Proof for the first time ever. Economic elites control democracy while average Americans have no influence over policy.

Last spring, political scientists, Martin Gilens of Princeton University and Benjamin Page of Northwestern University, published a fascinating study, proving for the first time ever what we already know: economic elites control democracy while average American citizens have no influence over policy.

The results of the study were so startling that the paper has since gone viral. Gilens’ research shows that the average citizens’ chance of passing a bill flatlines at 30% no matter what. So if a majority of average citizens are greatly in favor of, or against a bill, their chances of shaping that policy remain the same. Congress is unaffected by their votes. The study shows that the opposite is true of economic elites. If a majority of elites are in favor of a bill then the likelihood that it will pass jumps to 60%. 

While Gilens' study shows us empirical data, it does not give the reason behind the flatline phenomenon. However, a video posted recently by NASA scientist, James D’Angelo, does. It also provides a possible solution.

Using his expertise in biology and physics, D’Angelo recognized a trend in Gilens' graphs. They all shot up after 1970. They also looked like graphs he'd seen before in biology whenever a new species was introduced to a new environment. The exponential growth shown in the graphs led D'Angelo to believe that something must have happened in the 1970s to cause such economic inequality. 

During that time period, he noticed that the rich got richer and that debt, government spending and executive pay went up. This gave rise to the .01%. Wages flattened, unions declined, and the 30% flatline rule began. D'Angelo noted that these things were not the case prior to 1970. 

This made D'Angelo wonder--what was introduced into the system in the 1970s that would cause such a rampant increase in economic inequality? After researching extensively, he discovered the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1970. According to the US House of Representatives, this act established the recording of votes in the Committee of the Whole, where the most important policy decisions are made. In order to make the process easier, electronic voting machines were installed on the House floor in 1973. We have used this process ever since. 

Here is why this is a problem. D'Angelo says that voting in public actually takes away a person’s right and freedom to vote. When people are forced to vote in public, they become targets for voter fraud, like intimidation, vote buying and bribery. Anyone who has voted knows that you go to your local polling place and step behind a private voting booth to make your choices. When you’re done, you don’t get a receipt or record of what or whom you voted for. So why, he asks, do we force our public officials to record their votes?

Forcing our public officials to vote publicly means congressional members can be bought off and intimidated by the special interest groups that fund their campaigns and careers. All one has to do to see how a specific representative voted, is go to GovTrack.Us

It’s no wonder our system is flawed. Political careers are expensive. Campaigns, fundraisers and committees cost more than congressmen make in a year. So lobbyists take advantage of this. They are happy to fork out the cash in exchange for favorable legislation and political loopholes that will help their businesses prosper. After all, it costs them nothing in the long run because sometimes the return on an investment is upwards of 22,000%.

If big industry is running America and the people don’t matter then we will continue to see extreme economic disparity. We have no one to represent the poor or the middle class. As Bob Dole once said, (summarized via D’Angelo),

“There’s no government for poor people, like Medicare, food stamp, or nutrition PACs. But there are oil and big industry PACs.”

If we stop making our officials vote publicly, I believe everyday American citizens will have more than a 30% chance of shaping American policy. Like all of politics nothing is cut and dry or simple. This is simply some food for thought to start a conversation about the issue.

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC its affiliates, or its employees.

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