Political And Socioeconomic Inequality In The U.s.: Who Governs?

Discussion in 'Politics' started by Okiefreak, Dec 14, 2016.

  1. Okiefreak

    Okiefreak Senior Member

    That may be sooner than you think--about a month away! But seriously, no. I don't think Trump is another Hitler--maybe another Putin, his hero. He seems to have definite authoritarian tendencies and may call on this Alt Right fans to back him up when times get tough. But I think he's mainly in it for the graft, to further enrich himself and his family. The working class stiffs who had high hopes for him will find out the hard way, like the folks who signed up for Trump University: don't trust fast talking demagogues.
  2. Okiefreak

    Okiefreak Senior Member

    Since C.Wright Mills did his study of the power elite in 1956, the United States has become exponentially more elitist than ever in terms of income inequality and distribution of political influence. The share of total income earned by the top 1% was less than 10% in the late 1970s but is over 20% today. The 1% earns 38 times more than the bottom 90%! The bottom 90% saw little improvement during the same period, even though worker productivity has increased 133%. We talk a lot about the 1%, but it is really the 1% of the 1% where the lion’s share of wealth and influence lies. The highest 0.1% increased its share of national income from about 0.8% in 1973 to over 6% today, and now has 184 times the income of the bottom 90%. It is really this 1 percent of the 1 percent that includes the biggest campaign donors and seems to be most actively involved in shaping elections and policy. They contribute roughly a quarter of the money to all federal election campaigns. A majority of these are corporate executives and their families. The big banks head the pack, with Goldman Sachs in the lead, but the Koch brothers who bankrolled the Tea Party and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson are major players. And we mustn't forget hedge fund magnate Robert Mercer, who funded Ted Cruz, Rudy Giuliani, Breitbart--and Trump.

    So how did this come about? Reaganomics (aka supply side economics, which Bush41 called “voodoo economics”) kicked it off with massive tax breaks for corporations and the rich and a “borrow and spend” policy that greatly increased our national debt. Reagan also adopted policies that effectively gutted the labor movement in the U.S., beginning with his dismissing 3,000 members of the air traffic controllers union in 1981. In Reagan’s first term, the major corporate lobbyists, the National Association of Manufacturers, the U.S. Chambers of Commerce, and Business Roundtable, launched a major drive in Congress and state legislatures to weaken the unions, which continues to this day. Membership in labor unions dropped from a peak of 35% in the 1950s , to less than 12% today. Automation, the shift to service industry employment with a larger component of part-time, temporary and younger workers less receptive to unionization, and the migration of industry from rust belt to the sun belt with more compliant state governments took their toll.

    Reagan had a Democrat Congress to keep him in check, but that changed with the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994. Clinton, seeing the handwriting on the wall, adopted the strategy of “triangulation” recommended by Republican adviser Dick Morris--positioning himself in the middle of the progressives in his own party and the conservatives in Congress. That meant the embrace of “neoliberalism” in trade policy, Clinton joining with Republicans against the majority of his own party to push through NAFTA and WTO. The resulting globalization was heralded by the elite as a victory for economic efficiency bringing the benefits of low cost goods to American consumers. But at the cost of American factory jobs. And G.W.? He was Reagan and Clinton on steroids, resulting in the crash of 2008. The only time the elite had this much disproportionate wealth in this country was in the late twenties--just before the Great Depression.
  3. Meliai

    Meliai Senior Member

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  4. Wu Li Heron

    Wu Li Heron Well-Known Member

    The Alt Right is just the Tea Party running out of reasons to justify their existence and Trump is not Putin who is ruthless and clawed his way to the top, but a loose cannon on deck that could easily spark a war among the wealthy for control of the country. He is exactly the kind of figurehead who bring down the entire republican party the way Tricky Dick did and the party leaders know that his winning their party nomination against their wishes means they no longer have control of the situation and the voters know that as well. The Tea Party was the tail beginning to wag the dog, while the Alt Right and Trump are the buildup to outright war. If even the wealthy can't determine who is the next presidential candidate and Russia is implicated in throwing the election it means the Roman empire all over again with no way to determine what kind of dictator will take control next because anything goes and the public is sick of all the bullshit.
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  5. Okiefreak

