What does it take to get a new lobbyist around here?

November 10th, 2011  |  Source: FT.com

In “The Broken Contract“, his essay in the latest edition of Foreign Affairs, New Yorker staff writer George Packer argues that the source of widening US inequality is to be found when…

Organized money and the conservative movement seized the moment back in 1978 to begin a massive, generation-long transfer of wealth to the richest Americans.

Economic accounts of rich-world income inequality tend to emphasise structural factors: technological change, free movement of capital, cheap consumer goods made in Asia, increased returns to high skill levels, and so on. “Although those factors played a part, they have not been decisive. In Europe, where the same changes took place, inequality has remained much lower than in the United States,” Packer writes.

For Packer, lobbying is key. In 1978, three union-backed “reform bills” were brought up for a vote in Congress, and despite Democratic control of the White House and of both houses, each failed. This marked the turning point: political spending by business was no longer “disinterested” and whereafter lobbying and campaign spending increased exponentially, Packer argues.

How and why this happened are explored in Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson’s recent book, Winner-Take-All Politics. Their explanation, in two words, is organized money. Business groups launched a lobbying assault the likes of which Washington had never seen, and when it was all over, the next era in American life had begun.

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