Alan Guebert: Winner take all | TSLN.com

Alan Guebert: Winner take all

by Alan Guebert

If Election Day results mostly swing on the amount of money spent during election campaigns, and it’s legal for corporations and wealthy individuals to pour unlimited amounts of money into campaigns either directly or through opaque front organizations, then we are dangerously close to the day where we’ll not need elections.

Instead, campaigns – even more so than this year’s $6 billion exercise in bombast – will become screamed-filled auctions between the fear-mongering right and the demonizing left.

Or is it the demonizing right and the fear-mongering left?

It makes little difference because all the shoving, shouting and shoveling have become theater to divert your attention away from the Really Big Show: policy choices being made by the permanent government, the unelected 24/7 Cost-Benefit Gang, whose campaign cash returns 10 or 100 times more than, say, investing in a factory or the environment.

History – not television campaign ads, not political parties and not radio mouth foamers – says it’s so.

According to the eye-opening premise of the recently published book, “Winner-Take-All Politics,” by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, the last 30 years of policy choices have delivered America a nearly paralyzed political process that reflects a deeply divided electorate slipping quickly down the economic ladder.

Recommended Stories For You

How’d we get here? Simple, say the Yale University (Hacker) and University of California (Pierson) professors of political science: we designed, then increasingly depended, on federal policies tilted toward deregulation.

Thirty years later the result – after deregulating and uncoupling almost everything from anything: airlines, trucking, banking, credit, clean air, farm programs, meat inspections, mining, union organizing, utilities, you name it – was an economy that had more in common with Guatemala than the United States.

In fact, from 1979 to 2006 (the last year of data compiled by the Congressional Budget Office) real average household income in the U.S. grew 1.5 percent a year, from $47,900 to $71,900, the bottom 20 percent of Americans saw their real (deflated) income rise from a not-bad then $14,900 to a puny now $16,500.

That’s a sickly 0.3 percent growth per year.

The middle 20 percent of Americans (that’s why we call ’em the middle class) fared little better, their inflation-adjusted incomes rose from $42,900 to $52,100 over those 27 years, or 0.7 percent per year.

Meanwhile, the top one percent of all Americans saw their incomes rise 260 percent, from $337,100 per year to $1.2 million. That’s 9.6 percent per year, or more than 10 times faster than the middle class and light years faster than the poor.

In short, our politics – take your pick: left wing, right wing or chicken wing – have delivered tax and business policies that flooded benefits upward far faster than any that trickled sideways or downward like the 30 years of academic, business and political baloney had promised.

It’s the key element in one of the biggest lies in American politics for decades: for all to do better a few have to do fabulously better.

Like, say, for all farmers to do better, three giant grain companies are better than 300 smaller ones. Or the current nonsense that all poultry, hog and cattle producers are better with today’s four-member Packer Gang than yesterday’s 10.

Or, the really rich lie that to get more credit to more people – surely not bigger profits to fewer shareholders – banks must be deregulated. That can’t hurt, right?

Whatever happened to irrefutable ideal that for everyone to do better everyone must do better? Is it just a quaint notion anymore?

If so, then this year’s auction, er, election, brings no change. The Cost-Benefit Gang will, again, be the big winner and democracy the big loser.

If Election Day results mostly swing on the amount of money spent during election campaigns, and it’s legal for corporations and wealthy individuals to pour unlimited amounts of money into campaigns either directly or through opaque front organizations, then we are dangerously close to the day where we’ll not need elections.

Instead, campaigns – even more so than this year’s $6 billion exercise in bombast – will become screamed-filled auctions between the fear-mongering right and the demonizing left.

Or is it the demonizing right and the fear-mongering left?

It makes little difference because all the shoving, shouting and shoveling have become theater to divert your attention away from the Really Big Show: policy choices being made by the permanent government, the unelected 24/7 Cost-Benefit Gang, whose campaign cash returns 10 or 100 times more than, say, investing in a factory or the environment.

History – not television campaign ads, not political parties and not radio mouth foamers – says it’s so.

According to the eye-opening premise of the recently published book, “Winner-Take-All Politics,” by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, the last 30 years of policy choices have delivered America a nearly paralyzed political process that reflects a deeply divided electorate slipping quickly down the economic ladder.

How’d we get here? Simple, say the Yale University (Hacker) and University of California (Pierson) professors of political science: we designed, then increasingly depended, on federal policies tilted toward deregulation.

Thirty years later the result – after deregulating and uncoupling almost everything from anything: airlines, trucking, banking, credit, clean air, farm programs, meat inspections, mining, union organizing, utilities, you name it – was an economy that had more in common with Guatemala than the United States.

In fact, from 1979 to 2006 (the last year of data compiled by the Congressional Budget Office) real average household income in the U.S. grew 1.5 percent a year, from $47,900 to $71,900, the bottom 20 percent of Americans saw their real (deflated) income rise from a not-bad then $14,900 to a puny now $16,500.

That’s a sickly 0.3 percent growth per year.

The middle 20 percent of Americans (that’s why we call ’em the middle class) fared little better, their inflation-adjusted incomes rose from $42,900 to $52,100 over those 27 years, or 0.7 percent per year.

Meanwhile, the top one percent of all Americans saw their incomes rise 260 percent, from $337,100 per year to $1.2 million. That’s 9.6 percent per year, or more than 10 times faster than the middle class and light years faster than the poor.

In short, our politics – take your pick: left wing, right wing or chicken wing – have delivered tax and business policies that flooded benefits upward far faster than any that trickled sideways or downward like the 30 years of academic, business and political baloney had promised.

It’s the key element in one of the biggest lies in American politics for decades: for all to do better a few have to do fabulously better.

Like, say, for all farmers to do better, three giant grain companies are better than 300 smaller ones. Or the current nonsense that all poultry, hog and cattle producers are better with today’s four-member Packer Gang than yesterday’s 10.

Or, the really rich lie that to get more credit to more people – surely not bigger profits to fewer shareholders – banks must be deregulated. That can’t hurt, right?

Whatever happened to irrefutable ideal that for everyone to do better everyone must do better? Is it just a quaint notion anymore?

If so, then this year’s auction, er, election, brings no change. The Cost-Benefit Gang will, again, be the big winner and democracy the big loser.

Go back to article