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Why Democrats Keep Losing!

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

May I rant? It helps me to think out loud. Maybe you will find it helpful too. (or just ignore this if you like.)

voting

 

 

Democrats are loosing in state after state and in federal elections because they are acting too white and wealthy for their base, the REAL latent base of the party. And this base is NOT its liberal donors. Dem donors are nice folks, but they can’t compete with the GOP donor machines. (Nor should they try)

According to OpenSecrets.org, from the prior election, two-thirds of corporate donations go to the GOP and one-third to Dem’s. That’s more than enough money to distract Democratic candidates.  But that’s not the whole story.

We already have a party of wealthy white guys, so we don’t need another party of wealthy (relative term here, not pejorative) white gals or guys to oppose them. As badly as the GOP is exploiting and marginalizing woman (treating them like subordinates), woman’s issues are not winning over woman like it should, not even female Democrats. But that’s not the whole story either.

We need a Democratic party that gets intimately in touch with the needs of the ordinary people who haven’t been voting lately, people who, from their distal vantage, can’t tell the two parties apart. Their issues are literally bread and butter, not theoretical or ideological economics. They live in a deflationary universe where wages are flat and a dollar keeps shrinking. Their daily sweat has been sanitized and turned into a market commodity. There is no profit left in labor for them. They know their children will have no inheritance because everything they own can be sold at a flee market.

The middle class that we usually picture in our mind is not the middle income folks of today. Popular culture’s view, reinforced by network TV’s portrayals of middle-class lifestyles, matches people making more than $100,000 a year, twice the median wage. Which politicians for federal office speak openly and bravely for this half of our hard working citizens who make less than $50,000 per year? You can’t reach them by talk of job creation! Most of them have more jobs than they can handle.

If we think of the lower half of wage earners as being made up of those who are working and those looking for work, then 7% unemployed minus the 50% who earn less than a middle wage leaves 43% of the wage earners who are not being represented by either party. Of this group, those who call themselves Democrats aren’t showing up to vote. Why should they? What will change when no one seems to notice them?

Republican in this same low income group do show up to vote, but that’s because they are cynically manipulated by the wealthy wing of the GOP. They are voting out of fear, anger and pain. The wealthy wing of the GOP hears their pain even as it twist the knife.

Democrats in public office, or running for office, don’t want to ruffle the feathers of the powerful minority groups (Wall Street, CEO’s, Billionaires, etc.) even though these folks aren’t voting for them.  Money is tight. I get that.

Let me give you just two examples from two New Jersey congressional races that were below the national radar, The incumbent Republican, Rodney Frelinghuysen, raise 7 times more money than his Democratic challenger, Mark Dunec in the 11th District. Incumbent Republican Leonard Lance raised 8 times more than his Democratic challenger, Janice Kovach in the 7th District. All this money did not come from the 43% of hard working American’s who still need some form of government subsidy to survive.

And what help did these Democratic candidates get from their party elders? Very little! A decision was made to write off these districts. The slick election strategy that carefully targets resources to the most competitive races writes off the needs of millions of people who have every right to be represented. The big get out the vote strategy touted by the party fizzled because they didn’t have an explosive message to motivate the 43%ers.

People who live below the median wage level have one thing in common with the richest billionaires… their vote is just as powerful. One person! One vote! It isn’t how corporations operate; It’s how democracies operate. And until Democrats start collecting those uncast vote, instead of appeasing the rich, Democrats will continue to loose.

It is time to stop playing the Republican’s game.

 

Here is a helpful article by Robert Reich that says in fewer word what I am trying to say above.

http://m.dailykos.com/stories/1342950

 

Anyway, I’m done with my rant. Thanks for listening, even if you didn’t make it this far. All the best in the future.

_______________________________

Image Credit: http://news.yourolivebranch.org/2011/05/24/iec-declares-election-free-and-fair/

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Government of the People Is Gone- Here’s Proof

by Brian T. Lynch

 

Martin Gilens of Princeton University, and Benjamin I. Page of Northwestern University , conducted a multivariate analysis of 1,779 policy issues in the United States, the results of which confirmed that the United States is no longer a Majoritarian Electoral Democracy.oligarchy

 

In other words, we have lost majority rule. The United States has become an oligarchy. Business interests and the interests of the wealthy elite have overwhelming dominance in influencing United States policy and laws. You can read their conclusions below and read this newly published study in full at this URL:

http://www.princeton.edu/~mgilens/Gilens%20homepage%20materials/Gilens%20and%20Page/Gilens%20and%20Page%202014-Testing%20Theories%203-7-14.pdf

According to the authors, “Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence. The results provide substantial support for theories of Economic Elite Domination and for theories of Biased Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism.”

Of course, anyone paying attention to government policies versus the popular will of the electorate would already have drawn this conclusion. I recently posted a two part piece on this very subject a few months ago:  http://j.mp/1bz7aO5

The Gilens and Page study opens by asking a critical question, who really rules? Are we, the people, the sovereigns of our nation, or have we become “largely powerless?”  He begins to answer this by summarizing four different theoretical traditions recognized by scholars who study democratic governance.

The first of these theoretical traditions discussed is the Majoritarian Electoral Democracy, which is best “… encapsulated in Abraham Lincoln’s reference to government “of the people, by the people, for the people.” This tradition holds that laws and policies should reflect the views of the average voter, and that the positions of politicians seeking election should converge towards the center of the normal range of voter opinion.  It is this view of democracy most often presented by major media outlets when covering our politics. More importantly, this is these are the outcomes most of us expect from our democracy.

