Why the House of Representatives Doesn’t Represent Americans

One of the really weird ironies of politics these days is the huge divergence between what the American people actually want and what the radical right-wingers in Washington actually do. You won’t hear this on Fox So-Called News, but right now the American people are as progressive as they ever have been.

Don’t believe me? Just check the polls.

The Progressive Change Institute recently asked likely 2016 voters about their views on a bunch of big issues, and it turns out that everyday Americans overwhelmingly support some of the most liberal policies around.

71 percent of all Americans support giving all students access to a debt-free college education.

70 percent support expanding Social Security.

71 percent a massive infrastructure spending program aimed at rebuilding out broken roads and bridges and putting people back to work.

59 percent support raising taxes on the wealthy so that millionaires pay the same amount in taxes as they did during the Reagan administration.

77 percent of Americans, support giving every American child free pre-K education.

And the list goes on.

58 percent of Americans support breaking up the big banks.

59 percent, meanwhile, support a basic guaranteed minimum income while a still higher percentage - 70 percent - support the creation of a “Green New Deal” that would see the government invest hundreds of millions of dollars in renewable energy.

Oh, and if that wasn't enough, support on Capitol Hill for the Congressional Progressive Caucus’ annual budget, which would put into place many of these very same liberal policies, is growing.

A full 40 percent of House Democrats supported the CPC budget in 2012, 43 percent supported it in 2013, 44 percent supported it in 2014, and more than half - 51.5 percent support it this year.

In other words, progressive values aren't just popular with everyday Americans - they’re also popular, and increasingly more popular, with one of our two major parties, the Democratic one. But all this begs the question: If more than half of Congressional Democrats and way more than half of all Americans support doing things like expanding Social Security and making college free for all, why aren't those policies becoming law?

Why, in our democracy, is the will of the people not being heard? The answer is both simple and tragic - we no longer actually live in a democracy.

We live in an oligarchy. Thanks to the Supreme Court’s Long War against campaign finance law, the billionaires and economic royalists now have more control over our political system than they have in almost a century. This isn't opinion; it’s objective and quantifiable fact.

A study released last year by political scientists Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page, for example, found the following: A proposed policy change with low support among economically elite Americans (one-out-of-five in favor) is adopted only about 18% of the time while a proposed change with high support (four-out-of-five in favor) is adopted about 45% of the time.

It really is all about money in politics. Since billionaires like Charles and David Koch can now pretty much buy their own politicians, along with billions in advertising and PR, it’s their views that get heard in Congress, and it’s their views that become law. And because real progressive policies so often cut into the power of the rich, they only very rarely become law in this Brave New World of ours.

America has and always will be a progressive nation, but if we don’t do something right now to reign in the corrupting influence of big money, it won’t matter whether 70 percent or 30 percent of Americans want to break up the big banks.

So go to MovetoAmend.org right now to get money out of politics once and for all.

Comments

mathboy's picture
mathboy 7 years 36 weeks ago
#1

The comparison in the fourth-to-last paragraph doesn't seem instructive, since it seems to show government resistance to doing what the "elites" want (if 80% of elites want something, it has only a 45% chance of getting enacted). I'd like to see a comparison of how likely policies are to get enacted with a certain level of elite support vs. the same level of popular support, and what happens when elite support and popular support are at odds vs. when they are in accord.

stecoop01's picture
stecoop01 7 years 36 weeks ago
#2

Republicans not only don't listen to the voters at large, but they try to lie to them, and convince people that things are not what they appear. Example: 4 days ago Hoosier republicans put an elephant in the room (RFRA); today, they're trying to claim it's not an elephant; but, everyone with eyes wide open see the elephant. (Punny symbology intended).

We're not stupid, and we're not blind; but, why do we let them treat us as though we are?

John Pranke's picture
John Pranke 7 years 36 weeks ago
#3

I agree, most of my fellow working class people want those things. Far too many don't vote because they think "both sides are the same" or "it doesn't make a difference", and there are a disturbing number or rascists and bigots who are worried the ******* and the like will get their stuff. The intentional plot to dissuade and discourage people from voting or voting against their own interest has and is working.

agelbert's picture
agelbert 7 years 36 weeks ago
#4

Yes Thom, we live in an Oligarchy. Agnotology was the duplicitous tool used to turn the USA into one. This Culure of Corruption continues.

