Princeton Concludes What Kind of Government America Really Has, and It’s Not a Democracy ~ By Tom McKay
April 20, 2014
Princeton Concludes What Kind of Government America Really Has, and It’s Not a Democracy
The news: A new scientific study from Princeton researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page has finally put some science behind the recently popular argument that the United States isn’t a democracy any more. And they’ve found that in fact, America is basically an oligarchy.
An oligarchy is a system where power is effectively wielded by a small number of individuals defined by their status called oligarchs. Members of the oligarchy are the rich, the well connected and the politically powerful, as well as particularly well placed individuals in institutions like banking and finance or the military.
For their study, Gilens and Page compiled data from roughly 1,800 different policy initiatives in the years between 1981 and 2002. They then compared those policy changes with the expressed opinion of the United State public. Comparing the preferences of the average American at the 50th percentile of income to what those Americans at the 90th percentile preferred, as well as the opinions of major lobbying or business groups, the researchers found out that the government followed the directives set forth by the latter two much more often.
It’s beyond alarming. As Gilens and Page write, “the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” In other words, their statistics say your opinion literally does not matter.
That might explain why mandatory background checks on gun sales supported by 83% to 91% of Americans aren’t in place, or why Congress has taken no action on greenhouse gas emissions even when such legislation is supported by the vast majority of citizens.
This problem has been steadily escalating for four decades. While there are some limitations to their data set, economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez constructed income statistics based on IRS data that go back to 1913. They found that the gap between the ultra-wealthy and the rest of us is much bigger than you would think, as mapped by these graphs from the Center On Budget and Policy Priorities:
Piketty and Saez also calculated that as of September 2013 the top 1% of earners had captured 95% of all income gains since the Great Recession ended. The other 99% saw a net 12% drop to their income. So not only is oligarchy making the rich richer, it’s driving policy that’s made everyone else poorer.
What kind of oligarchy? As Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan explains, Gilens and Page’s findings provide support for two theories of governance: economic elite domination and biased pluralism. The first is pretty straightforward and states that the ultra-wealthy wield all the power in a given system, though some argue that this system still allows elites in corporations and the government to become powerful as well. Here, power does not necessarily derive from wealth, but those in power almost invariably come from the upper class. Biased pluralism on the other hand argues that the entire system is a mess and interest groups ruled by elites are fighting for dominance of the political process. Also, because of their vast wealth of resources, interest groups of large business tend to dominate a lot of the discourse.
In either case, the result is the same: Big corporations, the ultra-wealthy and special interests with a lot of money and power essentially make all of the decisions. Citizens wield little to no political power. America, the findings indicate, tends towards either of these much more than anything close to what we call “democracy” — systems such as majoritarian electoral democracy or majoritarian pluralism, under which the policy choices pursued by the government would reflect the opinions of the governed.
Nothing new: And no, this isn’t a problem that’s the result of any recent Supreme Court cases — at least certainly not the likes FEC v. Citizens United or FEC v. McCutcheon. The data is pretty clear that America has been sliding steadily into oligarchy for decades, mirrored in both the substantive effect on policy and in the distribution of wealth throughout the U.S. But cases like those might indicate the process is accelerating.
“Perhaps economic elites and interest group leaders enjoy greater policy expertise than the average citizen does,” Gilens and Page write. “Perhaps they know better which policies will benefit everyone, and perhaps they seek the common good, rather than selfish ends, when deciding which policies to support.
“But we tend to doubt it.”
Tom is a Live News Writer for PolicyMic, where he produces killer trending content on politics, media, and technology.
March 24, 2014
Former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling gets prison sentence cut
Source: NBC News
One of the chief architects of oil giant Enron’s epic collapse, former CEO Jeffrey Skilling, got a get-out-of-jail-early card Friday in a deal cut with federal prosecutors for his role in one of the biggest corporate scandals ever.
Skilling’s 24-year prison term was cut to 14 years. A federal appeals panel ruled in 2009 that the sentence handed down to Skilling, 59, by federal Judge Sim Lake three years earlier for fraud, insider trading and conspiracy was too harsh.
His resentencing was delayed several times as his attorneys negotiated an agreement with the Justice Department.
Under the deal, more than $40 million of Skilling’s fortune, which has been frozen since his conviction, will be distributed to victims of Enron’s collapse.
March 22, 2014
Hey!! Just wondering…Do Any of you “people” REALLY “believe” that Ken Lay, CEO of Enron Corp., dropped dead to the pavement of sudden heart failure?
Yes, THAT Ken “I spent my entire life working to thoroughly de-regulate the entire Energy Market so I could gut the whole thing and Rob ‘em all blind” Lay. Lay and his many complicit cohorts, through the very inception of the Should-be-Infamous-But-it’s Forgotten Enron Corporation (There MUST be a LIST somewhere) Bilked, yes BILKED, California residents out of Billions of Dollars and BILKED California into (Don’t you KNOW THIS???) Bankruptcy.
While Lay is safely tucked away in one of his many splendid island manses, his partner in “Mischief,” Jeffrey Skilling really took the BRUNT. Skilling, CFO(?) of Enron, just received a Full Pardon from the President–Hey, Thanks!!–a few months ago. And Skilling, that old devil, walked out of that “special” “country club” that doesn’t even really exist!!; Scot-FREE!! Free at last!! …
“/’”s indicate subliminal messages: //Haliburton//Cheney//Bush///Energy//Ken/LAY//IRAQ ///OIL///Energy/// … //////Cannon Fodder//Military///Industrial/// Complex///Energy/Oil/
That’s where it’s at, brotha.
