Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Government of the rich, by the rich and for the rich

That we live in a plutocracy is rarely acknowledged in the press, but a front page story in Monday’s New York Times came close to saying it.

Its headline read:

“Short of Money, G.O.P is Enlisting Rich Candidates.”

Rich candidates — and the parties don’t have to be short on cash to enlist them — are only one aspect of the plutocracy. Another is candidates so reliant on wealthy campaign backers and deep-pocket bankrollers that the politicians become hired help.

Or, once elected, the same candidates become members of Congress beholden to wealthy lobbyists and their rich corporate or individual clients who threaten to withhold or redirect campaign funding if lawmakers vote the “wrong” way.

It’s all despicable, but if I had to choose among these forms, I’d go with the rich, self-financed candidates. At least the source of the money is above board and seemingly without strings attached. It’s more likely, but hardly assured, that rich candidates will answer only to themselves.

Whatever form plutocracy takes, expect the rich to get richer and nearly everyone else to get poorer. Which is exactly what we are seeing.

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1 Comments:

Anonymous JAS said...

Rick Seifert, you write, "At least the source of the money is above board and seemingly without strings attached. It’s more likely, but hardly assured, that rich candidates will answer only to themselves." I'm not so sure about that. I've studied self-financers extensively (see my book, "Self-Financed Candidates in Congressional Elections," from Univ. of Michigan Press) and found that their claims of independence are often hollow. Here's how a reviewer summarized the findings relevant to your point (from ch. 5): "Second, whatever claims self-financed candidates make about being able to say 'no' to lobbyists and PACs, once elected they tend to fund their reelection campaigns with contributions—just like every other incumbent. In short, the small number of candidates whose personal wealth enhances their competitiveness on Election Day does not remain insulated from the pressures of fundraising once in office."

Best wishes,
Jennifer Steen

7:37 AM  

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