Agnotology: Part one of six parts

http://renewablerevolution.createaforum.com/who-can-you-trust/resisting-brainwashing-propaganda/msg2849/#msg2849

Kend's picture
Kend 7 years 36 weeks ago
#5

Now the progressive change institute should ask the same questions including how much their taxes are going to go up to pay for all of it and see if they get the same result. I am in favour of free beer for all if I don't have to pay for it as well.

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 7 years 36 weeks ago
#6
Quote Mathboy:The comparison in the fourth-to-last paragraph doesn't seem instructive, since it seems to show government resistance to doing what the "elites" want (if 80% of elites want something, it has only a 45% chance of getting enacted). I'd like to see a comparison of how likely policies are to get enacted with a certain level of elite support vs. the same level of popular support, and what happens when elite support and popular support are at odds vs. when they are in accord.

Mathboy ~ Well said! You took the words right out of my mouth.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 7 years 36 weeks ago
#7

It's also technology. Everybody has their own "pocket media" now with virtually unlimited choice. There is no common mass media, no community of information. Everything is subscriber only and tailored to individual tastes and preferences, everyone is siloized. I'd bet most progressive Americans don't even realize they are the in the majority. They think this country is very conservative and that they are in the minority and this helps Republicans get away with what they do. It causes the majority of Americans to accept the contradiction of Congress believing they are in the minority so "what can you do".
Republicans, PR experts (skilled liars) that they are, know this full well and fully exploit it claiming this falsely perceived, illusory majority, which their PR machine, in fact, created, to justify their unpopular actions.

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 7 years 36 weeks ago
#8
Quote Kend:Now the progressive change institute should ask the same questions including how much their taxes are going to go up to pay for all of it and see if they get the same result. I am in favour of free beer for all if I don't have to pay for it as well.

Kend ~ Yes, perhaps they should include the budget in their questions. For instance, they should ask what they would rather pay for, the ACA (Affordable Care Act) or the OCO (Overseas Contingency Operations) of the military. I don't recall it ever put to a popular vote what House Republicans are trying to do by cutting much needed money for Health Care to pay for their illegal wars overseas. Some $20 Billion if this article is correct. I for one certainly would have loved to have something to say about that!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/25/house-gop-passes-budget_n_6942408.html

Jerome Swift's picture
Jerome Swift 7 years 36 weeks ago
#9

I just finished The crash of 2016 & all this stuff is so scary. I couldn't put my finger on what was wrong with America but that book did it. Thank you. Your blog today just reiterates it. I would love to do what I can to stop these evil people who threaten our values & our freedoms. I don't really care about me it's my children I fear for. Not doing anything about climate change be she they will lose money they don't need & making it so my children can't breath or even have land to live on someday makes me so angry. Not that I can do anything about it.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 7 years 36 weeks ago
#10

Kend, you're making no sense again. Free beer and free education are not comparable.
John Pranke, you are right, at least to a degree. The problem is the two party duopoly and lack of proportional representation.
Many apparently voted Republican this last time in spite of their great progressiveness. I almost did!
My Congressional rep. is a Dem co sponsoring fast track for TPP. I sure didn't want to vote for him. Fortunately we had a Green Party candidate running who I could vote for but otherwise it woulda been a dilemma.
Not everybody had that option, though, and then went "from the frying pan to the fire" as the system causes them to with the limited choice they have when they're unhappy about governance by incumbent Democrats.

Kend's picture
Kend 7 years 36 weeks ago
#11

Yes Mr Saulys you are right beer and education are a poor comparable. Maybe I should have had a little less beer and a little more education. Sorry. But shouldn't we know what things cost us before we purchase them. Including war, roads, education, green anything etc. then put it to a vote with the voters knowing the true cost. I have always believed we should change how we tax. What ever we tax this year is what we can spend next year. They can't spend more then the collected amount. That way the would always be on budget. If they don't have enough they raise taxes or spend less. Simple

ulTRAX's picture
ulTRAX 7 years 36 weeks ago
#12

Thom wrote: "Why, in our democracy, is the will of the people not being heard? The answer is both simple and tragic - we no longer actually live in a democracy.

