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American Plutocracy

Nicholas Kristof reports on a recent study that found that the views of ordinary American citizens make little difference to policy decisions:

Martin Gilens of Princeton University and Benjamin I. Page of Northwestern University found that in policy-making, views of ordinary citizens essentially don’t matter. They examined 1,779 policy issues and found that attitudes of wealthy people and of business groups mattered a great deal to the final outcome — but that preferences of average citizens were almost irrelevant. ...
One reason is that our political system is increasingly driven by money.... Elected officials are... always desperately raising money for the next election. And the donors who matter most are a small group; just 158 families and the companies they control donated almost half the money for the early stages of the presidential campaign.
That in turn is why the tax code is full of loopholes that benefit the wealthy. ...
America’s political and economic inequalities feed each other. The richest 1 percent in the U.S. now own substantially more wealth than the bottom 90 percent.
- Nicholas Kristof, America the Unfair?, NYT, Jan. 21, 2016



Branko Milanovic describes growing plutocracy and Paul De Grauwe comments on rejection of reason:

In his new book “Global Inequality,” Branko Milanovic from the City University of New York’s Graduate Center documents a shrinking middle class around the industrialized world, not just in the United States and Britain, but also in more egalitarian nations like Germany, Sweden and Australia. ...
In the last few decades, Professor Milanovic argues, rising inequality in the United States led not to populism but to what he calls a “plutocratic” equilibrium, where elites purchase political power while the poor are systematically excluded and the working class is encouraged to support the status quo based on issues like gun control and gay marriage. ...
What’s scarier, Professor De Grauwe argues, is voters’ sharp turn against reason, opening space for snake-oil salesmen who will promise anything to achieve political power. “The intellectuals have apparently failed,” he said. “So you get guys like Trump that come up with statements that have nothing to do with facts.” ...
We shouldn’t try to stop globalization, even if we could. But if we don’t do a better job managing a changing world economy, it seems clear that it will end badly again.
- Eduardo Porter, We’ve Seen the Trump Phenomenon Before, NYT, May 24, 2016


Mr. Trump has long enjoyed puttering around his homes, said Timothy O’Brien, the author of the 2005 book “TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald.” The president does not enjoy extensive travel, or sleeping or eating under a roof that is not his own, and he has long imported friends and associates to visit him for dinner.

“Before he was president,” Mr. O’Brien wrote in an email, “he favored the familiar because it allowed an antisocial teetotaler to mingle selectively with other people — on his own terms and under his control — before retreating back inside to do what he enjoys spending most of his time doing: sitting in front of a TV with a cheeseburger watching sports.”
- Katie Rogers, ‘I’ve Been Here All Weekend’: A Shut-in President Weathers the Shutdown, NYT, Jan. 14, 2019





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