    Okiefreak Senior Member

    I'm glad you brought this up, because I think it illustrates how the elite is not a monolith. The economic elite in general isn't interested in the pot issue, but some parts of the "consumer discretionary" sector would like to see it legalized. Tech giant Microsoft has reportedly invested in development of software to help navigate the legal and regulatory thicket, while companies like Phillip Morris and Anheuser-Busch see potential opportunities for profit in an enterprise with a similar business model. But DEA has a vested bureaucratic interest in preserving the prohibition of weed on which is so important to its budget and reason for being. DEA has allies not only in other law enforcement agencies like FBI, but also in an elite component that C. Wright Mills didn't talk about, which Domhoff identifies as the ideological network. This "network" is also, by no means, a monolith, but is divided into social conservative and progressive components, which are tied to the two opposing parties. The social conservative network is, of course, the one that supports DEA and opposes legalization, This has its base in the evangelical churches and is a force to be reckoned with in Congress and state legislatures. As this issue plays out, it will be interesting to see the coalitions that emerge on both sides of the issue.
  6. Okiefreak

    Okiefreak Senior Member

    I think it's important to recognize that the elite, while powerful, isn't monolithic. Elections and debates in the legislature aren’t just some sort of kabuki dance put on to confuse the voters. The donors who support one or another of the two parties do so because they stand for sharply different ideologies and policy orientations. Silicon valley companies have a pattern of giving substantially more to Democrats, and reflect a distinctively more progressive outlook than most business corporations. https://www.yahoo.com/news/new-data-shows-just-how-liberal-silicon-valley-donors-are-233109872.html?ref=gs On the other hand, companies like Koch Industries, into oil, refining, pipeline construction, and petrochemicals, are naturally hostile to government regulation. The Koch brothers are staunch supporters of deregulation and generous bankrollers of the Tea Party.

    Domhoff uses Michael Mann's "four networks" approach to analyze distinct, though overlapping, divisions within the elite: economic, military, political and ideological. The ideological network is the one Mills leaves out, underestimating the considerable influence wielded by media elites in our society. Within the economic elite, there are important distinctions among economic sectors: financial, extractive, consumer services & health care ,manufacturing, agriculture, and information.

    Also, keep in mind that the elite is horizonatallly stratified. I've talked about (Post #42) the 0.1% and the 1%. I've talked about (Post #42) the 0.1% and the 1%. It's also meaningful to talk about the 10% and the 20% in terms of significant cutoffs in wealth and influence. The top 10% averages nearly 9 times the income of the bottom 90%. This group contains many of the opinion leaders whose views are influential for people farther down on the social ladder. The top 20%, or “privileged fifth” has seen a 147% increase in inflation-adjusted dollars over the middle fifth since the early 1970s. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/27/opinion/campaign-stops/how-the-other-fifth-lives.html The upper fifth is important politically, because it largely corresponds to what public opinion experts call the “attentive public”—the folks who regularly keep up on political news and inform themselves on the issues. They also have a higher voter turnout than the rest of the income groups, so the upper 20% in income provides effectively 30% of the electorate. Generally speaking, this segment tends to be liberal on social and environmental issues, although economically less so, especially when it comes to redistributive policies. This is where Obama and Hillary had their strongest support, but also Republicans have a large following.

    I should probably also say something about the interest groups the "pluralists" rely on as a means by which the majority can make its will felt. Over three-quarters of Americans belong to at least one interest group that is involved in politics (the bottom quarter of the socio-economic ladder is mostly left out). Some of these groups are far "more equal than others", with business groups like the National Association of Manufacturers, the U.S. Chambers of Commerce, and the Business Roundtable being the best funded. But there are other players: the NAACP;the AFL-CIO (despite waning union membership); professional groups like the American Bar Association, the American Medical Association, and the American Trial Lawyers Association (the first two of these being staunchly conservative Republican, but the trial lawyers being big contributors to the Democrats); single interest groups like the NRA, the American Association of Retired People, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, etc.; not to mention groups funded by billionaires like the Koch Brothers' Americans for Prosperity on the right and George Soros' MoveOn on the left. It would be naive to embrace the majoritarian pluralism of David Truman or Robert Dahl on this basis. These groups are themselves oligarchies run by people who are different from the rank-and-file.
    But the ability of these groups to get their way as part of coalitions supports a polyarchal model of everyday politics.
  7. neonspectraltoast

    neonspectraltoast Senior Member

    No, I don't think he's the best at all, and I find it personally insulting every time you say I do, when my whole life is dedicated to living in just the opposite fashion.