We live in an oligarchy. Thanks to the Supreme Court’s Long War against campaign finance law, the billionaires and economic royalists now have more control over our political system than they have in almost a century. This isn't opinion; it’s objective and quantifiable fact."

When were we EVER a democracy that reliably translated the public will into policy? Our system is demonstrably antidemocratic with a mere 18% of the US population getting 52% of the seats in the Senate. The EC can install a candidate as president who was REJECTED by the People. The amendment formula is so screwed up that amendments can be ratified with states that represent about 40% of the population yet blocked by states with as little as 3.5%. A two party system deprives citizens of the ability to vote their conscience and get representation.

It should come as no surprise that such a system makes it easier for the right to block any progressive agenda... more so if the Dems foolishly move to the right.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 7 years 36 weeks ago
#13

Kend, some things, like healthcare and education, are not questionable or dispensable, worth what ever they cost - and the cost should be reasonable - if it's not artificially inflated by venal profiteers.
They are not luxuries and we have paid for them before so we know what they cost. If they suddenly have become too expensive then something isn't adding up. Somebody's got a hand where it shouldn't be.
It's quite simple and basic. A just, orderly society is not that monumental a task. It won't kill ya, stop cryin' about it.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 7 years 36 weeks ago
#14

uLTRAX, the EC is, of course, because initially the U.S. was a union between equal, independent states. It's like the U.N. Security Council. Russia and Israel each have one vote but can't be compared by population.
Don't know if that changes anything, don't suppose.

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 7 years 36 weeks ago
#15

In addition to not even coming close to representing the will of the vast majority of Americans, House Teapublicans also employ "twistifications" when defending their unrepresentative legislation. For example when Tom Reed proposed the house rule that would ultimately cut SSDI, he instead declared the amendment was intended to protect the fund. Thus cutting a popular program gets twisted into saving that popular program, and the media almost always communicates the twisted version to the unsuspecting public. A responsible media would have questioned Reed's real intentions by reporting that polls indicate 70% support expanding the Social Security Fund by removing the cap, a no-brainer populist solution.

Phrases and names like, right to work, family values, defense of marriage act, death panels, liberal media, Americans for Prosperity, job creators, Religious Freedom Restoration, etc. ......all twistifications, and all part of the constant bombardment of misinformation....and all part of the big money overthrow of our Democracy.

"But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security." Thomas Jefferson .....Part of the 1776 unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America.....

Jefferson in 1821 also penned the words, "The great object of my fear is the Supreme Court" ...which he descibed as, "the subtle corps of sappers and miners constantly working under ground to undermine the foundations of our confederated republic." I'm sure Jefferson would find Citizens United a complete abomination and his expressed fear is justified even now in the 21st century.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 7 years 36 weeks ago
#16

You're right uLTRAX, right wingers make use of every procedural device without regard for the will of the people, much more so, I think, than Democrats.
If right wingers were given sodium pentethal they'd admit that they don't believe in any "small d" democracy at all but in autocratic governance by elites who are entitled to the benefits of the labor of the common masses, to make up that elite's superfluous wealth, as their due - or, one form or other of plutarchy or oligarchy.

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 7 years 36 weeks ago
#17
Quote Mark J. Saulys:Kend, some things, like healthcare and education, are not questionable or dispensable, worth what ever they cost - and the cost should be reasonable - if it's not artificially inflated by venal profiteers.

Mark J. Saulys ~ How true! Actually, you might want to know that Palindromedary posted a most telling article on this blog about just those "venal profiteers."

https://www.thomhartmann.com/users/palindromedary/blog/2015/03/cost-medical-procedures-various-areas

The very notion that the price of the same procedure can very between $157 and $7,500 should have us all question our for profit health care system and how we govern ourselves.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 7 years 36 weeks ago
#18

2950-10K, I think Ayn Rand's followers believe that it's okay to say anything to get what you want.
She never said it and I think she and some of her followers have said they don't approve of violent or fraudulent means but they were always accused and suspected of secretly, privately thinking it was okay to do that.
I mean, if you were on some kinda bullshit why would you admit it?

Bob Hearns's picture
Bob Hearns 7 years 36 weeks ago
#19

I read that the last congress had a 12% approval rating and yet, of the incumbents running for re-election, 94% were re-elected. If you put the same people back in, aren't you going to get more of the same?

