overall as its Democratic counterpart this year.
The RNC’s success with small donors illustrates how the Republican Party, long a center of the political establishment, has managed to turn Trump’s anti-Washington message to its advantage.”
Chomsky, Nader, and others have tried, with relatively very little resources, to inform the American people for the past 50 years. However, the corporate media has largely failed to convey their warnings. Listen to Nader’s interview of Chomsky. 9
“Who Stole the American Dream” by Hedrick Smith is a notable book that was published in 2012. He carefully documented many of the actions that brought us to our current reality including the Lewis Powell memo of 1971. 10
- Requiem for the American Dream documentary (2015)
- Requiem for the American Dream book
- The Trump administration is working hard for you
- Rub-a-dub-dub, One Political Philosophy in a Tub
- The Powell Memo: A Call-to-Arms for Corporations
- Deconstructing the Administrative State
- Trump’s Popularity Has Dipped Most in Red States
- Trump Supporters Eager to Drain the Swamp Help Fill GOP Coffers
- Ralph Nader & Noam Chomsky Debate (August 13, 2017), About Democracy Now
- Who Stole the American Dream? book