However, the recent struggle to pass healthcare reform and failure to pass ny form of gun control has highlighted how overly dominant special interest groups have become as a result of funding from big business. For this reason, believe PGs in the US have an overall negative effect on democracy and opportunity. The main reason that PGs in the LISA do not promote democracy is because the most influential groups put the interests of a small group before the interests of society as a whole.
They tend to spend too much time fighting for their special interest and little time fighting for the wider public interest and as long as their client group is satisfied they rarely consider the mplications on society. This has been the case time and time again with anything concerning healthcare reforms. Healthcare companies and Insurance companies funded the defeat of Clinton’s healthcare reform in Congress in the 1 990s and in Obama’s attempt they amended the reforms in ways to benefit the healthcare companies, removing the proposed ‘public option’ and making it mandatory for everyone to buy health insurance.
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This is fundamentally undemocratic as it removes people’s freedom to not have healthcare insurance. A point that links with the first is the inequality of PGs in the LIS, particularly in terms of influence. There are a number of policy areas in which PGs are clearly unequal, for example the environment. Many argue the resources of big business often outweigh the resources of environmental protectionists. Gun control is another key policy area where this appears to be the case.
A battle between the NRA and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence is clearly going to be unequal due to an inequality in resources as a result of a massive difference in membership size, with the NRA’s 5 million strong member base vs the Brady Campaign’s 600,000. This inequality can be seen in the attempts at greater background hecks for gun purchases failing to get through the Senate in 2013, despite 90% of the public approving of the measure. This shows the extent to which PGs exert influence on the political system in the US.
Congressmen and Senators are voted into office by the people in order to represent their views. Examples like this clearly show that representatives are not performing their function and are being influenced too heavily by PGS. Therefore PGs are harming democracy rather than promote it. The existence of Iron Triangles provides further evidence of the undemocratic nature of PGs in the US. Iron Triangles are a stronghold relationship between PGs and relevant congressional committees and government departments. They are mutually beneficial for all parties involved.
PGs get to influence policy, politicians on the congressional committees get funding for their campaigns and government departments that oversee the area that the PG is working in tend to turn more of a ‘blind eye’ in overseeing them. An example of this is the defence Iron Triangle. $2. 5m was set to be saved from the defence budget in 201 2 by cancelling a drone contract with Northrup Grumman, however this was thwarted by the companies lobbying activists. Closely linked with the idea of Iron Triangles is that of the Revolving Door Syndrome. Many PGs work through hired lobbyists.
However, the problem is that many of these professional lobbyists are former members of Congress. The idea is that people walk out of the political door and into the lobbying door. After leaving office a person only has to wait 1 year before they can enter lobbying. In the 10 years 1994-2004, 283 former members of Congress worked for lobbying companies. An example of the Revolving Door having an undemocratic influence is the case Of Billy Tauzin. Two months before resigning as chair Of he committee which oversees the drug industry, Tauzin had played a key role in shepherding through Congress the Medicare Prescription Drug Bill in 2003.
This bill meant that the government could not negotiate with pharmaceutical companies, keeping the prices of them artificially inflated. Tauzin then left for a career in the lobbying industry and received $11. 6 million from PhRMA in 201 0, making him the highest-paid health-law lobbyist. It is likely PhRMA would not have given him such an opportunity had he not helped them in passing legislation that is beneficial to them and so this shows the existence f the Revolving Door and the undue influence it has.
However, despite these issues, there are a number of ways that PGs do in fact promote democracy and widen opportunity. Firstly, they provide representation for groups who are not properly represented by the parties, particularly minorities. They are a means by which people can have their views represented and grievances articulated. They are an important link between the public and politicians and provide a channel of easy access. For many Americans, PGs will be the most important way they are represented.
A Senator or Congressman will have any calls upon their representative function whereas a PG will have only one main call. Examples of this are the ACLU successfully representing Guantanamo Bay inmates in Supreme Court cases, establishing they have the right to a fair trial. For example Hamdan v. Rumsfeld in 2006 which ruled the US could not try Guantanamo Bay inmates by way of military commission. PGs can increase participation in the democratic system by increasing opportunities for ordinary citizens to participate in the decision making process. In the US, political participation is seen as a virtue.
Election Day is nly 1 day a year and for many Americans this is not a high enough level of participation, so they look to PGs for a more frequent way to participate. Importantly, PGs allow people to participate in a specific policy area which you cannot explicitly do when voting for candidates. 8/10 Americans belong to a PG and the average American is a member of 2 which shows they play a pivotal role in American culture. The National Council of La Raza in 2012 helped in Florida, California and Texas to get Latinos registered to vote for the election. Thirdly, they educate the public on complicated issues.
They attempt to warn the public of the possible dangers if particular issues are not addressed. They also educate on the likely effects that will occur as a result of government decisions. This was the case when the ACLU explained the extent of NSA surveillance on IJS civilians. The League of Conservation voters publishes its bi-annual ‘Dirty Dozen’ list, highlighting the 12 politicians with the worst voting record when it comes to votes on environmental issues. These methods make it clearer to the public what their elected representatives are doing in their post.