Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the idealistic class of 64 Democratic House freshmen are armed with a reform agenda.
This includes H.R. 1, a 571-page bill that addresses voting rights, corruption, gerrymandering and campaign finance reform as well as the creation of a Select Committee on the Climate Crisis — a first step toward a “Green New Deal.”
Proponents of this ambitious project face a determined adversary, however — the top ranks of the interest group establishment, skilled in co-opting liberal members of Congress and converting initiatives to square with the interests of corporate America.
The upper stratum of the Washington lobbying community often exercises de facto veto power over the legislative process, dominating congressional policymaking, funneling campaign money to both parties and offering lucrative employment to retiring and defeated members of the House and Senate.
Lobbyists exercise this power across the course of a member’s career. “Whoever is elected is immediately met with a growing lobbying onslaught by the same big players,” write Lee Drutman, a senior fellow at New America, Matt Grossmann, a political scientist at Michigan State and Tim LaPira, a political scientist at James Madison University, who have contributed a chapter to “Can America Govern Itself?” a book edited by Francis Lee and Nolan McCarty that is coming out in June.
Within the federal lobbying community — a .37 billion industry in 2017 — Drutman, Grossmann and LaPira write
a limited number of organizations at the very top of the resource distribution have escalated their political investments in ways that increasingly distinguish them from the rest of the pack.
This population of groups at the top of the distribution is becoming increasingly stable over the last two decades. This group of top organizations — which we call the top tier — is positioning itself as a distinct class.
The authors argue that the first tier lobbying organizations
are analogous to the current generation of very wealthy families who now pay for every conceivable tutor so that their children can be advantaged in applying to elite prep schools and colleges, which are now more and more essential to getting ahead in our increasingly economically stratified society. In both circumstances, financial resources and social connections build up over time, reinforcing stratification. Money does not guarantee outcomes. But it helps reinforce inequalities by widening the gap between the very top and everyone else.
The ability of this elite constituency to meet politicians’ demands for campaign contributions and other resources, the authors argue, has allowed Congress to ignore traditional “populist concerns regarding dominant economic interests” as members of the House and Senate “continue their high-dollar fund-raisers and constant meetings with lobbyists.”
Despite his right-wing populist campaign and his September 2017 promise — “Our framework includes our explicit commitment that tax reform will protect low-income and middle-income households, not the wealthy and well-connected” — Trump supported and signed into law the .5 trillion Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. This extraordinarily regressive legislation decisively favors the rich and corporate interests.
As the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has noted, as a result of the Trump tax bill higher income households will receive
larger average tax cuts as a percentage of after-tax income, with the largest cuts as a share of income going to taxpayers in the 95th to 99th percentiles of the income distribution. On average, in 2027 taxes would change little for lower- and middle-income groups.
The Trump administration’s drive to deregulate workplace safety rules and to undermine unions also reflects the impact of the Washington lobbying elite.
By definition, lobbies at the highest rungs of the ladder spend more than those lower down, but “the differences are staggering,” Drutman and his colleagues write. The top 100 lobbying groups represent 0.89 percent of the 11,272 registered lobbies, but they “consistently have at least one-third of the in-house lobbyists in Washington, and hire about one in five contract lobbyists from multi-client lobbying firms.” The way it plays out over time, according to Drutman, is that 90 to 95 percent of the top 100 associations and firms represent business interests, as opposed to labor, consumers, or environmentalists. The top 100 spent .047 billion in 2017, or a little less than a third of total lobbying dollars that year, according to data provided to The Times by the Center for Responsive Politics.
The upper ranks of the Washington lobbying community are most effective at blocking enactment of legislation, as opposed to winning approval of new laws. This is the very power — the crucial power — that prevents successful legislative initiatives from improving the lives of those in the bottom half of the income distribution.
Raymond La Raja and Brian Schaffner, political scientists at the University of Massachusetts and Tufts, in their 2015 book, “Campaign Finance and Political Polarization: When Purists Prevail,” argue that legislative inaction inherently benefits the affluent and hurts the less advantaged: “A strong case has been made that policy gridlock exacerbates wealth inequality through a basic failure to adjust policies to new economic and demographic realities,” they write, like globalization and automation, which have disproportionately penalized unskilled and semiskilled labor.
La Raja and Schaffner add that
Partisan polarization tends to exacerbate problems of economic inequality because political stalemate makes government less responsive to the needs of poorer citizens.
In 2017, the most recent year with complete data, the top 10 lobbying associations — which include the United States Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Realtors, the Business Roundtable and the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America — spent a total of 1.2 million on lobbying, according to Open Secrets.