The second tradition is the Economic Elite Domination tradition in which US policy making is dominated by those with high levels of wealth or income.  Some scholars also include social status or position as part of this tradition. The economic elites often exercise their influence through foundations, think-tanks and “opinion shaping apparatus,” as well as to the lobbyists and politicians they finance.

Majoritarian pluralism is the third theoretical tradition that Gilens and Page discusse. This tradition analyzes politics through the lens of competing interest groups within the population. These groups may include political parties, organized interest groups, business firms or industry sector organizations.  All things being equal, the struggle between diverse factions within the population should also produce policy outcomes that are at least compatible with civil majority opinions.  But all things are not necessarily equal, leading to the fourth, related tradition called Biased Pluralism.

Biased pluralism entails policy outcomes that result from contending, but unrepresentative organized interest groups. These unrepresentative interest groups are generally made up of upper-class citizens with the power and influence to tilt policy towards the wishes of corporations, businesses and professional associations.So, after statistically comparing almost 2,000 policy outcomes against these four models of political influence in our democracy, what did the researchers find?  In their own words:

“By directly pitting the predictions of ideal-type theories against each other within a single statistical model …  we have been able to produce some striking findings. One is the nearly total failure of “median voter” and other Majoritarian Electoral Democracy theories. When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” 

“Nor do organized interest groups substitute for direct citizen influence [snip]… Over-all, net interest group alignments are not significantly related to the preferences of average citizens.” The net alignments of the most influential, business oriented groups are negatively related to the average citizen’s wishes.” 

“Furthermore, the preferences of economic elites…  have far more independent impact upon policy change than the preferences of average citizens do. 

What then has become of our democracy? It has been usurped by billionaires who directly fund candidates for public office, directly influence policy through lobbying and heavily fund public marketing campaigns to influence public opinion for their own advantage.

GildedAge2

We have seen this before during the “Gilded Age” at the turn of the last Century.  We found our voice a hundred years ago and we took back our democracy from the wealthy elite. Today they are smarter, richer and have more control over the media and government than they did back then, so the challenges we face to save civil democracy and regain majority rule won’t be easy. But history tells us that power is ultimately with the people.  We must start by recognizing our situation and begin organizing ourselves to collectively act in our own best interest. We need to become, once again, a nation of citizens, not a nation of businesses and the rich.

Tyranny of the Minority – Part 2: Rise of the Neo-Confederate Secessionists

Graycoat Conservatives – The Neo-Confederate Secessionists

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

 They are still small in number, but spread widely across the county. They are articulate, highly motivated and influential members within the Tea Party, the Christian right movement, Libertarians groups and nationalist groups in every state. They are the philosophic rear guard of the conservative movement  pulling conservatives ever further to the right. They may not have a central organization, but they do have a significant social media presence. They remain under the radar of the national press which fails to take them seriously. The best way to find them is to type “secessionist” into your internet search engine.  They are the Neo-Confederates, a polarizing counter-force behind the growing rift in the Republican Party.

The secessionists anti-government interests overlap with the corporate conservative wing of the  Republican Party, and both groups favor free market economics, but the graycoat conservatives envision a very different America. So while wealthy conservatives continue to fund the Tea Party, graycoat conservatives are busy winning over hearts and minds to their radical alternative.

The following graphic is taken from one of the many secessionist Websites. It maps the number of secessionist petitioners from around the country. In effect it shows where they are most active and how they are distributed across the country. It doesn’t represent how popular or unpopular the movement might be.


Plotting whitehouse.gov secession petitions

Sessionist Petition Activity

Signers to White House secession petitions by county. Color based on proportion of residents signing, with darker colors showing higher levels of secession support. Current as of 9am on Saturday, November 24th. Works best in Chrome or Safari.

Update: It looks like the secession petition movement has peaked.

Since Election Day, more than 60 petitions have been posted on the White House’s website requesting that states be allowed to withdraw from the United States and create their own government. As of November 13, 2012, the following states had active petitions: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Virginias, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. [http://www.unc.edu/~ncaren/secessionists/]


A 2009 Zogby poll quoted on a number of secessionist Websites found that 20% of American’s believe states have a right to secede from the Union.  Just today (12/18/13) Michael Hill, President of one of the Southern groups called League of the South, posted ten reasons for secession. They are:


  1. The U. S. government is an organized criminal enterprise, secession is the only way to return to legitimate government
  2. The U. S. economy is failing, secession makes economic sense
  3. The South’s unique history and culture is worth protecting
  4. The criminal nature of the bank bailouts and the Fed
  5. A dysfunctional national electoral system, secession may be the only way to restore integrity to elections
  6. Third World immigration into the South, secession removes the federal government’s interference and lack of performance
  7. Organic community vs. the globalism of the elites
  8. The implementation of an American police/surveillance state
  9. The Christian South v. secular America, secession provides the opportunity to return to Our Founding Principles

10. Because we think we can rule ourselves better than we are being ruled by DC, secession is a path to American Liberty http://dixienet.org/rights/2013/reasons_for_secession.php]


What  these secessionist groups most have in common is a desire  to facilitate the collapse of the Federal Government and the breakup of the Union of States.  They see this as the natural and inevitable course of history. As they see it, every great empire has followed this path.

applepie

They oppose all forms of collectivism and eschew society as we know it. Among some groups there is a distinct “cultural” component. All groups seem to  reject  democratic majority rule.  As one of them put it to me, ”  

According to one person who wrote me, they are, “… committed to the cause of individual liberty and [individual] sovereignty. [They] would prefer secession, to revolution.”  But revolution it will be if the majority opinion of the Americans go against them. They have a strong patriotic connection to our founding fathers even though their commitment to our Union is weak. Pin them down and they reluctantly choose the union of states over a return to a confederacy, but only if the Federal governments control over the states is weakened and individuals are free from all federal interference.

