Monday, April 2, 2007

Do The Math: The Billion Dollar US Presidency

From the very beginning, it's a been a given that money and celebrity has always been part of US politics, for example, the Father of Our Country, George Washington, was not only the most famous colonialist and Army General, but he was one of the richest men in America, being that the woman he married, Martha Custis, was an extremely wealthy Colonial Era widow.

Her fortune, in today's dollars, would handily eclipse the multi-billion dollar Heinz Ketchup one of John Kerry's wife, Theresa Heinz Kerry.

That being said, in all the gushing reports that are coming over the transom today about the Presidential campaign fund raising efforts over the amounts being raised in the last quarter by the front running, secondary and tertiary candidates, of both the Democratic and Republican candidates, there is nary one mention that the hundreds of millions of dollars coming from campaign contributors, so far, is for a job whose annual salary is, wait for it...

$400,000.00 a year.

Or, $1.6 million dollars over the course of the 4 year term of office of the US Presidency.

Let me put this another way.

Well over a billion US dollars is going to be raised and spent, between now and November 2008, for a job that pays less than $2 million dollars.

That means roughly for every $625 dollars that is spent, (roughly the weekly salary of the average US wage earner), the return to the the one that wins the election will be $1 US dollar.

What's wrong with this picture?

Don't know about you, but if I spent $625 and only got $1 dollar back, I'd feel kind of foolish, wouldn't you?

Please bear in mind that the winner of the election, among their other duties, will to be to present Congress with the annual Federal Budget for the United States of America.

Seen in this light, it does kind of eliminate all the grousing that will invariably go on over the Federal Budget, since whoever it is that is going to be putting those numbers together, does subscribe to a different set of mathematical principles that the average person does.

Then again, it might be worth it to whoever spends that $625 dollars to get $1 dollar back if they get to claim the title of "Most Powerful Person In The World" for a short period of time, so to them this might be an entirely logical endeavor.

All kidding aside, I don't know of anything else that points out just how fundamentally flawed our entire political campaign process is in the United States, and I mean all of it, not just presidential campaign politics, since the reality is is that we live in a "top down" society, so what happens at the presidential level does impact what happens locally, and when comes to politics in America, it all draws from the same well.

The biggest problem with this is not the obscene amounts of money needed to run for political office in America, but the fact that it excludes so many worthwhile and qualified people from even contemplating running for office.

Try to look at it from their perspective, not only does one's personal life have to be squeaky clean and appropriately worshipful, (at this writing, there's only one avowed atheist serving in either chamber of Congress), or face a daily hammering in the media for some off-hand comment you made when you were a 15 year old boarding school student, but then you've got to raise enough money, in the course of just a single campaign cycle, that could put your kid's kids through Harvard Medical or Law School, all for a thankless job that barely pays the rent, that, once you've been elected, you've got to gear up for again, and again, every few years, and then go through the whole fund raising process again, in an interminable 'lather, rinse, repeat' mode.

Is it any wonder that most people who would otherwise run for office take a good look at the way the game is rigged and respectfully decline to pursue that option?

This is obviously a huge, intractable problem, that's not going to go away anytime soon, certainly not during the 2008 election cycle, so what's the solution and just how soon will it be able to be implemented?

It's not going to be enough to say, 'Oh, this is bad, we've got to get the money out of politics', because that's been said and tried before, and has brought us to this current impasse.

Another approach needs to be tried, and I'm afraid at this current juncture the only that readily presents itself is to let this current process go through to its bitter end and burn itself out and collapse under its own weight.

The catch is is that when that inevitably happens, which if history is any sort of a guide, it will, the holder of the US Presidency, while they may be an extremely powerful person, as far as something like that goes, they will no longer be considered "The Most Powerful Person On Earth", and nor will the United States of America be the most powerful nation on earth anymore.

It's a shame really, things could have been so different.

4 comments:

Progressive Texas Chicano said...

Whoever coined the phrase, "money is the root of all evil" wasn't just whistlin' dixie!

I have been told that money is the mother's milk of politics. I see it more as poison in the well. Money will sadly always dictate power. I believe, and I may be naive about typing this, but I feel that JFK was assasinated because he couldn't be bought. I could be deftly wrong but I believe that with all my heart.

When you can't buy the person, you off them. Plain and simple. But money also can bring down a person, too. Cunningam, Ney, your elevator pal Delay...at least money can give you power but it can also take it away.

Great post. Thanks for stopping by today.

Cheers!
Angelo

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Just6Dollars said...

The ROI isn't the president's salary, because the person really spending the money isn't the candidate. It's the people and corporations writing the checks. They're the ones spending the money, and the RIO is the degree of influence they will have on policy if their candidate wins. If they're smart, they'll cut checks to both sides. Either way, they win because every day Americans can't possibly outspend them.

Public funding, for real, could change that.

jurassicpork said...

Don't know about you, but if I spent $625 and only got $1 dollar back, I'd feel kind of foolish, wouldn't you?

Don't forget, NYC, that these people would never willingly part with a dollar unless they had something at stake, like lucrative no-bid contracts and friendly legislation that could number in the tens of billions, which is a substantial return rate on an investment that rarely exceeds 6 figures.

Think of Paul Singer's $15,000,000 payoff of Rudy Giuliani, which is really an open tacit understanding that he would never use his constitutional powers as president to put the kiobsh on vulture funds that were so good for Singer, the guy who's essentially invented them, according to Greg Palast.

Days Left Until Bush Leaves Office, Maybe, Countown Clock