In the simplest terms, the pattern of campaign contributions (calculated by Open Secrets) provides insight into the motives of the interest groups and corporations — those represented by the major lobbying groups — that are most concerned with shaping public policy.
In the 2017-18 election cycle, securities and investment firms gave a total of ,566,716, split 53-46 percent between Democrats and Republicans; real estate gave ,205,352 (51 to 48); accountants, ,807,757, (46 to 51); the health industry, 9,255,037, (54.6 to 45); and lobbyists themselves contributed ,828,243, (46 to 53).
The stakes of this competition are substantially higher than those involved in picking individual candidates because ultimately they determine entire classes of winners and losers.
Instead of building solidarity, study after study shows that as the gulf between rich and poor widens, voters become increasingly mean spirited and hostile to the welfare state, progressive taxation and regulations designed to protect consumers, workers and the environment.
“People who have experienced higher inequality during their lives are less in favor of redistribution,” write Christopher Roth and Johannes Wohlfart, economists at the University of Warwick in Britain and Goethe University in Germany, in their November 2018 paper, “Experienced Inequality and Preferences for Redistribution.” They are “less likely to support left-wing parties and to consider the prevailing distribution of incomes to be unfair.”
In another essay from November 2018, “Inequality and Participative Democracy. A Self‐Reinforcing Mechanism,” Ioannis Theodossiou and Alexandros Zangelidis, economists at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, describe the way income inequality leads to political apathy and back again:
Greater income inequality alienates and discourages people from engaging with common affairs, thus leading to lower political participation. Yet, lower electoral participation leads towards a less equitable distribution of income. Hence, this study reveals a self‐reinforcing mechanism where the unequal distribution of income leads to political exclusion, which in turn leads to more inequality.
In other words, increasing inequality undermines support for a progressive agenda — the agenda most likely to improve the life chances and conditions of the least well off.
Steven Pearlstein, a columnist at the Washington Post, in his 2018 book “Can American Capitalism Survive?” describes this negative feedback loop succinctly:
As a society, we are now caught in one of those self-reinforcing, downward spirals in which the erosion of social capital, government dysfunction, rising inequality and slowing rates of economic growth are all feeding off each other, with more of one leading to more of all the others.
Income inequality and political polarization have become mutually reinforcing, creating the vicious circle that now manifests itself daily in the erosion of norms around civility and truth telling, the declining trust in political institutions, legislative gridlock and political dysfunction.
Unsurprisingly, such problems lead to ever more disquieting outcomes.
Anthony Chen, a sociologist at Northwestern, wrote by email:
Weakened opposition is one reason why business influence over political and regulatory decisions seems greater today than it did before.
In addition, Chen argued,
one of the big political advantages that business enjoys is that it is continually able to recruit good players and send them to play every game worth playing in the American political and legal system. And there are a lot of games worth playing. Those games might entail having key language inserted into a piece of legislation as it gets finalized by Congress, or sending a top-notch legal team to Federal District Court when a favorable way of interpreting a particular statutory provision is potentially at stake, or making sure that business views are amply reflected in the EPA’s notice-and-comment rule-making process. And those are just some of the games that are being played at the federal level.
Still, the newly elected Democratic House majority does not enter the fray without some effective tools of its own. Perhaps most important is the changing source of campaign money.
Earlier this month, two reporters for The Times, Stephanie Saul and Rachel Shorey, reported that
Democratic candidates in the general election collected nearly 6 million in small donations, more than three times the million collected by Republicans.
ActBlue, a liberal internet-based nonprofit fund-raising organization, told Saul and Shorey that
it helped raise .6 billion in the 2017-18 election cycle, including money it collects for interest groups and state candidates. The average donation was .67.
The growth of small donor contributions online has lessened the dependence of Democratic candidates on the network of Washington-based PACs and lobbyist-run fund-raisers. The question now, Walter Shapiro, a fellow at the Brennan Center, writes, is whether Democrats “can withstand the inevitable pressure to adapt to business as usual in Washington by resisting the traditional advice to court big-money contributors.”
La Raja of warned in an email that
A potentially larger challenge in any Democratic effort to reduce inequality is that allied interest groups and individual donors — as progressive as they are — focus on issues that are not necessarily about reducing inequality for the poor and working class. Instead, the emphasis is often on social issues such as abortion and civil rights, or protecting the environment.
Jesse Rhodes, also a political scientist at the University of Massachusetts, questioned in an email whether Democratic donors support the goal of reducing economic inequality:
I think that, all things considered, there is probably more tension than alignment with this goal. To be sure, donors tend to be more ideological than non-donors, so donors to Democratic candidates and/or the Democratic Party are going to be fairly liberal on average. At the same time, donors, particularly significant donors, are likely to be fairly affluent, and therefore heavily invested in the status quo.
