Ashton Weis, Rise! Magazine
As it was midterm-voting season in the US, the economics of voting are at the forefront. Watching and receiving all of the advertisements for this candidate or for that candidate has got me thinking that there must be a better use of their money. According to CCN, an estimated $4 billion dollars will be spent on these midterm elections, with about $6 billion spent in the last presidential election. In the same article, CNN estimates that Americans could have used that $4 billion dollars to put 12,000 students through kindergarten all the way to twelfth grade. Think of all the meals that $4 billion dollars could buy. Think of all the clean water it could buy.
There are several restrictions in place for how much a candidate can spend and how much the party can spend on each candidate, but if you are paying attention, it is obvious that candidates are sidestepping these regulations and are clearly spending much more than they should be. Candidates can receive various “donations” from many different “private” donors, which allow to them get around the regulations for spending. This money is a lot less well documented than the “official” money that they receive to run for office. This most recent election saw $170 million dollars coming from donors who didn’t disclose their names to the public, the most that has ever been “donated,” according to OpenSecrets.org. In turn, voters are not even sure whom exactly they are supporting when they go vote. Most voters don’t realized that they may be supporting private citizens or businesses that have “paid” their way into Washington.
Even with all of the advertisements, many candidates don’t try and help the Average Joe understand the issues. They are either attacking their opponents or glossing over their platforms. An example is the race between Joni Ernst and Bruce Braley for the open Senate seat in Iowa: Ernst was attacked for being in league with “big business” and Braley was attacked for missing 74 percent of Veterans meetings. Now, neither or both of these things could be true, but the voter only receives a negative view of each of the candidates. I could recount every negative personality of each candidate, but honestly couldn’t tell you what each candidate plans to do with his or her time in office. The money being spent on these negative campaigns is outrageous. With only about a 57.5 percent voter turnout in 2012 and even less of a turnout in 2014 for the midterms at 42.41 percent, according to the Secretary of State, it would appear that the money spent is going to waste. More than 40 percent of Americans, during presidential elections, and 55 percent of Americans, during midterm elections, are not even listening to the campaign advertisements and showing up at their local polling places.
According to CNN, no country in the world spends the amount that Americans do on potential candidates. That’s right: candidates. More than half the money is spent on losing campaigns. The UK spent $91 million (which is 26 percent down from 2005), according to a 2010 report. Russia spent $70 million in 2010 and Brazil spent $2 billion. While these numbers are not chump change, they still do not compare with the $4 billion that Americans will have spent in this midterm election. What if they used the money spend on mail out letters to give the voter a rundown of the issues? What if they used it to tell them how they would vote on each? What if the money was used to hold the politician accountable for his or her platforms? What if they were used to tell the voter who would be on their ballots when they went out to vote?
The whole election process has turned into another part of the capitalist economy. The “elected official” is the one who understands how to create a factory out of his or her election that will have the highest production value. This capitalist system of electing officials is not open to everyone, merely those who can afford it. It was once seen as a way to allow everyone a chance to elect someone they felt who would represent their values and vote on the bills the way that they themselves would vote. Now, it has become a series of magic tricks and closed doors that the average citizen has no way of understanding or opening. In many countries, this type of advertising, or any advertising at all, is illegal; perhaps the American people should demand the same and that the money being used to prop up elections be used toward better educating the public on what they are actually doing when they go out to vote.