Super Rich Have Different Government Spending Priorities…and More Influence

Monday, March 25, 2013
(book by Ferdinand Lundberg)

Because politicians like extremely rich people and the money they can contribute, it is not surprising that the super rich have more influence over government policies than do normal Americans. If the positions on policy issues of the super rich were the same as everyone else, this outsized influence might not be so important. But as a recent academic study revealed, the richest 1% of Americans definitely see the purpose of government differently than do most of the other 99%.


Three professors, Benjamin I. Page and Jason Seawright of Northwestern and Larry M. Bartels of Vanderbilt, conducted interviews in 2011 with 83 high-wealth individuals in the Chicago area who had a median wealth of $7.5 million.


The super rich agreed with the general public that more government money should be spent to improve the nation’s infrastructure, such as highways, bridges and airports, and that economic aid to other nations should be cut. But that was about it when it came to consensus.


The general public overwhelmingly supported spending more money on social security, health care and homeland security, while the super rich believed that the budgets for all three should be cut. The super rich were also more likely to oppose increased spending for defense, environmental protection and education. But they were somewhat more likely to call for increasing the budget for scientific research.


A majority of the general American public believes the minimum wage should be raised high enough that a full-time worker would be above the poverty line; that the federal government should make sure that anyone who wants a job can have one; and that no one should lack for food, clothing or shelter. A majority of the super rich in the Chicago area study disagree with all of these positions.


In addition, 50% of the general public says that the government should provide a decent standard of living for the unemployed, but only 23% of the super rich believe that this should be a responsibility of government.

-David Wallechinsky


To Learn More:

The 1% Aren't Like the Rest of Us (by Benjamin I. Page and Larry M. Bartels, Los Angeles Times)

Democracy and the Policy Preferences of Wealthy Americans (by Benjamin I. Page, Larry M. Bartels and Jason Seawright) (pdf)


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