Democratic campaign contributors, Rhodes continued, would in all likelihood be
supportive of progressive policies that would reduce economic inequality at the margins — e.g. shoring up Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, supporting increases in the minimum wage, and so forth — but I’m skeptical that they would be enthusiastic about more dramatic policy proposals that would require large tax increases on high incomes.
The larger question in the wake of the 2018 elections is whether the forces that propelled Democrats into the majority in the House are powerful and persistent enough to force a shift from the rightward direction of policymaking that has held sway over a significant stretch of the past 40 years.
The 2018 election outcome demonstrated that the left has regained momentum and enthusiasm, but the interest group elite — the prime movers of the regressive distribution of income described by Drutman, Grossmann and LaPira — have demonstrated exceptional staying power.
“Business groups are simply more numerous and better resourced than any other type of interest group,” Chen writes in “In the Private Interest? Business Influence and American Democracy,” which also appears as a chapter in “Can America Govern Itself?”
Corporations and trade groups are far more likely than citizen groups to employ hired lobbyists and former government officials, and the average spending of corporations and trade groups on lobbying and campaign contributions routinely exceeds that of citizen groups by several multiples.
Especially in the case of the finance industry, Chen writes,
there is rapidly accumulating evidence that campaign contributions deliver a definite and non-trivial improvement in the probability of obtaining a favorable vote.
According to Bloomberg, three major business groups — the United States Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable and the National Association of Realtors — invested over million in lobbying to win passage of the trillion dollar Trump tax cut.
If newly ascendant Democrats are to have a chance in their struggle against the power brokers of the lobbying community, they will have to maintain and expand their current House majority and eventually win the Senate. Perhaps most important, the party must avoid the repetition of past flameouts.
Previous implosions include the elections of 1978 and 1980 that crushed the Democratic surge in the wake of Watergate and the 2010 Republican wave election that brought an abrupt halt to the idea that a new Democratic majority had dawned after President Barack Obama’s victory in 2008.
Democrats need a leader who can power through the internal contradictions that their multihued, multicultural rainbow coalition presents.
They need their own populist playbook and a presidential candidate equipped to forcefully campaign on it, someone whose personality — bravura, charisma, and bullheadedness — can seal for even a short while the cracks and schisms that push the party in a hundred different directions.
