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Surprising Studies Find DC Does What Wealthiest Want, Majority Opposes

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  • 68 percent of the general public believes Washington ought to see to it that everyone who wants to work can find a job. Only 19 percent of the wealthy believe the same.
  • The general public is twice as likely to support raising the minimum wage high enough to keep families out of poverty as affluent respondents.
  • People of color are disproportionately represented in the bottom third income percentile -- 53 percent of African Americans and 45 percent of Latino Americans are in the bottom third of income distribution.
  • While polling has long shown that a majority of Americans think that wealth should be taxed at the same rate as work, the "donor class," which almost perfectly overlaps with the small percentage of Americans benefiting from low capital gains rates, has secured cuts time and again.
  • Of those who contribute more than $200 to a campaign, 85 percent have annual household incomes of $100,000 or more.
  • Just 0.07 percent of the U.S. population made campaign donations of $2,500 or more in 2012.

Chrystia Freeland, in The political clout of the superrich looks at Callahan's report, and interviews Gilens...

"Gilens, who focused on the divide between the top 10 percent and everyone else, found a high degree of what he calls political inequality.

"'I looked at lots of survey data that indicated what people at different income levels wanted the government to do, and then I looked at what the government did,' Gilens explained.

"'For people at the top 10 percent, you could predict what the government would do based on their preferences,' he said. 'But when the preferences of people at lower income levels diverged from the affluent, that had no impact at all on the policies that were adopted. That was true not only for the poor but for the middle class as well.'"

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Freeland's piece is worth reading in its entirety.

Believing Their Own Propaganda

A folklore has grown up around our politicians' refusal to address the concerns and needs of the vast majority of us. Politicians and opinion leaders have come to believe that the public wants conservative policies, even though the public actually does not.

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A recent study looked at the beliefs of lawmakers at the state legislative level, and found that there is a widespread belief that the public is much more "conservative" than it actually is.

At the Huffington Post, Luke Johnson explains, in Politicians Massively Overestimate Conservatism Of Constituents: Study,

"David E. Broockman of the University of California at Berkeley and Christopher Skovron of the University of Michigan surveyed nearly 2,000 state legislative candidates in the 2012 election and asked them what percentage of their constituents they thought supported same-sex marriage, a universal health care system and abolishing all welfare programs.

"The result was a vast conservative misperception. Constituents, on average, supported gay marriage and universal health care by 10 percentage points more than their politicians had estimated. For conservative politicians, the spread was around 20 percentage points, meaning that conservative legislators tend to greatly overestimate how conservative their constituents actually are.

"The authors note that their findings rebuke Nixonian notions of a 'silent majority,' or more recently, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's contention that 'real America' supported her and Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz) 2008 ticket."

In the Washington Post, Dylan Matthews applies this to how the legislative process responds to these beliefs, in One study explains why it's tough to pass liberal laws:

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"Broockman and Skovron find that legislators consistently believe their constituents are more conservative than they actually are. This includes Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives. But conservative legislators generally overestimate the conservatism of their constituents by 20 points. 'This difference is so large that nearly half of conservative politicians appear to believe that they represent a district that is more conservative on these issues than is the most conservative district in the entire country,' Broockman and Skovron write. This finding held up across a range of issues.

What this means is that while politicians act almost exclusively in the interests of the wealthy, many of them believe that the public is behind them.

But the public is not behind them, and the wealthy-favoring policies that governments at all levels are enacting are hurting 99% of us, and the economy.

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Dave has more than 20 years of technology industry experience. His earlier career included technical positions, including video game design at Atari and Imagic. He was a pioneer in design and development of productivity and educational (more...)

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