Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Buying Barbados: The $4 Billion Election

The astronomical sum of money being spent on the 2010 midterm elections in America—at least $4 billion, by most estimates—is greater than the entire GDP of many of the world’s countries, including Barbados, Montenegro, and the Isle of Man. (And we’re closing in on Mongolia.) Virtually every man, woman, and child living on American soil has been exposed to thousands of images, slogans, and arguments—mostly produced by expensive ad agencies—designed to get them to adopt a particular attitude toward a candidate or an issue.

Much has been said—and much more needs to be said—about the ability of the rich to buy elections. But let’s face it: if the American people weren’t so gullible and generally uninformed, it would take a lot more than scary music or a slick slogan to sway them. Politicians and their message machines would have to provide actual information, specific action goals, and coherent plans for implementing those goals. Then they’d have to deliver on those promises.

Regular readers of this column know what I think: I think President Obama and his team have delivered on their promises to America, accomplishing more than anyone could have expected—especially bucking a severe and unrelenting headwind of lies and obstructionism from the Republicans in Congress. From ending combat in Iraq to reforming health care to implementing Wall Street and banking reform, the current administration has done much to improve American lives.

I also think it’s appalling that most Americans seem to have already forgotten what the Party of No accomplished on its watch: two wars, general devastation of the economy, confusion about climate change, a $1.3 trillion deficit.

Be that as it may. Jon Stewart (oddly, given his profession) blames the media for America’s current problems. The Tea Party blames politicians and “elitists”—a category that often seems to include anyone who is well educated, well informed, and experienced in public office (unless, of course, they’re Republican). But it’s clear where the real blame should lie in a Democracy like ours: squarely on the shoulders of those—sadly, the majority—who either cast a vote based on a single bias, remaining willfully ignorant about everything else, or don’t vote at all.

For awhile last January, mesmerized by televised images of profound suffering, Americans seemed to care about the people of Haiti. The cameras have moved on, but hundreds of thousands of Haitians still live in crowded, stinking tents, and hundreds are dying of disease. Think what the $4 billion wasted on these midterm elections could do for them.

Never in the history of human civilization has it been so easy to find out what’s really going on in the world. With an open mind and a good mix of media (including books and articles, as well as radio and television), anyone can learn a great deal in a short time about virtually any subject.

Now that so many billions of dollars have been spent to get their attention, what Americans should do is to continue to learn and to care—not because they’re being prodded by advertising to be fearful or angry, but rather just because being informed is the right thing to do.


Six said...

Quick fact check for you

-The war is not over, I don't care what a president says from an air craft carrier or behind a podium, there are still US Solidiers fighting and dieing in Iraq and there are estimated to be more private military contractors fighting today in Iraq than before the war supposedly 'ended', some estimates are that there are as many as 50,000 there currently in addition to the US troops. And I would not be surprised, that if by the end of Obama's 1st term that somehow we are looking at a potential war with Iran.

-Healthcare is not reformed - health insurance maybe, however speaking as someone who works very closely with small businesses, it is in more chaos and expensive than ever before. There is more uncertainty and anxiety about what the future costs are going to go up to, that this more than any other one issue is what I hear from my business owners are thier primary concern about growing thier staff.


And to top it off, this administration has filed - and won - two lawsuits against providing equal treatment for homosexuals. Don't Ask, Don't Tell and Defense of Marriage have both been found to be unconstitutional, and rather than seizing upon those historic rulings, the Obama administration has fought hard at tremendous taxpayer expense to keep those discriminatory laws in place. The administration has an obligation to defend the laws, but not to appeal descions once they are determined to be unconstitutional. In many ways this president has been worse on civil liberties given his failed pledge to transparrently close Gitmo, extension of the worst parts of the Patriot Act, presidential order to execute US Citizens without jury trial - something Bush didn't even have the disrespect for the constitution to (at least openly) do.

The previous administration was the worst in my lifetime, but this one is not shaping up to be any better. Sure, 1.3trillion is the legacy of Bush, but we are likely looking at several trillion over that, some estimates are 13trillion or more being the legacy of Obama.

