Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Oxford study: The rich get their way in U.S. politics -- DUH!

I know this isn't a personal anecdote from an older Midwesterner or a Marine veteran that "tells it like it is," but for those of you who still put some stock in, well, facts and stuff, check out this Oxford study [emphasis mine]:

"Using an original data set of almost two thousand survey questions on proposed [U.S. government] policy changes between 1981 and 2002, I find a moderately strong relationship between what the public wants and what the government does, albeit with a strong bias toward the status quo. But I also find that when Americans with different income levels differ in their policy preferences, actual policy outcomes strongly reflect the preferences of the most affluent but bear virtually no relationship to the preferences of poor or middle-income Americans. The vast discrepancy I find in government responsiveness to citizens with different incomes stands in stark contrast to the ideal of political equality that Americans hold dear. Although perfect political equality is an unrealistic goal, representational biases of this magnitude call into question the very democratic character of our society."

And I find that these findings stand in stark contrast to libertard-teabag propaganda about how poorer Americans keep voting themselves greater and greater benefits all the time from the Big Government swine trough, allegedly putting the integrity of our democratic system in danger. But of course, anecdotally, we already knew that line was b.s. In fact it's the rich who get what they want in our pay-to-play political system.

Here's how the author Gilens sums up the facts:

"There has never been a democratic society in which citizens' influence over government policy was unrelated to their financial resources. In this sense, the difference between democracy and plutocracy is one of degree. But by this same token, a government that is democratic in form but is in practice only responsive to its most affluent citizens is a democracy in name only.

"Most middle-income Americans think that public officials do not care much about the preferences of 'people like me.' Sadly, the results presented above suggest they may be right. Whether or not elected officials and other decision makers 'care' about middle-class Americans, influence over actual policy outcomes appears to be reserved almost exclusively for those at the top of the income distribution."

By Martin Gilens
Public Opinion Quarterly

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