Is America Really A Welfare State?

Is America Really A Welfare State?
November 25, 2012 Idea Guy

I answer the question through an analysis of power relations!

Over recent years, nascent examinations and analyses of power relations have begun to shed new light on the formation and edifice of the welfare state in the United States.  Many studies on the matter take a historical approach, focusing on the time period around the Depression of the 1930s to illustrate how power relations between labor and business transformed the American social state.  Political theorists Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson attribute the dilapidated state of the nation as “a moment that simply facilitated the American welfare state’s efforts to catch up with its European counterparts” (Pierson/Hacker 296).  In their study on “Business Power and Social Policy,” they suggest the origins of the American welfare state lies in the significant loss of structural power by those with capital interest.  While their intriguing and careful analysis flushes out two power dimensions at play, structural and institutional, it lacks recognition of perhaps “the most effective and insidious use of power” (Lukes 26).  This is the third dimension or face explicated by Steven Lukes in “Power: A Radical View.”  Using the three-dimensional theory of power models, the historical evaluation of the interplay between labor and capital acquires a somewhat different nuance.  John Gaventa in “Power and Powerlessness” gives a comprehensive account overviewing the role the dimensions of power play to render the impoverished quiescent.  Most salient is the that he succeeds in giving a narrative that focuses and demonstrates the otherwise obscure third face of power.  We can use this account as evidence to continue the dialogue of power relations in policymaking to the present.  This will help to understand how these particular relationships “have given rise to self reinforcing dynamics that have helped push the American welfare state down highly resilient historical tracks” (Hacker 145).

Using a synthesis of these theoretical power models and a historical narrative covering the origins of welfare state, we can observe modern policies in a new dynamic.  The various features of the US welfare state are most often misunderstood, lending weight to Hacker’s nickname, the ‘hidden welfare state.’ He points out that when social benefits and tax policy are considered, the distribution of spending is disproportionately “less favorable toward lower-income citizens” (Hacker 136).  These findings backed by data on income and poverty suggests that there are some obscure forces at play outside what Pierson and Hacker describe.  A focus on the power dynamic hints that these forces are a result or at least related to the “capture of American institutions by a power elite” (Dowding 1).  This presents a problem for the polity when citizens “living in poverty are substantially less likely to vote or engage in other traditional political activities” (Fox 362).   This quiescence essentially has rendered the impoverished powerless in the last few decades, culminating in the passage of the 1996 welfare reform legislation and appearing in data that brings to light the intent towards convolution.  According to the US Census Bureau, roughly 14 percent of the population is living in poverty.  Such a large demographic in poverty that continues to grow each year threatens to corrupt the fundamental ideals that provide the basis of our democratic institution.  I believe that a historical approach combined with the three models of power relations creates a new and interesting perspective.  We can gain invaluable insight into the development of the welfare state through passage of the SSA, which will in turn, help to assess the current poverty, income, and political participation inequalities.  It’s quite a journey but it’s necessary if we are to have a complete picture and comprehensive understanding of the welfare state.

Before we begin our historical analysis, we must first elucidate the three dimensions of power relations.  Robert Dahl in “The Concept of Power” and Peter Bachrach and Morton Baratz in “Two Faces of Power” begin the dialogue by introducing the first and second dimensions of power.  The focus for Dahl is on concrete and observable behavior, emphasizing aspects of power relations that can be measured.  Power is analyzed only after careful examination of concrete decisions over matters where two or more individuals or parties disagree.  Those with the most power are those that prevail in the decision-making arena of the political system.  This description makes up the most overt and easily substantiated face of power.   You can see this in any kind of political election, in passing legislation, and many other regions of the political spectrum.  In response to Dahl and other pluralist alike, Bachrach and Baratz argue that the first face of power is not the whole story.  There is another face of power while tending to be objectively unmeasurable remains important.  They call this the second face of power.  By confining the topics for discussion to ones perceived as relatively ‘safe’, pluralists like Dahl fail to recognize the kind of power that prevents certain issues from arising or what they call nondecision-making.  Dahl wrongly accepts reputed issues as the only issues.  This is related to what Professor Schattschneider calls mobilization bias where a group or community participates more in nondecision-making by limiting “decision-making to relatively non-controversial matters, by influencing community values and political procedures and rituals” (Baratz 949).  Nondecsion-making is a means by which demands for change in the existing social order can be suffocated before they are even voiced or reach the political arena.  To the extent that a group or person, aware of it or not, creates or reinforces barriers to the public airing of particular issues, that group or individual not only is preventing issues from entering the arena but is also exercising their power.  The second face of power calls for an investigation of the dominant values of the institution and rules of the game so that an understanding of which persons or groups benefit from the status quo and which don’t can be reached.

