Trump's new big thing in the campaign is the claim that the election has been "rigged" against him. The word "rigged" conjures up an image of election officials somehow stuffing ballot boxes or jiggering with electronic voting machines to produce a false count of votes cast. Given our highly decentralized election system, largely run by state rather than federal officials, that scenario is rather improbable. But just because the election is not "rigged" -- in the sense of the government definitively determining in advance the number of votes for each candidate -- does not mean that the government does not exercise huge influence to swing the election the way it wants the election to go. A better analogy for this huge influence, rather than a direct "rigging" of the vote, would be the placing of a big weight on the favored side of the scale. And this is not some minor thing like the proverbial "thumb on the scale"; it's more like the placing of a gigantic lead weight on the favored side of the scale.
Of course, the favored side of the scale is the side that supports continuing and expanding all existing government programs and functions, plus adding new programs and functions; and on the disfavored side is found any candidate who might disrupt the status quo. In the current election, that means that the forces of government want Hillary to win.
In a post on Monday at RealClearPolitics, George Will comments that even in the absence of actual "rigging," "Mr. Trump has a point if he would just make it more clearly." As an example of concrete government action to favor one side of elections over the other, Will cites the IRS efforts in 2010, '12 and '14, as well as the current election, to delay and obstruct the formerly routine granting of tax-exempt status to conservative-side organizations.
We know -- we don't surmise -- we know that the 2010, '12 and '14 elections were rigged by the most intrusive and potentially punitive institution of the federal government, the IRS. . . . I have talked to lawyers in a position to know [and] they say it's still going on. The IRS is still intolerantly [sic - intolerably] delaying the granting of tax exempt[ions] to conservative advocacy groups to skew the persuasion of this campaign.
Again, I would use the term "placed a gigantic lead weight on the scale" rather than "rigged." Still, with this example (as opposed to the stuffed-ballot-box hypothetical) the point is clearly-established and valid.
Will's post is brief, and only gives the one example. Are there others? If you start giving the matter a little thought, and coming up with a list of examples, you really wonder how it is possible for any Republican to be competitive in any race ever. Let me start:
- Government benefits. During the 2012 campaign, Mitt Romney famously stated that he had little hope of winning the votes of some 47% of Americans because they either received some form of government benefits and/or paid no income taxes. He was rightly criticized for the specifics of his statement -- the biggest single group of the 47% being Social Security beneficiaries, who in fact voted for Romney in large numbers. But there was an underlying valid point, namely that receipt of payments from government programs makes the recipients substantially more likely to vote for candidates who favor the continuation and growth of those and other such programs. According to Census data here covering 2011 (released in 2013 - they always have big lags), the figure had gone up another 2% to 49%. It likely has crossed the 50% threshold today. Further Census data here released in 2015 have some 21.3% of the population (over 52 million people) participating in the so-called "means tested" federal benefit programs -- food stamps, WIC, housing assistance, Medicaid, etc. It's not that not a single one of those people will ever vote against the status quo; but do you think that this massive handout enterprise might swing the vote in a national election by, say, 5% or 10%? It's hard to imagine that it does not.
- Labor unions. One group of organizations in this country has been granted the privilege by the government of taking for themselves money deducted without specific approval from millions of people's paychecks. That group of organizations consists of labor unions. A large percentage of the money so deducted -- some say it's the majority, although exact figures are impossible to come by -- goes to support favored candidates in political races. Almost all of the money goes to Democrats. Although union members theoretically have the right to prevent their involuntary dues from being used for political purposes, that right has proved almost impossible to enforce, under procedural rules coming from the unions themselves and from the government's NLRB. Any union member who wants to try to enforce his theoretical right must conduct a lonely and self-funded battle through multiple obstructions and appeals. An article from yesterday's Wall Street Journal puts the amount of money contributed by labor unions during the current election cycle (January 2015 to August 2016), to support Hillary Clinton and Democratic candidates for the Senate, at $108 million. That's up 38% from the prior election cycle. And labor unions also provide massive support for get-out-the-vote efforts, including such things as phone banks and driving people to the polls, again almost entirely funded with involuntarily-collected dues and spent on behalf of Democrats. How much does this "union factor" swing the vote in national elections? Three to five percent would be a good guesstimate.
