America Run By Corporations
We all know that in the early days of America only white rich men were able to vote. Now that you don't have to be white, a property owner or a male to vote we all like to believe that we've come a long way, that the phrase "government by the people" is now a reality. But a research paper by Martin Gilens from 2005 shows us that is not the case. It's been referenced recently in the Economist, Mother Jones and Think Progress. I think the reason an old research paper has been coming up so much is because the evidence shown in the paper has never been so obvious or relevant.
With the middle class becoming extinct, and the lower class struggling to make it through the recession, and union wars being waged in much of the Midwest, the class issues facing out country have never been more apparent. The rise of the Tea Party this year showed the discontent of many American's with Washington. And Washington's inability to prioritize jobs has showed how little the unemployment plaguing America phases them.
Gilens piece simply verifies what may middle Americans have thought for years, politicians only care about the political views and needs of the rich. There are two graphs of relevance one shows that there is a 32% probability of political change when 10% of the lower class supports the change, and a 33% probability of change when 90% of the lower class supports the change. The same graph shows that when 10% rich voters support political change there is about a 16% of the change happening, but when 90% of the rich support the change there is about a 48% chance of the change happening. The graph showing probability of change for middle class Americans was pretty much the same.
Basically the findings show that the richest 10% of America have a lot of influence over political change, while the lower and middle class had nearly no influence. No wonder American's feel as though Washington doesn't understand them, they don't. And by the looks of these stats, they don't even try to. There seem to be two main lines of thought when it comes to why this is the case. Gilens simply points to money as the reason for the influence. But Matt Yglesias from Think Progress points to the social interactions of the rich. He claims that the real reason for the difference is that the policy makers are mainly rich, and surrounded by the rich, so of course identify with the political wantings of the rich.
I think it's a little of both, the people making the policies are rich so they hang out with the rich, but the people fueling the think tanks and lobbyists are also rich. Even the people in Washington who are advocating for the poor are rich, so they want what they think is best for the poor, not what the poor thinks in best for the poor. To be honest, to me it doesn't really matter why it happens, I'm more concerned with what to do about it.
Nothing infuriates me more than the argument that the rich know better because they are better educated. Some of the smartest people I have ever met were not blessed with the ability to attend higher education. To me knowledge is not held in a piece of paper from an institution, but instead in life experiences. To me that is the biggest problem. The people who are leading our nation, making policies in Washington know little about real life in America.
I had hoped the shakeup in November would lead to changes on Capital Hill, but alas it seems to be more of the same. If I wanted someone who "knew best" making decisions for me I would live under a king or dictator. I live in America, a place that is supposed to be governed by the people. But when only the richest 10% of American's get significant say, something has got to change.
I think the only way to really change Washington, is to hold them accountable and demand the change. Some people will say that system is broken and the issue of money holding the power goes to deep, that there is no point in trying to change it. Really, here in America something is wrong, but we are powerless to change it? To me that sounds like the argument of the wealthy trying to cling to the power, and let me be clear, I don't buy it. I don't care where the changes start, but bit by bit piece by piece we take this country back from the rich and put the power into the hands of the people. If having a say in our own destiny isn't worth a fight, I'm not sure what is.