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Inequality and the concentration of political power

Noam Chomsky, an MIT linguistics professor a leading leftist political analyst, critic and writer, tackles one of our most pressing social problems in his new DVD “Requiem for the American Dream” in which he links economic inequality and degradation of the standard of living with the enrichment of the 1 percent and the concentration of political power.

This inequality crisis intensified as the elite carried out its agenda of rolling back the economic advances borne of the labor and civil rights movements of the 1960s.

In 1971, Lewis Powell, a corporate lawyer, wrote a memorandum to the Chamber of Commerce urging them to counter criticism of capitalism with a full-fledged ideological offensive. They responded by creating think tanks, such as the Heritage Foundation, producing cover for a media offensive to change public opinion. Two months later, President Richard M. Nixon nominated Powell to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The business push back was its call for lower taxes on the rich, deregulation and free trade agreements that led to an exodus of jobs abroad and manufacturing workers to accept lower wages and benefits.

This intensified when President Reagan broke the air traffic controllers union and court rulings curtailing the right to strike, which crippled the labor movement.

Another development was the growth of the financial sector as a share of the economy. The rich got richer and their increased economic power translated into more political power, which they used to increase their wealth while a loss of solidarity among the working class led workers to fight over the scraps of a shrinking pie.

Chomsky harkens back to the growth of the union movement in the 1930s, when workers built a new union movement through strikes, including general and sit-down strikes. He calls for a renewed solidarity and strategy, including direct action by unions and social movements to redistribute power and income.

Chomsky concludes that, “There’s a lot that can be done if people organize, struggle for their rights as they’ve done in the past”.

Chomsky’s “Requiem for the American Dream: The Principles of Concentration of Wealth and Power” gives us food for thought as we confront the Trump presidency. The DVD is available in the DC 37 Education Fund Library and can be bought at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other media outlets.

Ken Nash, is a retired Librarian from the DC 37 Education Fund Library at union headquarters, and co-hosts WBAI Radio’s Building Bridges show. — Ken Nash