In America we are promised government “by the people, of the people, and for the people,” but an academic study released last year found that public opinion has virtually no influence on government policy. Instead, America is ruled by economic and political elites. Call them America’s Ruling Class.
“The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.”
Researchers concluded that U.S. government policies rarely align with the preferences of the majority of Americans, but do favour special interests and lobbying organizations: “When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the US political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favour policy change, they generally do not get it.”
A vivid illustration of this study’s conclusions was just provided by the United States Senate. In an extraordinary Sunday session, the Senate’s Republican leadership engineered passage of a pork-laden highway bill which also included an amendment to revive the recently-expired Export-Import Bank. The Export-Import Bank is a corrupt institution that exists for the purpose of providing corporate welfare. Specifically, Ex-Im uses taxpayer money to subsidize loans to the export customers of American corporations. Our local TV news described Ex-Im in the most benign terms as just some institution that “helps American companies export their goods.”
Well, anybody can export goods. Somebody in Milan used Ebay recently to export some DVDs to us. But nobody on Ebay or any small company is helped by Ex-Im. The beneficiaries of Ex-Im’s largess include only giant corporations like Boeing. In fact, Boeing in particular soaks up such a large proportion of Ex-Im lending that the institution is sometimes referred to as “Boeing’s Bank.”
Now, the Senate at the moment is run by the Republicans, following the sweeping GOP electoral victory of just eight months ago. One might therefore reasonably expect that the Senate’s priorities might bear some resemblance to those of rank-and-file GOP voters. Yet this weekend’s Senate activity revealed no such concurrence.
One amendment on Sunday was brought forward to end federal subsidies to the abortion industry. Another amendment proposed to repeal Obamacare. Those are two positions that command widespread support, at least among GOP voters. But the Senate leadership would not even allow a vote on those two amendments for fear that attaching them to the highway bill would cause the bill to fail. Hence the Republican Senate chose to reject two policies with considerable popular support in order to protect highway pork and the Export-Import Bank–two measures that almost nobody cares about. Who exactly are these guys working for?
Well, for some insight on the answer to that question, consider the activities this very same weekend of a prominent presidential candidate. Jeb Bush attended a get together with his real constituency, and it wasn’t our local libertarian book club.
Behind a garden modeled on Monet’s, Jeb Bush addressed a lawn-full of chief executives and hedge-fund managers at an East Hampton, New York, estate Saturday morning. While the candidate is no stranger to courting wealthy donors, this time was different: about half the attendees were Democrats.
“This guy sells well,” said Kenneth Lipper, the money manager and registered Democrat who hosted the event, after Bush left. Virtually the only one who left without writing a check, Lipper said, was a buck deer that wandered past the group assembled on the wooded grounds.
The race for money adds to the importance of places like the Hamptons, Wall Street’s oceanside playground, where Lipper remarked that it’s become fashionable to spend more than $100 million on a vacation home. The entire annual income for the median U.S. household—$50,000—wouldn’t cover more than 900 of the summer rentals here listed on one brokerage’s website.
After answering questions for an hour at Lipper’s event, Bush left for two more gatherings at a pair of mansions near the beach.
Bush’s schedule took him to the six-bedroom beachside mansion of Clifford Sobel, a former ambassador and entrepreneur, who served crab cakes and bruschetta. Then there were cocktails at the home of Emil Henry, a former Treasury official and now the CEO of an infrastructure fund.
The Bush campaign wouldn’t comment on the events or say how much was raised, but Lipper said his event alone raised about $230,000.
Over a salad on the deck at the South Fork Country Club prior to attending two of the fundraisers, Sabin said donors appreciate the way Bush’s staff keeps in touch.
“We get a rundown every week—they’re very transparent,” said Sabin…
Indeed. This all appears very transparent to us as well.