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Disturbing data: The rich and powerful get their policies adopted, even if opposed by most voters

Policies supported by economic elites became law between 60 and 70 percent of the time. Policies support by business lobbies also became law 60 to 70 percent of the time. But policy changes favored by a majority of all voters were enacted just 30 percent of the time.

You won’t be shocked to learn that wealthy people get the policies they want from government more often than those of low or moderate means. Nor will you be surprised that organized special interests — the kinds of groups that send lobbyists to Washington to advance pro-business agendas — have an impact. But, at least if you’ve been watching your old Frank Capra movies, you might think these tendencies can be overcome, or at least partially offset, by the power of the people, the ordinary voter, without whose support no one can reach high office in America.

Even a legislator who sympathizes with or has sold his political soul to the rich and powerful (you might think) has to take into account the policy preferences of the ordinary voter.

You might think that, but according to research by an eminent political scientist presented at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School, you would be wrong.

Whether or not a proposed change in government policy is favored by the majority of Americans “matters not a whit” in leading to the adoption of such policy changes, Princeton professor Martin Gilens has concluded. On the other hand, the support of a proposed policy change by wealthy Americans, or by organized lobbies, matters quite a few whits.

Gilens and co-author Benjamin Page have written a paper detailing these results. You can see the paper summarized here. You can see the two professors discuss it with Jon Stewart on the “Daily Show” here. You can read Paul Krugman discussing their findings here. Or you can just allow your humble and obedient and ink-stained wretch to summarize what Gilens told an audience at a Thursday forum of the Humphrey School’s Center for the Study of Politics and Government.

Three decades of survey data

Gilens searched three decades worth of survey data (the decades with the 1980s, the 1990s and the 2000-aughts) to identify about 1,800 poll questions that revealed whether a particular policy change before Congress was supported by average Americans, by wealthy Americans and by any organized lobbies. Many of the proposals never became law. But Gilens and Page found that policies supported by economic elites became law between 60 and 70 percent of the time. Policies support by business lobbies also became law 60 to 70 percent of the time. (Often these were the same policies.) But policy changes favored by a majority of all voters were enacted just 30 percent of the time.

Princeton professor Martin Gilens

Princeton professor Martin Gilens

Wait a minute (you may be thinking), 30 percent isn’t nothing; what about that “not a whit” stuff? But here’s the kicker. The policies that became law, that had the support of the majority of Americans, in all cases also had the support of the economic elite or of powerful lobbies or both.

There were plenty of cases in which policies supported by the wealthy or the big lobbies became law even though they were opposed by the popular majority. (He mentioned a few, including the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Bush tax cuts and the 1999 repeal of the Glass-Steagall law — which was widely blamed for facilitating the economic collapse of 2007-8 — that were adopted even though they were opposed by the majority of Americans.)

But they found no cases in which a policy with majority support was adopted without additional support by wealthy Americans or organized influence. That’s the key to Gilens’ statement that “only people with money or organized influence matter.”

It takes money to win

But how can that be true when no one can get into political office without popular support, usually majority support? You don’t have to be a super-cynic to know where Gilens goes with that question. It takes money to get elected. On average, he said, $1 million to win a seat in the U.S. House, $10 million in the Senate. In the last presidential election, more than $1 billion was spent by or on behalf of each of the major-party presidential campaigns.

Maybe you’re used to that so it doesn’t surprise you, but how about this one: Wealthy donors, comprising less than .01 percent of the population (that’s not 1 percent — that’s one one-hundredth of 1 percent) accounted for 40 percent of all political contributions in 2012, Gilens said. (All those donors could fit inside Target stadium, he said— but, of course, they may not all be Twins fans.)

Who gives how much to campaigns has long been an issue, but in the post-Citizens United era, Gilens said, most of the money isn’t even raised and spent by the campaigns. In 2012, more than $1 billion of political spending was done by SuperPACs and other unaccountable groups who don’t even give to campaigns. Of SuperPAC money, he said, 93 percent came from just 3,318 wealthy people. Fifty-nine percent of it came from just 159 people, which he called “a shocking concentration” of political giving that “shows no signs of letting up.”

