From Alternet: http://www.alternet.org/economy/150715/the_public_overwhelmingly_wants_it%3A_why_is_taxing_the_rich_so_hard/
The obvious answer is that rich people have political clout—but can it really be so simple?
By Alyssa Battistoni
April 23, 2011
When even the New York Times, the supposed bleeding heart of the liberal media, is asking whether it’s more “perilous politically” to accept tax increases for 3 percent of households or benefit cuts for everyone, you’d assume that even Americans who aren’t rich are are opposed to raising taxes on those who are. But you’d be wrong: nearly three-quarters of Americans support raising taxes on the wealthy. So why is raising taxes on the wealthy so hard—or why do we think it is?
The obvious answer is that rich people have political clout—but can it really be so simple? A growing mound of evidence suggests that while wealthy people’s preferences may not be the only factor in political decision-making, it’s a worrisomely important one. In a recent study, Princeton political scientist Larry Bartels found that senators outright ignored the views of their least advantaged constituents while catering to the preferences of the wealthy. Princeton’s Martin Gilens has also found that policy changes reflect the preferences of the most affluent, while the preferences of poor and middle-income Americans have almost no bearing.
Politicial scientists Lawrence Jacobs and Benjamin Page have found that the preferences of foreign policymakers correspond more to the preferences of executives of multinational companies than to the general public. Page and Jeffrey Winters estimate that the top 10 percent of income earners hold about 90 percent of materially based political power, and that “each member of the top 1 percent averaged more than 100 times the power of a member of the bottom 90 percent; about 200 times if the index is calculated in terms of the more politically relevant non-home wealth.” These numbers are staggering, and should be seriously troubling to anyone who thinks political equality worth defending. Indeed, by Page and Winter’s definition of oligarchy as “the extreme political inequalities that necessarily accompany extreme material inequalities,” it’s pretty hard to argue that the United States isn’t an oligarchic society.
The simple fact of the matter is that the people who can afford to fund and engage in Beltway politics, from idea-generating to legislation-drafting, are disproportionately wealthy, so it’s difficult to suss out just how much of politicians’ deference to the preferences of the wealthy is responsiveness to the wealthy themselves as opposed to the general alignment of rich people’s interests with those of influential elites, organized special interest groups, business lobbies, and those of policymakers themselves.
Continue reading at: http://www.alternet.org/economy/150715/the_public_overwhelmingly_wants_it%3A_why_is_taxing_the_rich_so_hard/