If you start to pin these folks down in a debate they squirm away. They are viscerally opposed to the our system of government, their anti-federal rage concealed only by their passion for an extreme interpretation of individual rights and freedoms. These passions are covered over by a thin veneer of selective scholarship. Scratch the scholarship and their passion flares. Challenge their constitutional interpretations and they circle the wagons.

They have no sense of responsibility towards society and nothing but contempt for majority rule. They believe the majority of American’s is just another special interest group, and one that is biased against minority rights. When majorities opinions prevail they force minorities to accede to their will which violates their rights. This is how they interpret the Constitution.

The only legitimate role they see for the federal government is the protection of the individual’s right to follow their conscience within Constitutionally defined boundaries. One major flashpoint seems to be taxes. They don’t want to pay any federal taxes, but when pressed say they agree to contribute only for spending within the limits of their narrow interpretation of the governments enumerated powers.

They resent being forced to pay taxes for national parks, education, environmental protection, food and drug administration, foreign diplomacy administration or anything else that isn’t specifically named in our Constitution. They claim a sovereign right not to pay for anything outside of the federal governments enumerated powers, as they define it. They reject all collectivism. For example they resent that the Federal government spends any money on highways and bridges, believing federal spending should be restricted to “postal roads.”

As one person wrote: ” For [the federal government] to “do” it must take. That violates rights. The only function of [government] is protect rights, not “do.”

Tenth Amendment: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

The 10th Amendment is the source of their narrow interpretation of federal powers. Their interpretation provides all the justification they require.  Below is a reprint from one of their Websites that lists the enumeration of federal powers which they feel the government has exceeded.  These powers are listed on the Tenth Amendment Center Website where the members call themselves “Tenthers.:  [http://tenthamendmentcenter.com/]

Disdain for the Federal Government or any large democracy is a central feature for these neo-confederate groups.  They see majority as a special interest and would strip the government of its ability to show any favoritism to all special interests. This suggests that the only role of government must be the protection of the individuals rights yet they may concede collective rights to businesses. Perhaps this is why it is so important that corporations be viewed as people. It gives them individual status while denying other types of organization status as a collective entity.


 MIDDLEBURY INSTITUTE PAPER V

http://middleburyinstitute.org/rightsandfreedoms.html

March 2007 – Introduction to “Minimal Rights and Freedoms of Individuals in a Sovereign State”

Because questions keep coming up as to the kinds of states that secessionist organizations are working toward, and because each organization in the movement has an interest in the objectives of any other organization, it seemed to us here that it might be appropriate to send out a suggested platform of the rights and freedoms that might be guaranteed to individuals in any future seceded state. [SNIP]  There are important issues here and we hope you take them seriously.

MINIMAL RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS OF INDIVIDUALS IN A SOVEREIGN STATE

Rights to

                     Life, liberty, security
Equality before the law
Trial before competent tribunal, due process, counsel, appeal
Possess property and not be arbitrarily deprived thereof
Periodic elections with universal adult suffrage
Secession by any coherent unit

Freedoms of
Speech, opinion, expression in any media
Peaceable assembly, association
Belief, thought, religion, worship
Movement within any state, and to leave and return

Freedoms from
Slavery or servitude
Discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion,
political belief, nationality, property, or birth
Torture or degrading treatment
Arbitrary arrest or detention
Invasion of privacy
Arbitrary deprivation of citizenship
Any action by the state to destroy or deny any of these rights and freedoms

Signators:

Middlebury Institute, February 2007
Second Vermont Republic, March 2007
Southern National Congress Committee, March 2007


The role of a state to infringe on individual rights is not well thought out among members of this group. Because states are smaller they believe them to be inherently less intrusive in the lives of individuals. They consider themselves to have an individual right to not be “interfered with” by any government, but apparently feel that smaller, state governments would be easier to control.  In a large constitutional democracy, such as the United States, a majority opinion is viewed as a form of tyranny against individual dissenters, even if that majority opinion is deemed constitutional according the the Supreme Court. On the other hand, they don’t see anything wrong with a minority group preventing the majority from governing in opposition to them. They see this as their right and duty as “soverigien citizens.” It isn’t clear whether this is true only when the minority feels the government is legislating beyond its enumerated powers, or if they claim this right under all circumstances.  As one person put it:

“But you don’t see that resisting (but not compelling) action from a majority isn’t a tyranny of the minority? The minority isn’t forcing the majority to do anything, only to refrain from forcing the minority to do something. The rights of any minority supersede the wants or needs of any majority.”

In the face debt ceiling financial cliffs, government shut downs, and the nearly total inability of Congress to pass legislation, it is time to recognize that there are forces on the far right, and in Congress, who see this as successful strategy.  Their intentions are malevolent and quite contrary to the motivations most often attributed to them by political analysts in the main stream press. It is time to pay attention to these groups and their impact on American politics. A failure to open a public debate that directly confronts both the graycoat secessionists and the corporate elite now would be a huge mistake.

Tyranny of the Minority – Losing Majority Rule

Part 1 – Losing Majority Rule

Most people pay attention to pocketbook issues that affect our family or retirement, but quite understandably avoid the rancorous politics we see on TV. There is a sense that government is failing because elected officials can’t agree and the country is evenly divided, but many important issues do get rationally settled in the opinion of vast majorities of the public.

For example,a large majority agree that global warming is happening and we are causing it in some way. Almost 90% of us agree we spend too much on defense. Large majorities believe we should generate more electricity from wind and solar. About 80% of us believe there should be universal background checks on gun sales and almost everyone agrees that big banks caused the great recession. Despite a near consensus on these and other issues there is gridlock in Washington. 

