American Democracy 2014

Every year I take High School students to Capitol Hill to lobby on issues of Social Justice. Watching the students engage and and argue their points with the legislative consultants in the offices is an uplifting experience. However, none of these students will be making donations to their legislator’s campaigns and that niggling fact pesters we as I walk the halls of the Canon and Rayburn buildings, especially after the Citizen’s United decision from the Supreme Court allowing corporations to make unlimited donations.

I was wrong. Citizen’s United did not change voting patterns in the U.S. Congress. The twist is that the voting patterns had already changed a dozen years earlier. A new study out of Princeton University compares opinion polls on issues and bills before congress with money spent by lobbyists in the employ of specific interests whose opinion was contrary to the constituents. The special interests won more often – a lot more often.

The radical conclusion of the new study is that the United States is no longer a democracy but an oligarchy. Legislation is passed that reflects the opinions of the very wealthy and disregards the opinions of the rest of the citizens.

The study is found here: http://www.princeton.edu/~mgilens/Gilens%20homepage%20materials/Gilens%20and%20Page/Gilens%20and%20Page%202014-Testing%20Theories%203-7-14.pdf

A synopsis of the study is found here: http://www.commondreams.org/views/2014/04/14/us-oligarchy-not-democracy-says-scientific-study

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