Sorry if I do not buy in to your Polyanna view of Obama... the guy has been a disappointment and a disaster, especially considering he had a majority house and senate in his favor more so than any president in history that I can recall.

cillagirl84@msn.com said...

Sometimes I'm jealous of other countries with extremely limited campaign periods w/strict laws for campaigners. It is very frightening how far backwards we have gone. Remember McCain-Feingold? There is something completely disturbing about a Supreme Court that decides that corporations have the same rights as human beings!

Citizen Jane said...

Hi, Six,

Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems to me that no president of either party could possibly please you, regardless of what he (or she) might accomplish. As rational as you seem to be sometimes, your overall attitude toward government seems to be uniformly negative and cynical.

Is there anyone--anyone at all--in public office whom you admire or who you believe has accomplished great things?

Six said...

Of course - how could you not be cynical when you look at a guy like Obama who you believe will at least be good on civil liberties, turn out to be SO BAD. Its like getting the worst of both with him.

As for someone I admire in office today? Not really. I like Ron Pauls consistence stance against the wars and the Patriot Act as well as his good sense on the economy... how much better off would we be today had congress heeded his advice about the banking and mortgage industry in particular Fannie/Freddie - but on social issues, he is a zero. I am disappointed to see Feingold go down... he was far from perfect, but he was far better than most. His replacement looks to be far worse than him. Not an elected official, but on Supreme Court rulings, I generally find myself in agreement with Kennedy the most, he certainly seems to be the most reasoned and the best on the bench in my opinion.

For the most part though, you're right, I don't particularly like any of them.

Six said...

This is why I am cynical. Plenty of D's voted with the close-minded, theocratic gay-bashers on this one. Depressing. I have other words I would prefer to use to describe my distain for the religious right nutball tea partiers...

Idna said...

The GOP's obituary has been written many times in these pages. I could gloat, but will not. I'll just say it was a good day for America on Tuesday!

As far as the $4 Billion dollar election ...
1) you claim "the ability of the rich to buy elections" - that would be news to Meg Whitman ($115Million of her own money), Linda MacMahon, Carly Fiorina, (and George Soros also lost this time--thank God).
2)I agree that most of the ads are REALLY annoying!
3)You say the $4 billion was wasted ... how was it wasted? Did that money just up and vanish? No, it created all kinds of jobs for many, many people. Think about all the people who were employed in media, creating all the obnoxious ads. All the jobs related to fundraisers ... party planners, caterers, chair setter-uppers, security, transportation, etc. all the way down to the clean up crew. So the money wasn't really a waste because so many people profitted from it.

AND, and this is a BIG point ... the money was donated not forcefully taken from tax payers. Political donations are money given voluntarily, except maybe for the poor union schmucks who helplessly see their union dues being shoveled over to the Democrats.

Contrast this with say the $200 Million tax-payer money per day that Obama will be spending in India in a few days. Do I as a tax payer have a say in this "waste of money"? Could this money have been sent to Haiti instead of putting Obama and his 3,000 strong entourage up at the Taj Mahal Hotel? But then again, the $200 million a day will create work for ... Indians. What was that you said about evil corporations sending jobs over seas?

BTW .. why is O going to India anyway? Just to get his sorry ass out of the country and to change the subject after the whooping he got? That's a lot of tax-payer cash to get some new headlines.

Citizen Jane said...

It wasn't a "great day for Republicans," Idna. It was simply a normal pattern for a midterm election cycle, especially when the country is still pulling out of the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression (brought to you courtesy of the GOP).

A good many positive things happened Tuesday from the prospective of us progressives. For one thing, we managed to rid ourselves of 23 so-called "Blue Dog" Democrats. Right or wrong, we might just as well get people in Congress who say what they mean--not just what they think they have to say to get elected.

Citizen Jane said...

I see the link in my last comment doesn't work. Here's the cut-and-paste version: