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The Volcanic Core Fueling the 2016 Election

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Robert B. Reich       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   9 comments

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Reprinted from Robert Reich Blog

From youtube.com/watch?v=5oOb6gbP1Y4: Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton
Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton
(Image by The Young Turks, Channel: TheYoungTurks)
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Not a day passes that I don't get a call from the media asking me to compare Bernie Sanders's and Hillary Clinton's tax plans, or bank plans, or health-care plans.

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I don't mind. I've been teaching public policy for much of the last 35 years. I'm a policy wonk.

But detailed policy proposals are as relevant to the election of 2016 as is that gaseous planet beyond Pluto. They don't have a chance of making it, as things are now.

The other day Bill Clinton attacked Bernie Sanders's proposal for a single-payer health plan as unfeasible and a "recipe for gridlock."

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Yet these days, nothing of any significance is feasible and every bold idea is a recipe for gridlock.

This election is about changing the parameters of what's feasible and ending the chokehold of big money on our political system.

I've known Hillary Clinton since she was 19 years old, and have nothing but respect for her. In my view, she's the most qualified candidate for president of the political system we now have.

But Bernie Sanders is the most qualified candidate to create the political system we should have, because he's leading a political movement for change.

The upcoming election isn't about detailed policy proposals. It's about power -- whether those who have it will keep it, or whether average Americans will get some as well.

A study published in the fall of 2014 by Princeton professor Martin Gilens and Northwestern's Benjamin Page reveals the scale of the challenge.

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Gilens and Page analyzed 1,799 policy issues in detail, determining the relative influence on them of economic elites, business groups, mass-based interest groups, and average citizens.

Their conclusion: "The preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically nonsignificant impact upon public policy."

Instead, lawmakers respond to the moneyed interests -- those with the most lobbying prowess and deepest pockets to bankroll campaigns.

It's sobering that Gilens and Page's data come from the period 1981 to 2002, before the Supreme Court opened the floodgates to big money in its "Citizens United" and "McCutcheon" decisions. Their study also predated the advent of super PACs and "dark money," and even the Wall Street bailout.

If average Americans had a "near-zero" impact on public policy then, their impact is now zero.

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Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor and Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, has a new film, "Inequality for All," to be released September 27. He blogs at www.robertreich.org.

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