One explanation is that there is not a lot of passion behind these majority views, so meaningful change against an organized and well funded opposition is out of reach. In the face of majority agreement, Congress fails to act, or act contrary to the will of its citizens. On the surface it may seem like political gridlock between evenly matched forces, but this is an illusion. There are many issues supported by majorities in both parties that can’t even get a hearing in Congress because a tiny minority who oppose it are able to kill it. This is tyranny by the minority when the majority isn’t allowed to govern. To understand what’s happening really requires us to pierce the noise of partisanship and media bias. 

The voting majority has lost its ability to govern. In frustration more and more ordinary citizens feel alienated or betrayed, leaving us vulnerable to the radical fringe.

MajRuleProtest

Evidencethat the majority has lost the ability to govern is everywhere. The smallest special interest group, the wealthy elite, are by far the most influential and obvious force in Congress. CEO’s of major corporations testified in Congress that they don’t want or need tax subsidies and Congress increases their subsidies. Wall Street asks for and got billions in bailout money with no strings attached. Try to attach some strings or implement substantial financial reform and Congress kills it, either outright or later on through the budget process. There is evidence of the failure of majority rule in the way the filibuster has shut down open debate and killed popular legislation. There is evidence in the inability of Congress to debate and vote on immigration reform, which is popular and has strong bi-partisan support. The debt ceiling crisis, the budget cliffs and the government shutdown are all signs that the majority has lost control of the federal government. The growing assault on voting rights, recently passed anti-abortion legislation and the imposition of emergency managers over democratically elected city and municipal leaders are other examples. 

The truth is forces on the political spectrum are not evenly matched. Many political battles are asymmetrical. The nations shift to the right is mostly due to the success of highly motivated and well funded conservative action groups. For example there are right wing Christian groups opposed to secular society and what they see as moral decay. These groups promote socially conservative issues. There are Tea Party groups opposed to taxes. They promote free market capitalism and limited government. Then there are many extreme nationalists groups, gun rights groups, militial groups and the like. All of these groups have different aims but are drawn together by strong anti-tax, anti-government sentiments and by at least a laissez-faire view of capitalism. 

Money and organizational clout for these action groups comes mostly from wealthy capitalists who want to weaken the power of government to tax and regulate commerce. There is an anti-government alignment of interests between the wealthy elite and each of these groups. 

There is another, less visible segment in these groups as well, a far right group with a welll defined ideology but no central organization. These are the real insurgents fighting for control of the Republican Party. Their goal is to dismantle the Federal government as we know it, limiting its powers to the narrowest extent possible under their interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. They are the members of the Tea Party who pull it further to the right. They are the members of conservative Christian right groups that fan the flames of anti-government rhetoric. Some belong to hate groups, conservative issues groups or libertarian organizations. Everywhere they show up they agitate to pull the organization further to the ideological right by sowing dissatisfaction with our Federal government. They seek an individual level of freedom that transends any personal responsibility to society or majority rule. 

Who are these far right ideologues and what do they want?

Imagine a future in which our Federal government is forced to cut back on every service or function not specifically named in the U.S. Constitution. What if, to keep Wyoming and a few other Mid-West and South-Western states from seceding, we give up our national parks. These are sold off to corporation such as Disney, ExxonMobil, Boise Cascade, Massey Energy Corp. and various land development corporations.  Under this scenario Texas or some other states may have already seceded and we now have to worry about the nuclear armed country of Texas on our southern border.

Imagine the Federal government no longer able fund departments and agencies over the objection of a minority of sovereign citizens. Gone are the Departments of Education, Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Interior, Labor, Transportation.. all gone and replaced by individual state control, subject to the ability to fund them over the objections of “sovereign citizens” in each state.

The Environmental protection agency, The FDA, FCC, SEC and almost all federal regulatory agencies would all be gone. These are considered outside the enumerated powers of the Federal government. Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are obviously gone as well. It is up to the sovereign citizens of each state to decide what they decide to fund or not fund within their own state.

In this future all Federal powers would be limited strictly to military defense, protection of the rights of individuals with respect to constitutional liberties and settling interstate commerce disputes among the states. In this future citizens could target where their tax money goes. In effect, majority rule would be subject to minority consent, in fact to consent by each sovereign citizen’s consent.

 Continued in Part 2 – Meet the Gray Coat Conservatives.

(Part 2 will detail the belief system of the neo-confederate conservative)

The Economy Didn’t Stall for Congress During Recession

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

I know a place you can work where, on average, employees can accumulates personal wealth at a rate of over 15% per year!  The catch?  You have to get elected to Congress.
This is just one bit of information parsed from data on the average wealth of members of Congress.  The database is available at OpenSecrets.Org [http://bit.ly/vRBruV], courtesy of The Center for Responsive Politics.  It comes with some serious caveats. According to OpenSecrets:
By law, members of Congress are only required to report their wealth and liabilities in broad ranges. It’s therefore impossible to precisely determine how much value their assets are worth, or have gained or lost. from year to year. The Center for Responsive Politics determines the minimum and maximum possible asset values for each member of Congress to calculate a member’s average estimated wealth.”
Congress has set rules for itself so that we can only guess at how much each member is worth.  Their net worth can only be expressed as an average within a broad margin of error.  But it is still possible to learn some things about Congress as a whole if you aggregate the numbers and analyze how they change over time.
The analysis which follows is based on average Congressional wealth data for two points in time, in 2004 and in 2010.  It appear that the data only includes members who were in the House or Senate during this six year period.  Keep in mind that during this period of time the United States economy nearly collapsed.
Keep in mind that of the 383 members of the House or Senate included in this analysis, the fortunes of 140  member declined while in office.  The figures below on combined wealth adds up all the gains and subtract all the losses to arrive at the average wealth increases.  Also, to make the graphics more comprehendible and directly comparable, the dollar amounts are divided by the number of representative in each category and expressed as averages per legislator.
The other point to remember is that there are five members in the legislature, three in the House and two in the Senate, who are very wealthy.  There combined wealth is estimated at over $1.5 trillions dollars.  This skews the averages and makes the average member of Congress appear to be more wealthy than the are.  Nevertheless, this analysis is primarily about how Congressional wealth grows over time.
The Wealthiest US Legislators               Estimated Net Worth
Issa, Darrell (R-Calf)  House
$448,125,017
McCaul, Michael (R-Tex) House
$380,411,527
Harman, Jane (D-Calf) House
$326,844,751
Kerry, John (D-Mass) Senate 
$231,722,794
Kohl, Herb (D-Wis) Senate
$173,538,010
Combined Wealth
$1,560,642,099
 
