America’s Do-Nothing Politicians, or why Modern Democrats and Republicans are Worse than Tammany Hall

America’s current crop of do-nothing politicians is worse than the corrupt politicos of the past.

Despite all their corruption, racism, hypocrisy, and thuggery, Tammany Hall, Nixon, LBJ, and racist Southern Democrats at least did things for ordinary people. Today’s Democrats and Republicans do nothing for ordinary people.

For example, urban political machines, such as New York’s Tammany Hall, distributed money, coal (for heating and cooking), and food to the poor. In addition, Tammany Hall politicians helped immigrants with jobs, advice, legal aid, and sometimes help with immigration status. Working-class New Yorkers who voted for Tammany candidates knew they could count on the Hall for a wide variety of social and other services.

Corrupt Politicians for the People

We regard Richard M. Nixon (R-California) and Lyndon Baines Johnson (D-Texas as two of America’s most corrupt presidents. Yet both Nixon and LBJ were vigorous advocates of welfare state expansion. Johnson worked hard to create Medicare and Medicaid and advocated a European style welfare state he called Great Society.

Similarly, Nixon signed legislation expanding Social Security and improving Medicare. In his welfare state expansion, Tricky Dick wanted to go farther than LBJ. For example, Nixon advocated both single-payer health insurance and basic income.

Even notorious segregationist George Wallace (D-Alabama) was a passionate advocate of New Deal-style social programs. For example, Wallace founded Alabama’s community colleges to educate the working class.

America’s Do Nothing Politicians

In contrast, today’s politicians publicly and proudly do nothing for ordinary people.

In fact, the Republican Party has no agenda for 2022. US Senate Minority Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) thinks having a legislative agenda is a mistake, Axios claims. McConnell advances no public legislative agenda.

Disgustingly, some politicians; such as McConnell, and US Senators Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) and Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), believe the government should do nothing for ordinary people. Sinema and Manchin vote against any welfare state expansion.

Sinema, McConnell, and Manchin at least have the defense of a consistent ideology. Other do nothings such as President Joe Biden (D-Delaware), former President Donald J. Trump (R-Florida), former US Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin),and US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-California) propose any ambitious plans and programs. Then back down and do nothing but complain about the other side’s obstructionism at the first sign of opposition.

Government does less and less for ordinary people. Yet politicians who do less cruise to reelection.

Government for the Rich and Big Business

The worst aspect of America’s do-nothing politics is how politicians deliver for the rich and Big Business. For instance, the effective tax rate for the richest 400 American families fell from 56% in 1960 to 23% in 2018, The Guardian estimates.

For example, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 cut the corporate tax rate to 21% and gave the richest 0.1% of US households a 2.5% tax cut.  The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was the only major Trump administration policy Congress could pass.

Finally, US Defense spending grew from $681.58 billion in 2015 $766.58 billion in 2020, Statista estimates. Military spending, which benefits defense contracts, grew during a period when America was reducing its military commitments overseas.

Worse, no rival country’s spending justifies US military outlays. The Peter G. Peterson Foundation claims the US spent more on “defense” than China, Russia, India, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and five other countries combined.

Cynics will say the true reason for US defense spending is to benefit companies such as Northrop Grumman (NOC), Boeing (BA), General Dynamics (NYSE: GD), and Raytheon (NYSE: RTN)rather than to protect the country. Statistics justify that cynicism.

Why Politicians do Nothing for Ordinary People

So why did some of America’s most corrupt, cynical, and racist politicians do a lot for ordinary people in the past, while today’s enlightened leaders do nothing?

First, most American politicians can win reelection while doing nothing. For example, voters reelected 94.7% of US Representatives in 2020, Open Secrets estimates. Similarly, 83.9% of US Senators won reelection in 2020.

Second, politicians can win reelection and make enormous amounts of money if they perform the correct political theater. For instance, Republicans can win elections if they wage culture war, defend gun rights, attack the left, and offer fealty to Donald J. Trump Sr. (R-Florida). Similarly, Democrats can win elections if they wage culture war, promote trans rights, attack the right, and offer fealty to Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Delaware).

Notably, politicians are getting more ideologically extreme and doing less. For example, wacky US Representative Lauren Boebert (R-Colorado) claims credit for spending measures she voted against. Yet Boebert, who is known for such theatrical acts as bringing guns to the US Capitol, leads in fundraising for reelection in Colorado’s Third District, The Montrose Press reports.

Hence, do-nothing politics pay off in modern America. Thus, the United States has a worse political system than the Gilded Age Corruption of Tammany Hall. Gilded Age politicians often sold out to the Robber Barons, yet many of those pols did stuff for ordinary people.

Under the worst Tammany Hall bosses, poor New Yorkers could expect free coal in the winter and ice in the summer. Today’s poor New Yorker gets nothing even from supposedly socialist US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Bronx).

Hence, it is easy to see why 79.661 million Americans did not vote in 2020. Politicians give those people no reason to vote beyond civic duty. Worse, politicians and the pundit class increasingly respond to criticism by attacking voters as lazy or irresponsible. Thus, it is also to see why 29% of Americans admit to not being registered to vote in a 2020 Medill School of Journalism/NPR/Ipsos poll.

Americans do not vote because politicians do nothing for them. Until we do something about America’s do nothing politicians, Americans will have no incentive to vote.

American politics was more corrupt in the past, but at least politics worked for ordinary people back then. Today’s politics only work for the rich.