James D'Angelo (Winner 2014 MIT Climate CoLab, ex-NASA scientist) uncovers a crucial flaw in American democracy. Incredibly, the solution – which lays at the heart of all current social concerns (inequality, the recession, political division, government disapproval, Citizens United, civil rights and corruption) – costs under 5 dollars.
James presents a breathtaking new look at transparency and the troubles it has wrought by opening the doors to special interests and the wealthy.
So, welcome to the world of Martin Gilens' 2014 paper and flatline graph. Also welcome to the world created by electronic voting machines and the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1970 (passed on October 26, 1970). Unheard of in any current political discussion, this act of Congress has produced endless avenues for lucrative lobbying of special interest groups.
Since posting this video James has partnered with Harvard Professor of Congress David King and author Brent Ranalli to further investigate this problem of transparency. The results are even more striking and powerful than initially proposed in this video. You can follow their latest work, read their papers and see their latest talks here http://congressionalresearch.org/
Follow James on Twitter @JamesGDAngelo
For much more on this topic see our website https://www.congressionalresearch.org
Here are citations from over a hundred scholars who find similar problems with transparency
Here is a good first page for information on transparency
D'Angelo has found the most unusual (indeed counterintuitive) source for our current explosion in inequality and campaign financing in a place that most economists would't consider, the secret ballot.
Considered by many to have crushed the first gilded age, the secret ballot was introduced en masse in the US starting in 1890. By 1940 it was everywhere (all citizens voted privately and most bills in congress were decided by teller or voice vote). And then for 30 years life was pretty good. Inequality was dropping, so were a number of other metrics, partisanship, campaign finance, national debt etc. And then, October 26th, 1970 there was a crack in our air-tight democracy - The Legislative Reorganization Act of 1970 opened up the votes of Congress (the committee of the whole). Dubbed a ’sunshine law’, this bill has only ever been considered a good thing.
The trouble is, we vote in secret for a reason. Reasons most Americans forget. Every time votes are public we get massive explosion in two types of electoral fraud. They first form of Electoral Fraud is Vote Buying (Tammany Hall, etc), with as much as 20% of the electorate being paid to vote a specific way (often poor individuals being paid with a chicken wing or a beer). The second form is Voter Intimidation, often times people would vote in the local court house, and they would just announce their vote to the local staff. The trouble with voting publicly (stating your votes to a clerk) is that often citizens were voting on deputies and sheriffs who were sitting right there in the court house, listening. It is hard to vote against an evil Sheriff if he can see how you vote. It is easy to see the problem there.
Interestingly, this is exactly what now happens in our Congress. Inside of congress, Voter intimidation leads to massive partisanship and polarization, and the vote buying leads to what some congressmen call ‘legalized bribery’. The convictions, admissions and stories of this are common (Jack Abramoff, ABACAM, etc etc). And this change in 1970 has led to a feedback loop that responds to the ever increasing money in Washington. Indeed The Legislative Reorganization Act of 1970 is the cause for the phenomenal growth of K-street. And all the big firms were born just months after it passed. The trouble is no one has ever called it what it is, Electoral Fraud. And the beauty is, all these alarming trends can be reversed by re-instating the secret ballot.
Examples of Electoral Fraud in Congress:
1. Intimidation - John Boehner telling congressmen how to vote. Leads to massive partisanship.
2. Vote Buying - Abscam, Jack Abramoff and others, plus all the revolving door events
3. Logrolling - Congressmen trade votes (Tip O'Neill built Tufts into a major PRIVATE university by logrolling)