Power & Politics (chapter 14)

Posted: April 12, 2011 in Uncategorized

After watching Chisholm ’72, we turn to chapter 14: Power & Politics. Focus in on a particular segment of the chapter (about 5 pages) and describe the main points in this segment. Include a link to further scholarly information on this topic. Also include one discussion question about your particular section.

  1. Taylor Takats says:

    (focusing on the section of pluralism)

    In Chapter 14: Power and Politics different types of power structures, such as pluralist models. Pluralist models are described as “representative democracies” where the power is dispersed rather than concentrated (394). Theoretically, there is supposed to be some power concentrated at the top, but this power is in the form of persons elected by the people who are to be responsive and make decisions based upon the wishes of the people. However, in reality, secrecy and deceit run rampant. It is not uncommon for the people to be deceived by the president, Republican and Democratic alike (395). In addition to the people being virtually powerless once an elected official is placed in a position of power, it can also be noted that there are several interest groups that wield tremendous influence on the decisions of the elected. This is due to the rising costs of campaigns. Campaigns have become outlandishly expensive and the money that is contributed to help a person run is not usually given without a reason – a bribe in a sense. Interest groups take advantage of this by pumping in tons of money to fund a person’s campaign so that once they win the election they are indebted to that interest group and will make decisions that support the values of that group – which are not necessarily the views of the American public. In 2002 the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act was passed to limit the amount of “soft money” in elections (395). However, to solve the dilemma this posed to interest groups, they found a loophole: 527 advocacy groups. By contributing money to a campaign through this indirect method, interest groups were still able to fund the leaders in the campaign and receive political favors as a reward once they won the election and were in office.

    Discussion Question: How do you feel that the rising costs of campaigns and the influence of interest groups impacts the views and opinions of the candidates before and after they win an election? How does this impact the average American citizen?

  2. Elizabeth Daniels says:

    In chapter 14, there are many main points worthy to discuss pertaining to Power and Politics. One of the main points that I saw throughout the chapter was “Mill’s Pyramid of Power”. The top of the pyramid consists of the corporate rich, followed y the executive branch and military leaders. The next big group is the leaders of interest groups, legislative branch and local opinion leaders. The last and largest group is the unorganized masses. I found this very interesting because no matter what the majority wants, it always ends up to be what the wealthiest want; which represent the smallest portion of the pyramid. The top of the pyramid, which represents the power elite contains the corporate rich, executive branch and military leaders. Mill’s believes that these three groups contain the most power, with the corporate rich on the top. The middle group is the leaders of interest groups, legislative branch and local opinion leaders, which are in control of the bidding. The last group is the unorganized masses, which have no control. The people above them control them.
    There are two forms of power structure, which are the elitist model of power and the pluralist model of power. The elitist model of power is shown as a pyramid of power, which shows that the people at the top control the rest of the pyramid; which was described above with the wealthiest in control. The pluralist model of power shows that control and power is dispersed among the people, organizations, special interests and voters. An example of the pluralist model is representative democracy. The United States is run under a democracy, which is a form of government in which the people have the ultimate power (394). This is where representatives are elected by the people and are responsible for the wishes of the people. The power structure makes it seem like the United States would follow this and be very structured and organized, but in reality many of this is very untrue. The people are actually more powerless than anything. Campaigns are very expensive; therefore the only ones that can campaign are the ones that can afford it. This leads to the power leading back to the wealthy, which does not represent the majority of the people.
    The elitist model is mainly represented by a stratification system, which in turn makes things very unequal because of the unequal distribution of awards. There are two main views under the elitist model: instrumentalist view and the structuralist view. The instrumentalist view is when the ruling class rules by controlling political officials and institutions through money and influence. This is when top corporate and decision makers work together to make the decisions. They have connections through their social backgrounds, which group them together to make the decisions. The structuralist view is when there is no connection between the political and economic elite. In this view, the decision is made strictly on the highest in the economy and the government has little say. (402)


  3. David Strong says:

    The section I am writing about is “The Consequences of Concentrated Power”. In this section, the authors look at the idea that the US government functions in a way that “the wealthy benefit at the expense of the less well-to-do” (412). The government, essentially assists large businesses and encourages the wealthier members of society until they are forced, by threat of riots, violence, etc. to help the poor. The authors make the point that the Founding Fathers were all wealthy business men who wrote the Constitution in a way that encouraged the rich to get stay that way. Indeed, through tax breaks, subsidies, and increased regulation, the government makes it harder and harder for anyone but the wealthy to run a successful company. For example, in 2006, Mississippi gave Kia $1 billion to build a plant (416). With large companies like Kia moving into the neighborhood, how could a smaller auto company possibly succeed? Other points that the authors make are that after 9/11 the government gave the airlines money but not the employees that were laid off or the various businesses associated with airlines, that the shipping, railroads, and export industries are all subsidized by the government, and that transnational companies can set up tax havens overseas that allow them to avoid U.S. taxes. (417). Indeed, it seems, more often the government is focused more on making sure the businesses with the wealthiest owners are succeeding. The section also talks about how the government, occasionally, has to deal with economic downturns and how many people argue for “trickle-down solutions”. These solutions essentially mean pumping money into business so that the wealthy businesses are encouraged to hire the people who are unemployed due to the bad economy. Indeed, this is essentially what the US government has been doing for the last 3 years in response to the recession we are just now getting out of. Money was pushed into companies like GM and GE in order to encourage them to hire more employees.
    The government is very flawed. Just look at the very recent budget fight that took place just so we could have a functioning government (until September that is). The impasse was not over the fact that money needed to be cut from the budget. In fact, both Democrats and Republicans agree on that. The fight was over where the cuts should come from and neither side was particularly against the idea of cutting money from the programs that help the poorer members of society. Cuts to Medicare, health clinics, and various other outreach programs are common when it comes time to cut government spending. Indeed, here is an article from today that shows just how much our leaders care for the poor.
    Obama is prepared to make cuts to Medicare and raise taxes (which most people can barely afford as it is) rather than, say, stop giving GE a pass on corporate taxes (which they haven’t paid in several years). It is fairly sad that, with the majority of the country being just barely living within our means, that our government still fights for the rich to stay rich and, as the chapter points, the burden falls upon the poorer, less able to handle the burden, citizens.

