Stop the Political Advertising Insanity

Are you sick of political ads on radio and TV?   It’s not just the negativity that is depressing, but the obscene amount of money being spent.  So far this year over $3 billion has been spent on 2010 campaigns (go to http://www.opensecrets.org/ where they have a running total, similar to the National Debt calculator).  We are still over a month away from elections and I can imagine that total rising to match the $5+ billion spent during the 2008 elections.

The entire global economy is a mess, unemployment is holding at near double digit levels, yet American politicians can still raise over $3 billion for campaigning?  What’s wrong with this picture?  And where does this money come from?  You can find some specifics at the web site above, but I think we can make an accurate, educated guess – special interest groups.  Doesn’t it make you wonder who’s really running our country?  

A recent article in Bloomberg begins:

 “U.S. Senate Republicans for a second time blocked legislation that would require corporations and unions to disclose their spending on political advertising.

The Senate today failed to advance the measure on a 59-39 vote, with 60 needed. Republicans also prevented the Senate from taking up a similar proposal in July.” (Quoted from http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-09-23/republicans-block-u-s-campaign-spending-disclosure-bill-for-second-time.html )

What are they afraid of?  I believe we have a right to know where the money for campaigns comes from and how it is used.  Who is paying for those ads and what do they want in return?

Of the $1.8 billion spent on the 2008 Presidential election, over $700 million was for Media Advertising (also available from www.opensecrets.org).   That’s a lot of advertising, and that doesn’t take into consideration the congressional and local races.

I think most people would agree that we are tired of the ads, especially the negative ones, but they must work.  Look at the Bush-Kerry race – those Swift Boat ads, however inaccurate, were likely instrumental in the Kerry loss.  People assume that if the information is in the ad, it must be true.  They never bother to do any research to see if the information has been misrepresented or taken out of context.

As much as it would be nice to have the ads return to positive, ‘what I can do for you’ messages, what I would really like to see Congress do is outlaw all media advertising and require a system where candidates only conduct a series of publicly televised debates.  They can either be on broadcast radio or TV stations, which should be required to provide the time as a public service, or if they are too greedy, on public radio and television stations which are available to anyone with a radio or TV set.  They could also be broadcast or re-broadcast on the internet, where people could watch them at their leisure.

If we take away the sickening number of TV and radio ads, and make the candidates stick to debates confined to current issues, we might actually learn something useful about them and be able to make informed decisions, instead of basing our votes on who can sling the biggest pile of muck, not all of it accurate.

Maybe then, instead of spending these appalling amounts of money on political campaigns, corporations could actually use that money for such items as hiring more (American) workers, providing better health care benefits for their employees (don’t get me started on our sham of a health care system!), building homeless shelters, supplying badly needed food to food banks, providing meals for underprivileged children in schools, hiring additional teachers to reduce class sizes, investing in alternative energy sources, and an entire host of other options that would actually be good for the entire country instead of supporting just a few candidates, advertising agencies, and media outlets. 

What could $5 billion buy?  Take an employee making $40,000/yr (equating to roughly $50,000 including benefits) and we are talking about 100,000 jobs. It may not sound like a lot compared to the 15 million (www.bls.gov) people who are unemployed, but I suspect you would have no trouble finding100,000 unemployed people who would be more than happy to return to work for that salary.  That doesn’t even take into account the money these people would be putting back into the economy (instead of taking from government spending in the form of unemployment benefits).  Of course you could argue that some of the money being spent by campaigns does employ people; however, only a fraction of the money goes towards salaries – most campaigns rely heavily on volunteers.  Even if we take 25% off the total to account for paying positions generated by campaigns; that still leaves a healthy amount of people who could be put back to work.  That’s the kind of change we need in this country, not a bunch of mud slingers who end up bowing to special interests instead of doing the work they are elected to do – work for the good of the entire country. 

Give me a candidate who will run on a platform of real campaign reform, including the elimination of all political advertising; someone who will dedicate their efforts to improving the whole country and not just their little corner of the world.  If they can stick to that agenda both during the campaign and in their voting once elected; not swayed by special interests or petty party politics, it won’t matter to me which political party they represent. Those are the kinds of people I want to see running for office; and the only place I want to hear about their views and platforms is through old fashioned face to face debates.

About musingmirror

A writer of many genres, always in search of creative inspiration.
This entry was posted in Politics, Social Commentary and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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