The unconscionable conflicts of Jared Kushner
Before I turn to Jared Kushner, let me ask: Do you believe the U.S. government does the right thing all or most of the time?
The Gallup organization started asking this question in 1963, when more than 70 percent of Americans said they did. Since then, the percentage has steadily declined. By 2016, before Donald Trump became president, only 16 percent of Americans said they did.
Why the decline? Surely various disappointments and scandals played a part -- Vietnam, Watergate, Iran-Contra, "weapons of mass destruction," the Wall Street bailout.
But the largest factor by far has been the rise of big money in politics. Most people no longer believe their voices count.
That view is backed by solid research. Princeton University professor Martin Gilens and Northwestern University professor Benjamin Page analyzed 1,799 policy issues that came before Congress and found "the preferences of the average American appear to have only a miniscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy."
Instead, Gilens and Page concluded, lawmakers respond to the policy demands of wealthy individuals and moneyed business interests -- those with the most lobbying prowess and deepest pockets to bankroll campaigns.
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It's likely far worse now. Gilens and Page's data came from 1981 to 2002, before the Supreme Court opened the floodgates to big money in its Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions.
Trump and Bernie Sanders -- authoritarian populist and progressive populist, respectively -- based their shockingly successful campaigns on the public's outrage at the corruption of our democracy by big money. Sanders called for a "political revolution." Trump promised to "drain the swamp."
Trump hasn't drained it, of course. He's turned the entire government into a giant bog of lobbyists, real estate moguls, Wall Streeters and billionaires.
Which brings us to Kushner, the putative swamp-drainer's son-in-law and adviser.