My guess is that this will require the Democrats and their presidential nominee to resourcefully confront — to creatively reformat — issues of race and immigration, gender and sexual identity that Republicans have exploited with great success to peel away swing voters. This may be where a candidate’s charisma — his or her ability to elicit committed followership — becomes indispensable. The issue is less whether the party should or should not move left, but how a party of the left presents itself to and recruits an Election Day majority from a heterogeneous and deeply conflicted national audience.
The danger for Democrats is that intensifying public hostility to President Trump may hand them the White House in 2020 before they have fully cultivated a leadership cadre equipped to address the conflicts that have torn the party apart in the past — a cadre that must also be strong enough to do battle with the increasingly powerful moneyed class and its voracious lobbying elite.
I invite you to follow me on Twitter, @Edsall.
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生财有道沙漠养兔【晃】【眼】，【就】【到】【了】【大】【婚】【的】【日】【子】。 【这】【日】，【盟】【主】【府】【内】【宾】【客】【满】【座】，【来】【的】【都】【是】【江】【湖】【上】【各】【派】【人】【士】，【大】【大】【的】【院】【子】【里】【摆】【上】【了】【好】【几】【桌】【的】【酒】【席】，【自】【从】【江】【湖】【人】【得】【知】【黑】【面】【阎】【王】【和】【玉】【面】【神】【医】【竟】【是】【多】【年】【的】【挚】【友】，【并】【且】【今】【日】【还】【一】【同】【大】【婚】，【都】【想】【来】【凑】【个】【热】【闹】。 【陆】【嵩】，【杨】【总】【管】，【伯】【麒】【伯】【麟】【还】【有】【俞】【景】【湛】，【唐】【溪】【景】，【扶】【光】【及】【一】【干】【人】【等】【都】【在】【门】【口】【迎】【接】【宾】【客】。
【来】【到】【了】【阿】【及】【利】【亚】【国】【的】【首】【都】【城】【市】【以】【后】，【赵】【轩】【的】【汽】【车】【跟】【随】【着】【奥】【亚】【西】【的】【汽】【车】【一】【起】【驶】【入】【了】【国】【家】【会】【务】【中】【心】。 【会】【务】【中】【心】【的】【门】【打】【开】，【赵】【轩】【和】【奥】【亚】【西】【并】【肩】【走】【入】【了】【大】【厅】【内】【部】。 【俩】【人】【面】【对】【面】【坐】【下】【以】【后】，【赵】【轩】【就】【这】【次】【来】【访】【的】【主】【要】【目】【的】【以】【及】【希】【望】【解】【决】【的】【问】【题】，【和】【奥】【亚】【西】【交】【换】【了】【意】【见】。 【由】【于】【这】【些】【事】【项】【已】【经】【提】【前】【和】【奥】【亚】【西】【进】【行】【过】【沟】【通】，【而】【且】
【这】【次】【拍】【完】【之】【后】，【苏】【苗】【又】【休】【息】【了】【一】【段】【时】【间】，【好】【好】【陪】【陪】【儿】【子】。 【虽】【然】【离】【家】【一】【个】【多】【月】，【但】【是】【汤】【圆】【很】【给】【面】【子】【的】【一】【看】【见】【她】【回】【来】【就】【伸】【手】【要】【她】【抱】，【把】【苏】【苗】【感】【动】【的】【不】【行】。【抱】【着】【儿】【子】【狠】【狠】【的】【亲】【了】【几】【口】，【汤】【圆】【在】【她】【怀】【里】【咯】【咯】【直】【笑】。 【傅】【宁】【也】【在】【前】【几】【天】【发】【微】【博】【正】【式】【宣】【布】【退】【出】【娱】【乐】【圈】，【引】【起】【广】【大】【网】【友】【一】【片】【哀】【嚎】，【又】【一】【个】【盛】【世】【美】【颜】【离】【开】【了】【大】【家】，【以】
【听】【到】【他】【的】【话】，【方】【晴】【方】【啃】【苹】【果】【的】【声】【音】【更】【响】【了】。 【见】【她】【连】【看】【都】【不】【看】【自】【己】【一】【眼】，【只】【顾】【着】【生】【闷】【气】【了】。【严】【梓】【轩】【也】【只】【能】【无】【奈】【地】【在】【她】【的】【身】【旁】【坐】【了】【下】【来】，【顺】【了】【顺】【她】【的】【头】【发】：“【傻】【丫】【头】，【我】【会】【这】【样】【做】【是】【有】【原】【因】【的】。” 【听】【到】【他】【这】【样】【讲】，【方】【晴】【方】【啃】【苹】【果】【的】【动】【作】【稍】【微】【轻】【了】【点】，【这】【点】，【从】【她】【嘴】【里】【发】【出】【来】【的】【声】【音】【就】【可】【以】【察】【觉】【出】【来】【了】。 【一】【直】【都】【在】生财有道沙漠养兔【故】【宫】，【叶】【天】【的】【那】【座】【个】【人】【展】【厅】【里】。 【已】【是】【上】【午】【十】【点】【左】【右】，【这】【座】【个】【人】【展】【厅】【里】【人】【声】【鼎】【沸】，【热】【闹】【非】【常】，【处】【处】【欢】【声】【笑】【语】，【满】【耳】【都】【是】【人】【们】【羡】【慕】【不】【已】【的】【啧】【啧】【赞】【叹】【声】。 【但】【是】，【身】【处】【这】【座】【展】【厅】【里】【人】【们】，【却】【并】【非】【从】【全】【国】【各】【地】【而】【来】、【前】【来】【故】【宫】【参】【观】【的】【游】【客】。 【这】【里】【有】【叶】【天】【的】【家】【人】、【有】【勇】【者】【无】【畏】【探】【索】【公】【司】【的】【员】【工】【及】【律】【师】，【有】【来】【自】【故】【宫】【和】【国】【博】
【而】【且】【就】【在】【今】【年】【的】【年】【初】，【她】【还】【给】【他】【们】【神】【屠】【皇】【家】【增】【添】【了】【一】【只】【大】【胖】【包】【子】！【神】【屠】【灏】【翼】【这】【小】【子】【特】【别】【会】【挑】【日】【子】！【选】【了】【个】【元】【宵】【之】【夜】【出】【生】！ 【没】【错】！【又】【是】【姓】【氏】“【神】【屠】”！ 【巧】【的】【是】【又】【是】【一】【只】【该】【死】【的】【纯】【血】【包】【子】！【而】【且】【神】【屠】【灏】【翼】【那】【小】【子】【是】【一】【点】【灵】【力】【能】【量】【的】【边】【也】【都】【没】【有】，【听】【说】【这】【二】【娃】【比】【大】【娃】【神】【屠】【颢】【羽】【的】“**【之】【力】【血】【脉】”【好】【像】【更】【强】【一】【个】【档】【次】！