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Page and Bartels write: "Our initial results suggest the wealthy have very different ideas than other Americans on a variety of policy issues. If their influence is far greater than that of ordinary people, what does that mean for American democracy?"

Democratic Senators Chuck Schumer, left, and Debbie Stabenow are seen at the conclusion of a news conference held by Senate Democrats on Capitol Hill. (photo: Michael Reynolds/EPA)
Democratic Senators Chuck Schumer, left, and Debbie Stabenow are seen at the conclusion of a news conference held by Senate Democrats on Capitol Hill. (photo: Michael Reynolds/EPA)


The 1% Aren't Like the Rest of Us

By Benjamin I. Page and Larry M. Bartels, Los Angeles Times

22 March 13

 

The ultra-rich share few of the priorities of most Americans, but their access to policymakers is greater, a study finds.

ver the last two years, President Obama and Congress have put the country on track to reduce projected federal budget deficits by nearly $4 trillion. Yet when that process began, in early 2011, only about 12% of Americans in Gallup polls cited federal debt as the nation's most important problem. Two to three times as many cited unemployment and jobs as the biggest challenge facing the country. So why did policymakers focus so intently on the deficit issue? One reason may be that the small minority that saw the deficit as the nation's priority had more clout than the majority that didn't.

We recently conducted a survey of top wealth-holders (with an average net worth of $14 million) in the Chicago area, one of the first studies to systematically examine the political attitudes of wealthy Americans. Our research found that the biggest concern of this top 1% of wealth-holders was curbing budget deficits and government spending. When surveyed, they ranked those things as priorities three times as often as they did unemployment - and far more often than any other issue.

If the concerns of the wealthy carry special weight in government - as an increasing body of social scientific evidence suggests - such extreme differences between their views and those of other Americans could significantly skew policy away from what a majority of the country would prefer. Our Survey of Economically Successful Americans was an attempt to begin to shed light on both the viewpoints and the political reach of the very wealthy.

While we had no way to measure directly the political influence of those surveyed, they did report themselves to be highly active politically.

Two-thirds of the respondents had contributed money (averaging $4,633) in the most recent presidential election, and fully one-fifth of them "bundled" contributions from others. About half recently initiated contact with a U.S. senator or representative, and nearly half (44%) of those contacts concerned matters of relatively narrow economic self-interest rather than broader national concerns. This kind of access to elected officials suggests an outsized influence in Washington.

On policy, it wasn't just their ranking of budget deficits as the biggest concern that put wealthy respondents out of step with other Americans. They were also much less likely to favor raising taxes on high-income people, instead advocating that entitlement programs like Social Security and healthcare be cut to balance the budget. Large majorities of ordinary Americans oppose any substantial cuts to those programs.

While the wealthy favored more government spending on infrastructure, scientific research and aid to education, they leaned toward cutting nearly everything else. Even with education, they opposed things that most Americans favor, including spending to ensure that all children have access to good-quality public schools, expanding government programs to ensure that everyone who wants to go to college can do so, and investing more in worker retraining and education.

The wealthy opposed - while most Americans favor - instituting a system of national health insurance, raising the minimum wage to above poverty levels, increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit and providing a "decent standard of living" for the unemployed. They were also against the federal government helping with or providing jobs for those who cannot find private employment.

Unlike most Americans, wealthy respondents opposed increased regulation of large corporations and raising the "cap" that exempts income above $113,700 from the FICA payroll tax. And unlike most Americans, they oppose relying heavily on corporate taxes to raise revenue and oppose taxing the rich to redistribute wealth.

Some of the differences between the political views of the wealthy and other Americans may be explained by differences in the two groups' economic experiences and self-interest. The wealthy are likely to have better information about the costs of government programs (for which they pay a lot of taxes) than about the benefits of those programs. They don't usually have to rely on Social Security, for example, let alone food stamps or unemployment insurance.

Another possibility is that the wealthy - who tend to be highly educated, well informed and committed to charitable giving - seek the common good as they see it, and in fact know better than average Americans what sorts of policies would benefit us all. On the issue of federal deficits, for example, the public has come to see government debt as an increasingly important problem over the last two years, reducing the gulf between their views and those of the wealthy. Is that because the wealthy were ahead of the curve, or because their concern helped stimulate a steady drumbeat of deficit alarmism in the media and in Washington?