“Political and economic power has become concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer people,” Gilens said, and if that trend continues “we’ll have a democracy in name only.”

Comments (73)

  1. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 05/08/2015 - 08:54 am.

    It’s the Citizen’s United ruling

    working hard for all the fat cats and nobody else. Money talks and it also corrupts. Thanks SCOTUS. Citizen’s United is working as planned. It’s pushing the general public farther and farther away from having any impact on public decisions. Thanks SCOTUS. Proof the Supreme Court justices should not be there for a lifetime. The Supreme Court justices need term limits to limit the damage they can do. By the way the Citizens United ruling has nothing to do with uniting the citizen.

  2. Submitted by Michael Hess on 05/08/2015 - 08:57 am.


    How do you adjust for level of involvement or insight? As Mr Gruber famously demonstrated politicians of all stripes and political leanings rely on the relative ignorance of the voters to get policies through they may or may not understand.

    So politicans may spin something to build public support that described a different way or more honestly they may not support.

    Grouping “rich and powerful” together is a flaw in the analysis. Many rich may feel disconnected or disengaged with the political process and just react to what comes out of the government. Likewise there are vocal organized politically active groups that may not represent wealthy constituents but they wield political power.

  3. Submitted by Dan Landherr on 05/08/2015 - 09:29 am.


    Are you going to give us the names of the 159 most powerful people in America or do I have to pay $30 for the journal article. Is it even in the journal article?

  4. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 05/08/2015 - 09:39 am.

    Late to the game

    “…if that trend continues “we’ll have a democracy in name only.‘” A million for a seat in the House? Ten million for a seat in the Senate? A billion (with a “B”) spent on the last presidential election (about as much as we’re spending on the Vikings’ new monument to garish excess)? The suggestion that we might become more an oligarchy rather than a democracy is, shall we say, somewhat tardy.

    And, of course, if they play their cards right, we could have a presidential contest in 2016 between multimillionaire Jeb Bush and multimillionaire Hillary Clinton. Forgive me for thinking that my less-than-median income concerns and interests will rank far lower on either candidate’s list of issues to address than the interests and concerns of that one-hundredth of one percent. There may be plenty of campaign rhetoric suggesting otherwise, but talk is cheap. It’s what you do that counts, and there’s almost no action on the Republican side, and not much more than that on the Democratic side, to suggest that the major players, once the pandering of the election is over, will work very hard to enact policies that primarily benefit the 99.9%.

    I’m neither surprised nor particularly disturbed by the data Messrs. Gilens and Page have accumulated. I would be “disturbed” if the data were a surprise, but the data simply confirms what plenty of people have observed taking place over the last generation.

  5. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 05/08/2015 - 09:54 am.

    This isn’t bad

    It’s REALLY bad. Any way you dice it.

  6. Submitted by Peder DeFor on 05/08/2015 - 10:02 am.

    Rich and Connected

    Don’t worry, I’m sure when the Clintons are back in the White House, we’ll get a handle on the problem of cash for policy preferences.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 05/08/2015 - 12:59 pm.


      By Koch standards, the Clinton’s skim on the retail level.
      And at least they give value to the body politic: the economy was stronger under Clinton than it’s been since.

      • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 05/09/2015 - 01:48 pm.

        Yeah Paul, there is certainly a case to be made that the country does well with a Democrat President under the careful guidance of a GOP majority Senate and House.

        • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 05/09/2015 - 05:00 pm.

          But you haven’t made it

          True, congressional Republicans were not always as obstructionist as they are now.
          However, to support your case you would have to cite economic legislation that Republicans in the House and Senate proposed and Clinton supported (without having suggested it himself first).

          • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 05/09/2015 - 11:47 pm.

            You might remember the GOP slapped Clintons hand in 1995, and passed a balanced budget in 1997.

            You might also remember Clinton declaring the era of big government was over. He was wrong, of course but it’s clear the GOP assisted in getting his mind right.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 05/08/2015 - 02:20 pm.

      I must have missed something

      Please tell me where or how the article or any of the posts commenting on it mentioned either Clinton.

      • Submitted by Peder DeFor on 05/08/2015 - 11:02 pm.