Carmita Wood’s story told by Miranda Fricker in “Powerlessness and Social Interpretation” demonstrates how precarious and prevalent the second face is.  The story essential boils down to Carmita was being sexually harassed in her workplace, so quit, then upon filing for unemployment insurance was unable to give a sufficient reason why and thus denied.  Fricker tells the story to show how Carmita “suffered an acute cognitive disadvantage from a gap in the collective hermeneutical resource” (Flicker 97).  Basically that since the term sexual harassment wasn’t used or established yet, Carmita was systematically disadvantaged by a deficit at the time in language.  She was unable to accurately describe her sufferings in a naive patriarchal system and thus unable to voice the injustice.  Carmita’s story demonstrates the extent to which some issues are kept off the table, like sexual harassment, and thus lead to a dialogue that doesn’t accurately reflect the reality of gender inequalities.

Steven Lukes in “Power: A Radical View” evaluates the third dimension of power which he believes “allows one to give a deeper and more satisfactory analysis of power relations than either of the other two” (16).  Lukes offers a critique of the behavioral focus of the other views as too individualistic and allows consideration of the many other ways potential issues are kept out of politics.  Thus, he asserts that the second dimension of power falls short on three accounts.  He believes it is still too committed to actual behavior visible through concrete decisions, which  “gives a misleading picture of the way in which individuals and, above all, groups and institutions succeed in excluding potential issues from the political process” (Lukes 25).  Second, the association of power with actual, observable conflict is inadequate because it holds that power is only exercised in situations of conflict, which leaves out certain types of power including manipulation and authority that influence a person’s wants.  This is a kind of thought control in which a person’s desires are changed without them being conscious of it.  Thought control can be accomplished through a variety of means including “control of information, through the mass media and the through the processes of socialization” (Lukes 27).  Thirdly, the two-dimensional view of power incorrectly asserts that if people feel no grievances, then they have no interests harmed by the use of power.  This completely leaves out the supreme and most insidious exercise of power to prevent people, to whatever degree, from having grievances by shaping their perceptions, cognitions and preferences in such a way that they accept their role in the existing order of things, either because they can see or imagine no alternative to it, or because they see it as natural or unchangeable, or because they value it as divinely ordained or beneficial (Lukes 28).

Society is a systemization of norms and values and the background system that sets the terms for our engagement.  Through social learning and adaptive preferences society can influence and change a person’s actions, a person’s options, but most importantly, a person’s interests or desires.  This is not present oriented as the other two dimensions are but rather focuses on future behavior and how institutions can change the values a person chooses to live by.  As Marx put it, “men make their own history but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past” (Lukes 26).   He also sheds light on the sheer weight of institutions.  The burden on the individual increases as institutional practices, norms, and values stack up to push the individual to act and believe in accordance with that institution.  Lukes asserts, “that people’s wants may themselves be a product of the system which works against their interests, and in such cases, relates the latter to what they would want and prefer, were they able to make the choice” (38).  With the three dimensions of power thus outlined, we can now begin to use them as models for further analysis.

