Monday, November 30, 2015

The Rich vs. the Rest, Continued

Illinois politics have been a corrupt mess for decades. Four of the past ten governors have gone to prison, and the state has $100 billion in unfunded pension liabilities and other hidden debts. Angered by the dysfunction, a small group of very wealthy investment bankers, hedge fund managers, and the like rallied behind financial executive Bruce Rauner's bid to become governor. They spent $65 mllion on the race, more than twice the previous record, and Rauner won. But the voters also increased the Democratic majority in the legislature and passed a non-binding referendum calling for an increase in the minimum wage. The result is likely to be gridlock, and Rauner and company are not likely to get the major reforms they seek, especially an assault on public employee unions.

Two things about this interest me. One is that when government gets bad enough, people will turn to the alternative no matter what it is. Thus, generally Democratic Illinois has elected a very right-wing Republican as governor. People who want the government to do more for the people have to do all they can to maintain government's credibility.

The second thing is the disconnect summed by this Times poll. It compares the views of all Americans, as established by nationwide polls, with the views of 83 wealthy people in Chicago who responded to the Times' pollsters. It shows that on a small set of important economic issues, the views of the elite are very different from the views of everyone else. To me this is especially striking on the issue of Social Security. A majority of Americans thinks Social Security should be expanded, and even a majority of Republicans prefers raising the Social Security tax to cutting benefits. Not so the rich.

The danger with growing elite power in the government is that the elite really does not think like the rest of us. Over the past 15 years they have forced the issue of cutting Social Security and Medicare onto the political agenda even though those ideas are very unpopular in America. We should not let them get their way.

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