PaulHosse's picture
PaulHosse 7 years 36 weeks ago
#20

Of course, the House doesn't represent Americans, and neither does the the Senate, Presidency, or even Judical system. It's role is to serve its masters and that's not people like you and me. Money in politics? It's all about money in money. Money equal power or at least access to power. America is an oligarchy as everyone knows or should know by now. It is controlled by the uber-rich and that's not going to change without a fight. We not only need to get rid of Citizens United and create a level playing field, we also need term limits and put an end to gerrymandering. Redistricting needs to be taken out of the hands of politicians and handled by a non-partisian group.

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 7 years 36 weeks ago
#21

Kend: If your so concerned with out of control government spending, then why aren't you venting on a right-wing site? By far the lion's share of out of control spending, adding to the national debt, has been done by Republicans.

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 7 years 36 weeks ago
#22

Mark: False prophets like Rand spin whatever web it takes to justify their greed and selfishness, much like the supporters of Reagan's trickle down...the biggest lie ever told!

dianhow 7 years 36 weeks ago
#23

'Elites' aka Billionaires, Corps, Lobbyists are almost NEVER In Accord' with workers, middle class, women, disabled, seniors in nursing homes who spent all the have and went on medcaid as a last resort, the mentally ill / unwanted kids. It seems hopeless unless more smart informed folks get out and vote .

dianhow 7 years 36 weeks ago
#24

Ignorance in NOT bliss Its dangerous to our country and dying middle class .

Kend's picture
Kend 7 years 36 weeks ago
#25

10K I am not suggesting that it is only the left. All governments, at all levels are just as bad. That's why they should have a strict budget and have to stick to it. I believe we have to live within our means at all levels.

mathboy's picture
mathboy 7 years 36 weeks ago
#26

ulTRAX, maybe the Constitutional amendment process should work more like the electoral college, so that states have different "weights".

(I'm going to incorporate this into my fictional constitutions immediately.)

ulTRAX's picture
ulTRAX 7 years 36 weeks ago
#27

Mark J. Saulys wrote: "uLTRAX, the EC is, of course, because initially the U.S. was a union between equal, independent states. It's like the U.N. Security Council. Russia and Israel each have one vote but can't be compared by population.

Don't know if that changes anything, don't suppose."

I think you're thinking of the Senate... which is based on the idea of state suffrage. The EC is another vote weighting scheme that gives citizens who choose to live in small population states a bigger vote than those who don't. So any citizen's vote in WY weighs about 3.5x that of any citizen in CA. All it can do is allow someone rejected by the People to become president.

ulTRAX's picture
ulTRAX 7 years 36 weeks ago
#28

mathboy wrote: "ulTRAX, maybe the Constitutional amendment process should work more like the electoral college, so that states have different "weights".

(I'm going to incorporate this into my fictional constitutions immediately.)"

The EC can not be salvaged. If it mirrors the popular vote... we don't need it. All it can ever do is allow someone rejected by the People to become president.

ulTRAX's picture
ulTRAX 7 years 36 weeks ago
#29

PaulHosse wrote Of course, the House doesn't represent Americans, and neither does the the Senate, Presidency, or even Judicial system. It's role is to serve its masters and that's not people like you and me.

In our system we could have 100% public financing... 100% voter turnout, 100% vote count accuracy.... and

18% of the US population would still get 52% of the Senate seats

states with 3.5% of the population could block any amendment... yet states with 40% could ratify one

candidates REJECTED by the People can still become president.

To think money is the problem misses the greater dysfunctionality of our system. We can't get decent reforms BECAUSE the system is antidemocratic to begin with and it's easy to hijack.

ulTRAX's picture
ulTRAX 7 years 36 weeks ago
#30

2950-10K wrote "By far the lion's share of out of control spending, adding to the national debt, has been done by Republicans."

OR... trying to repair the damage the GOP... and corporate Dems did to our economy.

mathboy's picture
mathboy 7 years 36 weeks ago
#31

ulTRAX, a Wyomingite actually has about 68 times the power of a Californian in the Senate. You also responded to my comment about Constitutional amendments as if I'd been talking about presidential elections. I've recently stated elsewhere what the EC is good for, so I won't repeat it here.

stecoop01's picture
stecoop01 7 years 36 weeks ago
#32
Quote Bob Hearns:I read that the last congress had a 12% approval rating and yet, of the incumbents running for re-election, 94% were re-elected. If you put the same people back in, aren't you going to get more of the same?

