It’s now scientifically proven… You have no voice. You have no power.

historyofplutocracy2

According to The Hill, the fall 2014 edition of the academic journal Perspectives on Politics will contain definitive evidence that, statistically speaking, you and I, as average Americans, have “virtually no impact whatsoever on the making of national policy in our country.” Here, with more on the findings of Princeton University’s Martin Gilens and Northwestern University’s Benjamin Page, who together authored the article, which is titled “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens,” is a clip from The Hill.

…The analysts found that rich individuals and business-controlled interest groups largely shape policy outcomes in the United States.

This study should be a loud wake-up call to the vast majority of Americans who are bypassed by their government. To reclaim the promise of American democracy, ordinary citizens must act positively to change the relationship between the people and our government.

The new study… examined survey data on 1,779 national policy issues for which they could gauge the preferences of average citizens, economic elites, mass-based interest groups and business-dominated interest groups. They used statistical methods to determine the influence of each of these four groups on policy outcomes, including both policies that are adopted and rejected.

The analysts found that when controlling for the power of economic elites and organized interest groups, the influence of ordinary Americans registers at a “non-significant, near-zero level.” The analysts further discovered that rich individuals and business-dominated interest groups dominate the policymaking process. The mass-based interest groups had minimal influence compared to the business-based interest groups.

The study also debunks the notion that the policy preferences of business and the rich reflect the views of common citizens. They found to the contrary that such preferences often sharply diverge and when they do, the economic elites and business interests almost always win and the ordinary Americans lose…

Ordinary citizens in recent decades have largely abandoned their participation in grassroots movements. Politicians respond to the mass mobilization of everyday Americans as proven by the civil rights and women’s movements of the 1960s and 1970s. But no comparable movements exist today. Without a substantial presence on the ground, people-oriented interest groups cannot compete against their wealthy adversaries…

Earlier this year, in an interview with the policy and advocacy group Demos, Gilens explained that this significant imbalance illustrated the need for reform. Here’s what Gilens had to say.

…My work shows that when the preferences of the middle class, or of the poor, diverge from those of the well off, that the poor and the middle class have virtually no influence over government policy outcomes. Policymakers seem to respond to the preferences of the well off, not perfectly, but to some significant degree, and little or none to the preferences of the middle class much less the poor, and we see that across many decades and many sort of issue domains. It’s not just economic issues, but with regard to social issues, and so on.

(When) we can reform our political system so that politicians, political candidates, and policy makers are less dependent on money from affluent donors and corporations then we will be able to shift policy in directions that will be sort of more broadly beneficial to the less well off in our society…

In related news, billionaire Charles Koch a few days ago invoked the name of Martin Luther King in a USA Today op-ed in which he instructed the poor to endure their lot in life with dignity. “If a man is called to be a street sweeper,” Koch quotes King, “he should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’”

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12 Comments

  1. Demetrius
    Posted August 14, 2014 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

    But what are we going to DO about it?

    As far as I can tell, the 1% has been so successful — for so long — in pitting whites against blacks; the middle class against the working class and poor; private sector against public sector; professionals vs. union employees; urban vs. rural; young vs. old, etc., that few of us can even recognize how much we actually have in common — or even who are real enemies really are.

    And, how can we build a genuine grass-roots movement to reclaim our democratic ideals when seemingly nobody trusts anybody, and when many of the institutions we once relied on to lead the way (unions, political parties, universities, the news media) have either been co-opted or purchased outright?

  2. Posted August 14, 2014 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

    I hope you don’t mind a quote from Rutherford B. Hayes:

    In church it occurred to me that it is time for the public to hear that the giant evil and danger in this country, the danger which transcends all others, is the vast wealth owned or controlled by a few persons. Money is power. In Congress, in state legislatures, in city councils, in the courts, in the political conventions, in the press, in the pulpit, in the circles of the educated and the talented, its influence is growing greater and greater. Excessive wealth in the hands of the few means extreme poverty, ignorance, vice, and wretchedness as the lot of the many. It is not yet time to debate about the remedy. The previous question is as to the danger—the evil. Let the people be fully informed and convinced as to the evil. Let them earnestly seek the remedy and it will be found. Fully to know the evil is the first step towards reaching its eradication.