 
 
So did the personal wealth of our legislators grow over the six year period between 2004 and 2010? 
Yes.  The combined person wealth of our legislators rose from around $2.2 billion in 2004 to $3.1 billion in 2010.  That is a 40.4 % growth in net worth, or around a 6.7% annual growth rate.*
Was there a difference in the growth rate between the political parties?
Yes. Republican’s as a group faired better than Democrats.  Republican’s had a 12.9% annual growth rate in personal wealth while Democrats gained at a 2.7% rate.  The combined gains of the three independents in the Senate was high also, but as you can see their combined income per member was much smaller that that of their colleagues.
 
 
Was there a difference between the House and the Senate in the growth rate of personal income?
Yes again.  The Senate is a much wealthier body than the House and it actually lost a little net worth over this six year period.  The House gained 75.1% in personal wealth for a 12.5% annual rate of growth.
When the data is further broken down by both political party and Congressional chamber it appears that Senate Democrats are collectively the wealthiest group, and the only group that lost a little personal wealth over six years.  The House is the wealthiest chamber for Republican’s, and it is also the chamber with the highest rate of growth in personal wealth.  House Republican’s as a group gained 92.8% in net worth while House Democrats gained 51% over six years.
Average Wealth Increase per Legislator by Party and Chamber – 2004 and 2010
Wealth /Member in 2004
Wealth /Member in 2010
Six Year Dif /Member
Total % Change
Annual % Change
House Democrats    (n=176)
$2,918,824
$4,408,237
$1,489,414
51.0%
8.50%
House Republicans (n=133)
$5,243,557
$10,111,971
$4,868,414
92.8%
15.47%
Senate Democrats   (n=40)
$20,516,818
$19,323,256
-$1,193,561
-5.8%
-0.97%
Senate Republicans (n=41)
$4,394,130
$5,128,482
$734,352
16.7%
2.79%
Senate Independents (n=3)
$577,182
$1,359,855
$782,673
135.6%
22.6%
Did everyone in Congress fair well over this six year period?
No. As mentioned earlier, 140 legislators lost wealth during this time.  The graph below breaks down the numbers of those who gained and lost personal wealth while in Congress.  House Democrats had the highest percentage of gainers at 67% while Senate Democrats has the lowest ratio of gainers at 59%.  The percent of those gaining personal wealth among House and Senate Republican’s was 62% and 65% respectively.  Overall, almost two-thirds (64%) of Congress gained personal wealth during their time in office.
  
 What about those who gained the most?  Just how well did they do?
There are at least two different ways to identify who gained the most.  You can look at in terms of dollar amounts gained or as a percentage of growth in net worth.  In come cases percentages can be misleading.  A person with $10.00 who gains a buck has a 10% rate of growth, but you wouldn’t say they got rich.  So both measures were used here and the results are in the following two graphs below.
Looking at both the percentage increase and actual dollars increase methods, the top ten House Republican’s, with the highest gains in personal wealth, clearly out paced the rest of their top ten Congressional colleagues in accruing wealth.  As a percentage increase in personal wealth the top ten Republican Senators and top ten Democratic Senators did equally well. The wealth of House Democrats appears to barely rise on the graph above, but that’s because they start out with so little compared to their colleagues.  The actual percentage increase for the top ten Democrats in the House was over 4000%.
So what does all of this mean?
Our legislative representatives are rich.  I’m not an economist, or a researcher, but a few conclusions do seem apparent from this analysis.  Congress, as a group, is quite wealthy.  While it may be true that there are over 400 billionaires in the United States and none in Congress, it is remarkable that nearly half of those in Congress (49%) were millionaires in 2010.   About 10% in Congress were multi-millionaires and five members were among the 1% of wealthiest Americans[1].  The wealthiest group in Congress are Democratic Senators.  They start out that way and stay that way, although they gain the least by being there.
While nearly a third of Congress are less well off after six years in service, the majority were better off and many were far better off in 2010 than in 2004.  The actual growth in personal wealth seems to be more apparent among Republican’s, particularly House Republicans, but the percentage of growth in personal wealth among the top ten House Democrats extraordinarily high.  Only 28 legislators have a net worth under $100,000.00 and only 15 are in debt.  I will leave it to the reader to contrast this with the your own situations and the folks you know.   What this analysis can’t do is tell us why  the data is as it appears. I will leave that to others for now.
All of the tables for this analysis appear below.  I encourage readers of this blog to review them for accuracy and use them to develop more information regarding the wealth patterns or our federal representatives .  Please leave comments if you find any errors or omissions in the tables.  I will make appropriate corrections on this blog post.

