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Monday, December 19, 2011

Why attending Town Council meetings is not a waste of time

Its said that 90% of life is just showing up—and the rich show up. Witness last week’s Town Council meeting.

By Linda Felaco

Those of us in the 99% tend to take it as a given that the rich influence politics with their money, but recent Gallup polling results show that the rich are more engaged throughout the political process, not just financially—and by a wide margin. According to Gallup, 41% of the very wealthy reported attending a political meeting, whereas only 9% of Americans overall did so in 2008. And 68% of the very wealthy reported giving money to a political candidate, party, or cause in the past 4 years, compared to only 13% of Americans overall In 2008. The rich are also more likely to vote.

As you might suspect, the rich do lean more Republican than the rest of the population. But not by as wide a margin as I would have thought: 57% of the 1% identify as or lean Republican, compared to 44% of the 99%, according to Gallup. And unsurprisingly, studies have shown that, in areas where the attitudes of the wealthy and less wealthy differ, policy is much more in line with the attitudes of the wealthy.

As Matthew Yglesias points out in Slate, it’s easy to assume that if I donate $50 to a candidate and you donate $2000, you’ve bought more influence than I have. But the difference in influence between donating $50 and donating $0 is much greater. And attending council meetings is free. I won’t pretend it’s fun. As Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismarck famously said, “Laws are like sausages. It is better not to see them made.” But if you weren’t there, you can’t complain about the outcome afterward. And you can start by attending tonight!