Isn't that the definition of insanity...or proof the elections are rigged?

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 7 years 35 weeks ago
#33

uLTRAX, I meant the Senate and the EC. The same principle is behind both but the EC is undemocratic in that electors don't have to vote as the people they represent.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 7 years 35 weeks ago
#34

I had what I thought was an interesting idea. The way the senate is represented is defined by the constitution and its amendments. However, the senate rules (e.g.. filibusters and cloture) are quite changeable. The senate rule for cloture is 60%. I think they should change that rule, so it only takes 60% of the population represented by senators to close debate.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 7 years 35 weeks ago
#35

Kend -- Such one dimensional and short term thinking. Most of the suggested spending would be investing. The government, even in these times of being run by billionaires, has a 60% return on their investments. When the government does not spend, the deficits become small. There is a 100% correlation between small deficits and a crashing economy (or at least the Dow).

mathboy's picture
mathboy 7 years 35 weeks ago
#36

To chuckle8 @34, so for things like that each senator could have as many votes as there are representatives in the respective state.

ulTRAX's picture
ulTRAX 7 years 35 weeks ago
#37

Mark wrote: "uLTRAX, I meant the Senate and the EC. The same principle is behind both but the EC is undemocratic in that electors don't have to vote as the people they represent."

The EC is antidemocratic because it weighs the votes of some citizens more than others... and in 48 states it's winner take all... and in the end, it can install a candidate who was REJECTED by the People as president.

ulTRAX's picture
ulTRAX 7 years 35 weeks ago
#38

Chuckle8 wrote: "I had what I thought was an interesting idea. The way the senate is represented is defined by the constitution and its amendments. However, the senate rules (e.g.. filibusters and cloture) are quite changeable. The senate rule for cloture is 60%. I think they should change that rule, so it only takes 60% of the population represented by senators to close debate."

It may be impossible to EVER reform the Senate to make it democratic except by a rules change where the vote of each Senator represents half of their state's population.

http://reinventing-america.blogspot.com/2010/02/reforming-anti-democrati...

mathboy's picture
mathboy 7 years 35 weeks ago
#39

The problem is that Art. I, Sec. 3 specifically says each senator shall have one vote. That means the Senate rules can't override that even in procedural votes. (So that cancels my idea above. Dammit.) The only thing I can think of would be to add on procedural votes that only more-populous states' senators can participate in, and I'm not sure that's allowable.

ulTRAX's picture
ulTRAX 7 years 35 weeks ago
#40

mathboy wrote: "The problem is that Art. I, Sec. 3 specifically says each senator shall have one vote. That means the Senate rules can't override that even in procedural votes.

But it doesn't say all votes must WEIGH the same. Our entire federal system is based on vote weighting/dilution... and the absurdity of this is all the more apparent since we went to popular elections for Senators.

I know... it's a long shot. But the system is getting more and more antidemocratic and more reformproof... yet this issue is entirely ignored by the media, both parties, and the public.

mathboy's picture
mathboy 7 years 35 weeks ago
#41

It would mean nothing to say that senators each have one vote (and that states get equal suffrage), if you can just weight the votes. BTW, since only the proportionality matters, the weighting doesn't have to be half the states' populations.

Interestingly, the Constitution does not say each representative gets one vote. It makes me wonder if they wanted to include the possibility of some state-level proportional-representation system.

ulTRAX's picture
ulTRAX 7 years 35 weeks ago
#42

mathboy wrote: "It would mean nothing to say that senators each have one vote (and that states get equal suffrage), if you can just weight the votes. BTW, since only the proportionality matters, the weighting doesn't have to be half the states' populations."

The only reason I suggested each senator's vote be worth half their state's population is because the two senators from any given state might be from different parties. The other possibility is to weight the votes by how many votes each senator received. But then those elected in off year elections get fewer than those elected during presidential elections when the voter turnout is about 50-55% instead of 35%.

Here are some numbers that show actual vote for Senators by party and who ends up controlling the Senate http://www.thomhartmann.com/forum/2014/01/does-constitution-give-gop-unf...

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