Friday, October 29, 2010

One For The Money

Turns out that this has been the most expensive mid-term election in history. Candidates have spent gazillions of dollars for a chance to win jobs that will pay six figures at most. Of course, the money spent is probably seen as an investment for the next job, the one after Congress or the governor's mansion, but the figure is staggering in light of the lousy economy, the high unemployment rate, and the increasing homelessness rate.

California, of course, is a pretty good example of the campaign spending frenzy. Meg Whitman, she of eBay fame, has poured over $140 million of her own money into her quest for the governorship. Steve Poizner, her opponent in the Republican primary, spent nearly $25 million of his own fortune in the losing cause. Jerry Brown, who doesn't have nearly the personal wealth of his competitor, has still managed to spend $25 million, most donated from the various unions in the state. California is the "Golden State" in more ways than I had thought before this election season.

Steve Lopez took snarky aim at the money being poured into the campaign in latest column for the Los Angeles Times. He toted up the numbers and, with some help from his readers, suggested some of the ways all that money could have been better spent in a state with profound budget problems.

Together, Poizner, Brown and Whitman have spent enough on their campaigns to cover a huge chunk of the recent state budget cuts, say the $10 million slashed from community clinics, the $6.4 million from services to low-income seniors, the $25 million from economic development, the $132 million from services for seriously emotionally disturbed students, the $18 million from drug treatment and $22 million from Medi-Cal.

He also pointed out that for $140 million, Meg Whitman could have sent two medium Domino's pizzas to each California household or 4 tacos to every resident. At least people would have gotten a meal out of the deal, something too many of them can't count on right now. She might have been doing better in the polls right now than she is if she had spent her money in this fashion.

The point of all this is that only rich people, or people willing to be bought, can afford to run for public office. Is it any wonder that the interests of the majority of Americans are being totally ignored? It seems to me that this election go-round makes a pretty good case for public financing of elections.

And Meg Whitman? Steve Lopez's concluding remarks have a bitter irony to them:

It ain't over yet. But if Whitman loses next week, all she will have taught us is that the economy is so bad, you can't buy a job.

Not even for $141 million.

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