Author and activist Noam Chomsky said that the congressional controversy over extending unemployment benefits is evidence that American politics has descended into madness.
"The refusal to provide very minimal living standards to people who are caught in this monstrosity -- that's just pure savagery," Chomsky said during an interview with HuffPost Live. "There's no other word for it."
WATCH Chomsky's comments in the video above.
Chomsky is a leading American intellectual known at first for his academic work in the field of linguistics. He has since become an influential activist and progressive political thinker. HuffPost will be publishing excerpts from its interview with Chomsky over the next week.
Republicans pursued food-stamp cuts last year, and blocked a deal to extend unemployment benefits during budget negotiations in December. On Tuesday, a handful of Republicans joined Senate Democrats to advance a bill reinstating the benefits for three months, but the agreement faces an uphill battle in the GOP-controlled House. There are currently about three people seeking a job for every job opening in the United States.
Chomsky said that recent economic doldrums, however, are not isolated phenomena, but rather the product of decades of economic policies pursued by American elites. Some of the major changes included the signing of World Trade Organization treaties, the North American Free Trade Agreement and the deregulation of major industries, he said.
"The general and very severe problem of the economy that's staring us in the face … that has nothing to do with bad apples in Congress," Chomsky said. "These are deep structural problems having to do with, in effect, the neoliberal assault on the population, not just of the United States but of the world, that's taken place in the past generation. There are areas that have escaped, but it's pretty broad."
Chomsky told HuffPost that corporate interests dominate the policy agenda of the Democratic Party, and cited conservative scholar Norm Ornstein's observation that the Republican Party has "drifted off the spectrum" and no longer functions as a serious parliamentary entity.
"It used to be said years ago that the United States is a one-party state -- the business party -- with two factions, Democrats and Republicans," Chomsky said. "That's no longer true. It's still a one-party state -- the business party -- but now it has only one faction. And it's not Democrats, it's moderate Republicans. The so-called New Democrats, who are the dominant force in the Democratic Party, are pretty much what used to be moderate Republicans a couple of decades ago. And the rest of the Republican Party has just drifted off the spectrum."