Have you voted? Millions have….but no matter who gets elected it will make no difference in what laws get passed. Don’t believe me? Read on.
When a proposed policy change is supported by wealthy Americans or organized lobbies it is very likely to pass. When it is not it will almost never pass. As you might surmise, the wealthy have access and influence to lawmakers. Organized groups with a horde of lobbyists also have no problem in gaining access and funding their influence. As a test of your influence, call your senator today and then let me know if you could even get them on the phone, let alone influence their vote.
A Princeton professor researched 30 years of survey data to determine where the support came from for proposed policy changes. When the top one percent favored a new policy it was supported almost 70 percent of the time. The same was true when organized lobbyists supported a new policy. However when ordinary Americans supported a new policy it was supported only 30 percent of the time. I know, you’re thinking that is not as bad as I thought. Wait.
There were plenty of cases in which policies supported by the wealthy or the big lobbies became law even though they were opposed by the popular majority (e.g. the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Bush tax cuts and the 1999 repeal of the Glass-Steagall law — which was widely blamed for facilitating the economic collapse of 2007-8 — that were adopted even though they were opposed by the majority of Americans.)
Remember the 30 percent of the time when policies supported by average Americans found political support? This only occurred when there was a confluence of support between ordinary Americans and the one percent/lobbyists. More importantly, there was not a single instance when policy changes supported by the majority of Americans was adopted unless it was also supported by the wealthy or organized lobbyists.
Where’s Does Money Factor?
How can all this be true when no one can get into political office without popular support, usually majority support? According to Princeton professor Martin Gilens…follow the money. On average, he said, it takes $1 million to win a seat in the U.S. House, $10 million in the Senate. In the last presidential election, more than $1 billion was spent by or on behalf of each of the major-party presidential campaigns. This year’s campaign is on track to be even more expensive.
Maybe you’re used to that so it doesn’t surprise you, but how about this one: Wealthy donors, comprising less than .01 percent of the population (that’s not 1 percent — that’s one one-hundredth of 1 percent) accounted for 40 percent of all political contributions in 2012.
Who gives how much to campaigns has long been an issue, but in the post-Citizens United era, most of the money isn’t even raised and spent by the campaigns. In 2012, more than $1 billion of political spending was done by SuperPACs and other unaccountable groups who don’t even give to campaigns. Of SuperPAC money, Gilens said, 93 percent came from just 3,318 wealthy people. Fifty-nine percent of it came from just 159 people, which he called “a shocking concentration” of political giving that “shows no signs of letting up.”
Why does this matter to you? Political and economic power has become concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer people and if that trend continues we’ll have an oligarchy, not a democracy