'Winner-Take-All Politics'

The mix of money and politics has reached new heights.

November 17, 2011
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Gradual but great corruption

The Great Recession and its aftermath have only exacerbated and underscored major tax and policy shifts that have been purposely pursued since the late 1970s.

Simply put, the authors of “Winner-Take-All Politics” reveal a gradual but great corruption of a political system that was never pure in the first place, driven by the rise of special-interest groups and lobbyists, and an astonishing influx of special-interest money into the making or unmaking of laws and regulations.

Lobbyists and special interests have co-existed uneasily with our republic from the beginning. The nation’s Founders struggled with the need to enable freedom of speech and ideas while curtailing the worst but not all aspects of what they called “factions.”

Factions—special interests and political parties—were the subject of James Madison’s Federalist Paper #10. “As long as the reason of man continues to be fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed,” wrote Madison.

Factions may be unavoidable, but the Founders recognized that uncontrolled they pose a danger to the common good.

In Madison’s view, a representative democracy provides the means to ensure the voice of factions are heard but are directed positively toward what is best for the republic and not what is best for a narrow interest. And therein lies the rub, because Jacobs and Pierson argue that today, factions and their influence benefit the few at a cost to the common good.

Increasingly, factions hide their intent behind the deep pockets of special-interest groups or wealthy individuals. These groups bear lofty and benign names that are Orwellian in their manipulation of language in order to mask their agenda.

They exist to push narrow, divisive, and generally selfish goals. They wrap and thus disguise their intent in patriotic, flag-waving rhetoric and doublespeak that on its face few could object to but whose purpose is to misdirect attention.

Next: Unchecked spending

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