        How the Wealthy Influence Policy

        Um, there has been some recent news about Hillary Clinton, the overwhelming frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nominee, and the intersection of gifts given to her foundation and subsequent favorable rulings that have then happened. This seems to be in step with the general gist of the article that wealthy people can buy policy outcomes.

        • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 05/09/2015 - 09:47 am.


          The Koch brothers rank fourth on the Forbes 400 list of wealthiest Americans.
          The Clintons are not in the top 400 (Glen Taylor is 283rd). George Soros is #19.
          All the people in the Forbes 400 are billionaires.

          Of course this is personal wealth, not the assets of foundations.
          However, there are Federal regulations constraining personal profit from the assets of foundations (they must be used for the stated use to maintain their tax status). So there is no evidence that the Clintons themselves (as opposed to causes tht they support) benefit from their foundation.

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 05/09/2015 - 01:57 pm.

          I think I understand

          The article did not mention the Clintons in any context. The general gist, however, sparked a need for some gratuitous bashing.

          Yes, I understand.

  7. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 05/08/2015 - 10:33 am.

    Well yes.

    That’s pretty much the way things go. Take a look at the 2014 election. Republicans campaigned on doing more for Greater Minnesota. But their campaign was financed by wealthy individuals who want lower taxes and really couldn’t care less about the problems of Greater Minnesota. That sets up a basic contradiction which the Republican legislative party has spent the last five months in St. Paul trying to resolve. As of this morning. It does indeed take money to get elected, but the campaign that money buys, doesn’t have to bear any significant relationship to the real interests and concerns of the individuals purchasing it.

  8. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 05/08/2015 - 10:58 am.

    Can’t wait to see how the argument is made how this was the ultimate goal of the “founding fathers” all along.

    Shining city on the hill and original intent, indeed.

    Orwell spinning….

  9. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 05/08/2015 - 11:34 am.

    The founders favored the interests of the propertied class and were deeply suspicious of popular rule. The idea we occasionally hear today, that those who have a greater stake in society should have a greater voice in running it would have found sympathy with them. And the fact is, with all the changes we have made in the processes of our government which includes creating a role for the popular vote in the election of president and the senate, the fundamental dynamic of the system the founders created which favors the rich hasn’t changed all that much.

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 05/08/2015 - 12:30 pm.

      If you think that the intertwining of wealth and power, as was most clearly exemplified in that time by the East India or Massachusetts Bay Company was an acceptable condition for the founders, I think you read history wrong.

      The founders were most concerned that those with the most at stake, as INDIVIDUALS, have the power of the vote–hence limited suffrage.

      There was also a clear and recorded concern that there be an opportunity to better oneself without restriction, which speaks quite clearly to the increasingly rigid stratification of the classes in America.

      There was no where where the concentration of power and wealth, as exemplified by this post, was glorified as the ideal end state.

      Otherwise, how is an oligarchy any better than a monarchy? Especially an increasingly hereditary oligarchy?

      • Submitted by Hiram Foster on 05/08/2015 - 02:46 pm.


        I don’t know that the founders were terribly excited about glorifying themselves. It just seemed natural to them that people of their class should govern. As many people today feel that it’s ok that those with wealth are entitled to all the political and economic power that wealth can enable.

  10. Submitted by David Frenkel on 05/08/2015 - 12:15 pm.


    There is a reason lobbying is a multi-billion dollar industry in Washington, DC…it works. The one thing this article did not mention is that the lobbying industry often writes the legislation that Congress passes. The best example of lobbying whether you love them or hate them is the NRA. Nobody in Congress will challenge the NRA, it is a political death wish.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 05/08/2015 - 01:01 pm.


      Private corporations spend about thirty times as much on lobbying as do unions and public interest groups.

      • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 05/09/2015 - 07:18 pm.

        Private corporations also divvy up the loot pretty evenly between the parties to cover the field. Unions spend 100% of their political cash on Democrats.

        Taken as a dollar amount, Democrats consistently haul in 1/3 more.

        • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 05/09/2015 - 08:42 pm.

          This is true but

          only for direct contributions to political parties.
          When you look at PACs (the big source of post Citizens United spending) the picture favors the Republicans.
          And anytime someone talks about ‘100%’ of anything I know the number is coming out of their hat.