  4. Gary Gustin says:

    (focusing on elitist models, Mills and Domhoff)

    Elitist models of power in society are often based on the ideas of Karl Marx, and there are few subcategories of elitist power. One is the instrumentalist view, which is that the ruling class of a society controls political officials and institutions through money and other forms of influence. Another subcategory is the structuralist view, which emhpasizes that the ruling class gets its way because of the way that political and economic institutions are structured in a capitalist society, and this makes it necessary for the state to serve the interests of the ruling classes. Mills’ pyramid of power becomes important in elitist models of power. Mills conceived of our society as corporate rich on the top, the executive branch and the military second, interest groups and legislators third and at the bottom is the unorganized masses. Mills also discussed the idea of a power elite, or a vast “interlocking directorate” of people in the military, our economic institutions and our corporate rich. They all interact in ways that control the rest of society. This power elite is based on three important factors, namely psychological similarities, social interaction and coinciding interests. Domhoff differs from Mills in terms of how control is used in a capitalist system. Domhoff asserts that while the dominant “governing class” controls some things directly like the executive branch and congress, it does not directly control everything else. Instead, the executive and legislative branches have more direct control. But the overall effect is still control by a ruling class.

    Link: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/210208

    Discussion Question: Which system do you think more accurately describes the present-day American socioeconomic and political system: Mills or Domhoff?

  5. Melodi Vinette says:

    There are 2 main views in politics about how power should be distributed: the elitist model and the pluralist model. The elitist view believes that there is a pyramid of power and those at the top hold the most amount of power– a very elite group. On the other hand, there is the pluralist view which believes that power should be dispersed rather than concentrated ( 394).

    Democracy in the United States is designed to be set up as a pluralist idea of power but in reality it is more elitist. Democracy is designed to give all people equal opportunity in making decisions through representatives. Although this is as close to spreading power equally as it can get, many elite people still control much of the power in the U.S. The elitist in charge of big businesses and corporations control how the country is operating and how the government is doing. These corporations also contribute to the presidential elections because they aid presidential candidates in their campaigns. These big-time contributors (supporters) of presidential candidates and other officials running for different positions gain access to the politicians and possibly even a chance to influence these politicians (398). This way that the government works could be skewed to be elitist because the people on top have the opportunity to control the government but in the end it is the people voting that elect the president.


  6. David Machi says:

    One of the main themes of Chapter 14 was the elitist models. Elitists typically view economics as a basis for stratification, for example, unequal distribution of rewords which includes power (401). The elite control the masses through controlling the media. One of the elitist models is the Thesis of C. Wright Mills. Mills separated the key people in the U.S. into three sectors: the corporate rich, the executive branch, and the military. These elitists are a small group of people who have the same goals. There are also three levels of power. The top level consists of the three sectors. The middle level consists of local leaders who do what the top level want them to do. The last level consists of the powerless people who are exploited by the levels above them. Another elitist model is Domhoff’s Governing Class Theory. He believes that the power resides in a dominant class. This class consists of the top 1% of the population which owns a very large number of the population’s wealth. This class controls the executive branch, the major corporations, the mass media, foundations, universities, and the important councils of domestic and foreign affairs (406). A third elitist model is Parenti’s Bias of the System Theory. He believes that the government is biased toward policies that will benefit the wealthy. The power in the U.S. is mostly among the people who control the government.
    Which theory can you relate the most to?