  3. anonymous
    Posted August 15, 2014 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    We just saw what it takes to make our leaders pay attention. It happened in Ferguson, Missouri.

  4. Bryant Stuckey
    Posted August 15, 2014 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    We are all f**ked!

  5. Lynne
    Posted August 15, 2014 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    Yeah. I often feel that nothing is going to change until things get bad enough to motivate people to change. Then I start to think about the parable of the frog in cold water that gradually gets heated up and how the frog won’t jump out to save itself. Then, I pretty much agree with Bryant Stuckey up there.

    FWIW, one of the reasons I like Ypsilanti is that it is small enough that I feel that our local politicians respond well to the needs of the people. Even then, I know that most people just don’t concern themselves with city government unless something happens that they don’t like.

  6. Posted August 15, 2014 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    I was going to say that as long as the people making < $250,000 a year keep voting Republican, then we will stay screwed. Then I remembered that voting Democrat hasn't really helped all that much.

    The cards are very much stacked against any sort of third party, and that will not change because why would they (D & R) change the rules to make it harder for them to get re-elected? So that idea is out.

    I guess we can hope that people stop listening to/watching hate radio/TV and start getting angry at the 1% and our collective powerlessness? I am reading a really good book called "The Given Day" and it is set in 1917. People are PISSED…holy shit, people are pissed at the rich people! At the same time (because this is how I roll), I am reading a non-fiction book called "The Unwinding", which is basically how we are falling apart as a nation. The author details how the rich mill owners and rich CEOs and such give exactly zero fucks about anything. But the masses aren't really pissed…they might be pissed that the mill in their town closed, but they seem to accept the fact that CEOs gonna CEO.

    So, short of some catastrophe (and I can't imagine what that might be–Spanish Flu type thing? Limited war? Dick Cheney rising above us in the sun and dropping poison all over?), I don't know what it will take change. I think that the best we can do right now is to focus on our little communities. And it pains me to say that–I hate to be all "I got mines, not you get yours bitch!", but we are so powerless that I don't know what to else to do.

  7. Eel
    Posted August 15, 2014 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    If only our ancestor seen in the image above had pulled one of those fuckers from the carriage and proceeded to eat him in the middle of the lane, everything might be different now.

  8. John Galt
    Posted August 15, 2014 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    There is an alternative. You could shut up and do your jobs, whatever they may be, to the best of your ability, without complaint. If your job is to scrub the piss buckets of your employer for pennies an hour, you should do it joyfully. You should think it a privilege. And you should save your pennies, and hope that one day you might be able to hire a piss boy of your own.

  9. EOS
    Posted August 15, 2014 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    It’s the ordinary Americans, the average citizens who join together because of shared interest who effect change. They are the “PAC’s” that previous posts have derided. That an individual is powerless when compared to large groups of individuals or large amounts of money – is obvious. You don’t need a new academic study, just common sense. Each of us has a voice and political clout when we join together with like-minded individuals to further mutually agreed upon goals.

  10. idea man
    Posted August 15, 2014 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    “It’s the ordinary Americans, the average citizens who join together because of shared interest who effect change.”

    And yet you’re against unions. Interesting.

  11. josh
    Posted August 15, 2014 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    EOS, the research established that existing PACs don’t reflect the interests of the average American. So “when we join together with like-minded individuals to further mutually agreed upon goals” apparently doesn’t happen.

  12. Retha
    Posted August 20, 2014 at 4:52 am | Permalink

    I read somewhere that there were right wing theorists suggesting that giving the poor the right to sell their votes would empower them.

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] In the future, though, we need to aim higher. We need to remove the money from American politics so that our elected officials begin to legislate with our interests in mind, and not those of the ru…, who have an interest in selling military arms, closing down public schools, killing unions, and […]

  2. […] want for us to accept that the non-wealthy have no voice whatsoever in American politics. They want for us to just give in, and stop fighting back. They want for us to retrench into our […]

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