4/23/2016—Democrats and people on the left generally are wrong about the power of money in public life and it is affecting their analysis of the current problem.
Harpers magazine contained a telling statistic this week. When asked the percentage of Republicans who earn $250,000 a year, Democrats estimate 44%. Of course, given the skewed distribution of wealth in America, this figure could not be accurate. The actual number is 2%.
This is important, because it suggests that the power of money to capture the Republican Party is not direct self-interest. No. People are actually persuaded by the Koch Brothers. The problem is political, not structural.
But, isn’t it dark money? Isn’t it hidden? There is certainly some of that. But not much. Mostly, people have been persuaded by arguments, or at least by certain phrases. Low taxes. Small government. The left has been unable to persuade.
But can’t money just get its way? Does the success of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders suggest that it can? At least money need not get its way directly in politics. The voters vote—-not lobbyists. You can get elected if you can convince the voters.
Money has real power. But campaign finance is the least of the problem. Lobbying is a greater potential influence, but even there the main use of the money is persuasion. Powerful economic interests argue that their policies are good for people and they can hire lawyers and economists to make the case. Conservative macroeconomics has always held a certain sway in America. We are not socialists.
Ironically, if you want to see the brute power of money, look at how corporations are ganging up on North Carolina because of the anti-gay-and-others law. But, notice that the left has no problem with that. Just wait until the NFL says no Super Bowl in New York until the income tax goes down. Then we will hear about the power of corporations.