  7. Molly Froehling says:

    Chapter 14 of the text focuses on Power and Politics in today’s government. Power is “the ability to get what one wants from someone else. This can be achieved by force or by getting that someone to think and believe in accordance with your interests.” (411) Power in today’s society is held by the rich and wealthy upper class. There are consequences of this concentrated power in government. There needs to be balance of who gets their needs met. Power is concentrated towards benefiting the rich, they are the ones who benefit from the decisions made in politics. Their interests are served before that of the poor or working class. The text gives an example of “when there is a budget cut- are military expenditures reduced or are funds for food stamps slashed?” there is an obvious answer here to who benefits. “The government is an institution made up of people- the rich and powerful or their agents- who seek to maintain their advantageous positions in society.” (412) The rich in society always manage to keep themselves on top, at no consideration to others. They manage to stay wealthy, and in power, and for decades are able to benefit from the government. The needs of the struggling and poor need to be taken more into consideration. The rich make up the lowest percentage of population, yet they are the ones who are constantly being supported. These first class citizens benefit from their status. “If they want more time to pay their debts, the government gives them an extension” why are they the ones who get special treatment? There are plenty of people out there who are in such financial debt. This corrupt concentration of power goes all the way back to the founding of this country. “The founding fathers were upper class holders of wealth. The Constitution they wrote gave the power to the people like themselves- White male property owners.” (413) There have been some laws passed and ideas that were promoted to support and benefit the poor in society. The New Deal is an example that was typically assumed to have been created in order to meet the needs of those in poverty. It was issued during the Great Depression in order to provide welfare programs, housing, and jobs. However this deal was in fact still in favor of the wealthy and corporation owners. These programs were promoted by the business community. There continues to be a historical trend in favor of “business over the less powerful.” (414) Another example that this chapter gave was that the government funds some research and develops new technology paid for by the public tax money, yet they hand them over to private corporations so that they can profit and benefit from them.

    Why are some people not in favor of the trickle down solution?


  8. Erica Porco says:

    Chapter 14 stood out to me because it discussed how us Americas misperceive our nation as a Democracy that is “a government of the people, by the people, for the people” (394). Even though we do vote for the representatives of our nation, who then make decisions for us and the common good of our nation, we do not make all of the important decisions. The masses are not the one’s that choose if we go to war or not, or make economic and foreign policies with other nations. Us as the people are not always informed of certain events that may be occurring until long after the issue is over. Or Congress and executive branch tend to have secret meetings here and there, whether it is to keep the press out and to keep some issues quiet.
    One of the most undemocratic features of the U.S political system is a result of how campaigns are financed. Political campaigns were becoming tremendously expensive and were being used to help with the national parties such as the Republicans and the Democrats. Only the wealthy were able to run and have a good running campaign and therefore was not an equal opportunity for others who may want to run in the campaign.
    Many other barriers are the people that actually chose to vote. People that are eligible do not always register to vote and therefore can have a tremendous effect on the voting outcomes. Those who normally register to vote are White, relatively affluent, educated, and suburban (396). Those who are from low income families, racial minorities, blue-collar laborers and city dwellers don’t sign up to vote and don’t have a vote that gives them a say. People who are from low-income areas are a huge percentage of our population that can vote also. Therefore the people that are accounted for and registered to vote is highly mis-skewed and does not stand for US as the masses.
    Another issue when it comes to voting is the many problems with the voting process itself.
    This video shows how the machines give people problems, if people don’t match their IDs, etc..

    My discussion question deals with the undemocratic ways of the US:
    What would it be like to run for an election or in a campaign if it wasn’t based off money and wealth and this gave an opportunity for the peoples’ majority to run?

  9. melanie lynott says:

    Chapter fourteen discusses power in society of the United States. In the power structure there are two views, the elitist model and the plural model. The elitist view focuses on a pyramid theory. They believe that most powerful group sits at the top of the pyramid and controls the rest of the pyramid. In comparison, the pluralist view focuses on power dispersed through a number of organizations, special interests, and voters (394). A Democracy government gives the power to the people and that the people have the ultimate power. In the United States, although we are claimed to be a democratic government, we actually have very limited power and choices. We do not make the important decisions such as war, economic issues, and foreign affairs. The government also is exposed of cover-ups and deceiving the people. Many branches of the government such as the executive branch do things secretly as well. However, Americans make themselves less powerful by not voting. In 2004, on sixty percent of voters actually voted. The one thing that Americans can do to be powerful is vote, but if forty percent of people are not voting we are making ourselves less powerful. Having two parties in our government also limits our power because the choices and beliefs to follow are limited because they are so strong sided one way.

  10. Kyley Walsh says:

    In Chapter 14, Power and Politics, two different models of the national power structure were discussed. One model is the elitist model of power. The other model is the pluralist model of power. In the elitist model of power, “there is a pyramid of power. The people at the apex control the rest of the pyramid” (394). In the pluralist model, “power is dispersed rather than concentrated. Power is broadly distributed among a number of organizations, special interests, and the voters” (394). A representation of a pluralist model would be representative democracy. A democracy is, “the form of government in which the people have the ultimate power- a government of, by, and for the people” (394). Elected representatives control the decision making and represent the common people. Unfortunately, the United States is quite undemocratic. One of the most undemocratic, “features of the U.S. political system is a result of how campaigns are financed” (395). Democracy has a real trouble with money because only the wealthy seem to be served. This means that the political leaders or representatives are usually on the wealthier side. Another representation of a pluralist model is veto groups. These are groups that protect their own interests, such as military, business, education and law. Similarly to a democracy, the leaders and powerful people of the veto groups are usually wealthy and considered upper class. Although America wants a democracy and a pluralist model of power, the elitist view seems to be supported more in our society. The elitist model is influenced by Karl Marx. In the elitist model, the elite, “manipulate masses through religion, nationalism, control of the media, and control of the visible governmental leaders” (402). There is an unequal distribution of power on society in this type of model. There is an instrumentalist view and a structuralist view. The thesis of C. Wright Mills represents a type of structure of the power elite. In his theory, “the corporate rich, the executive branch of the government, and the military- combine to form a power elite that makes all-important decisions” (402). Other theories that represent power elite structures are, Domhoff’s Governing Class Theory, which is based on the “dominant class” and Parenti’s Bias of the System Theory, which is that, “power in the United States is concentrated among the people who control the government and the largest corporations” (409). These two models of national power are very diverse, and evidence shows that the elitist model is supported more in our society today.

