The Price of Politics
Barack Obama spent $730 million getting to the White House in 2008, which was twice as much as George W. Bush spent 4 years earlier and more than 260 times what Abraham Lincoln spent in his first election (as measured in 2011 dollars). Looking at the total costs of presidential elections over the past 150 years, it would seem that the White House is the ultimate recession-proof commodity. Because when one looks at the increase in campaign costs (measured in real dollars) they significantly outpaced the price of gold’s rise over the 20th century. Every four years Americans elect a president, and every four years, campaign-finance experts predict that the next election will be the most expensive election in history. The 2016 presidential campaign is no exception. According to CBS News Americans who are running for federal elective offices spent more than ever, almost $7 billion in that pursuit. That’s more than what consumers spend on cereal, $6 billion. According to the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics just under half of that, $2.65 billion was spent on the presidential race, which is slightly less than the $2.76 billion that was spent in 2012. Despite greatly outraising the real estate mogul and billionaire Trump by almost $400 million, Clinton could not secure enough votes to win the electoral vote. So why does it cost so much to campaign for election in the United States? Well for one a bigger country equals bigger money. America is the largest democracy in the world with a population over 300 million and trying to reach that population costs a lot. As Republican strategist Ron Bonjean points out, “its going to cost a lot of money to express yourself and get your message out, get the vote out, get people to support you and put in campaign infrastructure.” In order for a candidate to reach all 50 states during an election cycle, a treasure trove of money is needed to cover that much ground. Not only is America a large country but you also have to look at the length of its campaigns compared to many other countries. In Britain for instance their campaign for prime minister can last as little as 1 month compared to the 10 months the US takes. Closer to home Canada and Mexico spend about three month’s campaign. Keith Boykin, a Democratic strategist and former staffer on Bill Clinton’s successful 1992 campaign, said “the length of the U.S. election cycle dictates that candidates must pile up funds to survive the long haul. “ While nothing can be done about the size of the U.S. the amount of time given to campaigning could definitely be shortened. I would guess that not only would it save millions of dollars but it would also save some sanity. One big cost is advertising and television advertising is by far the most expensive item in a campaign’s budget. Air time in major markets in key swing states can cost a campaign millions of dollars. Again this is where Clinton vastly out spent Trump especially in the closing weeks of the election. Estimates show team Clinton spent 50 times as much as Team Trump on television ads in Florida in the final weeks of the election. In Florida, Clinton spent $36.6 million, versus just under $700,000 for Trump. The differences continue in Ohio, $20.9 million versus $1.8 million, Pennsylvania $18.8 million versus $1.5 million and North Carolina $14.3 million versus $1.3 million. If there is one thing that the 2016 presidential election has taught us it is that money is not always the major determining fact when it comes to wining. The richest candidate doesn’t always win, money may allow you to have the loudest voice but it doesn’t guarantee you the vote. This brings me to an interesting question, what could we do with all the money that was spent on presidential elections? I wonder how many homeless people could one feed with 2.5 Billion Dollars. In 2016, over half a million people in the U.S. were considered homeless. According to the national survey done every January 564,708 people were living on the streets, in cars, in homeless shelters, or in subsidized transitional housing. Of that number, 206,286 were people in families, 358,422 were individuals, and a quarter of the entire group were children. 83,170 individuals, or 15% of the homeless population, are considered “chronically homeless.” Chronic homelessness is defined as an individual who has a disability and has experienced homelessness for a year or longer, or an individual who has a disability and has experienced at least four episodes of homelessness in the last three years (must be a cumulative of 12 months). Families with at least one adult member who meets that description are also considered chronically homeless. 47,725, or about 8% of the homeless population, are veterans. Well let’s say it costs $20 to feed one person in a 24 hour day, $5.00 for breakfast, $7.00 for lunch, and $8.00 dinner. That means you could feed 1.25 million people for one day or just over 400,000 people for a year. We could almost feed our homeless population for a year on what we spend to elect a president. What is even more staggering is that the amount of money we spend every four years on a presidential campaign could feed the 50,000 homeless vets for 8 years. What about the 140,000 homeless children, who over 50% are younger than six years old. We could almost feed them for all four years the president was in office just on the money spent campaign in a year. What price are we willing to pay to promote politics, and what are they producing? Many of the candidates claim to care about social issues yet they spend more on getting into power than they do on poverty. One of the faulty beliefs today is that our country rises and falls on who is leading, but I believe we give politics way too much power. The truth is we need to stop leaning on law and start leaning on love. Human goodness is a far greater power than government. What if we stopped funding political leaders every four years and started funding the future? Our political system has conned us into believing that government is the best agent for positive people change. But people don’t need a handout they need a hand up and that requires people with real love, caring and compassion, not programs. Politicians may provide political promises but people need real hands not empty hope. What if We The People put politics aside and came together based on our common heart and humanity. So let me ask you what would happen if we stopped leaning on the law and started leaning on love to change our country?