The Astonishingly Cheap Seat in the Oval Office
On Openleft, Chris Bowers has a good post in which he argues that the $5B estimated combined cost for this year’s federal campaign needs to be put into perspective. He notes:
“* Five billion, over two years, comes out to about $11.50, each year, for every American adult aged 18 or older. So, if you donate $25 to federal candidates total over the two years, then you are above the national mean. Is that really such a major barrier to entry, or such a large burden on individuals?
* Five billion, over two years, comes to less than one five-thousandth of our gross domestic product in that time period. So yes, it is a lot of money, but the vast size of the country needs to be taken into account as well.
* The United States Postal Service will take in about $150 billion over those two years. Both are essential public services in this country, and surely our federal elections are as important as our postal service.”
I’m not sure why Bowers thinks that five billion is a lot of money to spend in pursuit control of the federal government, the ability to change the course of the nation’s history, and (for most office holders) a decent back-end pension. Especially for presidential candidates, it’s cheap. At that price, you could also buy the Wall Street Journal and Craigslist, but would be a billion short in buying a an online advertising firm, and well-short of buying Facebook (as of 2007). If you were a company producing $5 billion in revenue, you’d be the 428th biggest publicly traded corporation in the country, just ahead of casualty insurer W. R. Berkley. To put it another way, if you are disposed to think of the President as the CEO of a company called the United States, it costs just $5 billion to gain control over a revenue stream of something like $2.5 trillion and the ability to spend over $3 trillion a year. At that price, it’s a steal!