March 22, 2014
I really do think that most men on earth, except for a very, very few, (presumably Atheists); But most Religious men truly don’t want to know what women think. They do not want a woman to think. Or speak. About anything. These Men want very much for women to keep their mouths shut; In fact, they Hate women’s…Opinions. Thoughts. They Hate that. What they really want is the submissive, illiterate, ignorant, “Stepford?” woman who won’t ever get the chance to know enough to ask any questions. They want women-chattle. The Men of the world want illiterate, submissive, zombie-slaves; The man himself proclaims very clearly that he is entitled and has every right to 1. cut off your hair; 2. Rape You; 3. Stone You to Death; Beat you; Set you on fire; Mutilate you; Countless examples, worldwide.
Hell… Man will even shred an empty Budweiser can to cut you in the face and THEN strangle you to death. And then run you over a few times in the car and dump your body in the lake. ” “Entitled” to do WHAT?!?!? ” I ask…
Another really good reason to be an Atheist.
“not all men think like that Christina, personally i would rather a woman have a brain and independence. i am not atheist, but have no religion, nor believe in a god.”
Yes, Michael, but YOU are one of the very FEW to which I refer. And plus, I just spoke with my Baptist Pastor friend. When I posited such questions as “But just WHAT IF NONE OF IT IS TRUE?” “But what IF it IS all a LIE?”
And, true to form, rather than engaging in meaningful discourse, rather than say, taking on the questions and stating facts; rather than careful consideration, he instead resorted to calling me names; Further he began by saying that I’m 1. Crazy; 2. Spiritually Diseased (What I’m the DEVIL?); and 3. Stupid.
So his rote response is thoroughly typical and defines nicely the term Misogyny: Petty Name-calling and Infantile fits of Anger. See? That is the definition EXACTLY of Misogyy, and EVERY religion is based firmly around it. So!! Q: Is it that for my mere thoughts alone, men around the world would burn me at the stake? Stone me to death? Cut off my hair? Beat me? Rape me? A: YES. The answer is YES.
John Lennon had it RIGHT:
“Women are the N______s of the world.”
March 20, 2014
Ah, yes…Well!! The term”crazy” is so phenomenally and insanely subjective. Ha.
So, What is Insanity? I myself am not clear on what “others” mean by “insanity.” To me, I guess it is simply a different realm; of thinking, of perception; A different perspective; Or an altogether different reality. Hmm. Interesting.
So, let me think…The term insanity, along with the [almost always negative] connotations that have been attached to it, is usually used so abstractly; And, to boot, it is a term used and intended to be interpreted roundly as negative; The great irony, though, is that the very ones using the term “insanity” toward some unknown factor perhaps are really just truly inferior; They Can’t. Ever. Quite. Grasp. Things. And especially things that are not “easy” to “understand.” As I write, I think.
Also, I think, “Insanity” is often used by the truly simpleminded; As the simpleton’s strenuous-yet-still-pedestrian attempt to “explain” the quite “unexplainable,” or even, for the even more “impaired” thinkers (before there was so-called political correctness, we just called them the Retarded) , the Retarded ones will attempt to to pigeonhole or scapegoat. Anyway, so this must mean that the term “insanity” is the most convenient term, and the easiest to use for even the idiot-child.
Okay, then…I’m thinking. “Insanity” is used as a typical explanation for “things” that simple-minded people thoroughly fail to comprehend. OH!!! The frustrated, angry, confused simpleton does not have the CAPACITY to understand or to comprehend anything…but… it’s own true dumbness. Hey… We are not talking about the intelligentsia, let’s put it that way.
I’ll keep going. So, now, since any simpleton fails thoroughly to comprehend, even slightly, any thing or any one, or any idea that is not EASY to EXPLAIN; In the simpleton’s low-tolerance for frustration and difficult endeavors, they resort to the old “You’re CRAZY.” And I think that they must clench their fists very tightly, too.
Here’s another more concrete example: When a pedestrian mind Cannot… for the life of them…”Understand,” say, theories of Quanta or… okay, let’s keep it simple for the dull who might read this…the understanding of human existence. They’ll read the Bible…and then always pick the easiest lines to remember and repeat.
Some people in society continually attempt to define insanity; Like hamsters on a wheel. The really insane ones, or maybe they’re just kind of stupid, they think that they are “right” in their definition. Yet, I am only too glad to point out that “Theory” IS “Autobiography.” Thereby in the very attempt to define X, the resulting definition(s) of X portray and reflect volumes more about the person doing the defining, than X, the object or theory attempting to be defined.
March 20, 2014
So it is that each and every society in and throughout all of man’s written history had common laws and basic rules–for the masses; Hammurabi comes to mind with “an eye for an eye,” among more of the same. Each set of societal “guidelines” was written by and for MEN, not “GOD,” a concept which may just be yet another delusional farce too.
To my mind, “it” is all, every word of it, pure and devious thought control designed specifically to keep the masses, the people in line; and to keep them ALL insanely hooked on fear and hatred of people like you or ME (the naysayers); And of course through total ignorance of any facts leading to unquestioning and totally blind devotion to a god-man of self-righteousness.
Oh!! And, by the way, Any idiot-child in KINDERGARTEN could have written “love thy neighbor” and “treat others how you’d like yourself to be treated.”