As our country faced the greatest economic crisis in generations during the financial collapse of 2008, a rare bipartisan majority passed a $700 billion bailout for failing banks known as TARP, the Troubled Asset Relief Program. During the financial meltdown, Americans lost more than $10 trillion of their own hard-earned savings when housing values plunged and retirement accounts were hollowed out. Why did Congress move so quickly and on such a historic scale to save the financial sector, but not do anything remotely similar to provide direct relief to the working- and middle-class voters who were suffering an even greater loss—and who, incidentally, had the power to vote them out of office?
In White-Collar Government, Nicholas Carnes, an assistant professor of public policy at Duke University, suggests that one underexamined factor shaping economic policy in the United States is the social class of the legislators who vote on it.
The above excerpt was originally published in Democracy.
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