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Saturday, April 09, 2011

Elites rule

Chris Hayes of The Nation recently highlighted some political science research that suggests an explanation for the latest budget deal. By his analysis, it is no surprise at all that US political leaders agree to cut social spending that helps the general public rather than pursue funds from corporate tax evaders:
...our system is responsive only to voices at the top of the social pyramid—the bankers and businessmen who are raking in record bonuses and the professional upper middle class, which is recovering much faster than the nation as a whole. In a 2007 paper titled “Inequality and Democratic Responsiveness in the United States,” Princeton political scientist Martin Gilens analyzed 2,000 survey questions from 1981 to 2002, looking for the relationship between public opinion and policy outcomes. He found that “when Americans with different income levels differ in their policy preferences, actual policy outcomes strongly reflect the preferences of the most affluent but bear little relationship to the preferences of poor or middle income Americans.”
This echoes the point I quoted yesterday from Fareed Zakaria.

In my freshman political science class in fall 1979, our primary text was Dye and Zeigler's Irony of Democracy. I don't teach Intro American classes, but I do not think I have ever seen this book in my building...

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