[1] In defining “the 1%” I prefer an approach based on wealth, not income.  Wealth is power.  Income is only an indirect measure of wealth and power.  (Is the strength of a batter measured by the rate at which it is charged or by the energy has stored?).  For my purposes here I am defining the 1% wealthiest legislators in Congress beginning with the assumption that one percent of American’s own 35% of the wealth in the US.  The net worth of all American households in 2009 was $54 trillion dollars.  There were 121,611,029 households in America in 2009 according to the US Census Bureau.  That means 1% of all households equals 1,216,610 Americans. So 1 % of all households own 35% of $54 trillion, or $18.9 trillion dollars.  If my math is correct that means that the average wealth of a household among the top 1% equals $149,277,318.
Total Wealth Increase of All US Legislators Between 2004 and 2010
Average Wealth in 2004
Average Wealth in 2010
Difference in Six Years
Total % Change
Annual % Change
All Members      (n=393)
$2,213,699,631
$3,108,019,528
$894,319,897
40.4%
6.7%
All Democrats    (n=216)
$1,334,385,659
$1,548,780,022
$214,394,363
16.1%
2.7%
All Republicans (n=174)
$877,552,427
$1,555,159,941
$677,607,514
77.2%
12.9%
Independents     (n=3)
$1,731,545
$4,079,565
$2,348,020
135.6%
22.6%
Senators            (n=84)
$1,002,563,604
$987,277,595
-$15,286,009
-1.5%
-0.3%
Congressmen    (n=309)
$1,211,147,532
$2,120,971,945
$909,824,413
75.1%
12.5%
Average Wealth Increase Per US Legislator by Party and Chamber Between 2004 and 2010
Wealth /Member in 2004
Wealth /Member in 2010
Six Year Dif /Member
Total % Change
Annual % Change
All Members       (n=393)
$5,632,823
$7,908,447
$2,275,623
40.4%
6.7%
All Democrats     (n=216)
$6,177,711
$7,170,278
$992,566
16.1%
2.7%
All Republicans  (n=174)
$5,043,405
$8,937,701
$3,894,296
77.2%
12.9%
Independents      (n=3)
$577,182
$1,359,855
$782,673
135.6%
22.6%
Senators             (n=84)
$11,935,281
$11,753,305
-$181,976
-1.5%
-0.3%
Congressmen     (n-309)
$3,919,571
$6,863,987
$2,944,416
75.1%
12.5%
Average Wealth Increase of All US Legislators by Party Between 2004 and 2010
Average Wealth in 2004
Average Wealth in 2010
Difference in Six Years
Total % Change
Annual % Change
House Democrats    (n=176)
$513,712,948
$775,849,769
$262,136,821
51.0%
8.50%
House Republicans (n=133)
$697,393,079
$1,344,892,164
$647,499,085
92.8%
15.47%
Senate Democrats   (n=40)
$820,672,711
$772,930,253
-$47,742,458
-5.8%
-0.97%
Senate Republicans (n=41)
$180,159,348
$210,267,777
$30,108,429
16.7%
2.79%
Senate Independents (n=3)
$1,731,545
$4,079,565
$2,348,020
135.6%
22.6%
Average Wealth Increase per Legislator by Party and Chamber – 2004 and 2010
Wealth /Member in 2004
Wealth /Member in 2010
Six Year Dif /Member
Total % Change
Annual % Change
House Democrats    (n=176)
$2,918,824
$4,408,237
$1,489,414
51.0%
8.50%
House Republicans (n=133)
$5,243,557
$10,111,971
$4,868,414
92.8%
15.47%
Senate Democrats   (n=40)
$20,516,818
$19,323,256
-$1,193,561
-5.8%
-0.97%
Senate Republicans (n=41)
$4,394,130
$5,128,482
$734,352
16.7%
2.79%
Senate Independents (n=3)
$577,182
$1,359,855
$782,673
135.6%
22.6%
Top Ten Legislators /w Biggest Jump in Wealth ($ increase) by Party and Chamber – 2004 and 2010
Aggregated Totals
Average Wealth in 2004
Average Wealth in 2010
Difference in Six Years
Total % Change
Annual % Change
House Democrats    (n=176)
$327,705,235
$568,142,204
$240,436,969
73.4%
12.2%
House Republicans (n=133)
$331,746,289
$1,005,864,579
$674,118,290
203.2%
33.9%
Senate Democrats   (n=40)
$137,206,389
$216,341,049
$79,134,660
57.7%
9.6%
Senate Republicans (n=41)
$21,576,271
$81,888,741
$60,312,470
279.5%
46.6%
Top Ten Legislators /w Biggest Jump in Wealth ($ increase) by Party and Chamber – 2004 and 2010
Average per Legislator
Wealth /Member in 2004
Wealth /Member in 2010
Six Year Dif /Member
Total % Change
Annual % Change
House Democrats    (n=176)
1,861,962
3,228,081
1,366,119
73.4%
12.2%
House Republicans (n=133)
2,494,333
7,562,892
5,068,559
203.2%
33.9%
Senate Democrats   (n=40)
3,430,160
5,408,526
1,978,367
57.7%
9.6%
Senate Republicans (n=41)
526,251
1,997,286
1,471,036
279.5%
46.6%
Top TenLegislators /w Biggest Jump in Wealth (% increase) by Chamber & Party – 2004 and 2010
Aggregated Totals
Average Wealth in 2004
Average Wealth in 2010
Difference in Six Years
Total % Change
Annual % Change
House Democrats*
$779,531
$31,996,557
$31,217,026
4004.6%
667.4%
House Republicans
$35,430,212
$392,877,862
$357,447,650
1008.9%
168.1%
Senate Democrats
$19,415,702
$56,516,827
$37,101,125
191.1%
31.8%
Senate Republicans
$11,871,405
$67,686,976
$55,815,571
470.2%
78.4%
Top TenLegislators /w Biggest Jump in Wealth (% increase) by Chamber & Party – 2004 and 2010
Average per Legislator
Wealth /Member in 2004
Wealth /Member in 2010
Six Year Dif /Member
Total % Change
Annual % Change
House Democrats*
$4,429
$181,799
$177,369
4004.6%
667.4%
House Republicans
$266,393
$2,953,969
$2,687,576
470.2%
78.4%
Senate Democrats
$485,393
$1,412,921
$927,528
191.1%
31.8%
Senate Republicans
$289,546
$1,650,902
$1,361,355
470.2%
78.4%
* One member, P. Kennedy, accounted for most of the increase.  Excluding him for the in rank on the list yeilds an increase of 1,602.6% or 267.1% annual increase.
*correction: on an earlier version I mistakenly said trillions instead of billions in referring to the collective wealth of congress.