Equipped with the appropriate tools, we engage Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson in their analysis on “Business Power and Social Policy.”  Closely linked to our power models is what they refer to as the two forms of business power: “instrumental power gained through direct lobbying and pressure, and structural power enjoyed by virtue of employers’ distinctive control over jobs and investment” (Hacker/Pierson 186).  These map on respectively to our first and second dimension models.  Hacker and Pierson focus in on the early twentieth century, evoking a historical narrative accompanied with an analysis of the power relations between labor, the workforce, and capital, the businesses and owners.  Before the Great Depression, the American federal government was highly decentralized, with many if not most social programs orchestrated at the state and local levels.  They argue that “decentralization created fear of capital flight on the part of state policymakers when policies that might hurt the profits of large numbers of business firms were under consideration” (Hacker/Pierson 186).  The idea was that if one state initiated social welfare policies, then businesses in that state would move their commerce to another state where the costs would be lower.  Capital mobility at the state level is key to their assertion that “the structural power of business will increase in decentralized federal systems” (Hacker 282).  State policymakers are likely to not only pursue lower costs but also ensure they are maintained in fear that businesses may relocate across state lines.  This kind of influence is what they attribute to the businesses’ structural power.  However, this changed with the onset of the Great Depression with the crash of Wall Street in 1929.

By 1933, about 1 in 3 American workers were without work and cases of starvation were regular occurrences.  With urban unrest on the rise and no end in sight, the states, mostly threatened by insolvency, were forced to turn to the federal government for assistance (Hacker 296).  Democrats under the leadership of Franklin Roosevelt took advantage of the political climate in order to pursue their social agenda.  One of the first tenets of this agenda came in the form of the Social Security Act of 1935.  The passage of this legislation to our contemporary minds seems something like fate, but actually the passage of SSA was more controversial.  Hacker claims, “in the years before 1935, employers were almost universally opposed to any proposals for social insurance” (299).  Since policymaking was mostly at the state level, state legislators were influenced to not create expansive social policies for fear of business flight.  This significantly changed when the States, struggling with bankruptcy, turned to the government for leadership.  By doing so, they removed the structural influences of business on policymaking since the arena had been moved to Washington.  Faced with massive unemployment and low living conditions, and in the absence of strong business, Roosevelt and the democrats were able to successfully put social welfare on the agenda and initiate it.  Pierson and Hacker phrase it like this – “no massive decline of business power, no Social Security” (Pierson/Hacker 187).  However, Pierson and Hacker leave out a few other social movements that also could have contributed to the creation of welfare.  These include the movement represented by the popularity of Francis Townsend’s Pension club and southern populism with Huey Long as “champion of the poor” (Townsend/PBS).

The democrats enjoyed almost a monopoly on the first two dimensions of power.  Not only were they directly in power with control of the executive and legislative branches of the Federal government, but also the economic conditions created a climate where social policy was of utmost importance.  Businesses were forced to go along with the new social agenda whether they liked it or not.  Is this accurate though?  Policymakers didn’t completely forget about businesses; their interests and thus prosperity were still substantially important to the vitality of the nation because it was still businesses that supplied jobs and produced goods and services.  So while the SSA, “which included compulsory old-age and unemployment insurance, and substantial payroll taxes” was a huge leap, it could have been more expansive as seen in other developed nations (Hacker/Pierson 299).  The decline in business power simply allowed social policy to enter the political agenda in the face of popular pluralist support; it did not, however, mean that businesses had no influence whatsoever.  This is exactly why you see Roosevelt, the Advisory Council to the Committee on Economic Security, and the Chamber of Commerce work so closely with businesses leaders; because they were still concerned for businesses’ interests.  Pierson and Hacker attribute business’ general response as a “strategic accommodation to federal legislation,” seeing that some form of social welfare policy was unavoidable.  To them it was better to get on board, rather then be left behind.  And in this way, businesses still maintained some power in perspective of our third dimension of power.  While it is unclear if they had any overt influence during the New Deal legislation, businesses’ interests were still a concern on the minds of many policymakers in part due to years of lobbying, wide opposition to reform, and the coalition with Republican leaders.  Pierson and Hacker allude to this when “the administration’s initial proposals in the SSA bowed to many of the South’s concerns” (Hacker 304).  This was seen in the initial exclusion of agricultural and domestic workers, mostly black, from the old-age insurance programs created in the SSA (Hacker 130).  Racism created a mobilization bias that fostered norms and manifested via Southern whites to exclude blacks.  This is just one of many examples of how the background of the debate influenced it.