    Discussion Question: Do you think there would be drastic changes in campaigns if they weren’t dependent on money and wealth? If so, how?


  11. Angela Halton says:

    Chapter fourteen of In Conflict and Order is entitled Power and Politics. In this chapter we find the discussion of the distribution of power in the United States how it is perceived wrongly by the citizens. Power in our country is supposed to be equally distributed a.k.a what we call a democracy. In the text democracy is the form of government in which the people have the ultimate power (394). But in reality this is not what our government is like. All that we have is a vote to elect but not much of a say in anything else. There are two basic views of the power structure, talked about in the beginning of the chapter, the elitist model of power and the pluralist model of power. The elitists look at is as though there is a pyramid of power. But the pluralist view point sees that the power is dispersed and not concentrated. The chapter goes on to analyze the different conceptions of power in the United States.
    The most important component of a democratic model is that the representatives, because they are elected by the people, are responsive to the wishes of the people (394).This is a pluralist view point, and I must say that this does not transfer over to reality. Honestly, how much of what we have to say gets through to the representation? It just makes me wonder if we have any control at all in what is going on in our country.
    The opposing positions against pluralists are the elitists and by the name you can already figure that they are financially and economically controlled. They are the basis of the stratification system and have the most influence, ownership, and control of the economy and therefore the government. In reality this is what is controlling our country. Some of the naïve may believe that we live in a fair government that is for the people but it is a country for the elite.

  12. Pete Lucchesi says:

    When considering the capitalist society, power is everything. The text defines power as “the ability to get what one wants from someone else” (403). Our society, and most importantly our economy, is based on this principle of power. In school, teachers have power over the students. Parents have power over their children. These are cultural norms (and incidentally are the norms in most societies) but what is unique to the capitalist society in particular is that the capitalists have power over laborers. Laborers, for the most part, are at the mercy of the capitalists and do what they are told to do in exchange for a wage.

    Now, I have to disagree with the text when it is stated that “schools (in the United States) consciously teach youth that capitalism is the only correct economic system…each of us comes to accept the present arrangements in society because they seem to be the only options that make sense.” This is not true. I know that in high school/college I learned about all of the other economic systems that exist and we learned why they do not work as well as capitalism. It’s not propaganda, it’s fact. In order to enjoy the freedoms that we enjoy as Americans such as freedom to choose our profession, freedom to form unions, and the ability to become prosperous, capitalism is the only realistic economic system. Of course, like everything else, it is not perfect, but we see in capitalism a situation where an otherwise undesirable power relationship works quite well.

    I do agree with the text when it states that the wealthy most often benefit due to the way that power is concentrate in the United States (404). “Whenever the interests of the wealthy clash with those of other groups or even the majority, the interests of the wealthy are served” (404). Although this is grossly over simplified, it is generally true. The wealthy have a much easier time getting what they want than those with less resources. This is an imperfection of the system that should be changed, but probably never will be. Money talks; always has, always will.

    Here’s an interesting clash of power that was in the headlines recently about how people with power who “make the rules” want to tell people on food stamps what they can and can’t buy with them. The people on welfare of course have absolutely no say in this. Should you be able to buy anything with food stamp, or should there be restrictions? Remember, annually welfare recipients spend $135 million dollars on soda…

  13. Raenee Ritter says:

    After reading this chapter it only reinforces my thoughts on the US government. I have always felt that our government is extremely corrupt and not by any means, for the people. One thing that shocked me in reading the chapter was in the beginning when they discussed the amount of money that is spent on presidential campaigns. It shocks me that there is that much money spent and donated to a presidential campaign. I also found it disconcerting that there is really only a chance of a republican or democratic president. The other parties run but even if they were to win the election the dominant parties are still republican and democratic, which would constantly over ride. I feel that we as “the people”, do not have as much of a say or any at all that we are perceived to. I feel that there is such an imbalance of wealth in America and that is where the problem lies. The amount of debt that we are in as a nation is something that can hardly be comprehended by an individual and it is only getting worse. The fact that it has been so accumulative over so many years, speaks volumes as to the progress we are making. If it is not working then something different should be done. The video clip that I attached is interesting because it is a prediction of the future, it shows our political system failing based on the decisions of china. I feel that the economic problems we are facing as nation and have been facing is a direct reflection of our government and political actions.

  14. Raenee Ritter says:

    A quote from the text on page 411 was the caption under the photograph that stated “The important question is: Do these elected officials represent the interest of the people or the narrow interests of their contributors”. I think that thats exactly what the representatives are interested in, what they have to be interested in, in order to get a paycheck.

