According to an article by Eric W. Dolan, a new study finds only the wealthy get represented in the Senate, Members of the U.S. Senate do not respond equally to the views of all their constituents, according to research to be published in Political Research Quarterly next month. Senators overall represent their wealthiest constituents, while those at the bottom of the economic rung are neglected.
“The fact that lower income groups seem to be ignored by elected officials, although not a new finding, remains a troubling observation in American politics,” Thomas J. Hayes of Trinity University wrote in his study. The study used data from the 2004 National Annenberg Election Survey to compare constituents’ political opinions to the voting behavior of their Senators.
The study brought out two important points while accumulating data from five Congresses from the 107th through the 111th. Hayes found first that “the voting records of Senators were consistently aligned with the opinions of their wealthiest constituents. The opinions of lower-class constituents, however, never appeared to influence the Senators’ voting behavior.” Secondly, “The neglect of lower income groups was a bipartisan affair. Democrats were not any more responsive to the poor than Republicans.”
According to an article by Michael Snyder, “Today, there are 250 members of Congress that are millionaires. According to the Wall Street Journal, the median net worth of members of Congress is now $913,000 .The collective net worth of all of the members of Congress increased by 25 percent between 2008 and 2010. Meanwhile, the standard of living in the United States has fallen lower over the past three years than at any other time that has ever been recorded in U.S. history.
The net worth of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi increased by 62 percent from 2009 to 2010. In 2009 it was reported that she had a net worth of 21.7 million dollars, and in 2010 it was reported that she had a net worth of 35.2 million dollars.”
What is the cause of this abuse of public power? According to Open Secrets, “In addition to campaign contributions to elected officials and candidates, companies, labor unions, and other organizations spend billions of dollars each year to lobby Congress and federal agencies. Some special interests retain lobbying firms, many of them located along Washington’s legendary K Street; others have lobbyists working in-house. In 2012, the last election year, $3.31 billion was the total amount of lobbying spending .The number of lobbyists for the same period was 12,407.”
So, lobbyists, the window glass seems to be clearing up a little. Lobbyists represent the wealthy. Only the wealthy have the money to turn Congress members’ heads in the direction the wealthy want them to go. It has even been said many times that members of Congress are so controlled by the lobbyists, that sometimes the lobbyists actually control the writing of many of the bills. According to On The Issues, Jeb Bush on Gun Control, “In 2005, the governor signed into law another piece of NRA legislation on the topic of gun control. The bill was written by the NRA and expanded the rights of Floridians to use deadly force when threatened in public places. This proposal, known as the “stand your ground bill” expanded the rights of people to use guns. . . .”
Then there is the issue of how much money a politician gets when on the campaign trail. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) started the fight against the exorbitant amount of funds received by politicians in their campaign coffers.
The American Civil Liberties Union has been studying, litigating and lobbying on the constitutional and practical implications of federal campaign finance laws for more than a quarter century. For all of those years, while we prevailed repeatedly in the courts, we fought an uphill battle in the court of public opinion and ours was a lonely voice in the progressive community.
The ACLU said that “A legitimate concern over the influence of “big money” in politics has led some to propose a constitutional amendment to reverse the decision. The ACLU will firmly oppose any constitutional amendment that would limit the free speech clause of the First Amendment.”
What are the chances that any kind of campaign reform will ever take place? Azmat Khan wrote, “In the lead up to the most expensive election in U.S. history , campaign finance reformers argued that the Supreme Court’s decision – which upended years of hard-fought campaign finance reform laws overnight – had opened the floodgates to the influence of big money in American politics. Without tighter regulations, these advocates warned, Super PACs and ‘dark money’ groups would walk away the biggest winners in races across the country.”
What is interesting is that 50 percent of the voting public want some major changes made on how much money politicians can make and where the money comes from. In an article by Jon Walker, Majority of Americans Would Support Radical Campaign Finance Reform, the information came from a recent Gallup Poll.
The definition of an oligarchy, according to Concise Encyclopedia, is: ”Rule by the few, often seen as having self-serving ends. . . Most oligarchies have resulted when governing elites were recruited exclusively from a ruling class, which tends to exercise power in its own interest.”
Does this sound familiar? Who is the elite class in America? Who is choosing their predecessors from their own class and not tending to the people who put them in office? Think awhile before you answer. Because unless you are the wealthy, you will not be heard even if you voted for the person who is supposed to represent you.
Don’t forget, becoming wealthy and representing the wealthy is a bipartisan issue that includes Democrats as well as Republicans. They are in it for those $100,000 plus yearly paychecks. Lets not forget about their doorway to a rich retirement when “retired” politicians become lobbyists and drink from the same trough they did while in office. Wouldn’t we all like to have those great benefits? Let us not forget their health care. They don’t want us to have even half the health care benefits that they have. The last Congressional session voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act 40 times in the House.
Richard Andrew is a guest blogger for Ring of Fire.