The interplay between the interests of capital and labor is essential to understanding power relations in the formation of the welfare state.  Decreases in the first and second dimensions of business power through the centralization of the federal government and the democratic majority in most policy making positions allowed social policy to enter on the agenda when before it could not.  However, we cannot forgot the most insidious aspects of power which in this case, I think, are represented by the intuition of capitalism and the values the elites impose.  This has been a continual aspect of business power to the present day.  John Gaventa gives an unsettling narrative that demonstrates this in “Power and Powerlessness: Quiescence and Rebellion in an Appalachian Valley.”  The book is fundamentally answering the question of how do we explain quiescence?  He tells a surprisingly coherent story depicting the people of Appalachia in a three dimensional power struggle with the coalmines, the elites, and the institutions they fostered.  The book goes into extensive descriptions backed with huge amounts of research into several different communities with a similar tale.  In an effort to be succinct, I will provide my analysis and overview of key concepts and components that drive the fundamental narrative rather then include each separate account in as much detail as possible.

Before the coalmines moved in, before the advent of capitalism, communities in the Appalachian valley ascribed to a culture that was fundamentally different than what was to come.  They were simple mountain people with traditional values and modest abodes.  Gaventa gives a romantic vision of a people that subsisted on their own land and thought “life is a thing to be enjoyed, not merely endured” (Gaventa 50).  That was until the capitalists in the form of the coalmines and its subsidiaries moved into town.  The mountain folk were relatively amenable and sold most of their land “voluntarily for as little as fifty cents or one dollar an acre” (Gaventa 53).  Little did they know how much actually resided underneath the surface and never would they see anything above their infinitesimal wages compared to the wealth produced.  Gaventa puts a great amount of emphasis that their mountain culture was under attack in a number of ways, which I will address methodologically.  These things don’t necessarily occur in linear time but rather dynamically with much overlap.  When the capitalists moved into the Appalachia Valley, there was a complete reconstitution of the local social structure.  Thousands of outsiders relocated as the coalmines created opportunities of work.  These outsiders came to take the good jobs (Engineers, surveyors, local businesses, financiers, supervisors, etc.) while most of the grunt work with extremely low-wages went to the locals.  In what was once a relatively egalitarian society, class divisions begin to emerge that look oddly like the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots.’  Not only that, but this new society was stratified with locals “portrayed as a breed whose lifestyle represented a deficient way of existence” (Gaventa 65).  Consequently, these outsiders also reconstituted the local polity by developing its institutions and then controlling them.  Examples of such institutions include the local infrastructure or “control of the socializing agencies of government, church and school” (Gaventa 67).  Since outsiders’ interests were aligned with economic interests and they held most power positions, a complete capitalist ideological takeover was inexorable.  Thus, beliefs in the Anglo-American work ethic, Manifest Destiny, and progress barreled in as Gaventa says, “industrialization assuredly brought values very different from those of the previous culture” (Gaventa 61).     Despite being subordinated, the locals did try to fight back, mostly through unions, but to little avail.  The unions received huge blows from the elites, in most cases quite literally: “Hired thugs, machine guns, dynamiting, beatings, and killings of organizers and sympathizers, raids, evictions, burnings, harassment, and arrests seemed everyday occurrences” (Gaventa 105).  They were also coercively delegitimized in the eyes of the locals through many successful attempts by the elites to equate unions with principles like “hatred of god, destruction of property,” and anarchy (Gaventa 110).  Quarrels within the union leadership turned even the unions against the locals, which felt their interests were not being represented.  All of this usually ended badly for the local mountain people and good for the local and foreign elite, especially the mine-owners.  These capitalists enjoyed a completely parasitic relationship with the people since the mine paid little to no taxes to help support the community, but owned and polluted most of the land.   As Gaventa put it: by 1970, “more wealth was being produced per head from within the Valley than in all the non-coal sectors of the economy in the rest of the country – but it scarcely benefited the Valley” (Gaventa 128).  The local workers were in a condition that resembled indentured servitude.  The worst part of it all was that it wasn’t one or even a set of individual actors that perpetuated these outcomes; it was all the capitalist infused institutions that stacked up on top off one another to continually put weigh against the mountain folk.   Gaventa story tells of a people not apathetic, but subjected to years of poverty, which “sapped their initiative” (Gaventa 111).  The point of including Gaventa’s work is to give an account, where there is little research, into the third dimension of power.  His successful attempt to show power’s third face, which lends support to its current prevalence.