  15. Nick Mancuso says:

    The way power is concentrated in the United States, “the decisions made tend to benefit the wealthy (Eitzen 412),” and mostly their interests are served. “The government is an institution made up of people – the rich and powerful or their agents – who seek to maintain their advantageous positions in society (412).” Eitzen talks about first- and second-class citizens here in America. As a second-class citizen you have more taxes, you pay higher prices, you follow laws, you pay debts, and you must account for everything on your tax return. As a first-class citizen on the other hand you get government bailouts, you are allowed to hire workers under market wage rates, you don’t have to pay your debts on time, you have immunity from certain laws, and you have control over legislation. In my opinion, there is an obvious difference between the two and it is indeed “government for the few at the expense of many (413).” It has been this way since America was founded; since the signing of the Constitution, the wealthy were given power. During the early twentieth century, the government’s main goal was to “increase the power of the largest corporations (414).” Most presidents have had close relationships with big businesses. Even in recent years, presidents have chosen CEOs as their financial advisors and other positions, so we are really being controlled by the wealthy through this example. The government’s relationship to big business is that “business can conduct its affairs either undisturbed by or encouraged by government, whichever is of greater benefit to the business community (414-15).” The government is the only reason businesses are still able to operate the way they do. They receive tax breaks and government subsidies to stay afloat. The fact that corporations are able to escape the tax burden is just sickening to me. Also, trickle-down economics are just ridiculous – “overfeeding” the wealthy only to use the leftovers for the poor and less fortunate – the benefits do not always make it to all.
    What would happen to the economy if the government were to favor the second-class citizen rather than the affluent?


  16. Shineigh Wren says:

    In chapter 14 entitled “Power and Politics” there were two models of National Power Structure mentioned: The Elite Model of Power which states that power is held in the hands of the few, the rich, and the Pluralism Models of Power in which power is thought to be dispersed rather than concentrated (394).
    In the first model of Pluralism the government is seen as a democracy in which the people have the ultimate power because they decide who is elected into office. These representatives ideally will be responsive to the wishes of these people. Clearly, though, these ideals are not withheld in our government. Laws get passed and decisions get made even when the majority of the people disagree. For example, going to war is always a big debate, yet even if the people disagree with this decision the president and his officials can decide in an instant to bring the United States into a war (395).
    Another example of how this ideal is not upheld is by the two party system. Sure, we have more than two political parties that people affiliate themselves with, but the top two presidential candidates are always Democratic and Republican. This is due largely in part by what political parties get the most funding. The government passed a law stating that “soft money”, which is money donated to the political campaign by outsiders, had to be limited to make the playing ground more fair. However, people found loopholes by doing numerous things, one being making a foundation for the candidate and people donate to this foundation. The people are forced to choose a president that has interest that is congruent with the money (395).
    The second model of Pluralism is Veto Groups, which are special interest groups representing a specific group of the “unorganized masses”. These groups work for the good of their own interest, and often times will equalize each other, making their efforts neutral according to this theory. Except that is never how it works. The leaders of these groups are elite, rich people who have more power than the rest. These groups are not equal because the interests of one elitist may coincide with the interest of another in a different interest group, making them stronger than the rest. The masses want to fight for their own cause, but having the upper class do it for them doesn’t help at all, because society has been molded to accommodate the elite even without their manipulation (396-397).
    Below is a link to a website promoting a representative democracy, which is what the first pluralist view demonstrates. People work extremely hard to maintain their rights as a citizen to be free and have the same rights and power as the rich.

  17. Shineigh Wren says:

    My discussion question for the section on Pluralism is Do you think that Pluralism is too far of a stretch, or can the United States achieve that kind of representative democracy? If it is achievable, what changes must first be made?

  18. Chris Rockensies says:

    In Ch 14 of the book, the author discusses the different factors affecting our current government. There were two models of power that were described in the chapter, the elitist model of power and the pluralist model of power. I am going to focus on the segment that discusses the elitist model of power. This is a model in which the elite class of society is in charge of the politics of the country and responsible for many of the laws and the reason they come about. Karl Marx talked a great deal about this topic and the potential trouble that it could bring to society. There were several people who had several different ways to define this in our current political situation. C. Wright Mills believed that there were three different factors that made up the ruling class, the elite rich, the executive branch of the government, and the military. He believed that theses three groups of people all act together to form the laws and regulations that run our country. He believed that rich elite class was the strongest of the three groups because they pay the other two groups to get what they want. Another person that the author mentions is Domhoff’s “Governing Class.” Domhoff has very similar ideas to those of Mills but he brings up the idea of a dominate class. This is the upper most group of society which owns a disproportionate amount of the country’s wealth and contributes a disproportionate number of its members to the controlling institutions and key decision making groups. This group has greater influence on congress and state/local government than any other group (406). The author also talks a little bit about Parent’s “Bias of the system.”
    How different do you think this country would be if it was not run by the corporation, but actually run solely by the government and the people?


