Friday, November 7, 2014

Give citizens $20 each to fund elections

It's taken as a given that our politicians are bought and sold by special interests. But why do we let them buy the keys to the kingdom so cheaply? Let's band together and buy it back by giving every citizen $20 every 2 years to give to the candidate/party/SuperPAC of their choice.

Our ~$3.8 trillion budget is controlled at a cost of ~$3.7 billion in spending on Congressional elections every cycle. This is 0.1% of the yearly budget, or 0.05% of the money spent by Congress in their 2 year term. In a Presidential year, that increases to about $6.2 billion. So we allow moneyed interests to buy our government for $10 billion every 4 years.

If we give every citizen $20 every 2 years to give to any candidate/party/PAC they want, that works out to around $6 billion each cycle, or $12 billion every 4 years, replacing the money with millions and millions of small donations, instead of large donations from a few hundred thousand people with thousands to spend. And for our money, we get a Congress that works for the people, not Comcast and Goldman Sachs.

We might even make it a condition of being eligible to receive these donations that the candidate doesn't accept bigger donations from other sources. If you want to get a few million from the Kochs or George Soros, you can't get a larger amount of money from thousands/millions of small donors.

Some might worry that by subsidizing campaigns, we'd wind up with even more money in politics. But based on our experience in the last few weeks, there really aren't more ads they could possibly buy, as every ad on TV was political, it seems. I doubt there would arise a situation where we'd spend $6 billion from people and $3.7 from the current system, as there just isn't $10 billion worth of campaigning to do.

So let's do it. For under 0.1% of the federal budget, or about 0.3% of the discretionary budget, we can make sure that the other 99+% is spent for all of us, not just those rich enough to cut huge checks