As a result, we longer have a functioning democracy in America.
Years of corporate-friendly Supreme Court decisions, like the decision in Citizens United, have rigged and corrupted American politics so badly that average hard-working Americans have little to no influence in Washington.
Instead, our "elected officials" are only answering to the wishes of the wealthy elite and private interest groups.
A study published in Perspectives on Politics by Martin Gilens of Princeton University and Benjamin Page of Northwestern University finds that when the wealthy elite or powerful interest groups want a policy passed or not passed, Washington listens.
But, when We The People speak up and sound out about a particular policy or piece of legislation, Americans are right to be cynical.
In his dissent in Citizens United, Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens pointed out that the Court's decision would lead to fewer and fewer people even bothering to show up to vote. He said from the bench:
"When citizens turn on their televisions and radios before an election and hear only corporate electioneering, they may lose faith in their capacity, as citizens, to influence public policy. A Government captured by corporate interests, they may come to believe, will be neither responsive to their needs nor willing to give their views a fair hearing. The predictable result is cynicism and disenchantment: an increased perception that large spenders call the tune and a reduced willingness of voters to take part in democratic governance."
He added that unlimited corporate and fat-cat money would also scare the hell out of politicians themselves, so they'd do what the rich guys want and to hell with the average voter:
"To the extent that corporations are allowed to exert undue influence in electoral races, the speech of the eventual winners of those races may also be chilled. Politicians who fear that a certain corporation can make or break their reelection chances may be cowed into silence about that corporation."
And, four years later, we find that Stevens was totally right.
In their study, Gilens and Page write that, "Ordinary citizens...have little or no independent influence on policy at all."
They go on to say that the wealthy elite have, "a quite substantial, highly significant, independent impact on policy...more so than any other set of actors," while powerful interest groups do pretty well too, with, "a large, positive, highly significant impact on public policy."
Gilens and Page looked at a data set of over 1,700 policy issues over a 20-year period, and compared that data to public opinion surveys taken during the same time, that were broken down by income and support from interest groups.
In a functioning democracy, free from corruption and the money of private interest groups, you'd expect that as more and more average citizens approved of a policy or piece of legislation, lawmakers would be more and more likely to adopt that policy or piece of legislation.
But that's not the case anymore here in America.
Thom Hartmann is a Project Censored Award-winning New York Times best-selling author, and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk program on the Air America Radio Network, live noon-3 PM ET. www.thomhartmann.com His most recent books are "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight," "Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights," "We The People," "What Would Jefferson Do?," "Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle (more...)