  19. Kevin Allen says:

    The section that talks about the consequences of concentrated power begins by asking the question, who benefits from how power is concentrated in the Unites States? The author answers this by saying “at times, most everyone does; but for the most part, the decisions made tend to benefit the wealthy” (412). “Two journalists, Donald Barlett and James Steele (2000), argue that there are two ways to get favorable treatment by congress and the white house: contribute generously to the right people and spend lavishly on lobbying” (412). If you are not lucky enough to be apart of this group you are more likely to pay a disproportionate share of America’s Tax bill or pay debts that others do not. If you are lucky enough to be part of this group than can afford to contribute you will more than likely be bailed out if you face hardship or they may be able to get around certain laws of the government allows them too. To most people this does not seem fair. Why should the rich who can afford to contribute to the political causes be offered special privileges in return? This is nothing new though. The bias of the system has been going on for decades. Throughout the 19th century when there was unrest by troubled miners, farmers, and laborers the government inevitably sided with the strong against the week (413). During World War I the government had an increased control over big business. The government was able to have control over production, which meant that the government was now involved in corporate interest. The author then speaks about the subsidies that have been given to big business. “Business can conduct its affairs either undisturbed by or encouraged by government, whichever is greater benefit to the business community” (414). Every year the government helps the business community by giving them $125 billion in subsidies each year. Some examples are that states of the government helping businesses are that they might give them tax cuts, low interest loans or cheap land. After 9-11 the government gave $15 billion to the airline industry. The government also uses public money to fund new research and then hands it over to a private corporation. These are just a few examples of the type of help that corporations receive from the government.
    Do you think that the government will stop helping these big companies or at least not help them as much? If yes what do think needs to be done to achieve this?

  20. Jeff Amorello says:

    In the first section of the chapter, the author goes on to talk about money in Democracy, and how fundraising during campaigns effects presidential, house, and senate candidates. Essentially, the chapter discusses how as they years have gone on, political parties and candidates have been raising money exponentially. It seems as though these major elections, that are supposed to represent the entire nation, are beginning to favor the rich, because it is the wealthy that fund these elections. As the campaigns reach into the billions of dollars, individuals, interest groups, and other organizations are at the forefront for donations. The problem with these types of donations is that our country is letting the money do the talking. Unfortunately, candidates are influenced by interest groups for example, who offer candidates money if they include what those groups want in their political agendas. Unfortunately, with little money to donate, the impoverished people of the country get little attention, and barely have a voice in our democracy. Although limits have been put on the amount an individual or interest group can raise, this problem remains extremely potent in American government.


  21. Chris Medina says:

    In Chapter Fourteen of the chapter one of the main points was in describing two different power structure in the United States Government. There are many questioned that are asked about this topic such as who really has all the power in the government and on the decisions that it makes. There are also a lot of different views on how the power should be dispersed and on who should have most of the share of it. In the United States, the two views described in the chapter are that of the elitist model of power and the pluralist model of power.

    The pluralist structure of power is one that tries to consist of a Representative Democracy. This means that the main people who get to choose the decisions of the government are representatives of the people. The unorganized mass have a say in this structure because they are able to elect the people who have the same views and are able to make decisions in accordance with what the people want (Eitzen 394). However, even though this is beneficial to the people by fact that they have an indirect contribution to decision making, there are also negative aspects to this structure. For example one negative impact that this has is that many wealthy people and corporations often donate large amounts of money to candidates which they want to be represented by. This gives them influence in the government. In order to have a successful campaign the candidate needs a lot of money and therefore these donations give the wealthy the power to have even more say in what they want. So instead of this view of power structure being for the people, the wealthy end up having more power.

    The other view of power structure is that of the elitist. This model is very specific in the way that the power is separated in politics and even the economy. In this model the power is explained as a pyramid of power. In the top tier, which has the people with the most power are the corporate rich, the executive branch, and the military. In the second level the legislative brach and interest groups are residing and the bottom group is the unorganized mass (Eitzen 403) The spread of power in this model is very uneven as all the power is given to the wealthy. This makes it very unfair for the majority of the population who do not have any say in the decision making. Also in this kind of power structure the people who hold all the power, all have the same interests in mind and that is to give them more power and wealth. So they work together to benefit themselves no matter what the consequence is for the rest of the people. Therefore, with this system, the masses are even less important in the decision makers. All the decisions made are therefore hurting the large unorganized mass and enables the government to do whatever they want.

    My question: It seems as though in both these power models, the power lies in the wealthy. Is there any type of government where the power truly lies in the people, no matter how wealthy or poor they may be?

  22. Alexis Farfaro says:

    According to Chapter 14, there are two models of national power structure in the United States: the elitist model and the pluralist model. The elitist model of power views power in the form of a pyramid where the people at the top control the rest of the pyramid. The pluralist model, which I will be focusing on, sees power as dispersed rather than concentrated. In an ideal world, pluralism is the model that would satisfy the most people and be the most effective. One form of pluralism is a representative democracy, which is a form of government in which the people have ultimate power. According to the text, in a democracy “there is equality before the law, and decisions are made to maximize the common good” (394). Despite the fact that are able to vote for representatives every few years, this model does not conform to reality and the people are powerless. Americans are often misinformed on certain issues by leaders, or not informed at all. Many people are appointed to certain positions rather than elected and campaigns are financed in a number of unfair ways.
    Campaigns for Congress and the president can run anywhere from three to five billion dollars overall, depending on the year. The federal government, individuals, and organizations help to finance these campaigns, therefore they have a say in what the candidates do and say. Despite the passing of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act in 2002, “soft money” was limited, but large donations were still given to candidates in support of their views or promises. 527’s, which are advocacy groups that are tax exempt and finance political advertisements without “directly calling for the election or defeat of specific candidates” were used as loopholes in the Reform Act (394). Raising money through a foundation sponsored by the candidate is also used as a fundraising method. The contributors of large sums to these candidates are influencing them and have a certain power over them and therefore they gain an advantage. In short, “money presents a fundamental obstacle to democracy because only the interests of the wealthy tend to be served” (398).
    Another form of the pluralist model of power is veto groups. Interest groups such as the military, farmers, or businesses are primarily concerned with their own interests, therefore according to the pluralist model; the group in power depends on the issue at stake. There is a balance of power and the groups neutralize one another. The model suggests that there are sectors of power and that the most powerful people in each sector are most likely wealthy and upper class. The model also suggests that the upper class is not a unified group, but rather there is disagreement among the group because everyone has different interests. According to the chapter “there is a hierarchy of power among these so-called ‘veto groups’” and that despite the pluralist model being the least faulty, most evidence still supports an elitist view of power (401).