    I'm not accusing most people of being sociopathic in that they emulate their insane rulers. Just the opposite, actually. If most people had the capacity to understand what such people are made of, they wouldn't want to emulate them at all. But a significant amount of people see someone like Donald Trump as being basically a good guy. They think he's one of them, despite his billions and despite the things he says and does. They don't really take the time to think about the kind of cutthroat environment he thrives in.

    But yeah, there are sociopaths placed strategically all over the globe, casting their influence over the unwitting masses. Such people can make it seem normal to lack empathy, and can make you look crazy for having it. Surely you must experience this in your daily life. I know I experience it all the time. If you don't think their racist, hateful, xenophobic comments are funny, you're just too uptight. You're supposed to not care, at least a little bit, and this little bit infects everything you do.

    And still I'm reticent to label those who make me feel this way "sociopathic." I just figure they are ignorant people unduly influenced by our society's interpretation of success. Their personal feelings of greed and selfishness usually aren't accompanied by the same kind of cold and calculating thought processes that someone like Donald Trump has. But still enough people have come to adopt their apathetic philosophy that it has become the norm. And they sow the seeds of doubt among the rest of us that keeps us from seeing the evil in this world and simply eradicating it. Make no mistake, the good people of this world vastly outnumber the bad, and if we didn't have our doubts about what we should and shouldn't tolerate, we could change this world in an instant.
  8. Okiefreak

    Okiefreak Senior Member

    A 2012 study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that "fearless boldness" associated with psychopathy seems to be correlated with the presidential leadership we consider effective, found in such presidents as teddy Roosevelt, FDR, JFK, Reagan, and Clinton.

    Also, Nixon and G.W. Bush, but those didn't turn out as well As the lead investigator said: "Certain psychopathic traits may be like a double-edged sword. Fearless dominance, for example, may contribute to reckless criminality and violence, or to skillful leadership in the face of a crisis." I can't think of anybody who fits the "fearless dominance" model better than the Donald, so we'll see how that turns out. See also, Kevin Dutton's The Wisdom of Psychopaths. For the most narcissistic Presidents, see I think the Donald would be off the charts in that category as well.
  9. neonspectraltoast

    neonspectraltoast Senior Member

    Not all fearless people are sociopaths, though. I believe there are brave people out there who actually care about other people. Reagan and Clinton sociopaths...maybe...I don't know. Roosevelt, FDR, JFK...no I don't think so.

    Of course things weren't quite as slick back in the day, whereas today you can't really tell when someone genuinely cares about people and when someone is just being a politician. Though I'm sure they had their share of hucksters back in the day, too. Joseph McCarthy, for one.

    But nowadays we sort of take it for granted that a politician has two faces. Before the sixties I don't think most people were so jaded. They actually believed wholeheartedly in their leaders, whether they were right or wrong in doing so. It was the social norm, therefore, to be a person of integrity. Now a little bit of corruption is the norm. The people are apathetic to it, as apathy is our only response to being powerless in the face of it. Extreme apathy being synonymous with sociopathy, I believe we live in a fundamentally sociopathic society.

    But yeah, I can see how being fearless can be useful at times. But I still don't think we should settle for people who are clearly apathetic to others' misfortunes just because they have the ability to be cold and calculating during times of crisis. If FDR was a sociopath, then we should look for sociopaths like him; i.e. sociopaths who can fool us into thinking we're all decent human beings.

