“It violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it’s just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president. And the same thing applies to governors and U.S. senators and congress members.”President Jimmy Carter points to the ideal, that our government’s Constitution was based on the concept of democracy and freedom, at least as freedom and democracy were understood in the eighteenth century. Modern understanding of those may vary, but that was the overall goal. America was to be a government “by the people, of the people and for the people.” Experts are saying that is not what we have today. Carter states this in no uncertain terms.
“So now we’ve just seen a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect and sometimes get favors for themselves after the election’s over.”President Jimmy Carter, who led the U.S. from 1977 to 1981, is not just making this up as he goes along. It has been well established, proved, and recorded painstakingly, as explained in the video below.
President Jimmy Carter is referring to the principles in a very scholarly book, Affluence & Influence, by Martin Gilens. Carter is very much a natural scholar and reads avidly. His opinion is based on scholarly presentations like this one by Professor Martin Gilans, not just observation of the political process, though he may have witnessed this phenomenon firsthand, as well. Professor Gilens speaks on the topic of oligarchy in the video below. His book is available on Princeton Press, and can be previewed or purchased on Amazon, as well.
Martin Gilens’ book introduction begins with a quote by Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis.
“We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we cannot have both.”President Jimmy Carter is simply re-framing Gilen’s study, and putting it in terms that relate to the current situation. As Professor Gilens explains in the description of his book, those with money are the ones who influence politics, law making and government policy.
“Can a country be a democracy if its government only responds to the preferences of the rich? In an ideal democracy, all citizens should have equal influence on government policy–but as this book demonstrates, America’s policymakers respond almost exclusively to the preferences of the economically advantaged.”President Jimmy Carter is taking a stand against oligarchy made possible by large corporate and individual campaign contributions, which he says are allowing undue influence for the rich, and subverting the rights of ordinary Americans.
Martin Gilens set out to test this theory based on over 2,200 government policies from the mid 1960s to 2006. His study shows that the preferences of low and median income Americans have no effect on government policies, while the preferences of those with income in the top 10 percent have far greater influence. Over time, this influence is increasing, regardless of presidential administration. Gilens’ work has withstood analysis well over the past few years, and provides ample data to show that the affluent have more voice in government than the poor or average income groups.
President Jimmy Carter is simply stating a provable point defining oligarchy, not showing any disloyalty, but simply stating that wealth influences government policy.
[Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images]
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