Our pilot study included a relatively small number of wealthy citizens, and they were all from a single metropolitan area. A larger-scale national study is needed to pin down more precisely the views of wealthy Americans about public policy. We need to understand how they formed the preferences they have, and how wealthy people from different regions, industries, and social backgrounds differ in their political views and behavior. We also need to understand more about their political clout.

Our initial results suggest the wealthy have very different ideas than other Americans on a variety of policy issues. If their influence is far greater than that of ordinary people, what does that mean for American democracy?

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+12 # tswhiskers 2013-03-22 08:44
So what else is new? The wealthy have different concerns from those of the Great Unwashed, and better educations. As to political clout, it is very GREEN. And where your campaign funding comes from certainly would shape your voting behavior. The wealthy have the time to sit in front of Fox News, and maybe CNN; more time and interest in reading newspapers (checking on the Stock Exchange). Most Americans barely read a single or watch an evening news broadcast, to judge from their conservative voting in 2010. Now it seems the Unwashed have been shocked into paying a bit more attention to D.C. politics. I would hope that it will continue.
 
 
+4 # Kootenay Coyote 2013-03-22 10:39
Green? The Kochs???
 
 
+2 # Salus Populi 2013-03-23 11:34
I think he means green as in, "the color of money."
 
 
+5 # Walter J Smith 2013-03-22 08:45
Re: "So why did policymakers focus so intently on the deficit issue? One reason may be that the small minority that saw the deficit as the nation's priority had more clout than the majority that didn't."

So why didn't you ask, "Why did so many Democratic Party policymakers focus so intently on the deficit issue?" Had the Democrats not royally flubbed their two years ruling both roosts of Congress, they would have had a clear path through and after 2010.

But, then again, had they not flubbed their rule within the two years they had to be decent and civil for all Americans, would they have managed to do that again before 2012?

They make it impossible to see how they would have avoided an even larger disaster in 2012.

Too many of them belong to the 1%, in spirit, in votes, in policymaking, and in fact.
 
 
0 # RLF 2013-03-24 22:33
The are few decent Dems, but most of them are
DiNOs. The Blue dicks (Dogs) don't even pretend...they are all about helping their golf buddies.
 
 
+25 # angry 2013-03-22 08:49
There *IS* only one solution... public funding of campaigns. We are paying for the campaign costs anyway, in subsidies and tax breaks that result from the political payola. Let's pay up front!
 
 
+18 # Walter J Smith 2013-03-22 08:54
The pro 1% biases in this article are astonishing: "The wealthy are likely to have better information about the costs of government programs (for which they pay a lot of taxes)..."

The wealthy par less than one-third of the taxes they paid during the Eisenhower Administration. They pay far less than any others, when those payments take into consideration their ability to pay instead of waste that money of conspicuous consumption, like the lavish displays of wasteful wealth they love presenting to prove their assumend inherent superiority.

If we get a "larger-scale national study," the need for which was hardly demonstrated by this article, then it will need some architects of that study to civilize it a bit, and bring it down from the sanctified abstractions that leave its authors dizzy with their own confusions about taxation and wealth.

What we need are articles helping us see why it is a waste of time voting for policymakers whose devotions are a foregone conclusion. What we need are studies that help us see how to cooperate even though our pseudo-intellig entsia seems more devoted to pedalling confusions than to clarifying reality. It would be a great help to have a public information service that wasn't primarily devoted to promoting the 1% sleaze.
 
 
-4 # HowardMH 2013-03-22 11:55
The 1% Aren't Like the Rest of Us. You got that right, they so much smarter and continue to take most of your money and you all too dumb to do anything about it except cry and complain.

Until there are two hundred thousand (OK I will concede there are not that many that even understand what is going on in Washington DC, much less get pissed off about it so lets say 5 thousand) really, really pissed off people on Capital Hill (all at the same time – with base ball bats, or 2 x 2s) raising some serious hell against the Lunatics, absolutely nothing is ever, ever going to happen to these totally bought and paid for by the richest 50 people in the world that are becoming more and more powerful with each passing rigged election thanks to the stupid people. Rough roof

How much success have you had with the TOTALLY NON VIOLENT protests over the last few years?

