The democracy models used in the United States are geared toward influencing the development of administrations that foster equality among the citizens. However, over the past several decades, inequalities in the distribution of wealth have led to an erosion of democratic rights across the socioeconomic board. The majority of the Americans no longer rule the nation because they have limited influences on the policies developed by the legislators. Additionally, there are indications that the legislators are quite unresponsive to the needs of poor Americans. The various impacts of wealth inequality on democracy are discussed in this paper.
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Democracy is a political concept that can only survive if the majority of the people in society attain their collective needs. Democracy assumes a fair platform for the majority while attempting to lure the minority to support the ideologies held by the majority of the society. In essence, there is always a balance between the needs of the majority and minority groups in the society, which fosters a peaceful coexistence characterized by a ruling party and the opposition. Over the past several decades, inequality in wealth has led to worries in the United States about the health of absolute democracy.
This issue has particularly been caused by the fact that the majority of the people in the nation are in the middle-income bracket, whereas the minority are in the high-income bracket. As the situation stands, the rich Americans have been getting richer exponentially, whereas the middle class and the people in the low-income bracket have barely experienced any growth in their economic power.
Absolute equality in wealth cannot be attained in a capitalist economy, but there should be a balance in the distribution of wealth among the different socioeconomic classes. American society has seen the development of a high-income class of few individuals who have the power to control various institutions in the government. This means that democracy is at stake in the nation because the majority of the people in the society do not have the power to have their needs met. This paper looks into the impacts of wealth inequality on democracy in the United States of America.
Unequal Responsiveness on the Part of the Congress
Over the years, it has become apparent that the law-makers in the United States are biased in their responsiveness to the issues affecting different people in the nation. The rich have developed various leverages to control politicians in the nation. These leverages include blackmailing the leaders on the grounds of promoting their election campaigns and pulling strings to facilitate partisan interests. The democratic power of power has been eroded by the fact that money rules the political arena of the nation (Leighley & Nagler, 2013).
Most standard models of democracy dictate that the political system should treat all citizens equally, but this has not been forthcoming in American society (Hayes, 2013). Various scholars have evaluated the responsiveness of legislators in different constituencies and found that recent reports highlight a lack of responsiveness on the part of the legislators to the majority of the citizens. The coefficient of responsiveness is particularly low among legislators in constituencies that have a large number of poor people. These constituencies have seen the rich minority enjoying the attention and responsiveness of the legislators, which implies that democracy no longer prevails in some parts of the nation.
One of the main reasons that poor Americans are not adequately represented in the political arena is because they are not as active in participating in politics. This could be fostered by the fact that they are too busy fighting to survive economically. The poor Americans are also held with low importance to the legislators because the political arena in the nation is characterized by survival for the wealthiest. This implies that the legislators would rather meet the demands of the rich citizens to gain their financial support.
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The inequality in wealth distribution has seen the poor Americans being alienated from taking part in political rallies, protests, and contacting the legislators (Hayes, 2013). This trend has also led to fewer people among the poor communities failing to take part in the voting process. Naturally, the nonvoters are never represented adequately. The underlying issue is the inequality in wealth distribution, and it is a potential threat to democracy in the United States. Politicians are aware that the poor people in their constituencies are not active in voting; hence, they are likely to respond to the middle class or the members of the upper class exclusively.
Studies have revealed that there is a relationship in the rate of unresponsiveness among the legislators to the demands of citizens and the wealth distribution trends in the United States. A comparison of the past decades and the current political system reveals that the legislators have enhanced their unresponsiveness to the poor people as the inequality in the distribution of wealth increases. The rich Americans make up less than 1% of the population, yet the legislators are inclined toward responding to their demands at the expense of the majority of the citizens.
The democratic rights of the citizens have been turned into mere privileges that can only be accessed by those with sufficient wealth to gain the attention of the legislators (Hayes, 2013). A comparison between the Democrats and Republicans also reveals that the Democrats have relatively high responsiveness to the upper class, whereas the Republicans are responsive to both the upper and middle class. Both parties are extensively unresponsive to the needs of the lower class in American society. Surprisingly, the lower class makes up a larger number of citizens in the nation; hence, democracy does not prevail in the political arena.
There is validity in the opinion that the members of the upper class in the United States have the ability to compel the elected representatives for partisan interests. The rich minority in the United States has control over various institutions that are integral in the development of the economy; hence, they have the power to influence the decisions made by Congress. However, this has not always been the case.
There have been administrations in the past that were fairly regulated by democratic theories and regulators. One would expect that such administrations would be equally responsive across the socioeconomic board, but they also portrayed low responsiveness to the poor Americans (Hayes, 2013). Wealth seems to be a major determinant in the representation of social needs in the United States.