    Above is an article from JSTOR that questions, analyzes, and critiques the pluralist system.

    Discussion Question: Do you feel as though the United States is a plutocracy? Does money determine who gets elected? If so, then do you feel democracy still exists?

  23. Brennan Johnson says:

    In chapter 14 Power and Politics I want to focus on the section that has to do with ” The Consequences of Concentrated Power.” In this section it discusses who benefits from the power because it is not distributed proportionally between the people. The United States makes it seem as though the government is run by the people and the peoples voice matter. However this section focuses on the lies behind that previous statement.

    What caught my attention the most was the opening paragraph of this section. “When a corporation is found guilty of fraud, violation of antitrust laws, or bribery, what are the penalties? How do they compare with the penalties for crimes comitted by poor individuals (412).” This statement right here just made me wonder that really a lot of us are being cheated by the system. This section was also talking about the bias of the system and how mostly the wealthy benefit from government policies. They are always in control and want to stay in control so they run everything. That’s kind of scary if you know that people who only want to benefit themselves or people like them are controlling the ways in which we live our lives. It also talked about the history of this country and how the people who wrote the constitution were white males and this continues to remain true till this days, after generations.

    Big business and corporations have been cheating those who are not wealthy because they know it will benefit them. This section also talks about how the powerless are always the ones who have to deal with the burden. “Domestic policy is a conducted according to one infallible rule: the costs and burdens of whatever is done must be borne by those least able to bear them (419).” The book talks about how the draft for the war was a way to keep the poor powerless. The poor are also kept powerless in todays age by being pushed out of their homes by gentrification, urban renewal, and the building of expressways, parks, and stadiums. They always have to bear the costs of societal changes.

    This link is about the gentrification that is occuring in Harlem and how it is really offensive to those who first occupied harlem and resided there.


  24. Katie Cimmino says:

    In chapter 14 Power and Politics the section that I wanted to focus on was “The Consequences of Concentrated Power.” In this section the author discusses who benefits from the power since it is not distributed equally between the people. The United States makes it look like and wants everyone to think that the government is run by the people and that what we think and how we feel really matter. In this section of the chapter it focuses on how that previous statement is not true by any means.
    “When a corporation is fault guilty of fraud, violation of antitrust laws, or bribery, what are the penalties? How do they compare with the penalties for crimes committed by the poor individuals” (412)? When reading this statement, I often wonder what is really going on out in the world. In this section they also talk about the bias of the system and how the majority of people who benefit from government policies are the wealthy. This section also talks about the history of the United States and how those who hold all power haven’t changed. The people who wrote the constitution were white males and those who dominate power now are predominately white males.
    Those who are not wealthy have been cheated by the big businesses and corporations because they know it will only benefit them in the end. This sections mentions how those who are powerless always have to deal with the burden even if they shouldn’t be held responsible for it. “Domestic policy is conducted according to one infallible rule: the costs and burdens of whatever is done must be borne by those least able to bear them” (419). This section talks about ways in which the poor are kept poor and powerless. The poor are being pushed out of their homes by gentrification, urban renewal and the building of expressways, parks and stadiums. The poor are constantly having to change their lives to satisfy everyone else.


  25. Andrew Sutton` says:

    One of the things Chapter 14 talked about was the two views of power in society. These views are the pluralist and elitist views. In my opinion the pluralist view is what the ideal democracy would be considered while the elitist views is more of the reality of what this country has turned into. In the elitist model the text described it best by saying “money presents a fundamental obstacle to democracy because only the interests of the wealthy tend to be served” (398). Supporters of this model say that all the power is with the elite. Whoever has the money makes the decisions. While each person in the country has one vote that doesn’t mean they have control over the candidate. People and companies with money can contribute to certain candidate which can influence them to push certain agendas that the wealthy may want to see passed. In a pluralist society everyone has one vote. By each person having only one vote they all have an even amount of say in the government. This however is not a very accurate view of the world because it takes all the hidden (and not so hidden) factors out of the picture. The country has begun to be split into two segments the general wants and the wealthy’s wants. The problem is the wealthy have a way of getting what they want passed while the general public must have faith in their congress people to do their jobs and look out for the people the were elected to serve.

    Discussion Question: Do you feel that societies will tend to be more elitist or pluralist? Why?

    This video explains the issues that pluralist democracy faces in today’s society and why its is failing.

