We recently conducted a survey of top wealth-holders (with an average net worth of $14 million) in the Chicago area, one of the first studies to systematically examine the political attitudes of wealthy Americans. Our research found that the biggest concern of this top 1% of wealth-holders was curbing budget deficits and government spending. When surveyed, they ranked those things as priorities three times as often as they did unemployment — and far more often than any other issue.
The game is always about money and power. It always has been, it always will be.
Two-thirds of the respondents had contributed money (averaging $4,633) in the most recent presidential election, and fully one-fifth of them "bundled" contributions from others. About half recently initiated contact with a U.S. senator or representative, and nearly half (44%) of those contacts concerned matters of relatively narrow economic self-interest rather than broader national concerns. This kind of access to elected officials suggests an outsized influence in Washington.
Imagine if two-thirds of Americans donated $4,633 rather than just the rich. Course, we don't have that kind of money. The people who do will forever own our country's politicians.
While the wealthy favored more government spending on infrastructure, scientific research and aid to education, they leaned toward cutting nearly everything else. Even with education, they opposed things that most Americans favor, including spending to ensure that all children have access to good-quality public schools, expanding government programs to ensure that everyone who wants to go to college can do so, and investing more in worker retraining and education.
The wealthy opposed — while most Americans favor — instituting a system of national health insurance, raising the minimum wage to above poverty levels, increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit and providing a "decent standard of living" for the unemployed. They were also against the federal government helping with or providing jobs for those who cannot find private employment.
Unlike most Americans, wealthy respondents opposed increased regulation of large corporations and raising the "cap" that exempts income above $113,700 from the FICA payroll tax. And unlike most Americans, they oppose relying heavily on corporate taxes to raise revenue and oppose taxing the rich to redistribute wealth.
If this sounds like 100% of the Republican party's austerity platform, and the votes of Blue Dog Dems, there's a reason for that. The rich bought and paid for the campaigns, and they expect delivery. Sure, it will come at the expense of the rest of us, but we never mattered anyway.
We could if we wanted to. We don't.