Another story points out that in even in the financial tumult following the economic downturn, special interests spent more money on Washington lobbyists than ever before.
Here's this year's list.
1. CONGRESS SELLS OUT TO WALL STREET
The total tab for the Wall Street bailout, including money spent and promised by the U.S. government, works out to an estimated $42,000 for every man, woman, and child, according to American Casino, a documentary about sub prime lending and the financial meltdown. The predatory lending free-for-all, the emergency pumping of taxpayer dollars to prop up mega banks, and the lavish bonuses handed out to Wall Street executives in the aftermath are all issues that have dominated news headlines.
But another twist in the story received scant attention from the mainstream news media: the unsettling combination of lax oversight from national politicians with high-dollar campaign contributions from financial players.
"The worldwide economic meltdown and the bailout that followed were together a kind of revolution, a coup d'état," Matt Taibbi wrote in "The Big Takeover," a March 2009 Rolling Stone article. "They cemented and formalized a political trend that has been snowballing for decades: the gradual takeover of the government by a small class of connected insiders who used money to control elections, buy influence, and systematically weaken financial regulations."
In the 10-year period beginning in 1998, the financial sector spent $1.7 billion on federal campaign contributions, and another $3.4 billion on lobbyists. Since 2001, eight of the most troubled firms have donated $64.2 million to congressional candidates, presidential candidates, and the Republican and Democratic parties.
Wall Street's spending spree on political contributions coincided with a weakening of federal banking regulations, which in turn created a recipe for the astronomical financial disaster that sent the global economy reeling.
Sources: "Lax Oversight? Maybe $64 Million to DC Pols Explains It," Greg Gordon, Truthout.org and McClatchey Newspapers, October 2, 2008; "Congressmen Hear from TARP Recipients Who Funded Their Campaigns," Lindsay Renick Mayer, Capitol Eye, February 10, 2009; "The Big Takeover," Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone, March 2009.
2. DE FACTO SEGREGATION DEEPENING IN PUBLIC EDUCATION
Latinos and African Americans attend more segregated public schools today than they have for four decades, Professor Gary Orfield notes in "Reviving the Goal of an Integrated Society: A 21st Century Challenge," a study conducted by UCLA's Civil Rights Project. Orfield's report used federal data to highlight deepening segregation in public education by race and poverty.
About 44 percent of students in the nation's public school system are people of color, and this group will soon make up the majority of the population in the U.S. Yet this racial diversity often isn't reflected from school to school. Instead, two out of every five African American and Latino youths attend schools Orfield characterizes as "intensely segregated," composed of 90 percent to 100 percent people of color.
For Latinos, the trend reflects growing residential segregation. For African Americans, the study attributes a significant part of the reversal to ending desegregation plans in public schools nationwide. Schools segregated by race and poverty tend to have much higher dropout rates, more teacher turnover, and greater exposure to crime and gangs, placing students at a major disadvantage in society. The most severe segregation is in Western states, including California.
Fifty-five years after the Supreme Court's Brown vs.