Myths About Who Runs The Government
Myths About Who Runs The Government
Matthew Jones (Political Science Instructor) gives expert video advice on: Myth- A small group of powerful families run the US Government?; Myth- Big business runs our government?; Myth- Big business is against environmental legislation? and more...
Myth- A small group of powerful families run the US Government?
It is true that Joe Kennedy, which is JFK, John F. Kennedy's father, groomed his boys to run for politics, and there's a lot of politicians or politics in the Kennedy family. Maria Shriver is obviously part of the Kennedy, and she is married to a governor (or a 'Governator'), And then the Bushes, obviously Prescott Bush. And when you look at these people, this is a very small percentage of the overall number of Presidents, of congressmen, of Supreme Court justices, that we have running our country. Jimmy Carter was part of no dynasty whatsoever. Bill Clinton, when he was first elected, was part of no dynasty, and nobody thought he was going to win when he first got into office. Ronald Reagan, again, part of no dynasty, and neither Nancy nor any of his sons are running for politics. So there's a lot of these. American politics is so volatile that even when you do have certain families that can groom themselves to try and run for politics, there's always those dark horses, those outside candidates that can come in and throw everything into the mix, and there's enough of them that can gain considerable power and alter things that it's really hard to say that any number of these families can control much of politics.
Myth- Big business runs our government?
This is just not true. There are multiple reasons why it's not true. Business is very powerful and there are multiple reasons why it should be very powerful. Business controls most of the United States economy in terms of our free market economy, and it controls most of the jobs in the United States and it's experts on many issues. If a politician wants to make a policy about energy it needs to talk to experts. One of the leading experts is the people who actually produce and provide energy. So they are experts and they are important in terms of jobs. However, business isn't always on the same page. Businesses fight against each other. A modern day controversial example is ethanol. Corn producers want government to subsidize corn for ethanol production. However meat producers, dairy producers, those sorts of things, they don't want that because the more corn that's taken and put into ethanol means the price of corn goes up, which means the price of feeding cattle increases, which means that their prices go up and they get less profit. So they're at odds with each other too.
Myth- Big business is against environmental legislation?
Actually, what we found what children Camenacky and other social scientist have found is that business usually takes no position when it comes to environmental legislation in congress the majority of the time. The few time that it does take a position on environmental legislation, it takes more position in favor or supporting environmental legislation then against it. This is definitely countering of it or counterventional wisdom and there are reasons for these. one of which is that a lot of time the environmentalist and the businesses get together to work out a bill that will be favor both over them because business knows that the most people favor the environmental legislation and it looks good. And, the environmentalist knows that having business support them is better getting the past.
Myth- All politicians care about is pleasing their campaign donors?
I know people aren't going to believe this, but politicians, a lot of times, want to make good policy, and sometimes what business wants isn't good policy. Political scientists have shown case and case and case of deregulation of the airline industries, for example, is a big one, where business and labor unions were both against deregulation of the airline industries, yet because it was such a powerful idea, in terms of being a good idea, it went forward anyway. Politicians didn't take business or labor's advice, and they went with the idea that sounded like it was a good idea to them.
Myth- Big business and special interests buy politicians?
Just because they get money from somebody doesn't mean they are going to be like well how do you want me to vote on this issue? Tell me what to do because I am spineless. It doesn't work like that. These are very ambitious people who have their own goals and their own agendas and they're not going to let somebody giving them money get in the way of that. Campaign contributions tend to provide access to a politician. So if I am a business person; let's say I am Exxon Mobil, for instance, I give money to Nancy Pelosi's campaign or Newt Gingrich's when he was in office, his campaign. That doesn't mean that Newt Gingrich or Nancy Pelosi or New Gingrich are going to do what I say. But it does mean that if a big vote comes up that really affects my business, I say hey Nancy, I need to talk to you. She's going to say, okay come and talk to me. Not only that, but politicians have many other things to look at when they're making a vote: things like partisanship, is this going to look good for the party? Things about institutional power. Is this good for Congress having power over the United States instead of the president, which is a huge issue that Congressmen and women have. They have issues of is this actually good policy, which again, a lot of people are going to say no, that's not the case, but political scientists can't get around the fact that this is an issue. Politicians actually care about having good ideas.
Myth- Republicans are the party of big business?
The truth is, that Business does tend to give a little bit more to the Republican Party. Historically, definitely a hundred years ago, Business has been closely associated with the Republican Party. But more recently, in the last twenty or thirty years, Business really has focused more on giving more to the candidate that it thinks will win. Business giving money to candidates to them is an investment. They want to make the best investment, which means the one that will pay off. If you give money to a candidate that's not going to win, that doesn't pay off. The candidates who tend to win, tend to be the candidates who are already in office -- the incumbents. So, Business always gives to incumbents. If the Democrats hold the majority of offices, then Business will give the majority of its money to Democrats. If it's Republicans, vice versa.