In 1996, Congress passed welfare reform legislation “that imposes strict time limits and work requirements on public assistance recipients” (Fox 363).  An article in Time magazine warns of the dangers of “a large population of the poor, cut off from government help and thrown onto the meager capabilities of private charity” (Lacayo).  The legislation shows a shift in the federal attitude away from ameliorating destitution and supports Jacob Hacker’s assertion that “figures on redistribution suggest that taxes and government transfers in the United States reduce inequality significantly less than in any other rich democracy” (139).  Taken alone, this is not quite alarming; but recent US census data and OECD statistics estimate roughly 17% of the American population falls below the poverty line and it’s increasing with each year (OECD 2008).  The distribution of wealth presents a picture in which the top ten percent own about seventy percent of wealth while the bottom fifty percent has two and a half percent (Lecture Slides, March 1, slide 9).  Since the 1980s, the inequality of income has been enlarging almost three-fold; “urban poverty has increased by 27.3%” (Fox 362).  It would appear that the poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting richer.  Meanwhile, Hacker reports that contrary to popular opinion “the American social welfare spending is at or above the average…when properly measured” (Hacker 136).  If the latter is true and it is true we are spending less on the poor, then where is all the money?  It’s in the ‘hidden realm’ of tax incentives and subsidies for individuals and private employers that are not below the poverty line, nor in danger of being so.  These are things like home mortgage interest tax deductions, social security retirement and survivors’ benefits, unemployment insurance, subsidies for education, and childcare subsidies (Lecture Slides, March 1, slide 12-13).  Unlike most civilized countries that provide welfare to those who need it most, America allocates to those who don’t necessarily need it.  How did we end with a system like this? I suggest that the plausible answer can be found through an analysis on power and keeping John Gaventa’s narrative in the background.

Paul Krugman, New York Times columnist, points the finger of rising inequality and fiscal irresponsibility to President Ronald Reagan in a 2009 article titled “Reagan Did it.”  He draws our attention to various neo-liberal deregulatory policies enacted during his presidency.  While this is important, it is not the whole story.  The Pierson and Hacker analysis on the formation of the welfare state points to a power relation between labor and business.  This relationship does not cease to be relevant.  Reagan’s deregulation of business, especially in finance, was effectively an increase in the power of business.  With fewer limitations, businesses were free to “gamble with taxpayers’ money, at best, or simply to loot it, at worst” (Krugman). Freeing constraints on businesses was only an overt cause.  Reagan also affected the power relationship by attempting to define a new social reality, otherwise known as a mobilization bias.  In a public radio address in 1986, Reagan stated:

We’re in danger of creating a permanent culture of poverty as inescapable as any chain or bond; a second and separate America, an America of lost dreams and stunted lives. The irony is that misguided welfare programs instituted in the name of compassion have actually helped turn a shrinking problem into a national tragedy

Reagan paints a picture that blames the poor for their poverty and casts a very negative cloud over them.  Nancy Fraser in “A Genealogy of Dependency” holds that by speaking about the poor in this way, it “serves to enshrine certain interpretations of social life as authoritative and to delegitimize or obscure others, to the advantage of dominant groups in society and to the disadvantage of subordinate ones” (311).  The problem with what Reagan said is two-fold: one, it is not quite accurate and two, it leads to the creation of a bias that is simply prejudicial.  He presents a misconception as a reality.  Why is it that the poor are the only group considered dependent when most, if not all, Americans receive some sort of economic support?  Fraser attributes this to coercion in the understanding of dependency, to which Reagan advances.  Dependency used to indicate subordinate status.  Those like Reagan have lost sight of this and confound its meaning to a “synonym for poverty” (331).  Recent focuses on dependency as illustrated from the move in legislation from FADC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children) to TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) demonstrate that there was a change in mindset about welfare.  The support for TANF represents this new attitude.  Physicist William Shockley became popular for criticizing how FADC may encourage childbirth and increase dependence upon the State (Saxon).  It was these kinds of concerns that fueled TANF.

