The Washington Post has a breathless write-up of this year’s midterm election spending:
In the latest sign of this year’s record-breaking election season, an independent research group estimated Wednesday that candidates, parties and outside interest groups together could spend up to $4 billion on the campaign.
$4 billion is a lot of money. The Post’s opinion staff writer thinks that’s frightening. $4 billion, of course, comes to $12.90 per person in a nation of 310 million people. So maybe not.
A bit more context: federal spending costs $11,290.32 per person. Regulation costs another $5,645.16 per person. That’s a total burden of $16,935.48 per person. American democracy is a very expensive form of government with surprisingly inexpensive elections.
Spending $12.90 to influence $3.5 trillion in spending and another $1.75 trillion in regulating seems like too little election spending, not too much. Total election spending is about the same as it was in 2000, when the federal budget was under $2 trillion.
Still, for a midterm, this year’s election spending is historically high. And a lot of people think there is too much money in politics. Fortunately, there is a surefire way for them to fix the problem: get politics out of our money.
Republicans and Democrats alike have made it clear that they have little interest in fundamental economic reform. So maybe the Post is right that they aren’t worth spending $12.90 on.
Unfortunately, as long as the Bush-Obama spending and regulating binge continues, people will be spending a lot more than $12.90 to get a piece of the action.