Our "Stealth Politics" of Inequality

Average Americans today have essentially zilch influence on public policy. You don’t need to trust your gut on that. Political scientist Benjamin Page has the data.

What happens – to democracy – when income and wealth concentrate?

A half-century ago, that question hardly seemed worth asking. In the decades right after World War II, Americans were living in a nation – and a world, for that matter – growing ever more equal.

But that America no longer exists. Robber barons once again walk among us. Grand fortunes once again tower over America’s social landscape.

Political scientists have noticed. They’ve begun generating a wealth of scholarship on wealth’s impact on our politics, and no researcher may be more central to that scholarship than Northwestern University’s Benjamin Page.

Six years ago, Page and the University of Minnesota’s Lawrence Jacobs co-authored Class War? What Americans Really Think about Economic Inequality, an in-depth look at 70 years of public opinion polling on wealth and opportunity in America.

Last year, Page and Princeton’s Martin Gilens released what one commentator has called the “first-ever scientific study” of whether our contemporary United States still ranks as a democracy.

And what did that study conclude? Too Much editor Sam Pizzigati explored that question and more with Page last month in an interview conducted just off the Northwestern campus in Evanston, Illinois.

 

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