    We are in dire need of politicians who seem genuinely trustworthy. Bernie Sanders seems pretty clean, and I hope he continues to seek the spotlight, though I wouldn't expect someone of his nature to do so.
  10. Okiefreak

    Okiefreak Senior Member

    Oh, we've had some individuals of high integrity in that office. Eisenhower seemed like a good guy and he left office warning us of the dangers of the "military-industrial complex". The same could not be said of all of his key advisors, like John Foster Dulles (Secretary of State) and Allan Dulles (CIA Chief). That's probably a good thing for us in playing the three-dimensional chess game of the Cold War with Khrushchev and Mao. Herbert Hoover and Jimmie Carter were saints, and walking disasters as Presidents. We might as well have elected Mother Teresa! Both distinguished themselves as humanitarians after they left office. And Bernie? I'm not sure he seriously believed he would be elected President, but saw an opportunity to raise the consciousness level and was able successfully to get his key positions included in the Democrat platform. A seventy-four year old Jewish Socialist aspiring to win the office might qualify as "fearless boldness" if not delusional. As President, he'd have to work with Congress, and he hasn't had a lot of success doing that as a Senator. He's also getting a bit long in the tooth, but who knows?
  11. Okiefreak

    Okiefreak Senior Member

    The question who rules America was addressed in four recent studies—one emphasizing elite dominance, the others qualifying that view. I think they give us a state-of-the-art picture of how political power is distributed in the United States.The first study, by Gilens and Page, in Perspectives on Politics vol. 12, no 3 (September 2014), pp.564-581, used a database of 1,779 policy issues to test alternative theories of power distributions. [SIZE=11pt]Multivariate analysis indicated that on issues where elites (19 th income centile) and middle class non-elites (15th income centile) disagreed, economic elites and organized groups representing business interests tended more often than not to get their way. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=11pt]However, analysis of the same data by Bashir “Testing Inferences About American Politics: A review of the “Oligarchy Result”, Research and Politics, vol. 2, #4 (2015) found that the rich got their way only 53% of the time, compared to 47% for the middle class—not a great difference.[/SIZE] A study by Branham, Soroka, and Wlezein using the same data base found that the issues on which the rich’s won were slightly more conservative on average than those on which the middle class won, but not consistently so. Branham, Soroka, and Wlezien (When Do The Rich Win? Political Science Quarterly (2016) found that the rich got their way on approximately 57% of economic issues and 51% of social issues—majorities but not overwhelming ones. Finally, Peter Enns, in “Relative Policy Support and Coincidental Representation” notes that “We do not observe a political backlash from those in the economic middle, because policy typically corresponds with the median’s preferences.” The data show that middle class non-elites and upper class elites agree on 89.6 percent of the bills. Gilens and Page agree: Gilens and Page write “our evidence does not indicate that in U.S. policy making the average citizen always loses out. Since the preferences of ordinary citizens tend to be positively correlated with the preferences of economic elites, ordinary citizens often win the policies they want, even if they are more or less coincident beneficiaries rather than causes of the victory.”

    So what are we to make of all this? It would seem that the naïve view that “majority rule” is the norm in the United States is incorrect; but it also appears that the middle class agrees with the elites on most issues, and when it doesn’t, it prevails almost as much as the wealthy elite. This is a far cry from the picture we got in high school civics of "government by the people", but also not exactly the puppet master view of the system that some seem to have. Of course, this has to do with bills in Congress and not executive actions, but at least on domestic policies legislation is probably the main way a President can influence policy (others being executive orders and appointments of bureaucrats and judges with the consent of Congress.
  12. neonspectraltoast

    neonspectraltoast Senior Member

    There have been bad presidents who weren't psychopaths, yes. This is not a good reason for hiring psychopaths for the job. Psychopaths have held office (George W. Bush) and failed miserably. It's basically a crapshoot, but you're always better off as far as the principles of the nation go by hiring someone you know is a good person at heart. The only reason I voted for Obama in 2008 was because I could see he was giving people hope. I knew the guy was a total phony, but that hope meant keeping our heads above the water for four years. I could really care less how well someone works with congress. It would be nice if they could work together, but it's far less important than the example a president sets for his people, IMO. Our cultural psyche is what really determines policy, in the end. The sicker we get, the sicker the law gets.

