Problems of the American university »« Abusing prosecutorial power

Call for higher taxes on the rich

Today is tax day in the US, the deadline for filing one’s returns. Reader Norm sent me this short clip by Robert Reich where he explains how it can be that the rich and super-rich pay taxes at a much lower rate than do the middle and classes, thanks to a whole bunch of measures that have been thoughtfully inserted into the tax code by the people they purcahsed, also known as the members of Congress.

Princeton University professor Martin Gilens has long been writing about how the rich have such a disproportionate effect on policy in the US (see here and here for my earlier posts about his work), and he continues his critique with a long paper (thanks to reader Peter for the link) where he argues that it is now possible to empirically test the four theories about who has most influence in government: “Majoritarian Electoral Democracy, Economic Elite Domination, and two types of interest group pluralism – Majoritarian Pluralism, in which the interests of all citizens are more or less equally represented, and Biased Pluralism, in which corporations, business associations, and professional groups predominate.”

He concludes:

Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence. The results provide substantial support for theories of Economic Elite Domination and for theories of Biased Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism.

Some of us may be tempted to say, “Well, duh!” but it is important to realize that having empirical support for a proposition, however obvious it may seem, is an important factor in pressing for social change.

The only times that those who are not rich see their views advanced by government is when those views happen to coincide with those of the wealthy. This happens enough that they fool themselves into thinking that the government actually listens to them.

Comments

  1. Rob Grigjanis says

    having empirical support for a proposition, however obvious it may seem, is an important factor in pressing for social change.

    Pressing where? In the bought Congress, or in the bought media? And how’s the empirical support for climate change and evolution going?

    Nothing changes until a critical number of people get desperate, and empirical evidence be damned. We’ll get there eventually, not with evidence or reason, but with suffering. For we always have the rich and their allies, our innate stupidity and myopia, with us.

  2. Chiroptera says

    Some of us may be tempted to say, “Well, duh!” but it is important to realize that having empirical support for a proposition, however obvious it may seem, is an important factor in pressing for social change.

    Also: too many times the things we thought to be true because they were “obvious” and “common sense” turned out to be false.

  3. Jockaira says

    .

    The only times that those who are not rich see their views advanced by government is when those views happen to coincide with those of the wealthy. This happens enough that they fool themselves into thinking that the government actually listens to them.

    .
    You ain’t just a-whistlin’ Dixie!

  4. Dunc says

    The only times that those who are not rich see their views advanced by government is when those views happen to coincide with those of the wealthy. This happens enough that they fool themselves into thinking that the government actually listens to them.

    You can watch this happen in real time at any internet petition site you care to name. Most of the time, internet petitions are about as much use as writing wishes on pieces of toilet paper immediately prior to use, but every now and then, they pick up on an issue that also happens to have serious support from a well-organised political faction with real clout. When the outcome goes their way, they use it as evidence that petitions really work.

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