Moving to the present, the popularity of radio talk show hosts Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck point to a conservative ideology growing in America that ignores the plight of the impoverished.  Rush Limbaugh was quoted on his show questioning whether poor people, who lack economic and material subsistence, should be allowed to vote (Easley).  A poll by Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity in 2008 indicates that many people are aware, at least, in this inequality of information.  56 percent of those asked responded that they felt they media did not spend an “adequate amount of time during the presidential campaign covering the issue of how to fight poverty in the U.S.” (Burns).  While some may be aware of the untruthful nature of their rhetoric, the sheer popularity of the talk show hosts reveal that there are many that do not.  This is an element of the second as well as the third dimension of power in which, the institutions in place corrupted the meaning of dependency and people’s conception of poverty.  The simple changing of dependency’s meaning is the mobilization bias that benefits the elite; that these beliefs were reflected in many others and act as a the core value to guide people’s decisions is the insidious third face of power.  When some of the most popular radio hosts in the country convey a distorted picture and the media, indicated by the poll, isn’t doing a good enough job, this is a precarious environment.  As John Gaventa reminds us, “for powerholders, the prevailing inequalities will be maintained to the extent that conflict can be contained through the hidden faces of power” and precisely why the third face is so threatening (227).  The subversive maneuvering to describe our social reality in a different context becomes a force it itself to shape the reality it was simply describing.  Reagan and Limbaugh are complicit in this by “moving the decision-making agenda towards [their] preferred end of the spectrum” (Hacker 142).  In the 1980s, Reagan increased the institutional power of business by swaying opinion against the welfare state; or in power terms, by establishing a mobilization bias.  This opened the door for money to get more money or in Gaventa’s words – “power serves to create power.” (256).  A simple evaluation of the financial collapse of 2006 shows how those with money were risking the stability of the country to earn more profits (Lecture Slides, April 19-21).

The power relationship between labor and business never ceased to be a factor, however, its overtness does seem to diminish in recent years.  This suggests that many of the power relations are of the third face.  In support of this, Paul Pierson offers the concept of path dependence – “the long term feedback effect of policies…by pushing policymaking down enduring, self-reinforcing tracks, early policy choices can shape what elites consider viable and possible, what interest groups demand, and how the public thinks about state activity and responds to competing policy alternative” (Hacker 146).   It seems in light of the trends to blame the poor for being so and decreasing economic assistance programs, that these neo-liberalists elites have rose to power in pursuit of their narrow economic interests, ignoring the harsh reality and low living conditions that their fellow man endures.  This wouldn’t be so precarious if the non-elites were advocating for themselves or at least, present in the debate.  Some scholars attribute the 1996 welfare reform legislation to “two decades of relative quiescence by the poor and working class” (Fraser 362).  John Gaventa agrees – “a host of studies in political science argue that the poor may not participate, or may not participate effectively because of low income, poor education, lack of information, and other factors of a socio-economic-status scale” (141).  The group that needs to be heard, that needs to express their destitute living, is unable to do so because of the reasons for being in that group in the first place.  When the lack of participation is involuntary, through poverty or racism, “then both justice and democracy are obviously diminished” (Dowding 7).  A democracy requires an active and competent citizen who is educated and has all the options available to choose from.  This is not the case when observing the increasing amount of poor in America.  It seems to be more the case of what John Gaventa depicts, powerlessness.  In this context, “their ability to participate fully in social and political life is undermined” (Dowding 10).