- Academia and non-profits. Of all the identifiable interest groups in our country, the one most closely associated with near-unanimous support of the Democratic party and its candidates is academia. Many surveys of professors put support for Democratic and progressive causes (i.e., growth of government) at well upwards of 90%. Many professors also proselytize their students in favor of the progressive agenda. The federal government (and also all state governments) massively fund and subsidize academia. A 2015 report from Pew published in Inside Higher Education put total federal spending on higher education in 2013 at $76 billion; states spent some $73 billion the same year. The federal number has increased substantially since. Thus, between federal and state money, around 40% of all funding for this pure-Democrat higher education constituency comes from the taxpayers. Has there ever been a single academic who lived off government grants advocating for elimination of his/her own grant? How about a single academic who has advocated that the whole massive government grants-to-academia thing is a bad idea? And after academia proper, add in a massive government-funded not-for-profit sector, largely devoted to so-called "anti-poverty" efforts that never remove a single person from poverty, and absorbing many tens of billions of federal dollars for itself annually -- and delivering the votes of its employees with near-unanimity to Democrats. Altogether, another 2-3% swing?
- Fake government statistics. As repeatedly discussed on this website, all major government statistics on things like the economy and poverty are fraudulently conceived and reported so as to deceive the people into going along with increased government spending and growing programs supposedly intended to ameliorate falsely-depicted problems. As examples, the GDP statistics adopt the ridiculous convention of counting all government spending on goods and services as a 100% addition to GDP. Thus progressive politicians can pretend with apparent justification that completely wasteful added spending grows the economy, while any attempt to cut even the most wasteful spending can be falsely portrayed as shrinking the economy. Similarly the government statisticians have adopted false conventions to keep the "poverty" rate preposterously high (and thus sell the public on more anti-poverty spending) by refusing to count as "income" nearly all government benefits, even many of those handed out as cash or near-cash like the EITC and food stamps. Last month, as reported on this site in multiple posts including here, the Census Bureau revealed itself (as if we didn't already know) as being a part of Hillary's campaign when it released a new report announcing that the "poverty" rate had suddenly fallen by some 1.3% and 3.5 million people between 2014 and 2015. The numbers were based on methodological changes and can only be viewed as fake in light of the anemic growth of GDP in the same period. But essentially all of the media fell for it (even the Wall Street Journal!), and Hillary promptly followed with a personally-signed op-ed in the New York Times claiming that the new fake numbers proved that Obama's progressive policies were suddenly working. Another percent or two?
- The oppressive regulatory state. The myth of government regulation is that the regulators are just fair, neutral experts with nothing in mind but the public interest, who will carefully watch over the economy to keep the evil, greedy capitalists in check. Ridiculous! In fact regulators are normally flawed human beings with personal agendas, who really care about only one thing, which is growing their own staff, budget and prerogatives. Because the regulators can torture and ruin any entity under their jurisdiction, no such entity will cross its regulator on any matter of significance. And the matter of greatest significance is the ongoing growth of the government. So, in the hyper-regulatory world of Dodd-Frank, is there any such thing as a financial institution that will say a negative word in public about the government? I sure haven't seen it. Try it, and they have a hundred ways to make your life miserable -- declining permission for your next merger, or for your entry into a new line of business, or launching one, or two, or twenty new criminal investigations against you. Same thing for a pharmaceutical company, which inevitably has ten or twenty items before the FDA for approval at any given time. Cross them and your next drug approval could be held up for a decade. When did one of those guys last utter a serious criticism of the government regime? Another hundred examples could easily be cited. Another percent or two?
- Government employees effectively working as operatives of Hillary's campaign. One of the unsigned editorials in today's Wall Street Journal, titled "Hillary's State Assist," is a real eye-opener. The editorial quotes from documents released Monday by the FBI from its recently-concluded investigation of Hillary. It seems that a group of "senior State department employees," referred to by the regular staff as the "Shadow Government," put "enormous pressure" on staff reviewing Hillary's emails for production to "not label anything as classified." This, at a time when Hillary was claiming that she had never dealt with classified information on her private server. Our taxpayer dollars at work!
I have several more examples here that I could use, but I think the point has been made. Meanwhile, can anybody provide a single example of the use of taxpayer funds in a way to support Republican candidates or the shrinkage of the government or the elimination of government programs? OK, maybe somewhere in the vast enterprise, some free-market-oriented economist has gotten a grant of maybe a few hundred thousand dollars. That, up against around $4 trillion of annual spending, all devoted in some way to the further growth of government and the support of candidates who favor that growth.
Is the election "rigged"? I wouldn't have used the term. But the weight that the government puts on the scale is enormous, and in this election it's all behind Hillary. Is it possible that the combined effect of all of these things is less than the margin currently separating the two candidates in the polls? I can't imagine how it could be.