  11. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 05/08/2015 - 12:16 pm.

    Contrary to what the Founding Fathers may have had in mind, today’s wealthy class controlling our democracy is proportionately much, much smaller. A very few people with astonishing wealth. And, they’re secretive, not willing to have their influence known by the average person out there.

    Those of us who have kept up with what’s happening with money in politics would really like someone to go further than these two professors and their peers, to provide solutions.

    How do we counteract the influence on politics (not on the political parties per se) of Big Money? What laws would help? When Republicans don’t want to pass any such laws, are there organizing/educational/advocacy routes by which to move this problem?

    • Submitted by Tom Christensen on 05/08/2015 - 06:21 pm.

      I’m not sure

      how we get politicians to legislate against themselves when they like it the way it is. With big donors they don’t have to hunt as hard for money. The electorate is horrible at paying attention so via the vote it is hard to weed out the politicians. Term limits would go a long way to helping fix some of our problems, but here again the politicians would have to set it up. Effective campaign finance laws are nearly impossible to get. As soon as a law is enacted the politicians are on their merry way figuring out how to work around the law. How do we eliminate the dark money? Lots of questions and no answers. Imbedded corruption is nearly impossible to eliminate.

  12. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 05/08/2015 - 03:47 pm.

    How do we counteract the influence on politics (not on the political parties per se) of Big Money?

    A fascinating question. First thing, I think is ask ourselves how does big money affect our politics? What does it buy? Once we know what the influence is, we can develop some idea of how to “counteract” it.

  13. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 05/08/2015 - 07:07 pm.

    Missing facts

    Unfortunately, it looks like a few facts are skipped which may make this look a little bit different. First, referring to “organized special interests — the kinds of groups that send lobbyists to Washington to advance pro-business agendas” omits the fact that unions are huge lobbyist (the latest local example is failure of the Sunday liquor sales bill which was strongly opposed by the union). Second, the unmentioned assumption is that rich people give to Republicans while in fact they give about equally to Democrats. If this is not considered, it may seem logical to assume that it is Republican leadership that does thing to please the rich while in reality out of three mentioned examples two happened to occur on Democratic president’s watch and one during Democratic majority in Congress.

    So yes, money in politics is the major (and very negative) factor but let’s stop pretending, as so many liberals do, that it is all Republicans’ fault and they are benefiting. Just look at Clinton and her cash…

    • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 05/08/2015 - 09:11 pm.


      The facts as usual were presented about 4-5 posts earlier, and as usual choice was to ignore them:
      A 2nd point (Those terrible terrible unions) represent a lot more people than the uber- wealthy, with a lot less capital: Yes if you insist, it will be a no brainier to prove the point! Which will of course be useless because the only data believed/supported is of personal home grown variety.
      Next: Please start working 50-60-70 hours a week at less than minimum wage and don’t take that 401K nor the health and dental benefits or the life insurance, pension, or the vacation, or the safety standards etc. etc. because we all know folks like you “MADE IT 100% ON YOUR OWN” you aren’t suckling anything the Union boys fought and died for, that is of course a Republican disgrace. The only pretending here is you! Nor is your association on the “Great” side of the Einstein equation.

      “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.”

      — Albert Einstein,
      theoretical physicist

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/09/2015 - 07:07 am.


        “unions represent a lot more people than the uber- wealthy”

        I guess I disagree, the Koch boys, the Cargill Owners, Glen Taylor, etc have a very vested interest in keeping the American businesses we rely on for jobs profitable and viable in a very competitive Global Market. And as far as I can tell, no one is forced to work for these people. So I think the business owners of the world represent a lot of American citizens.

        And I understand your need to vilify the Kochs to promote the myth, but please remember that that selfish family gives a huge of money back to our communities.

        By the way, I don’t disagree that Unions did some great things. However they also now support a lot of people being paid more than they would earn in a free market. And that burden is being for by the tax payers, which is a huge number of people.

        • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 05/09/2015 - 09:31 am.

          Vested interests

          The problem is that businesses can (as you indicate) maximize their profits by reducing domestic employment and cutting the wages of those that are employed.
          A combination of automation and outsourcing.

          • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/09/2015 - 04:27 pm.


            Let’s try an example.


            Is this good for American workers and businesses? Obama and I say yes, however many Unions and Democrats say no. I say so because I know how huge the tariffs are to Export/import my company’s Designed and Made in America product into some other countries. And I know how not having these laws in place make global businesses go elsewhere.


            Please remember, no one forces us Americans to buy what we buy. Our consumers want low priced high quality goods no matter where they are developed or made. And if they are intent on buying those products built on “automation and outsourcing’, let’s make sure it is our American companies making the money.

            • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 05/09/2015 - 07:14 pm.

              Most of the money

              is made by multinational conglomerates who park their profits in places like the Caymans.

              • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/09/2015 - 08:34 pm.

                However, they employee many many millions of American citizens who pay a whole lot of taxes. Lookup companies like Caterpillar, General Electric, Google, John Deere, General Motors, Microsoft, etc. Besides the fact that they are trying to find a way to bring back those profits without being gouged by us.

                If they come back they would be distributed as dividends or be reinvested, both of which would be good for us.

                I always wonder if that money was already taxed by the country where it was earned,,, Then we insisted on taking more of it.

                • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 05/10/2015 - 09:28 am.

                  Of course

                  those companies themselves are paying a record low in taxes.
                  And the trend is for corporate profits (at least those that are not buried in tax avoidance schemes) to be distributed as bonuses to executives, not as dividends or capital reinvestments.

      • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 05/09/2015 - 11:34 am.

        Please clarify

        Mr. Wagner, unfortunately, you are stepping down to personal attack rather than discussing facts. As Mr. Appelen noticed, the wealthy provide jobs for way more people that the unions take care of – union membership in private business is less than 7%. The rest of the union membership is in government workforce which FDR considered a no-no I also wonder who works 50-60 hours a week for less than minimum wage… Illegal immigrants? Maybe but they still earn more than they would have in their native countries – otherwise they would not be here… I never said that no one helped me but I did work hard and I do know what it means to be poor (unlike most liberals, by the way). So what am I pretending? Please be specific.

        • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 05/10/2015 - 10:02 am.


          Nothing Personal:
          A; The wealthy do not provide jobs: The market does, no market demand no jobs, unless someone creates jobs, those are called stimulus programs, or non-profit/charitable contributions. The wealthy may contribute but so does everyone else. The wealthy capitalize on others labors.
          A1: The reason the union jobs keep shrinking are multiple: Corporations “The wealthy” put profits in front of people, unions got stupid, instead of doing the right thing and finding better ways to manufacture in America they exported the jobs, the changed the laws to favor their actions and punish the workers, exported the pollution instead of meeting the challenge of treating it. How is it Japanese “Union Workers” designed and built better cars? Perhaps there is a little to go around for everyone? Now “Union workers” are making competitive cars, took 30-40 years.The world moves on. ,
          B. Non-union jobs: So what, slavery provided a lot of jobs as well, in case some folks haven’t noticed, the problem in America with the work force is and continues to be near to less than subsistence job availability. 2 earner families still collecting subsidies? Option: Social discourse, notice Baltimore etc. Read the preamble: The founders full well knew what happens when the general welfare gets excessively out of balance, they scribed it for all time lest we forget, which we have.
          C. So what is your point about unionized government workers?
          D. Evidently you don’t know folks holding 2-3 jobs, all at minimum wage. Add it up, try surviving on $300 a week with couple 2-3 kids and rent is $750/month haven’t brought in insurance, food, clothes, heat, medical etc. yet.
          E. Your prejudice is showing: Your making the assumption that that these folks are “immigrants” surprise, America is their native country!
          F; You think other folks don’t work hard, haven’t worked hard. The point of the entire discussion is the ability of the well to do to shift policy/laws to their advantage, fundamentally legalizing financial servitude of the more challenged in society. Us “Liberals” of which I am a fiscal conservative, understand the consequences of these policies, just a new re-packaged form of serfdom, right here in America. That is what the founding fathers did not want/intend , and that is what this article was all about. And from this perspective, that is what you are arguing for, an American of serfs. We are supposedly, according to the founders, trying to make a more perfect union, not empires for the 1%, or do I have the objective wrong?

          • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/10/2015 - 12:54 pm.


            A. Kind of correct. However investors provide money so businesses can exist. (ie R&D, Facilities, Equipment, etc)
            A1. You forgot the #1 issue. American consumers want low priced high quality goods no matter where they are designed, made, or who loses their jobs. One can not pay for the high cost of Union inefficiency and wages and compete well, and the consumers are ok with that.
            B. Deporting the 17 million illegals may help raise wages. Do you think the American’s would do those jobs? And how do we get people who are concerned about low wages to pay more for American Goods and Services?
            C. Unionized Public employees are paid more than market, and questionable employees stay employed which reduces productivity and quality. (kind of GM in the 1980’s) This means that all of us tax payers need to pay more to fund them.
            D. See B & C.
            E. Who again is working for less than min wage?
            F. I have no problem with the rich paying taxes, however I do have a problem with tax dollars just being given to all low income people, arbitrary min wages being set that are above market and unions driving our tax bills up for the benefit of their employees. These things just make doing business in America more expensive, which drives more jobs out of the country.

          • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 05/10/2015 - 03:29 pm.

            This is better – let’s talk about specifics.

            A. The market on its own does not do anything – it is people who, based on market demand which is, by the way, is not presented in a letter sent from the Market Olympus and should be figured out with all associated risk, do something which create jobs. I have not created jobs here even though I did work hard – but I always worked for someone; it takes special qualities to take a risk and create jobs. This has nothing to do with stimulus programs or charities (and no, not everyone contributed even to those and the wealthy contribute way more in addition to paying way more in taxes). So yes, the rich make money on their businesses but that is how capitalism works – what is your alternative? In general, what is your problem with Bill Gates or George Clooney (by the way, how come the Hollywood elite are never a subject of anger from liberals while CEO’s always are?).
            A1. The reason the unions keep shrinking is simple: people don’t need them anymore and they mostly serve their leaders and Democratic Party. And why would corporations put anything ahead of profit – they are created to make profit. It is like asking why Wal-Mart doesn’t explore Antarctica – because it has nothing to do with its main goal and activity.
            B. See A1 – if non-union jobs are good for people holding them and they do not see a reason to join the union, why would they? And, unlike slaves, they are free to choose. And the two earner families collecting subsidies is the result of the wants, not the needs, and the government’s supporting this approach. Is a smart phone a need? A separate apartment? Cable TV? And Baltimore is a result of this policy – when government doesn’t take care of people’s wants, they burn stores and loot instead of finding jobs. Alabama has a huge shortage of agricultural workers and farmers there hire illegal immigrants so why don’t unemployed people from Baltimore go there to work?
            C. My point about government union workers is that it is an aberration detrimental to the society. I can see their role in hiring and firing process but not in setting wages.
            D. Of course I know people holding several jobs but they are not paid LESS than the minimum wage as you asserted (“…working 50-60-70 hours a week at less than minimum wage…”) And why is it $300 a week – where is the other parent of those 2-3 children? And of course, those people would get food stamps and state medical insurance…
            E. Where did you find my prejudice? You talked about someone earning less than minimum wage and only illegal immigrants earn less than minimum wage (or so we are told by their supporters)… I just based my conclusion on your description.
            F. Of course many people work hard but their wages are based on the value they provide to the employer and the market value of their labor -supply and demand is working here, too. Marx explained that labor is a commodity, just like bread, butter, and cars, so the market dictates how much people are paid. Establishing a minimum wage is no different economically than establishing maximum price for a car or bread (and we all can see how well the latter works in Venezuela. And many of the so called 1% rich work very hard, too – doctors, engineers, scientists, even lawyers (who also work 70-80 hours a week). So it is absurd to say that the rich keep poor people poor by making special laws – people’s abilities and market makes it the way it is. Do you want a waiter to earn as much as a cook and as much as a manager of a restaurant?

