America Slouches Toward Plutocracy | Al Jazeera America

Over the last few years, political scientists have warned about a worrying trend in American democracy: Voter preferences don’t have much sway over presidents’ policy choices. New research suggests their worries are well founded.

In a new book, political scientists James Druckman and Lawrence Jacobs examine data on internal polling from U.S. presidential archives and other existing research to determine how presidents use their knowledge of public opinion to craft policies. What they found is disturbing: Presidents tend to focus only on the opinions of the wealthy and well-connected insiders, ignoring the views and preferences of most of the electorate. This turns the idea that elected officials in the United States are responsive to public opinion on its head.

Druckman and Jacobs focused on how President Ronald Reagan created the modern conservative coalition using internal polling. He sought to unite political independents, high-income groups, social conservatives and conservatives. While all of these groups had influence over the Reagan administration, high-income earners had the most pull.

via America Slouches Toward Plutocracy | Al Jazeera America.

This battle will define us. We must protect our children from austerity | Aditya Chakrabortty | Comment is free | The Guardian

he definition of a decadent society is one that destroys its own future, knowing full well the terrible consequences. On that basis, Britain is truly degenerate. Just look at how it trashes its children and teenagers.

Our young are the very people on whom the rest of us will one day come to depend – to care for us, and to earn the country’s income. Rather than mere lifestyle accessories, to be slotted in alongside handbags and cars, they represent our best hope. This human truth has sustained societies around the world and down the ages. Yet in austerity Britain, children have been chucked to the bottom of the pile. They have been robbed of their rightful benefits. And the support they could once draw upon – everything from Sure Start centres to youth clubs to mental-health workers – has been hacked back.

via This battle will define us. We must protect our children from austerity | Aditya Chakrabortty | Comment is free | The Guardian.

Exposing Mega-Donors and Super PACs – The Atlantic

Almost every day brings fresh evidence that running for president is now less an exercise in wooing voters than in wooing the ultra-rich. On Thursday, The New York Times reported that “Hillary Rodham Clinton will begin personally courting donors for a ‘super PAC’ supporting her candidacy.” Super PACs, for those blessedly unaware, are the instruments through which rich people give candidates unlimited amounts of money. The Obama campaign established one in 2012 but because, in theory, super PACs are independent from the candidates they support, President Obama did not appear at its events. Hillary is showing no such restraint. According to the Times, she will spend much of the coming weeks nibbling hors d’oeuvres in the company of people she hopes will write her super PAC five-, six- or even seven-figure checks.

As an official presidential candidate, she can’t ask for such vast sums directly. An underling will have to do that. But even that makes her pure compared to Jeb Bush, who has resisted formally announcing his candidacy in part because it liberates him to make the ask himself. “In the last presidential contest,” notes The Washington Post’s Matea Gold, “super PACs were an exotic add-on for most candidates. This time, they are the first priority.” In 2012, they spent $230 million. This year, predicts Politico’s Tarini Parti, they will spend $5 billion.

via Exposing Mega-Donors and Super PACs – The Atlantic.

The Fed’s $16 Trillion Bailouts Under-Reported

The media’s inscrutable brush-off of the Government Accounting Office’s recently released audit of the Federal Reserve has raised many questions about the Fed’s goings-on since the financial crisis began in 2008.

The audit of the Fed’s emergency lending programs was scarcely reported by mainstream media – albeit the results are undoubtedly newsworthy.  It is the first audit of the Fed in United States history since its beginnings in 1913.  The findings verify that over $16 trillion was allocated to corporations and banks internationally, purportedly for “financial assistance” during and after the 2008 fiscal crisis.

via The Fed’s $16 Trillion Bailouts Under-Reported.

Ex-Reagan adviser: Fox News is ‘self-brainwashing’ Republicans into a radical fringe party

Economist Bruce Bartlett, a former adviser to both Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, warned over the weekend that Fox News had damaged the Republican Party by creating a bubble for conservatives to brainwash themselves.

In his paper “How Fox News Changed American Media and Political Dynamics” published earlier this month, Bartlett theorized that watching the network was essentially “self-brainwashing” for viewers, making them believe that the United States was a more conservative nation than it actually was. And so the Republican Party had responded by running radical conservatives that representative Fox News viewers, but not the true state of the electorate.

“Many conservatives live in a bubble where they watch only Fox News on television, they listen only to conservative talk radio — Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, many of the same people,” Bartlett told CNN’s Brian Stelter on Sunday. “When they go onto the Internet, they look at conservative websites like National Review, Newsmax, World Net Daily.”

via Ex-Reagan adviser: Fox News is ‘self-brainwashing’ Republicans into a radical fringe party.

They’re all still lying about Iraq: The real story about the biggest blunder in American history — and the right wing’s obsessive need to cover it up – Salon.com

Republicans’ verbal gyrations over the Iraq War should not be dismissed as the usual rhetorical jabberwocky of an election season. Their stumblings and justifications provide an important window into a larger, crucial story. They reveal that Movement Conservatives remain rooted in a worldview that has been outdated for so long it is now delusional.

The tempest began in a teapot when Fox News’s Megyn Kelly asked Jeb Bush whether he would have gone into Iraq knowing what we know now. Bush said yes, defending the 2003 invasion that more than 70% of Americans now think was a mistake. This answer prompted astonished observers to wonder how he could have fumbled so badly. Within days, Bush stammered first to the suggestion that he had misheard the question, and then concluded that he would, in fact, have opposed the operation altogether.

But Bush’s first answer was not an error. It revealed his continuing loyalty to a series of principles to which he actually put his name in 1997. With those principles, a group of elite white men set out to revive the Cold War world that had given men like them control of the rest of humanity. Those principles dictated the Iraq War, and — although they are completely obsolete — they still animate Movement Conservatives.

via They’re all still lying about Iraq: The real story about the biggest blunder in American history — and the right wing’s obsessive need to cover it up – Salon.com.

George W. Bush’s CIA briefer admits Iraq WMD “intelligence” was a lie – Salon.com

A flurry of politicians quickly declaring their candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination has meant that the Bush administration’s Iraq War is back in the national conversation. Jeb Bush has been forced to answer for his brother’s mistakes, while others like Marco Rubio have toed the party line — knowing the information that the administration knew at the time, they too would have invaded Iraq.

The thing is, the Iraq War was not the result of an intelligence goof — rather, the country’s top office systematically misled the public about Iraq’s nonexistent WMD program, as well as Saddam Hussein’s link to Al Qaeda.

via George W. Bush’s CIA briefer admits Iraq WMD “intelligence” was a lie – Salon.com.