  26. Christine Pierson says:

    Chapter 14 of the text, “Power and Politics,” focuses on who holds the power in the United States and the various influences on these important, decision-making people and/or groups of people. There are two views of our national power structure, the elitist model of power and the pluralist model of power. The elitist views are essentially organized like pyramids, where the select few at the top control everything below, whereas the power is more dispersed in the pluralist views (394). I decided to pay particular attention to the segment of the chapter that discusses the consequences of how the power is distributed, or concentrated rather, in the U.S. The general theme of this section is that generally all the decisions made in this country are made to benefit the wealthy, and it has been this way since the founding of our country. Donald Barlett and James Steele call it “government for the few at the expense of the many” (413). One of the things that I found a bit disturbing is the fact that the government makes so many decisions that are beneficial to businesses simply in the interest of money and personal gain. The statistic that the government spends $125 billion in subsidies annually to benefit businesses is absolutely ridiculous, especially considering the extremely poor condition some many of the areas of our country are in (415). For instance, after the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001 Congress gave $15 billion to the airline industry, all of which went to airline companies instead of laid-off workers. Also, the government installs priced supports on certain commodities to increase profit while costing consumers billions of dollars (417). Legal loopholes are also created by the government so that big corporations find a way around taxes and such. Another statistic that I found frightening is that from 1996-2000, 61% of U.S. corporations paid no taxes, thus pushing the tax burden to individuals (418). Robert Hutchins’s critique of U.S. governmental policy also struck me. He said: “Domestic policy is conducted according to one infallible rule: the costs and burdens of whatever is done must be borne by those least able to bear them” (419). A prime example of this is how the government allows a certain level of unemployment because it benefits the affluent.
    The following links displays how smaller retailers are being hurt as a result of government subsidies to bigger chains and corporations.
    Discussion Question: What do you think would be the effects of the government paying less attention to big business when making political decisions and such? Do you think that our country will forever be run with the economic interests of the wealthy in mind as opposed to the well-being of the masses?

  27. Andra Tomassi says:

    The section I am focusing on is the discussion of political parties and the donations they receive. The textbook book describes political campaigns has the most undemocratic process. As we see in the text, political campaigns are very expensive and the price to run is continuing to grow. The government tried to control the amount of money a campaign could receive by enacting the Bipartisan Campaign Act that limited the amount of soft money used in federal campaigns(395). There was no law previously creating a loophole for campaigns to receive any amount given. Though, the government tried to prevent campaigns from receiving an abundance of money, there are still many loopholes in the financial aspect of political campaigns. Several loopholes of giving money to campaign are through a foundation, or through tax exempt 527s, or through pooling large contributions to get around a 2,000 dollar limit. These donations often serve the wealthy because the people donating large sums of money are typically wealthy businesses(395). Large group try to neutralize one another to make sure their interest are protected. There are several views on how the power and influence on politics is exerted. The first is the economic elite who have a significant amount of influence on the government policy and action therefore result in them becoming a ruling class. The instrumentalist view stated the ruling class rules by controlling political officials through money and influence(402). The structuralist view states the ruling class gets its way through “the structure of political and economic institutions in the capitalist society that makes it imperative that the state serves those interests regardless of whether big business directly or indirectly takes part in state affairs” (402). These view explain how political officials are heavily influenced by the wealthy and the elite class in our society. There are several theories that lead themselves to explaining why these classes have the power they do and how it effect decision making in the United States.


  28. Kristen Nersesian says:

    There were many similarities as well as differences between Mills and Domhoff in the way they viewed the power structure in the United States. Both, Mills and Domhoff, view the power structure as a single pyramid. They also see the corporate rich as the most powerful interest group. Both Mills and Domhoff also relegate Congress to a relatively minor role and place the executive branch in an important role in the decision making process. They also view the masses as being dominated by powerful forces rather than having much grassroots power.
    Along with all the similarities between Mills and Domhoff, there were also some differences. Domhoff has asserted the complete ascendancy of the upper class to the apex of power. The executive branch is controlled by upperclass business people, industrialists, and financers, rather than the two groups being more or less equal partners in the power elite, as Mills saw it. Mills saw the military as part of the alliance of the troika, whereas Domhoff saw the military as having much less power and being dominated by the corporate rich through the executive branch.
    Despite the differences between Domhoff and Mills, one thing that they have in common one hundred percent is that the wealthy benefits from how power is concentrated in the United States, its as simple as that.
    Throughout the reading it was recognized that being wealthy or having access to being wealthy is essential for victory because of the power money holds and the enormous costs of everything. In “Chishom ’72, Unbought and Unbossed” Shirley Chisholm did not have the money to have as large of a campaign as the other candidates which made it a lot harder for her to be heard and for people to see what a great candidate she really was.

    Celebrity Apprentice is a show where celebrities compete to have the final position as Donald Trumph’s assistant. There are two groups of celebrities who get projects and once they are completed, they are voted on. The winning team gets money to put towards a charity of their choice and the losing team has to vote off “the weakest link” in their group. It is unfair because in one of the last few episodes, the celebrities had to raise money as a project and the celebrities invited their other celebrities friends who had money to share, but some people in the group did not have rich friends to spend the money and they got voted off.

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