cover image The Cash Ceiling: Why Only the Rich Run for Office —and What We Can Do About It

The Cash Ceiling: Why Only the Rich Run for Office —and What We Can Do About It

Nicholas Carnes. Princeton Univ, $29.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-691-18200-1

In this detailed but very accessible study, public policy and political science professor Carnes (White-Collar Government: The Hidden Role of Class in Economic Policy Making) identifies a problem with the American political system that has received minimal scrutiny. He observes that, in the more than 14,000 times seats in the House of Representatives have changed hands since 1789, no blue-collar worker has succeeded “another former blue-collar worker in the same congressional seat.” Carnes argues that, because of differences in concerns between people of differing classes, the lack of politicians who are “former workers” leads to policy that “ultimately makes life harder for the majority of Americans from the working class.” He identifies various factors leading to this state of affairs, including the demands of campaigning on candidates’ time and resources and the lack of recruitment of qualified candidates from working-class backgrounds. Carnes proposes potential reforms—“candidate recruitment programs, political scholarships, and seed money programs”—but admits “we can only guess at how [they] would affect the social class makeup of government.” Though the analysis would have benefited from a consideration of how other Western democracies have handled this matter, Carnes deserves credit for focusing attention on an under-the-radar issue. (Sept.)