THOMPSON: When it comes to American democracy, you get what you pay for | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source
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THOMPSON: When it comes to American democracy, you get what you pay for

 


OPINION


“You get what you pay for!”

We’ve all used this idiom one time or another. It can mean two - completely different - things…to denigrate something cheap as naturally inferior or to praise something expensive as being high quality.

There is - and I’m introducing it here - a new…third meaning. Using this idiom to describe American politics means you’re getting something that is never cheap. In fact, American politics is inordinately expensive…and the quality is closer - to introduce yet another idiom - more sow’s ear than silk purse.

Americans are a funny lot…and I don’t mean Jerry Seinfeld funny…I mean peculiarly true…as in “Oath Keepers worship Donald Trump, who has never kept any oath.”

Americans now spend billions of dollars on mid-term elections, money that Canadians invariably point out could be used to solve problems plaguing the U.S. By law, Canadian elections only last a matter of a few weeks and cost less than what Florida Governor Ron DeSantis spent on chartering jets to lure asylum-seeking immigrants from Texas to Massachusetts.

Canadian campaigns last anywhere from 36 to 50 days…that’s days…and can only accept $100 in cash from a particular source…$50 if it’s an anonymous contribution. I want to go on the record that as imperfect as Canadian politics might be…it’s nowhere near as preposterously kooky as in America.

So, it should surprise not a single reader that by tomorrow - Mid-Term Election Day in the U.S. - about $16.7 billion will have been wasted on political spending. By the way, half of the people spending all that money will be unemployed the day after tomorrow.

It should - once again - surprise no reader that this is a new record…$2.7 billion more than the 2018 Mid-Term Elections. Billionaires contribute a whopping 15.4 percent of the money…and the richest one percent of Americans donate 38 percent of those dollars.

The American campaign finance system reflects perfectly American society, with billionaires spending like a drunken sailor with bottomless pockets, and average Americans - whatever that might be - pitching in pennies for every billionaire’s dollar. Hmmm… “You get what you pay for”…right?

Make no mistake, there are billionaires in both the Republican Party and Democrat Party. But 18 of the 25 top-spending billionaires…are Republicans, according to Open Secrets, a Washington, D.C. nonprofit organization that valiantly tries to track campaign finance and lobbying data.

But if you believe that record $16.7 billion represents what America’s rich and not-so-rich spend on politics…well, you might want to buy a bridge I have for sale in New York. This number reflects Federal spending only…and individual state spending…is tracked by no one.

So, all those dollars thrown at Secretary of State and Governor candidates…the former having become infamous for promises by Republicans to overturn the 2020 election results (good luck because that is impossible for a variety of practical and legal reasons) or guarantee Republican wins going forward…are uncounted.

You see, America also plays a version of Three-Card Monte…allowing contributions by any political organization to another political organization - say, the Republican National Committee to a Republican super-PAC - to remain uncounted and unidentified by donor…whether for a state race or a Federal race.

When you consider that online advertising targeting various demographic segments of America is virtually unregulated…unlike television ads…that $16.7 billion annual spending figure is really maybe $25 billion to $30 billion.

Both Republicans and Democrats play this financial shell-game…though Republican donations dwarf Democrat donations…roughly two to one. Either way, the objective is to give politicos plausible deniability if ever asked what the money was used for…clean hands in a business dirtier than pumping septic tanks.

Americans are guilty of looking the other way better than most…but they could take a page from Canadians when it comes to electing government officials. Politics north of the U.S. border are imperfect to be sure…but at least Canadians get what they pay for…and for a lot less money.

Meanwhile, suffice it to say that come Tuesday…America will once again have the best government money can buy.

— Don Thompson, an American awaiting Canadian citizenship, lives in Vernon and in Florida. In a career that spans more than 40 years, Don has been a working journalist, a speechwriter and the CEO of an advertising and public relations firm. A passionate and compassionate man, he loves the written word as much as fine dinners with great wines.


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