Speed Reads

The Rich Are Different

Here's scientific proof the government favors the rich


We all know Lincoln's famous words about America's government being "of the people, by the people, for a tiny subsection of the richest of the richest of the rich among those people." All right, so Lincoln had a more inclusive vision of how Washington works than that. But according to a new research paper from Princeton and Northwestern professors that will be published in Perspectives on Politics, the government really does cater to the nation's wealthiest.

To arrive at that conclusion, the researchers analyzed nearly 1,800 federal policies enacted between 1981 and 2002, comparing the effect of those policies to public interest polls. After breaking down the public's views by income level, the two determined that "economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy." As for everyone else? "[A]verage citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence."

To put it in harsher terms, the opinions of most people don't matter, at least not when it comes to influencing policy.

The study notes that "imprecision" in its definition of "affluent" may actually underestimate the political clout of the nation's richest. And that was before the Supreme Court earlier this month struck down aggregate limits on personal campaign donations, a decision that could flood elections with more and more cash.