By now you probably heard about the Pew Research poll showing how angry voters are with Congress-- and mostly blaming the Republicans for a body that isn't working for the people at all. They actually conclude that next year could bring some unpleasant surprises for a number of incumbents, especially Republican incumbents in swing districts (like Paul Ryan, which could explain his abandonment of his plan to kill Medicare this week).
The Republican Party is taking more of the blame than the Democrats for a do-nothing Congress. A record-high 50% say that the current Congress has accomplished less than other recent Congresses, and by nearly two-to-one (40% to 23%) more blame Republican leaders than Democratic leaders for this. By wide margins, the GOP is seen as the party that is more extreme in its positions, less willing to work with the other side to get things done, and less honest and ethical in the way it governs. And for the first time in over two years, the Democratic Party has gained the edge as the party better able to manage the federal government.
...The level of anti-incumbent sentiment among Republican voters is particularly notable. Despite having won a majority in the House of Representatives-- though not the Senate-- last year, most Republicans continue to advocate a sweeping overhaul of congressional membership. Fully 70% say that most members should be replaced. This stands in stark contrast to how members of the party with a House majority have felt in recent elections. Republicans in 2006, and Democrats in 2008 and 2010, favored keeping most members in office, with only a few advocating a sweeping overhaul as Republicans do today. In those years, one party controlled both the House and Senate, unlike today.
...By a 44% to 35% margin, more Americans support than oppose the Occupy Wall Street movement overall, and by 48% to 30%, more say they agree than disagree with the concerns the protests have raised. But when it comes to the way the protests are being conducted, significantly more disapprove (49%) than approve (29%).
Many of the themes of the Occupy Wall Street protests resonate with the public. About half (51%) say that Wall Street hurts the American economy more than it helps it; 36% are of the view that Wall Street helps more than it hurts. A 61% majority say the economic system in this country unfairly favors the wealthy, while 36% say it is generally fair to most Americans. And fully 77% say that a few rich people and corporations have too much power in this country. While still a minority view, the current survey finds 40% saying that hard work and determination are no guarantee of success, higher than in any other survey conducted over the past 17 years.
...Roughly three-quarters of the public (77%) say that they think there is too much power in the hands of a few rich people and large corporations in the United States. In a 1941 Gallup poll, six-in-ten (60%) Americans expressed this view. About nine-in-ten (91%) Democrats and eight-in-ten (80%) of independents assert that power is too concentrated among the rich and large corporations, but this view is shared by a much narrower majority (53%) of Republicans.
Reflecting a parallel sentiment, 61% of Americans now say the economic system in this country unfairly favors the wealthy and just 36% say the system is generally fair to most Americans. About three-quarters (76%) of Democrats and 61% of independents say the economic system is tilted in favor of the wealthy; a majority (58%) of Republicans say that the system is generally fair to most Americans.
The public also views Wall Street negatively, little changed from opinions in March. Currently, just 36% say Wall Street helps the American economy more than it hurts-- 51% say it hurts more than helps. Majorities of both Democrats (60%) and independents (54%) say Wall Street hurts more than helps, while nearly half of Republicans say Wall Street helps the economy (49%).
Wow... even Republicans! Not that that stopped Romney from spending Wednesday evening with his only real non-Mormon base-- the Wall Street fatcats. Right-wing crooks Paul Singer (the rich hedge fund slimeball who has finally given up on trying to recruit Chris Christie to save the GOP from Romney), Roger Hertog, Sander Gerber and Daniel Loeb hosted a $1.2 million fundraiser for him-- one of 4 he did during the day. That said, this NPR report from yesterday on the 1% of the 1%-- just 26,783 donors who gave more than $10,000 each in the 2010 midterms-- explains a lot about why American politics is so corrupt and so skewered away from the interests of the 99%.
Combined, these donors spent $774 million. That's 24.3% of the total from individuals to politicians, parties, PACs, and independent expenditure groups.
...The One Percent of the One Percent are not average Americans. Overwhelmingly, they are corporate executives, investors, lobbyists, and lawyers. A good number appear to be highly ideological. They give to multiple candidates and to parties and independent issue groups. They tend to cluster in a limited number of metropolitan zip codes, especially in New York, Washington, Chicago, and Los Angeles.
In the 2010 election cycle, the average One Percent of One Percenter spent $28,913, more than the median individual income of $26,364.
At the top of this elite group are individuals such as Bob Perry, CEO of Perry Homes, who gave $7.3 million to Karl Rove’s American Crossroads in 2010 and $4.4 million to Swift Vets and POWs for Truth in 2004, and Wayne Hughes, owner and chairman of Public Storage Inc., who gave $3.25 million to American Crossroads in 2010, and Fred Eshelman, CEO of Pharmaceutical Product Development who spent $3 million in 2010 on his own group, RightChange. Sunlight’s Ryan Sibley writes more about the top donors here.
Unlike the other 99.99% of Americans who do not make these contributions, these elite donors have unique access. In a world of increasingly expensive campaigns, The One Percent of the One Percent effectively play the role of political gatekeepers. Prospective candidates need to be able to tap into these networks if they want to be taken seriously. And party leaders on both sides are keenly aware that more than 80% of party committee money now comes from these elite donors.
...Unlike the 99.99% of Americans who do not spend ten grand of their own money on an election cycle (mostly because they can’t afford to do so), The One Percent of the One Percent have unique access to candidates and party leaders. They know that candidates and parties need their money, and this presumably allows them to play a kind of gatekeeper role, allowing them to set the parameters of priorities of “legitimate” politics.
They congregate in a limited number of elite zip codes. Their concerns are not the concerns of ordinary Americans.
Some are motivated by ideological reasons. For others, the motivation is less partisan and more pragmatic: Many are lawyers and lobbyists, and even more are corporate executives, all seeking to influence legislation and policy.
Over time, more individuals are choosing to spend $10,000 or more on politics, and candidates and especially parties are becoming more reliant on them. With new vehicles for unlimited money in the 2012 election, a small number of individuals with both the means and the motive to spend lavishly on elections are poised to play an even greater role. To the extent that the priorities and interests of these elite donors are not representative of the country, there are good reasons to be concerned that their unique access is having a distorting impact on our politics.