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Sunday, January 12, 2014

'Congress is a Millionaires' Club. Why that Matters...'

Kathleen Geier:

Congress is a millionaires' club. Why that matters, and what we can do about it: This week at the Monkey Cage blog, Duke University political scientist Nicholas Carnes wrote a fascinating pair of posts arguing that, when it comes to America's political system, class matters -- even more than a lot of us thought. ...
Carnes points out that, although millionaires make up only 3 percent of the population, they "have a majority in the House of Representatives, a filibuster-proof super-majority in the Senate, a 5 to 4 majority on the Supreme Court and a man in the White House." At the same time, working class people -- whom he defines as "people with manual-labor and service-industry jobs" -- make up more than half of the population, yet people from working class backgrounds have never held more than 2 percent of the seats in Congress. ...
Carnes performed simulations that showed that a number of important economic victories for the right "probably wouldn’t have passed if Congress had been made up of the same mix of classes as the nation it represents." The 2001 Bush tax cuts, for example... In general, the absence of working class legislators is associated with "tax policies [that] are more favorable to businesses, social safety net programs[that] are stingier, protections for workers [that] are weaker, and economic inequality [that] is significantly worse."
What can we do to alleviate this problem? According to Carnes' research, the issue isn't that voters are biased in favor of rich candidates. Nor is it the case that working class Americans lack the talents to govern. The most basic problem is that so few working class people run for office in the first place. ...
Of course, the chances of passing a reform like publicly financed elections would be dramatically improved if we elected more working class people to Congress in the first place. As is so often the case where economic inequality is concerned, unequal institutions become even more so because the self-dealing elites who dominate them tend to support policies that entrench their own power...

    Posted by on Sunday, January 12, 2014 at 10:06 AM in Economics, Politics | Permalink  Comments (18)

          


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