    To your post on the studies above: I don't know how two different organizations can look at the same data and get such different results. I can't help but suspect bias there. But anyway, you have to remember that the elite control our media, so it's no surprise at all that the middle class would agree with the elite on policy. We're all told what our opinions ought to be. The media doesn't even act like anybody's got a problem with the TPP, for instance. We're just supposed to take it for granted that it's a perfectly normal thing to do, despite the fact that it will likely cripple the middle class even more than it already is. You think the top .1% would have as much wealth as the bottom 90% if the bottom 90% knew what was going on? They're getting away with murder.
  13. OldDude2

    OldDude2 Well-Known Member

    I don't consider someone who uses forged documents to gain office to be a 'good person'.
    'Dangerous criminal' seems a better description.
  14. Okiefreak

    Okiefreak Senior Member

    "the media" is hardly a monolith either. FOX news spouts a right wing message of hate, while MSNBC is its counterpart on the left, and CNN is in the Middle. Then there is Breitbart catering to the Alt Right. And talk radio which is mostly conservative.
  15. Meliai

    Meliai Senior Member

    6 corporations own the vast majority of American media, so while the media isnt quite a state sponsored monolithic propaganda machine, we are too close for comfort.

    I have been frustrated lately trying to discern any truth coming out of Aleppo, to give a specific example. American media is all pushing the same basic narrative that the Syrian army and Russian forces are basically committing genocide against the people of Aleppo and the White Helmets are a group of every day heroes risking their lives to save the people of Aleppo.

    But then if you look into perspectives outside the western media machine you hear a different story - that the White Helmets are radicalist jihadists, that the death toll is largely contributed to terrorist groups funded by western forces. Some go as far as to say the genocide of Bashar al-Assad was simply propoganda by the west. The UN peace council went to Syria last July and in their press conference upon returning they stated the war in Syria is largely due to terrorist groups funded by America and friends, that the story pushed by western media is not true.

    It is very difficult to wade through the propoganda and the truth coming from every direction.

    Back to the topic at hand, in terms of corporate media - If you look at their "bias" it plays along the same lines as other wedge issues used to divide the country - abortion, welfare, gay marriage, etc etc. FOX News, CNN, MSNBC all have the basic agenda, it seems to me at least, of keeping us distracted and dumbed down. Maybe Fox news likes Trump, maybe MSNBC hates him - but they both still talk about him, all. The. Time. How many important world events do these media conglomerates ignore while pushing meaningless, divisive, distracting stories on the American people? Why didnt they cover DAPL? What is going on in Yemen - and why isnt the supposed watchdog of the government concerned with the recent massive arms deal to the Saudis, and how that ties in with Yemen? The Syrian war barely got any coverage until the last month or so, i wonder why

    It isnt so much what corporate media reports and how they report it. I am more concerned with the vast amount of information they don't tell us.

    The media isnt quite a monolith, but I find it very concerning when the same concentrations of wealth controlling the media are also buying our politicians, oops I mean donating to their campaigns.
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  16. Okiefreak

    Okiefreak Senior Member

    I'd use a stronger word than "concerning". The media are big business and will naturally reflect interests the business elite have in common. They also reflect what they think the American public is interested in, which is Donald Trump's latest tweet. HOw are we doing in the war on ISIS? I've often wondered that? It's not often that you see that on the media. But the difference between FOX, MSNBC, and the CNN reflects perspectives which are often day and night in emphasis and decisions about what is news.
  17. Okiefreak

    Okiefreak Senior Member

    Oh, no. Not another birther! Weren't you the one advocating killing all the rich people and taking their property for yourself? If you want to get back into birtherism, there's a whole thread that just recently opened up on the subject. Even Trump has given it up. Ban fake news! Do not feed the troll! Or were you talking about Trump supporters using forged documents?
  18. Piney

    Piney Lifetime Supporter Lifetime Supporter

    Our leaders may change, our geo-strategic interests will remain; emphasis on various interests may shift some.
  19. Piney

    Piney Lifetime Supporter Lifetime Supporter

    My own theory is that Michelle Obama and Valerie Jarrett tag-teamed Our President in the same manner that Sidnie Holland and Manuela Herzer tag-teamed Sumner Redstone.

    If Our President was a puppet of Corporate interest he would have governed differently from his record.
  20. Okiefreak

    Okiefreak Senior Member

    Our geo-strategic interests will remain the same, but will our leaders pursue them? With Trump, I have my doubts.

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