By Mark McDermott, Chair of PSARA’s Education Committee
We live in an age of the super-wealthy, the wealthy and the 99%. Public opinion polls constantly tell us what the 99% think and do. But what do the 1% think and do politically?
We know what the 1% do. They give big money to influence elections and government. In the 2012 election, Sheldon Adelson and his wife gave over $90 million. Another 31 superrich people gave $223 million. This $313 million equaled the $312 million given by 3.7 million contributors who gave less than $200. Under Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United, we are all equal under the law and can contribute $90 million to make sure our voice is heard.
But what are the 1% thinking? A recent first-of-its-kind, cutting-edge academic study entitled “Democracy and the Policy Preferences of Wealthy Americans” reveals the political thinking of 83 wealthy Chicagoans who participated in in-depth interviews.
Who are these people? Their average yearly income amounted to $1.04 million.Their average wealth was $14 million, and their median income was $7.5 million.
How do these wealthy folks participate in politics? Ninety-nine percent vote. Eighty-four percent “attend” to politics. Twenty-one percent collect donations from others and send them to the parties and candidates of their choice. Fifty-three percent contacted the White House, Congress and/or senior administration officials in the previous six months.
They are serious about influencing the government. So what ideas guide their efforts?
Here is what the “one-percenters” think: 67% want to cut Social Security; 64% want to cut food stamps. Only 19% of “one-percenters” think the federal government should see to it that everyone who wants to work can find a job. Sixty-eight percent of the general public think so.
Should the minimum wage be high enough so that no family with a full-time worker falls below the federal poverty line? Only 40% of the “one-percenters” say Yes, compared with 78% of the general public.
What about education? Only 28% of the “one-percenters” think the federal government should make sure that everyone who wants to go to college can do so. Only 35% of the super-rich think the federal government should spend whatever is necessary to ensure that all children have really good public schools, but a whopping 87% of the general public thinks so.
What about racial justice in education and opportunity? Only a bare majority, 53% of the super-rich think the federal government should make sure that minorities have schools equal in quality to whites, even if it means higher taxes; 71% of the general public think that.
The children of the overwhelmingly white 1% go to excellent public or private schools. They don’t need financial aid to go to college. It is refreshing to know that the wealthy are not interested in ensuring that kids of working class, poor and people of color backgrounds have an equal chance at a bright future.
What about skyrocketing income and wealth inequality? Only 13% of the “one-percenters” think the government should try to reduce income disparities between people with high incomes and those with low incomes. Eighty-seven percent of the general public thinks that’s a good idea..
A quick summary of the thinking of the 1%: Cut Social Security. Sub-poverty minimum wage. No commitment to full employment. Strong opposition to quality affordable education for all. Weak support for racial equality in education. Strong opposition to government efforts to address issues of skyrocketing income and wealth inequality. Is it any wonder the 1% needs to buy elections and lobby hard when their clearly stated interests are so deeply opposed to ours.? The 1% is opposed to our American Dream.
We need to take the fight to them and their political allies!