I’m no fan of Sarah’s but this comment is just so appropriate. So how is that Hopei, Changie working out for you now?
 
 
0 # RLF 2013-03-24 22:35
There is also the suggestion that the weathly give more to charities but if you look...the big gifts come from the rich, but in the end it is a small contribution compared to the total given by the 99%. Not a well researched or thought out article.
 
 
+16 # awen 2013-03-22 09:06
Duh. But thanks for doing the research to show what we "not so smart" people already knew.
 
 
+19 # reiverpacific 2013-03-22 10:02
Well, I get tired of hearing the term "American Democracy" but I'll let that pass for now -most of you know better anyway, right?
These bods with few exceptions make nothing and got their money the old-fashioned way: -they inherited it- but act like they made it themselves, then talk down to the rest of us in the "pull yourselves up by the bootstraps" patronizing verbiage, whilst concurrently trying to take our very boots away for their further enrichment.
"Democracy"? I think not!
 
 
-9 # lnason@umassd.edu 2013-03-22 11:10
While some wealthy people inherited their money, by the third or fourth generation their offspring usually manage to spend their way into middle or lower economic positions. The wealthiest people typically have earned their money -- consider Gates or Buffett or the Waltons or athletic or cinema stars. Even the Kochs, while initially fairly well off, have multiplied their family wealth. Check out the annual lists of the wealthiest people -- few surnames survive more than a generation or two.

Lee Nason
New Bedford, Massachusetts
 
 
+5 # reiverpacific 2013-03-22 16:28
Quoting lnason@umassd.edu:
While some wealthy people inherited their money, by the third or fourth generation their offspring usually manage to spend their way into middle or lower economic positions. The wealthiest people typically have earned their money -- consider Gates or Buffett or the Waltons or athletic or cinema stars. Even the Kochs, while initially fairly well off, have multiplied their family wealth. Check out the annual lists of the wealthiest people -- few surnames survive more than a generation or two.

Lee Nason
New Bedford, Massachusetts


O' yeah; how about -just for one, John. Peirpoint Morgan, now J.P. morgan-Chase (Chase/Manhatta n) who inherited the company from HIS father in 1895 and turned it into arguably the most powerful finance house in the world, even bailing out the US and New York city governments by buying 62M of European gold and depositing it in various banks around the country including the Rockefellers -still very much with us also.
They do it by mergers and consolidation of power and resources but perhaps you live in a parallel universe where they are all stand-up citizens out for the public good!
Even the top-of-the pile-earning movie and sports stars are not even close to being in the same league as these dedicated, monopolist power-brokers many of whom own the conglomerates that seek endorsements from and pay these same stars and who own your government now, lock, stock and lobbyists.
You want more?
 
 
-1 # RLF 2013-03-24 22:39
that is crap! Where are your stats rich boy? Bet you went to a good prep school where the arts and such were taught as games and that there was no alternative to that Harvard MBA.
 
 
0 # reiverpacific 2013-03-25 21:15
Quoting RLF:
that is crap! Where are your stats rich boy? Bet you went to a good prep school where the arts and such were taught as games and that there was no alternative to that Harvard MBA.

What is crap????
I don't know if you are yakkin' at me but I went to college for my two degrees (Architecture and Fine arts) in Scotland on academically earned scholarships, worked in both fields and others whilst there and won distinguished and traveling scholarships in both instances.
I have always refused to join academia as I prefer to make my way in the real world, which I've done all over the planet.
If you are so smart. at least write clear English with references to who and what you are directing y'r bile!
Now can you at least handle that, for our mutual edification?
 
 
0 # lnason@umassd.edu 2013-03-22 11:15
I would have been surprised if the wealthiest folks thought that unemployment was a major problem -- they have jobs and they consider unemployment to be a symptom of misallocation of resources, something that they see as being a result of government spending favoring some businesses at the expense of competitors.

Wealthier individuals also have longer planning horizons -- they look down the road for decades -- while poorer people tend to be more concerned with immediate consumption issues -- consider how many poor people spend money on drugs, alcohol, gambling, or snazzy sneakers.