            If the founding fathers learned about the minimum wage concept and the government involvement in people’s lives, they would be terrified. So I am not arguing for the “serfdom” but for the common sense and less government involvement and people’s getting what they earn. You are using emotional terms like “serfdom” but that should not be used in real discussion. In the Soviet Union, they adjusted the communist slogan “from each – by ability, to each – by the needs” by changing the second part into “to each – by contribution” but you want provide to by the needs, just like in Communism…

            And you still did not explain what I was pretending…

            • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 05/11/2015 - 11:07 am.


              Most of the founding fathers were slave owners so they didn’t have to be bothered with things like minimum wages. As far as I know, the only time that George Washington was concerned with minimum wages was payment for his troops, who tended to desert when they weren’t paid (which was most of the time). He had a constant running battle with the Continental Congress to adequately pay (and feed, clothe and house) his army.
              ‘Washington’s revolution : the making of America’s first leader / by Robert Middlekauff”

              • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/11/2015 - 08:58 pm.

                Free Market at Work

                Who needed a min wage, it sounds like the free market was working well.

                “who tended to desert when they weren’t paid”

            • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 05/13/2015 - 09:01 pm.


              The response was answered but not posted.

    • Submitted by Jeffrey Swainhart on 05/10/2015 - 09:19 pm.

      Here’s some useful data

      to help with the discussion.

      The top 200 political contributors sortable by state or federal contributions.

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 05/11/2015 - 09:24 am.


        But this was from 2007-2008.
        It is not necessarily relevant to post Citizens United spending which would not be tracked by the Federal Election Commission since it is anonymous.

        A more interesting sublink is the one on lobbying expenditures in the upper right corner of this page.
        A very different picture.

  14. Submitted by John Appelen on 05/08/2015 - 07:18 pm.


    The typical citizen has the benefit of being relatively uninformed and does not need to face the tradeoff details, so of course they want things that they think will benefit / protect themselves without knowing the broader implications or how it will cost them. Whereas the politicians are forced to understand that no policy is free and/or “negative consequence free”.

    I used to facilitate customer focus groups once in awhile to try and understand which vehicle features /performance were valued by the customers. The biggest challenge was helping the customer to understand that nothing was free. Without trade offs, costs, etc… They wanted everything.

    I think the typical citizen is happily ignorant, where as the politicians need to face a complicated reality of facts and likely consequences.

  15. Submitted by Pavel Yankovic on 05/09/2015 - 05:27 am.

    No mention …..

    of George Soros.

  16. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 05/09/2015 - 07:40 am.

    “Great spirits have always

    “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.”

    But you notice there is no particular reason to think that any given great spirit is also an intelligent spirit or in any way inclined to pursue the common good.

  17. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 05/09/2015 - 03:19 pm.

    Why, when non-rich republicans show so much deference to business and the wealthy, am I reminded of the English period shows where the field worker removes their cap and tug their forelock as the carriage sweeps by.

    There is the idea, “what’s good for GM (or Koch or Waltons) is good for America”.

    “What’s good for GM is good for GM” is the real truism. And the larger the corporation, the less they are an “American” corporation.

    The search for profits knows little loyalty to America–there are certainly other places with money to spend and profits to be had rather than America.

    So bow to the wealthy–but I have a hard time seeing much difference between a monarchy and a hereditary oligarchy.

    If you need a world where there are superior humans who deserve to decide for you, go ahead and bow as the carriage go by.

  18. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 05/09/2015 - 05:17 pm.

    “The rich and powerful get their policies adopted, even if opposed by most voters”

    Obamacare was adopted over the objections of most voters; so was MNSure; so was Zygi’s Big Gift and the baseball field. Who greased those skids, do you think, and who got the grease?

    If leftists really want “the people” to rule, they should lead by example…not that that’s going to happen, jus’ sayin’.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 05/09/2015 - 07:23 pm.

      The Affordable Care Act

      is actually The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) which was passed by Congress (which was of course elected by voters).
      Since it was not on a referendum (rare for national legislation) one might say that it was never directly approved by voters, but this is true for most acts of Congress.
      Most MNSure money goes to insurance companies, who in turn pass it on to (mostly Republican) legislators through lobbying and Citizens United contributions.
      And that’s the grease.

      • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 05/09/2015 - 11:39 pm.

        72% of people polled were against Obamacare before and after Democrats, and only Democrats, jammed it through using reconciliation, which had never been used for a major piece of legislation. A plurality continues to oppose Obamacare.

