Today, I was preparing to write my thoughts on the final Presidential debate, when I heard a disturbing financial figure on the news. Since enough attention has been paid to President Obama’s victory and his many sarcastic phrases, I figured this topic took precedence. Apparently, both Governor Romney and President Obama will be spending at least $80 million campaigning in battleground states. That reminded me of the astronomical amount of money it takes in order to even be in the running to have a role in governing our great nation. Because of the high amount of money it takes to become a politician, people either have to be incredibly wealthy (like Governor Romney) or well-connected (like President Obama) in order to have a legitimate chance at even making it to the ballot.
Unfortunately, the money that is being used in campaigning could easily be used for something more productive. Just imagine how many impoverished families could be fed using that combined $160 million our presidential candidates are spending within the next week or so. Think about how many college educations, after school programs, community centers, and libraries that $160 million could fund. Then consider the fact that $160 million is only a small portion of the money that our main two contenders been spent campaigning for the presidency. After all, campaigning almost two years ago. The New York Times reports that the Obama campaign has spent $769.1 million through September, while the Romney campaign has spent $642.4 million. That is already $1.4 billion and that doesn’t include campaigning through the key month of October nor does it include the almost $200 million in ads run by Super PACs (mostly supporting Romney). Keep in mind there were numerous other Republican candidates who were campaigning through the primary season.
It is safe to say that billions of dollars are being spent across the country right now for various political campaigns. I understand that campaigning is an expensive process, but I can’t help but wonder how different things would be if political candidates would use their campaign contributions to fund efforts to remedy many of society’s ills. Sure the billions of dollars spent on campaigning are but a drop in the bucket when compared the the government’s $3.7 trillion budget, but that doesn’t mean that the billions are insignificant. Think of the impact that Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates, and others have had on our society through their charitable endeavors as billionaires. Truth be told, many of our society’s greatest philanthropists are millionaires at best and their effect on the world cannot be denied.
The system is flawed. Indeed, the only people who really benefit from the expense associated with political campaigns are the marketing companies who design campaign ads and the numerous expensive campaign advisors. (That being said, as a Public Affairs PhD student, I could easily become a campaign advisor someday and I would definitely want to be paid every bit of my wage–especially for the amount of work that goes into it. I’m just being honest here.) I just wish that we could get to a point where politicians are elected based on the quality of their platforms and not on their access to extremely large sums of money.