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The Cash Ceiling: Why Only the Rich Run for Office—and What We Can Do about It, Nicholas Carnes

Reviewed by William W. Franko

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At every level of government in the United States, elected positions are held almost exclusively by the rich. While a majority of Americans are employed in working-class (or blue-collar) jobs, for instance, people from the working class have never made up more than 2 percent of Congress. In The Cash Ceiling: Why Only the Rich Run for Office—and What We Can Do about It, this is what Nicholas Carnes refers to as “government by the privileged” (p. 2), and he explains that this overrepresentation of the affluent in government is closely linked to political inequality. When people from wealthy, white-collar professions serve in government, they tend to make policies that are in the best interest of white-collar professionals.

Considering the substantial political consequences of government by the privileged (if you need to be convinced further on this point, start with Carnes’s White-Collar Government: The Hidden Role of Class in Economic Policy Making), an important question is why our government is run by rich people in the first place. This question is at the core of The Cash Ceiling. In this innovative, clearly written, and carefully researched book, Carnes challenges the common narrative that working-class people are not elected to office because they ar

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