        The MNGOP did everything they could to keep the DFL from saddling the taxpayers with the epic failure known as MNSure. If insurance companies are funneling cash to Republicans, they’re not getting anything in return.

        …it’s too early to try rewriting history Paul.

        • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 05/10/2015 - 09:32 am.

          As has been pointed out a number of times

          The number of people objecting to the ACA as presently constituted includes people whose objection is that it is too limited. So that plurality does not proved that a majority of those polled (who may or may not be voters — you’ve switched your referent) object to the concept of national health care.

        • Submitted by Sean Olsen on 05/11/2015 - 11:05 am.

          The notion that reconciliation had never been used to pass major legislation before is also not exactly correct, either.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 05/09/2015 - 07:28 pm.

      In fact

      I don’t believe that there is any mechanism in the Federal governmental system for a national referendum (the word does not appear in the Constitution). The founders believed in representative government, not mob rule. Therefore, NO federal legislation ever gets direct approval by vote.

    • Submitted by jason myron on 05/09/2015 - 09:08 pm.

      Uhhh, no

      Obama ran and was elected on reforming healthcare.

    • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 05/10/2015 - 01:44 pm.


      Lead by example meaning, TPaw should have never signed the Stadium deal, where was his example?
      jus’ sayin’.

      • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 05/11/2015 - 08:33 am.

        Stadium deal, gax tax hike, increased ethanol in gasoline, the laughable Northstar “commuter” train…lot of things TPaw shouldn’t have done. That’s why no conservatives ever took him seriously as a presidential candidate.

  19. Submitted by Jay Willemssen on 05/09/2015 - 08:34 pm.

    Sponsors of “Zygi’s Big Gift”

    State Representative Morris L. “Morrie” Lanning (R – Moorhead)
    State Senator Julie A. Rosen (R – Fairmont)

    as for “Pohlad’s Big Gift”:
    It had 29 sponsors in the House – 15 Republicans and 14 Democrats.
    It had 5 sponsors in the Senate – 3 Republicans and 2 Democrats.
    It was signed into law by Governor Timothy James “Tim” Pawlenty (R – Eagan).

    Apparently Democrats are so powerful, they control the Republican party.


    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 05/11/2015 - 05:57 pm.

      The Democrats do have

      complete control over the Republican Party.
      All that they have to do is propose something and they know that the Republicans will do the exact opposite. If the Dems proposed cutting taxes, I’m sure that the GOP would come out for raising them.

  20. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 05/14/2015 - 08:08 am.

    The stadium

    Obviously, it’s been discussed to death, but the classic example of something that happened that people didn’t want is the Vikings Stadium. Even as it rises in downtown Minnesota, no one has a very clear idea of what went into the decision to build it, or how that decision was ultimately made. Journalism and the attention of the public has simply moved on. And that’s what advocates of unpopular things count on. They tell legislators, sure the polls are against it, but once the decision is made no one will care or remember except for the folks who benefit from the deal, and whose support you will need going forward.

  21. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/14/2015 - 04:13 pm.

    What to do?

    Basically the best idea I’ve heard over the decades is publicly funded elections and media rules that grant equal time and a certain amount of print space and airtime to qualified candidates. Equal time rules would cancel out negative third party attack ads because media would be required to grant equal time for free to those who are attacked, so: A) why spend a million bucks to produce an ad that only gets your opponent free air time? B) Media would be much more picky about the ad time they sell to third parties, if they sell it at all, because free air time and print space is NOT part of the business plan.

    The idea that writing a check is “speech” has always been bizarre notion, and I think it’s one that will eventually collapse. So I in the end this idea doesn’t have to crash against the rocks of the First Amendment. You wouldn’t be prohibiting political speech, you’d actually be promoting it, with certain guidelines.

    In general though this is what corruption looks like in a liberal democracy and we need to start calling it what it is. The stadium deal was a product of corruption, and we need name that and start talking about it and what to do about it. Basically our elected representatives know they can coddle the rich at our expense and get away with it. THAT’S our problem, what do we do about THAT is the question. I think weakening the grip that the wealthy have over our elections is an important part of the solution.

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