Updated: Mar 12, 2019
The purpose of AmeriThunk is to address the challenges of America’s politics and economy by empowering the public to define the future of our cities, states, and country.
America is said to be the land of the free. Central to our founding story is the idea that in 1776 we cast off the shackles of England’s monarchy to embrace a government which saw to the needs of people through democratically elected representatives. According to Lincoln, America is supposed to be a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” but lately it seems we have drifted from our pursuit of this lofty goal.
Over the past 45 years we have slowly installed an American oligarchy. Thanks to a weakened tax code, regulatory structure, and campaign finance system, the wealthy have become more politically connected and economically powerful than any other time in American history. The wealthiest 20 percent of Americans control over 80 percent of the nation’s wealth, and the wealthiest 1 percent control 40 percent of America’s wealth (learn more at YouTube: Wealth Inequality in America). Many of America’s economic elite use their wealth to fund and support the campaigns of American politicians. In return, American politicians deliver political and economic outcomes favorable to the economic elite.
This is not just opinion, this is reflected in the data: A 2014 study by political scientists Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page of Princeton and Northwestern Universities, respectively, found that average citizens’ preferences had a negligible effect on the likelihood of a policy change passing Congress. However, the policy preferences of the wealthiest 10 percent of Americans was highly correlated with whether a policy passed Congress. Policies supported by interest groups—many of which are funded by the wealthy, were less correlated with passage but were still more likely to pass than policies supported only by average citizens. This ability to independently impact government policy change is what transforms America’s aristocrats into American oligarchs. This is not a government of, by, or for the people.
Sources— “Study: Politicians listen to rich people, not you” by Andrew Prokop;
Testing Theories of American Politics… by Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page
Charts modified for clarity by Alexander Dukes
These charts illustrate the effect policy preferences of average citizens, economic elites, and interest groups have on policy adoption in the U.S. Congress. Average citizens’ preferences have a negligible effect on policy adoption. Elites’ preferences have a substantial effect on policy adoption or rejection. The policy preferences of interest groups seem to have a “critical mass” effect on policy adoption, where select groups being for or against a policy greatly improves or reduces its chances of adoption.
Content produced by AmeriThunk will seek to overcome this American oligarchy and return political and economic power to the people. This content will propose changes to American democracy that transform our cities, states, and federal governments into institutions that serve the whole public—not just moneyed interests. The changes proposed will not be small and limited in scope; instead, the changes will be fundamental structural changes to what we understand American governance to be.
Yet despite their transformative nature, the changes proposed by AmeriThunk will try to balance the novelty against the traditions of American culture. This will not be an easy task. It will require much thought on the contours of American political and economic culture, not to mention the more mundane work of ensuring the proposals are practicable. I can’t do this by myself, but I see the state of contemporary American politics and economics as being so dire that someone has to start the reconstruction somewhere. Might as well be me.
Fortunately, I have you, the reader! Anything you can contribute—a comment, an article, research support, and/or proofreading support, would be greatly appreciated. But if you can’t do any of those things, I hope you at least consider the ideas and proposals posted here. I promise to research my proposals to the best of my ability and respond to constructive criticism with reciprocal consideration of my own. We’re in this together. America is our country, and the best way to make it better is to ponder solutions for America’s challenges in the public sphere.
I also realize I’m not entirely alone in this quest to improve American governance. There are several groups working to improve specific aspects of American institutions in ways that I support—and I’ll mention them in this blog as appropriate. AmeriThunk is different from those groups because it is dedicated to the comprehensive and systemic transformation of America’s politics and economy. Arguably, we haven’t had an all-encompassing discussion about American governance since the Civil Rights Era in the 1960’s, or the New Deal era ending in the late 1940’s. It’s high time we have another. I hope you’re up for joining us in that discussion.
Cover image by: ToperDomingo