Using data drawn from over 1,800 different policy initiatives from 1981 to 2002, the two conclude that rich, well-connected individuals on the political scene now steer the direction of the country, regardless of or even against the will of the majority of voters.
TPM Interview: Scholar Behind Viral 'Oligarchy' Study Tells You What It Means
"The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy," they write, "while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence."
As one illustration, Gilens and Page compare the political preferences of Americans at the 50th income percentile to preferences of Americans at the 90th percentile as well as major lobbying or business groups. They find that the government—whether Republican or Democratic—more often follows the preferences of the latter group rather than the first.
The researchers note that this is not a new development caused by, say, recent Supreme Court decisions allowing more money in politics, such as Citizens United or this month's [April] ruling on McCutcheon v. FEC. As the data stretching back to the 1980s suggests, this has been a long term trend, and is therefore harder for most people to perceive, let alone reverse.
"Ordinary citizens," they write, "might often be observed to 'win' (that is, to get their preferred policy outcomes) even if they had no independent effect whatsoever on policy making, if elites (with whom they often agree) actually prevail."
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The story hit, April 18, 2014, but earlier in the month similar views echoed in the press and on the Internet. The Resist Privatization of America blog linked to articles by Robert Reich.
An Invitation to American Oligarchy
Friday, 04 April 2014
We’re going to combine two separate articles written by Robert Reich in this post. First, ICYMI, is an explanation of how America is becoming an oligarchy–putting the preferences of the vast majority of Americans behind the aims of the oligarchs who are willing to buy legislation that will favor themselves.
Second, is a new post – also penned by Robert Reich – about how the conservative, activist U.S. Supreme Court is moving us quickly away from democracy and toward an oligarchy. It has exacerbated this problem by taking away the voices of those who cannot buy such legislation–essentially the 99%.
Slouching Toward Oligarch
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SCOTUS is Inviting an American Oligarchy
* * * In May, In These Times emphasized the importance of the April Supreme Court McCutcheon ruling. Oligarchy Enshrined: Why the Supreme Court’s McCutcheon ruling is good news for the super-rich and bad news for progressive Democrats.
The former secretary of labor on the Court’s shameful McCutcheon decision –
and where we go from here
[The critical excerpt on the changes under the Supreme Court's McCutcheon v. FEC decision follows below. The McCutcheon decision follows on the windfall for money-dominated politics that snowballed with Citizens United. But as In These Times reminds us, it was the 1976 Buckley v. Valeo decision that started the weakening of campaign finance laws.]