President Johnson was aware of the correlation between poverty and participation when he proclaimed in 1964 to Congress that, “today for the first time in our history, we have the power to strike away barriers to full participation in our society” (Gaventa 162).  In a few short decades this obvious facet seems to be lost.  With inequalities rising at alarming rates, there appears to be a division of power along the lines of income and wealth.  Through my analysis, I refer to this division as the power relationship between labor and capital.  The formation of the welfare state in the 1930s lends invaluable insight into the structure that the relationship had and that it continues to maintain.  However, in recent years the relationship looks a lot less like a power struggle characterized by the first and second dimension, and more infused with the subtleties of the third face of power.  By combining a theoretical analysis with a historical narrative, I’m not only able to identify the power struggle but also to map concepts of power theory to the reality in the power struggle.  Pierson and Hacker attribute the passage of the SSA to significant decreases in the relative strength of business power to influence policymakers.  Important to understand is the almost direct correlation between labor and business power.  While their interests often overlap, what seems to be the case is that an increase in labor’s power gave rise to the first welfare policy in the United States.  On the other hand, an increase in the power of business (whether business was responsible for it or not), as seen during 1980s and with the passage of welfare reforms in 1996 and 1997, indicates that labor’s power is significantly stifled.  The majority of the workforce is now characterized by statistics that indicates a growing decline in the equality of income, wealth, and living conditions.  A small percentage of elites have a lot while the rest have comparably less.  I attribute this shift in demographics to the shift in the power relationship between business and labor.  Business, infused with a neo-liberal ideology, normalizes the kind of inequality that threatens a democracy; meanwhile, labor grows increasingly helpless, as their income, education, and thus participation declines.   Rather than view apathy as decisive and permit one class to rule the other, “we should view this as a major failing of democratic institutions” (Dowding 2).  The frightening thing is that business power seems to be continually increasing to the point now where it is self-maintaining.  John Gaventa warns us about the institutional weight factors and positive feedback loop that work together to construct a power entity with almost no accountability and no one perpetuating it.   He argues “human behavior is governed in large part by inertia” but I hope for our sake that we prove him wrong (Gaventa 6).



Works Cited

Baratz, Morton and Peter Bachrach. “Two Faces of Power”

Burns, Alexander. “Polls show high interest in poverty issue.” 9 July, 2008.

Dalh, Robert. “The Concept of Power.”

Dowding, Keith (Editor); Goodin, Robert (Editor); Pateman, Carole (Editor). “Justice and Democracy: Essays for Brian Barry.” 2004, Cambridge University Press

Easley, Jason. “Scrooge Rush Limbaugh Claims The Poor Shouldn’t Be Allowed To Vote.” 3 December, 2010.

Fox, Richard and Jennifer Lawless. “Political Participation of the Urban Poor.” Social Problems, Vol. 48 No. 3, August 2001. University of California Press. Pp. 362-385

Fraser, Nancy and Linda Gordon. “A Geneology of Dependency: Tracing a Keyword of the U.S. Welfare State. Signs, Vol. 19 No. 2, 1994. University of Chicago Press. pp. 309-336

Fricker, Miranda. “Powerlessness and Social Interpretation.”

Gaventa, John. “Power and Powerlessness: Quiesence and Rebellion in an Appalachian Valley.” 1980, University of Illinois Press

Hacker, Jacob. “Bringing the Welfare State Back In: The Promise (and Perils) of the New Social Welfare History. Journal of Political History, Vol. 17 No. 1, 2005. Penn State University Press. pp. 125-254

Hacker, Jacob and Paul Pierson. “Business Power and Social Policy: Employers and the Formation of the American Welfare State.” Politics & Society, Vol. 30 No. 2, June 2002. Sage Publications

Hacker, Jacob and Paul Pierson. “Varieties of Capitalist Interests and Capitalist Power: A Response to Swenson.  2004 Cambridge University Press.

Lukes, Steven. “Power: A Radical View.”

Krugman, Paul. “Reagan Did It.” New York Times. 31 May, 2009.

Lacayo, Richard. “Down on the Downtroden.” Time. 19, Decemeber, 1994.,9171,982006-2,00.html

PBS. “Huey Long.”

Reagan, Ronald. “Radio Address to the Nation on Welfare Reform.” 15, February 1986.

Saxon, Wolfgang. “William B. Shockley, 79, Creator of Transistor and Theory on Race.” 14 August, 1989.

Townsend. “Francis Townsend.”

US Census Bureau.