Inequality in Economic Empowerment
Over the years, the democratic and republican administrations that have been in power have led to similar real income growth trends among the people in the different socioeconomic classes. It is apparent that both administrations influence a lower real income for the lower class and a relatively high level of real income growth among the rich. This implies that the government has a direct role to play in the development of inequality in wealth distribution in the nation, and the subsequent erosion of the democratic model assumed by the nation.
The main tool used to instigate the inequality in wealth distribution is the lack of policies that govern the macroeconomic elements that influence an even growth rate in the economy (Bartels, 2014). The government has always pushed hard taxes on the middle and low-income brackets of the society while providing the minority in the upper class with a platform for faster economic growth. Issues like unemployment levels have always been addressed differently by the Democrats and the Republicans, but the associated governments have failed to eliminate the big gap in the distribution of wealth in the United States. When the minority rules a nation, then democracy cannot prevail, and this is the case in the United States. Democracy calls for the government to develop equal taxes, but partisan interests have always led to the development of tax policies that oppress the majority of the Americans.
The reality of the matter is that some factors like globalization and growth in technology have also led to an increase in the gap between the rich and the poor in the United States. Since these factors are just mere economic realities that the society is learning to live with, it would be expected that the government, which claims to be guided by democratic models, should provide a safety net for the poor people in the nation. However, this has not been forthcoming. Instead of helping the poor to liberate themselves economically in an attempt to seal the gap between the upper class and the lower class, the government has been inclined toward the development of a paradigm that helps the rich to get richer (Bartels, 2014).
It is important to understand that this paradigm may have been influenced by the rich minority themselves. If this were the case, there is no doubt that American society is living in difficult times where democracy has taken a side step in the running of the nation. A critical look at the economic redistribution policies developed by various administrations in the past three decades in America reveals that the associated governments have been unwilling to provide an economic platform that limits the increase of the gap between the rich and the poor.
The development of policies in a democracy follows a model that involves the identification of an underlying problem and the formulation of laws that remedy the associated issue to serve the best interests of the majority of the people in the nation. However, the inequality in the wealth distribution of the nation has led to the development of a policy formulation process that is dictated by the partisan interests of the rich Americans. This development is relatively indirect because the influence of the rich Americans is only felt by the political leaders.
The foundations and institutions charged with the development of policies in the nation have failed to consider the requirements of the larger society because they are funded by the 1% of the population (Dye, 2001). The associated rich people own the majority of the national assets, and this gives them the leverage to manipulate the legislators and the institutions that regulate policy development. The same rich Americans have been actively taking part in the lobbying processes and they are the primary source of funds for political lobbyist groups. Wealth has been used as a tool to alienate the majority of the Americans from representation in policy development, and this is a direct threat to democracy in the nation.
The Unfair Tax System
The Obama administration has focused on sealing the gap in wealth distribution in the United States through the development of policies that facilitate higher taxes for the rich and lower taxes for the middle class, and even lower or no taxes for the poor Americans. It is apparent that over the years, the United States has seen the rich people paying lower taxes than their employees (Mirrof, 2012).
While the sentiments held by the President are relatively important, it is sad that they are just ideas that might never be implemented in the United States. The development of policies falls under the responsibility foundations, institutions, and legislators who are controlled by the rich minority in the nation. The current tax policies leave the minority at a compromised state whereby their purchasing power is greatly reduced. This inequality translates to the rich having access to the best health care services and other basic services that every American should enjoy.
The inequality in the distribution of wealth has increased exponentially in the United States over the past three decades. This trend has resulted in the rich members of society becoming richer while the poor members of society get relatively poorer. The access to resources is limited to the rich Americans and democratic rights are greatly compromised in modern American society.
One of the main reasons for the inequality and its negative repercussions on democracy is the failure to develop policies that influence a redistribution of wealth on the part of the government. This failure is partly caused by the influence of the rich members of the society on the legislators. Democracy has been threatened by the influence of the wealthy Americans, and there is a need for the current and future administrations to rectify the situation through the development of regulatory institutions to govern the conduct of the legislators.
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Bartels, L. (2014). Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Guilded Age. In K, Kollman (ed.), Readings in American Politics. New York: W.W. Norton.
Dye, T. (2001). Top Down Policymaking. New York: Chatham House.
Hayes, T. J. (2013). Responsiveness in an era of inequality the case of the US senate. Political Research Quarterly, 66(3), 585-599.
Leighley, J. E., & Nagler, J. (2013). Who Votes Now?: Demographics, Issues, Inequality, and Turnout in the United States. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Miroff, B. (2012). The Democratic Debate: American Politics in an Age of Change (6th ed.). Boston: Cengage Learning.