White-collar Government: The Hidden Role Of Class In Economic Policy Making

Paperback | November 5, 2013

byNicholas Carnes

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Eight of the last twelve presidents were millionaires when they took office. Millionaires have a majority on the Supreme Court, and they also make up majorities in Congress, where a background in business or law is the norm and the average member has spent less than two percent of his or her adult life in a working-class job. Why is it that most politicians in America are so much better off than the people who elect them— and does the social class divide between citizens and their representatives matter?

With White-Collar Government, Nicholas Carnes answers this question with a resounding—and disturbing—yes. Legislators’ socioeconomic backgrounds, he shows, have a profound impact on both how they view the issues and the choices they make in office. Scant representation from among the working class almost guarantees that the policymaking process will be skewed toward outcomes that favor the upper class. It matters that the wealthiest Americans set the tax rates for the wealthy, that white-collar professionals choose the minimum wage for blue-collar workers, and that people who have always had health insurance decide whether or not to help those without. And while there is no one cause for this crisis of representation, Carnes shows that the problem does not stem from a lack of qualified candidates from among the working class. The solution, he argues, must involve a variety of changes, from the equalization of campaign funding to a shift in the types of candidates the parties support.

If we want a government for the people, we have to start working toward a government that is truly by the people. White-Collar Government challenges long-held notions about the causes of political inequality in the United States and speaks to enduring questions about representation and political accountability.

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Eight of the last twelve presidents were millionaires when they took office. Millionaires have a majority on the Supreme Court, and they also make up majorities in Congress, where a background in business or law is the norm and the average member has spent less than two percent of his or her adult life in a working-class job. Why is it...

Nicholas Carnes is assistant professor of public policy in the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University. He lives in Durham, NC, and he has worked as a bus boy, dishwasher, and construction worker.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:200 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.6 inPublished:November 5, 2013Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022608714X

ISBN - 13:9780226087146

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

1      White-Collar Government
       
            What Is Class?
            The Unequal Social Class Makeup of American Political Institutions
            The Elephant in the Room
            Why Does Class Matter?
            The Evidence
 
2      Voting with Class
 
            Legislative Voting as a Window into the Importance of Class
            Measuring the Divisions
            Class and Legislative Voting Today
            Class and Legislative Voting during the Postwar Period
            The Enduring Imprint of Class
            Representational Inequality in “Ayes” and “Nays”
 
3      Before the Votes are Cast
 
            Legislative Entrepreneurs
The Role of Class
Measuring Legislative Entrepreneurship
The Policies Legislators Propose
The Policies Legislators Pass
Leaving the Working Class Off the Agenda
 
4      Class, Opinions, and Choices
 
            Out of Touch, or Out of Step?
            Inside the Mind of a Member of Congress
            The Importance of Opinions
            Who’s Out of Touch Now?
            Out-of-Step Government
 
5      Economic Policy Making in Class-Imbalanced Legislatures
                                          
Representation and Policy Making
What Would a Class-Balanced Congress Have Done?
When the Working Class Holds Office
Blue-Collar Government
The Economic Consequences of White-Collar Government
 
6      Fixing the Broken Mirror
 
What’s Keeping the Working Class Out of Office?
Thinking Bigger about Inequality       
Up Front There Ought’a Be a Man in Black
 
 
Notes
References
 
Index

Editorial Reviews

“[Carnes] explores the hidden role of class in economic policy making and presents a solution to the notion that legislators’ socioeconomic backgrounds have a profound impact not only on how they view issues but also on the choices they make in office.”