Dean Baker – Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and the Money

Bernie Sanders has made the corrupting role of money in politics a centerpiece of his campaign. He has argued that because campaign contributions by the rich pay for political campaigns, they are able to control the political process. This gives us a political system that is very effective at serving Wall Street and the insurance and pharmaceutical industries. It is much less effective at serving the needs of ordinary people.

This has created an interesting dynamic in the race for the Democratic nomination. Secretary Clinton has flipped Sanders’ claim around and challenged him to show where she has reversed a position to serve the moneyed interests. This might be a useful campaign tactic, but it misrepresents the way in which money affects campaigns.

Undoubtedly there are cases where an individual or industry group promises a large campaign contribution in exchange for a politician’s support on a particular issue, but this is almost certainly rare. More typically the support of politicians for moneyed interests is part of a much longer process. It’s not just that the politician wants to act to curry the favor of the rich and powerful, more typically they identify with the interests of the rich and powerful so that they don’t even see themselves as compromising a principle.

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