Wednesday, April 11, 2012

We need public funding of elections

Thanks to the huge influx of cash allowed under Citizens United, spending on all elections, from dog catcher to President, is expected to rise to $9.8 billion, up from about $7 billion in 2008. In exchange for providing the lion's share of this amount, corporate America exerts a huge influence over the policies of government at every level.

Why do we allow corporate America to buy our government so cheaply? $9.8 billion is less than the federal government spends every day ($3.796 trillion/366 days = $10.3 billion/day). Since the $9.8 billion figure includes spending at all levels, not just federal, we determine that it takes less than 14 hours for government to spend this amount ($6.3 trillion/366 days/24 hours = $717 million/hour, 9.8 billion/717 million = 13.7 hours).

So why not institute massive public financing of elections? In exchange for say three days of government spending (just over $50 billion), taxpayers could swamp corporate election spending, leading to the other $6.2 trillion being spent far more efficiently.

In 93% of House races and 94% of Senate races in 2008, the candidate with the most money won. For a congressional candidate without public financing, there is enormous fundraising pressure. The average winner of a House seat in 2008 spent just over $1 million. If the taxpayers gave each candidate $2 million (and had money left over to support independent and minor party candidates through a system using petitions and performance in previous elections, as we've got over 5 times the previous spending levels to play with, if we spend $50 billion where the current system spends $9.8 billion), then candidates won't have to sell their souls to the highest bidder, because even if they raise nothing from corporate America, they'd still be competitive.

For a tiny fraction of our tax dollars, we can keep corporations from controlling how the rest of our taxes are spent. Our leaders need to listen to us, and we have the capability to make sure corporations can't buy their attention.

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