Editor’s Note: We received this thoughtful response to Lamp’s inaugural post on campaign spending. In the interest of doing that thing we do (aka, we love well-crafted and researched debate), here’s the email in full. Keep ’em comin’, kids!
Dear Lady Lamp,
I really like the way you presented your point of view on the excess of election spending this year. It is very true; the amount that we spent on these campaigns could’ve been used on research, education, child development, etc. to make our society better in long term. But I’d like to offer you a different perspective about this whole excessive spending thing. Before my irrational mind starts throwing excuses with imaginary numbers and ridiculous assumptions, here’s a disclaimer: I’m not a half-full, half-empty kind of person. I see the glass as it is. And, the glass is half-empty because I drank it, likewise, it’s half-full because I didn’t drink it all at once. Here I go.
1.563 billion dollars: What a number. According to U.S. Social Security Administration, the national average wage index for 2011 is $42,979.61. That’s about 36k jobs that we can create with that money. Let’s keep that number in mind.
Advertising: I appreciate you for pointing out the fact that half of the money donated is spent on advertising. 697.5 million to be exact, according to the same site you mentioned. You are right. Those political ads are simply unbearable, and they made me want to vomit, too. But I’d like to introduce you to my imaginary friend Caitlin. Caitlin is a nice, pretty southern girl from University of Georgia, where she majored in Communications and PR. Caitlin graduated last year and it was just a rough time for her to find a job during the economic down fall. Companies were cutting the budget on their communications and PR spending. Luckily, she had an opportunity to work on a Presidential Campaign project with GMMB on contract basis. She was given a chance to prove the world that she’s ready. Sure, it was just a contract job, but it’s a resume builder and, more importantly, a confidence builder. Think about how many Caitlins had an opportunity like that because of this excessive spending on advertising.
I consider these advertising companies as small businesses because their revenue numbers are somewhat small. They are all American companies, so I highly doubt that they outsourced the jobs to other countries; most of those spend dollars are staying in U.S. Isn’t that what we want? Small businesses booming and creating jobs for recent graduates?
Here’s a fun fact: According to Department of Labor, employment increased in health care in the month of September 2012. I’m not sure if it has direct correlation to those political ads causing people sick in their stomach and as consequence having to run to ER. Not a bad way of creating jobs there, I’d say.
Mail: A campaign’s second largest expense is the cost of mail, at almost about $200 million (via WaPost). And, here comes another imaginary friend of mine Brian. Brain is a California born and raised, couldn’t afford to go to college so started working as mailman after high school. It’s a decent paying job with good benefits for him and his family. Last year, USPS proposed a plan to cut 120,000 jobs (20 percent of workforce) due to $20 billion lost in past four years. People don’t mail things anymore; they send emails and texts, bills are now paid electronically, holiday cards are now sent as e-cards. Of course, our culture is always changing, but for a guy like Brian who has been working as mailman for 10 years, a career change is not as easy thing as we think. I’m not saying the election campaign has direct effect on his life but it sure does have some impact. Like he always say: “Keep on mailing, babe!”
Fundraising: I swear this is my last imaginary friend: Mike. Mike is a small town Ohio kid, a senior football player at high school. His girlfriend’s birthday was coming up and he wanted to take her out to a nice place for dinner so Mike was looking to make some money. But it’s a small town so finding quick gig is not a common thing there. Fortunately, there was a campaign rally going on that weekend and they were looking for some people to help out with setting up the stage. They paid good $20 per hour for Mike’s 4 hours labor so Mike was able to take his girl out to Outback instead of Wendy’s. Are they together happily ever after? That I do not know.
What I’m trying to say here is that half of this money won’t amount to absolutely nothing because only one candidate wins. I’m sure there are people like Caitlin and Brian and Mike here and there who tasted positive impact because of all this spending. Caitlin got a job and experiences she needed for her career, Brian still had a job a little longer, and Mike had a good weekend. Even Mike’s girlfriend had a nice birthday meal out of it. Remember the 36k jobs I talked about earlier? I’m sure all the spending didn’t create 36k jobs, but it did have major impacts on a lot of people, more likely on the average American. The kids handing out the ads at street corners, the interns working on campaigns for their resumes, the disabled people gathering polls via phones, the number of Starbucks Lattes being served, the number of Starbucks Lattes being spilled; everything relates back to these dollars.
I don’t care about politics. But I do care about breast cancer research, education, and HIV prevention, too. But we cannot compare the dollar to dollar numbers and say that this is where it should’ve been used. 16 donors are accounted for $67 million and I don’t think that they’ll donate that same amount of money to breast cancer research unless they have experienced what it’s like to have a family member being sick with cancer. My ex-girlfriend’s sister died from cancer and I saw what that was like for her family to go through that nightmare. Similar analogy: You can’t tell football fans to have yogurt instead of grilled steak at a tailgate because it’s healthier and environmentally friendly. They would be like, “Are you kidding?”
One of the reasons that our economy is at this horrible hour is because people have stopped spending money. The money flow engine started slowing down and the economy crumbled. But if politics is what makes the pennies fall out of rich people’s pockets, I’d say we should have annual elections. Because we need every penny we can get to have that engine spinning faster again.
The idea of being a politician is like being Robin Hood. You steal money from the rich to give it back to poor. Do they actually do it? That’s a whole another story.
Listening To: DMX – Where the Hood At? (Explicit)