Abe Lincoln on Corporate Corruption

What Lincoln Foresaw:
Corporations Being “Enthroned” After the Civil War
and Re-Writing the Laws Defining Their Existence

by Rick Crawford, crawford@cs.ucdavis.edu

Here is a sobering quote by Abe Lincoln:

“I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. . . . corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.”

—U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, Nov. 21, 1864
(letter to Col. William F. Elkins)
Ref: The Lincoln Encyclopedia: The Spoken and Written Words of A. Lincoln
Arranged for Ready Reference, Archer H. Shaw (NY, NY: Macmillan, 1950)

Some people expressed doubts about its authenticity, given Lincoln’s work as an attorney for railroad corporations! It was an interesting job tracking it down and verifying its authenticity.
The first ref I heard for this quote was Jack London’s 1908 Iron Heel. And although the quote indeed appears there (near p. 100), Jack London offered neither context nor source.
More recently, David Korten’s book, When Corporations Rule the World (1995, Kumarian Press), sources the quote to Harvey Wasserman (America Born and Reborn, Macmillan, 1983, p. 89-90, 313), who in turn sources it to Paha Sapa Reports, the newspaper of the Black Hills Alliance, Rapid City, South Dakota, 4 March 1982. But given Wasserman’s ties to Howard Zinn, and his status as co-founder (?) of the Liberation News Service, citing that kind of trail is like waving ared flag for the skeptics 😉
Fortunately, after some burrowing in the university library, I was able to confirm its authenticity. Here it is, with more surrounding context:

“We may congratulate ourselves that this cruel war is nearing its end.
It has cost a vast amount of treasure and blood. . . .
It has indeed been a trying hour for the Republic; but
I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes
me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war,
corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places
will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong
its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth
is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.
I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety
of my country than ever before, even in the midst of war.
God grant that my suspicions may prove groundless.”

The passage appears in a letter from Lincoln to (Col.) William F. Elkins, Nov. 21, 1864.
For a reliable pedigree, cite p. 40 of The Lincoln Encyclopedia: The Spoken and Written Words of A. Lincoln Arranged for Ready Reference, by Archer H. Shaw (NY, NY: Macmillan, 1950). That traces the quote’s lineage to p. 954 of Abraham Lincoln: A New Portrait, (Vol. 2) by Emanuel Hertz (New York: Horace Liveright Inc, 1931).
Based on about 3 hours of research, it appears Lincoln has been extensivelySANITIZED FOR OUR PROTECTIONThe Hidden Lincoln; from the Letters and Papers of William H. Herndon, by Emanuel Hertz (New York: Viking Press, 1938), details how Herndon (Lincoln’s lifelong law partner) collected an extensive oral history and aggregated much of Lincoln’s writings into a collection that served as the basis for many “authoritative” books on Lincoln.
By all accounts, Herndon was scrupulously honest and plainspoken. Hertz quotes Herndon’s characterization of the various “big-name” authors who relied on his collection for primary source materials:

“They are aiming, first, to do a superb piece of literary work; second, to make the story WITH THE CLASSES AS AGAINST THE MASSES. [my emphasis added] It will result in delineating the real Lincoln about as well as does a wax figure in the museum.”

In several books, I found numerous places where Lincoln spoke about Capital and Labor (“Workingmen”). Lincoln re-used his own material frequently, and virtually identical passages appear in several places. Lincoln praises the moral rightness ofboth Capital and Labor, but this is invariably in the context of a nation where NO MORE THAN ONE MAN IN EIGHT is a Capitalist or a Laborer, ie, where 7/8 of the population are “self-employed” on their own farms and homesteads.
This social context of general self-sufficiency would explain how Lincoln could serve for years as a railroad corporation lawyer with (apparently) no qualms, yet pen the “corporations enthroned” passage to Elkins.
A final Lincoln tidbit, although it pertains to one very specific case:

“These capitalists generally act harmoniously and in concert to fleece the people, and now that they have got into a quarrel with themselves, we are called upon to appropriate the people’s money to settle the quarrel.”

speech to Illinois legislature, Jan. 1837.
See Vol. 1, p. 24 of Complete Works of Abraham Lincoln,
ed. by Nicolay and Hay (New York: F.D. Tandy Co., 1905)

It’s Time for Citizens to Take Control of Our Democracy

alg_turmoil_polls

 

North Carolina doesn’t want you to vote if you live in a college dormitory in that state. They don’t want you to vote if you don’t have a special state identification card. There is a provision in state law that polling places can serve a maximum of 1500 voters, but in Boone, where college students nearly caused the parish to go for Barak Obama, you must now travel out of your way to the one polling place left, which serves over 9,000 voters. With only 45 parking spaces the parking lot will need to fill and empty every 6 or 7 minutes to accommodate everyone.  Of course, accommodating all the voters is the last thing this Republican controlled local voting board has in mind.

