Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Money Spent on Presidential Campaigns Is Offensive

All Things Considered on NPR this week is doing a series on the ever increasing sums of money spent on presidential campaigns in this country. (Check out Monday's segment and Tuesday's.) The main idea of this series is that candidates will need to raise $100 million by the end of this year to be considered a serious contender in the primary election.

While candidates certainly have the right to raise these ridiculous sums of money and donors certainly have the right to give their money to these campaigns, the money now raised and spent on presidential races is problematic for two reasons:

  • It undermines democracy. While I have enough faith in the American voter to believe that he or she seriously considers experience, leadership ability, and approach to major issues when casting a vote in a primary or general election, the money now required to get one's face and message before voters shuts out otherwise qualified candidates. The pool of realistic contenders is determined, not by candidates' ability to perform the duties of the office, but by their fundraising savvy.

  • It is immoral. Up to a point, spending money on a campaign for public office is spending money on democracy. As a nation, we passed that point a long time ago. The billions spent on advertising of all types in this country is disturbing, but most marketing efforts are at least tied to products that are tied to jobs and the economy in general. Much of the money spent on presidential and other major political campaigns is vanity money. Thirty-second TV, radio, and Internet spots are not conducive to constructive political debate. These ads put image above substance and focus the public's attention on incomplete truths and unfair attacks. Bumper stickers, yard signs, and web banners say little or nothing about key issues or a candidate's ability to lead. I would say that the campaign methods that potentially make the greatest contribution to public discourse are blogging and podcasting, both of which are, by any standard, inexpensive. The amount of money poured into political ads that do not elevate the level of discourse or help citizens make an informed decision in the voting booth is sickening. Much of it, in my opinion, is money wasted that could be much better spent.

I wonder how many candidates in the next twenty months will spend upwards of $100 million. Obviously, all but one of them will lose. $100 million is a lot of money. Here are some other ways to spend all that cash:

  • Buy 10 million mosquito nets to prevent malaria in developing African nations through Nothing But Nets.

  • Purchase 400,000 water buffaloes (pictured) for poor agricultural families in South Asia through Heifer International. (Price includes delivery and training for the family that receives the buffalo.)

  • Pay for 2,222,222 flood buckets for families cleaning up after a flood or hurricane through UMCOR.

Alas, we could save the world if could keep campaign spending under control.


Anonymous ThePatriot said...

Im doing a report on how media induces violence, and most people don't even take the effect on media seriously, one of my arguments is: if media does not impact the mind of the common American, then why is and insane amount of money spent on presidential campaigns for media alone! It is an outrage what they spend! they promise a better life for Americans, but they take our money and blow it on what is more important to them, winning. I know its necessary to be known among the people, but they spend so much that it takes away from the very principals we believe in and apt to live by. Benjamin Franklin lived by these principals and the very first one was TEMPERANCE in all things the fifth was FRUGALITY: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing. the ninth was MODERATION: Avoid extreams; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve. and the eighth applies to this too, they omit injustice 8. JUSTICE: Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty. If our for fathers had a vision of this country, this kind of spending wouldn't be part of it. God Bless America!

6:07 PM  
Blogger Charliemack said...

First, you don't use the money to spend overseas. Don't you think the trillions of dollars spent in Iraq is enough.

There are enough people here in America that could use that money.

Look, you don't spend money for a presidential campaign or foreign aid unless your country is doing well. America is in the toilet right now and I am sick and tired of the political debates, money to Iraq etc. We need to hold our congressional reps responsible for the decline of our country.

6:53 AM  

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