Saturday, February 17, 2018

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Thomas Edsall discusses the difficulties in trying to address wealth inequality through a money-infused electoral system:
Five years ago, for example, Adam Bonica, a political scientist at Stanford, published “Why Hasn’t Democracy Slowed Rising Inequality?” Economic theory, he wrote, holds that “inequality should be at least partially self-correcting in a democracy” as “increased inequality leads the median voter to demand more redistribution.”

Starting in the 1970s, this rebalancing mechanism failed to work, and the divide between the rich and the rest of us began to grow, Bonica, Nolan McCarty of Princeton, Keith T. Poole of the University of Georgia, and Howard Rosenthal of N.Y.U. wrote.

They cite five possible explanations.

First, growing bipartisan acceptance of the tenets of free market capitalism. Second, immigration and low turnout among the poor resulting in an increasingly affluent median voter. Third, “rising real income and wealth has made a larger fraction of the population less attracted to turning to government for social insurance.” Fourth, the rich escalated their use of money to influence policy through campaign contributions, lobbying and other mechanisms. And finally, the political process has been distorted by polarization and gerrymandering in ways that “reduce the accountability of elected officials to the majority.”

In the five years since their essay was published, we’ve seen all of this play out; in the case of campaign contributions in particular, the authors provide strong evidence of the expanding clout of the very rich.
- Similarly, Dean Baker points out the connection between "centrist" policies which serve primarily to further enrich the people who already have the most, and public disgust with the parties pushing them. And Matt Egan compares the immediate gains from the Trump tax giveaway to the rich - with shareholders being gifted 30 times as much new money as workers even at a point when businesses are trying to put on a show of sharing benefits to lock in their goodies for the long term.

- Meanwhile, Tom Jacobs theorizes that the progressive movement may be able to win over small-c conservative voters with messages based on nostalgia. And the New Economics Foundation discusses how to frame economic discussions in terms of both populist responses to elite control, and our common interests in shared development.

- Tabatha Southey weighs in on the Parkland school shooting - and the gun lobby's response designed to ensure that the U.S. continues to suffer plenty more similar tragedies in the future.

- Finally, Robert Cribb reports on the underrepresentation of minorities on juries in Ontario. And Lana Payne comments on the need to move beyond empty apologies, and instead start acting on the thoroughly-studied steps which could actually move us toward reconciliation in Canada.

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