Throughout the South and in other conservative stronghold around the country the story is pretty much the same.  Since the United States Supreme Court struck down part of the Voting Rights Act an ideologically obstinate Republican Party, which is in demographic  decline, is responding to growing pluralism and power sharing by rejecting democratic majority rule in favor of vote manipulation and dirty tricks.  In one voting precinct in Texas, changes to the distribution of voting machines would have predominately African-American polling places handle ten times the number of voters as predominately White polling places.  In every Republican controlled state the voting districts have been redrawn to make it nearly impossible for them to lose their incumbency.  And all these changes are not random developments but elements of a nationwide plot to project conservative power and suppress opposing or alternative social views.

Admitting  that there is a problem with our democratic process is difficult enough. Fixing it will be even harder. Elections are the province of state governments, each with unique constitutions, chapter laws and administrative policies. In a previous post [http://wp.me/p2WIGz-7B ] I reported on the results of a survey I conducted of the constitutional voting rights articulated in every state constitution. The results were disturbing.  Most of the rights we think we have are not supported in the language of most state constitutions and no state constitution has adequately defined voting rights.

Voting is, of course, the cornerstone of democracy.  It is the means by which political power is aggregated and distributed within a democratic society. Each vote is a transfer of power collected by the chosen candidate.  The integrity of the voting process is therefore critical to a democratic society. It is too precious to entrust in partisan hands. The administration of the election process should be pre-partisan, outside of total government control.  It should be directly under citizen control.

Our present system of election relies on election administrators appointed by the party in power.  In most states that means the State Secretary of State. Keeping in mind that most states don’t have constitutionally secure voting rights, the legislatures have significant control over election procedures and the Secretary of States have great leeway over how these laws are implemented. Among the strange consequences this has cause is the turning over of elections to private voting companies. Most or our votes are cast and counted by private companies using electronic machines run on proprietary software. The voting companies are accountable to no one. We citizens didn’t ask for this and there was no discussion about this prior to hiring these private firms to collect and count our votes.  Since these companies have taken over the election process we have had some of the most unusual and controversial elections in modern times.  I have written extensively on this subject in the past (see below).

How should we protect our voting rights? By electing non-partisan, independent citizen boards to run our elections.  All voting policies and procedures should be approved through public referendum developed by these citizen Boards of Election.  Citizens on these boards should have no party affiliations and should not hold any public office.  These citizen boards should be responsible  for everything from drawing congressional districts, maintaining voter registrations preparing ballots, assigning polling places, etc. right down to training poll workers and monitoring elections. Any significant changes in voting policy should have to be put to a public vote.  If private companies are to be hired to count our votes, it is the voters who should decide whether or not to use them.  In my view, there should be nothing involving the franchise that isn’t itself subject to direct citizen approval.

The candidate who collects the most votes wins the consent to govern. In the bargain, the candidate in a representative democracy is expected to represent everyone, even those opposed to him or her.  In exchange, all the people consent to be governed by majority rule even if there candidate didn’t win. Representatives should do what is right for the greatest good even if it isn’t what is popular at the moment or aligned with the interests of those who supported the candidate.  Of course, this is the ideal, not the practice.  But today, the basic bargain that makes a Republic work has broken down. Elected representatives are narrowly pursuing the interests of their political donors and party constituents almost exclusively. The Republican minority in the Senate no longer accepts majority rule, using filibusters to forcing super-majorities on nearly every vote. With this same disregard they are making it harder for citizens who don’t agree with them to vote in public elections. Governments and powerful interests have broken faith with democracy.  It’s time for ordinary citizens to take back control over the democratic voting process.

MY BLOGLIOGROPHY ON VOTING ISSUES

The sorry state of voting rights in America, a 50 state comparison
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2012/03/sorry-states-of-voting-rights-in.html

How voter ID laws might block you from voting
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2012/07/seven-ways-voter-id-could-block-you.html

Republicans have a 5% election fraud handicap built into the voting system
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2012/08/republicans-have-5-election-fraud.html

Many state are unprepared for a fair and free election
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2012/07/many-states-unprepared-for-fair-and.html

Outsourcing or privatized voting process overseas
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2012/07/outsourcing-our-privatized-voting.html

Voting rights denied to a record number of “felons”
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2012/07/voting-rights-denied-for-record-numbers.html

Ireland Scraps Electronic Voting Machines for Good
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2012/06/ireland-scraps-electronic-voting.html

Secret flawed voting software discovered and exposed
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2012/06/ireland-scraps-electronic-voting.html

Does voter suppression have a new target in Florida (Latino’s)
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2012/05/does-voter-suppression-have-new-target.html

To know your Voting Rights you must know your state constitution
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2012/03/voting-know-your-rights-know-your-state.html

Can a convicted, or formerly convicted felon vote? Lots of confusion
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2012/04/can-convicted-felon-vote-major.html

Colorado sues for voting privacy, but do we have that right
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2012/02/colorado-group-sues-for-vote-privacy.html

A private company has the first peek at election results
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2012/02/company-wprivate-access-to-vote-totals.html

Voter suppression in America to get a hearing at the United Nations
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2012/03/voter-suppression-in-america-to-get.html

Caucus voting flubs highlight election system flaws
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2012/02/caucus-voting-flubs-highlight-our.html

South Carolina out sources vote count to Spain
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2012/01/south-carolina-outsources-vote-count-to.html

A voters “Bill of Rights”
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2011/10/voters-bill-of-rights.html