Commentary: Chomsky creates discussion about power of the wealthy


When famed-scholar Noam Chomsky spoke to the Shippensburg University community via Skype a couple weeks ago, he wasted no time in letting people know how bad off things are for humanity.

“Maybe God decided this was a bad experiment and he wants to be done with it,” Chomsky said, referring to humans as a species. 

The University of Arizona linguistics professor felt strongly that certain doom was looming over the world if societies did not organize. The inevitable doom he discussed was global climate change and nuclear threats, but they are far from the only problems our society faces.

The problem with doing anything about it is that the majority of people, at least in the United States, have little to no control over the policy-making process, he said.

“Elections are pretty much bought,” Chomsky said, talking about the power of the extremely wealthy. He believes, as many scholars do, that the American people usually only get what they want from their politicians when it aligns with what the elite want. 

For example, creating traffic laws for the sake of efficient and safe travel sounds like common sense legislation, and it is. But why does the same mentality not apply for laws to prevent pollution and climate change? There is scientific evidence that traffic laws help save lives, just as there is scientific evidence that pollution laws also save lives.

The difference between the two is that traffic laws do not impede, but help business operate more efficiently, while regulations to prevent pollution often times result in a loss of profit. That is the key. Profits, and money in general, are the lowest common denominators throughout society. 

Nearly every aspect of society is shaped because someone, somewhere made money from it, not because that part of society was created with altruistic intentions.

This is certainly true when it comes to student-loan debt. Many people are disillusioned into thinking that tens of thousands of dollars of student-loan debt is acceptable because it is a personal choice and personal investment. It is anything but personal. Just as the science is clear that traffic and pollution laws are beneficial to society, it is also clear that a more educated public with lower debt is going to be more productive and active in the economy and in solving societal problems.

Student-loan debt, which many media outlets and pundits are now referring to as a crisis, could be wiped out in a similar way that big banks were bailed out during the Great Recession. Despite the fact that shady and illegal actions occurred on Wall Street, and that deregulation of the financial system turned the New York Stock Exchange into a Las Vegas gambling house, that broken system was saved.

In the past 10 years the U.S. took $4.6 trillion of taxpayer money, and handed it over to the elite to save their failing business empires. Why is it so unreasonable to ask the elite to now hand back $1.4 trillion and bail out the 45 million Americans who have student loan debt and are struggling to make a living in an economy in which they have little say.

$4.6 trillion is a figure attributed to a 2015 Forbes Magazine article. Student-loan debt figures are attributed to studentloans.net.


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