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Why the House of Representatives Doesn't Represent the US Public

Monday, March 30, 2015 By The Daily Take Team, The Thom Hartmann Program | Op-Ed
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Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) discusses President Barack Obama’s executive actions addressing immigration reform, at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 21, 2014. (Jabin Botsford/The New York Times)Speaker of the House John Boehner discusses President Obama's executive actions addressing immigration reform, at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, November 21, 2014. (Jabin Botsford/The New York Times)

One of the really weird ironies of politics these days is the huge divergence between what the US people actually want and what the radical right-wingers in Washington actually do.

You won't hear this on "Fox So-Called News," but right now the US people are as progressive as they ever have been.

See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at Truthout here.

Don't believe me? Just check the polls.

The Progressive Change Institute recently asked likely 2016 voters about their views on a bunch of big issues, and it turns out that everyday citizens overwhelmingly support some of the most liberal policies around.

  • 71 percent of the US public supports giving all students access to a debt-free college education.
  • 70 percent support expanding Social Security.
  • 71 percent support a massive infrastructure spending program aimed at rebuilding out broken roads and bridges and putting people back to work.
  • 59 percent support raising taxes on the wealthy so that millionaires pay the same amount in taxes as they did during the Reagan administration.
  • 77 percent support giving every US child free pre-K education.

And the list goes on.

  • 58 percent of Americans support breaking up the big banks.
  • 59 percent, meanwhile, support a basic guaranteed minimum income while a still higher percentage - 70 percent - support the creation of a "Green New Deal" that would see the government invest hundreds of millions of dollars in renewable energy.

Oh, and if that wasn't enough, support on Capitol Hill for the Congressional Progressive Caucus' (CPC) annual budget, which would put into place many of these very same liberal policies, is growing.

A full 40 percent of House Democrats supported the CPC budget in 2012, 43 percent supported it in 2013, 44 percent supported it in 2014 and more than half - 51.5 percent - support it this year.

In other words, progressive values aren't just popular with everyday citizens - they're also popular, and increasingly more popular, with one of our two major parties, the Democratic one.

But all this begs the question: If more than half of congressional Democrats and way more than half of all citizens support doing things like expanding Social Security and making college free for all, why aren't those policies becoming law?

Why, in our democracy, is the will of the people not being heard?

The answer is both simple and tragic - we no longer actually live in a democracy.

We live in an oligarchy.

Thanks to the Supreme Court's long war against campaign finance law, the billionaires and economic royalists now have more control over our political system than they have in almost a century.

This isn't opinion; it's objective and quantifiable fact.

A study released last year by political scientists Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page, for example, found the following:

A proposed policy change with low support among the US economic elite (one-out-of-five in favor) is adopted only about 18 percent of the time while a proposed change with high support (four-out-of-five in favor) is adopted about 45 percent of the time.

It really is all about money in politics.

Since billionaires like Charles and David Koch can now pretty much buy their own politicians, along with billions in advertising and PR, it's their views that get heard in Congress, and it's their views that become law.

And because real progressive policies so often cut into the power of the rich, they only very rarely become law in this "Brave New World" of ours.

The United States has and always will be a progressive nation, but if we don't do something right now to reign in the corrupting influence of big money, it won't matter whether 70 percent or 30 percent of citizens want to break up the big banks.

So go to Move to Amend right now to get money out of politics once and for all.

This article was first published on Truthout and any reprint or reproduction on any other website must acknowledge Truthout as the original site of publication.

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Why the House of Representatives Doesn't Represent the US Public

Monday, March 30, 2015 By The Daily Take Team, The Thom Hartmann Program | Op-Ed
  • font size decrease font size decrease font size increase font size increase font size
  • Print

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) discusses President Barack Obama’s executive actions addressing immigration reform, at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 21, 2014. (Jabin Botsford/The New York Times)Speaker of the House John Boehner discusses President Obama's executive actions addressing immigration reform, at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, November 21, 2014. (Jabin Botsford/The New York Times)

One of the really weird ironies of politics these days is the huge divergence between what the US people actually want and what the radical right-wingers in Washington actually do.

You won't hear this on "Fox So-Called News," but right now the US people are as progressive as they ever have been.

See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at Truthout here.

Don't believe me? Just check the polls.

The Progressive Change Institute recently asked likely 2016 voters about their views on a bunch of big issues, and it turns out that everyday citizens overwhelmingly support some of the most liberal policies around.

  • 71 percent of the US public supports giving all students access to a debt-free college education.
  • 70 percent support expanding Social Security.
  • 71 percent support a massive infrastructure spending program aimed at rebuilding out broken roads and bridges and putting people back to work.
  • 59 percent support raising taxes on the wealthy so that millionaires pay the same amount in taxes as they did during the Reagan administration.
  • 77 percent support giving every US child free pre-K education.

And the list goes on.

  • 58 percent of Americans support breaking up the big banks.
  • 59 percent, meanwhile, support a basic guaranteed minimum income while a still higher percentage - 70 percent - support the creation of a "Green New Deal" that would see the government invest hundreds of millions of dollars in renewable energy.

Oh, and if that wasn't enough, support on Capitol Hill for the Congressional Progressive Caucus' (CPC) annual budget, which would put into place many of these very same liberal policies, is growing.

A full 40 percent of House Democrats supported the CPC budget in 2012, 43 percent supported it in 2013, 44 percent supported it in 2014 and more than half - 51.5 percent - support it this year.

In other words, progressive values aren't just popular with everyday citizens - they're also popular, and increasingly more popular, with one of our two major parties, the Democratic one.

But all this begs the question: If more than half of congressional Democrats and way more than half of all citizens support doing things like expanding Social Security and making college free for all, why aren't those policies becoming law?

Why, in our democracy, is the will of the people not being heard?

The answer is both simple and tragic - we no longer actually live in a democracy.

We live in an oligarchy.

Thanks to the Supreme Court's long war against campaign finance law, the billionaires and economic royalists now have more control over our political system than they have in almost a century.

This isn't opinion; it's objective and quantifiable fact.

A study released last year by political scientists Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page, for example, found the following:

A proposed policy change with low support among the US economic elite (one-out-of-five in favor) is adopted only about 18 percent of the time while a proposed change with high support (four-out-of-five in favor) is adopted about 45 percent of the time.

It really is all about money in politics.

Since billionaires like Charles and David Koch can now pretty much buy their own politicians, along with billions in advertising and PR, it's their views that get heard in Congress, and it's their views that become law.

And because real progressive policies so often cut into the power of the rich, they only very rarely become law in this "Brave New World" of ours.

The United States has and always will be a progressive nation, but if we don't do something right now to reign in the corrupting influence of big money, it won't matter whether 70 percent or 30 percent of citizens want to break up the big banks.

So go to Move to Amend right now to get money out of politics once and for all.

This article was first published on Truthout and any reprint or reproduction on any other website must acknowledge Truthout as the original site of publication.

Hide Comments

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