Reminds me of an old adage about the difference between liberals and conservatives. Liberals give their old and worn clothing to charity while conservatives wear theirs.

Lee Nason
New Bedford, Massachusetts
 
 
+3 # Walter J Smith 2013-03-22 18:00
The wealthiest folks don't have jobs; they don't want them; they don't have to do anything but pick up the phone from time to time to get an assessment of how their investments are doing.

With the bipartisan hacks running Washington, D. C., the wealthy folks have no worry. For now. But no ill-governed nation last very long.

To attribute to them the virtues like wearing their old clothes, and having "longer planning horizons" takes a tidbit observed with a rare few and attributes it to the whole class.

You may want to try researching what you are writing about before you broadly display your ingnorance.
 
 
-1 # RLF 2013-03-24 22:44
Think how many idiot rich people spend megabucks in the hamptons acting like the douche bags they are. Liberals old clothes cost $20, rich dicks clothes cost $1200...and don't need to be changed because they aren't designed by other rich dicks to wear out in 3 months.
 
 
+3 # Kootenay Coyote 2013-03-22 10:40
& more than three quarters of a century ago, F. Scott Fitzgerald summed all this up in a superb short fantasy, The Diamond As Big As The Ritz. Plus ca change, plus ca c’est le meme chose.
 
 
+9 # MJnevetS 2013-03-22 11:15
"wealthy - who tend to be highly educated, well informed and committed to charitable giving - seek the common good as they see it, and in fact know better than average Americans what sorts of policies would benefit us all. On the issue of federal deficits, for example, the public has come to see government debt as an increasingly important problem over the last two years, reducing the gulf between their views and those of the wealthy."

Are you $hitting me?! The authors need to remove the blinders by pulling the silver spoons away from their eyes. The above paragraph is an example of how distorted this article is. The 'Public' doesn't see government debt as an 'important problem'. The 'public' sees unemployment, under-employmen t and low wages as an important problem. Come down from you ivory towers and take a look around. You'd be surprised as to what real people actually care about.
 
 
+7 # lorenbliss 2013-03-22 11:51
The rich got rich and stay rich by being the most viciously greedy swine at the capitalist pig trough; the fascist politics derived from their Ayn Rand moral imbecility should surprise no one. Nor should the fact these scheming aristocrats have at last succeed in their long-term goal of reducing "democracy" to just another euphemism for "tyranny."

All of this is merely capitalism in action: absolute power and unlimited profit for the One Percent, total subjugation and genocidal poverty for all the rest of us – identical conditions whether dishonestly labeled democracy or brazenly acknowledged as fascism or Nazism.

In this context, the Page/Bartels study is valuable only as evidence for a People's Court indictment and mass arrest of the entire Ruling Class, with zero-tolerance public trials of oppressors such as occurred immediately after the French, Russian and Chinese revolutions. But such socioeconomic cleansing will never happen again -- not now, not ever – which, ironically, is precisely why such studies are allowed.

Verily, it is as if the Ruling Class, given the unprecedented security provided by the surveillance-an d-retaliation policies of government that serves it with unquestioning obedience, is merely rubbing our noses in the feces of a slave world now destined to prevail forever – that is, until our species is extinct.
 
 
+3 # seakat 2013-03-22 12:17
Someday, somehow the rich will learn they put their pants on the same way as everyone else - one leg at a time.

I only hope I live long enough to see that day.
 
 
+5 # tabonsell 2013-03-22 18:30
If the wealthy were more educated and more aware of society's problems shouldn't they know that the deficit inherited from Buffoon Bush has been reduced by about $600 billion a year?

And shouldn't they know that spending by the federal government, that skyrocketed under Ronald Reagan and the two Bushes, is under control under Obama? Put into proper prospectives spending has risen about 2% a year under Obama, the lowest since the Eisenhower years.

Comparing spending increases to the nation's growing GDP, spending now is LOWER than it was during Buffoon's time in office.
 
 
-1 # RLF 2013-03-24 22:48
This is nothing to brag about. The Dems always let the Repubes get away with spending like sailors in a whore house and then when they get into office, they don't go for anything that take spending because of this 'tax and spend' mantra always aimed at them.
 

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