The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Opinion

October 27, 2012

Presidential politics: Is it worth the cost?

ENID, Okla. — Mercifully, it will all soon be over.

Election Day is nine days hence, and once it comes and goes, we will be spared, at least for a brief time, all the shouting and sniping, all the promising and pledging, all the criticizing and belittling.

Words, the candidates’ currency of choice, are flying fast and furious from all quarters as President Obama tries to hang on to his office and Mitt Romney attempts to oust him.

Charges and counter-charges have flown from both candidates and their surrogates. Three debates have produced some heat, a little light and enough whoppers to stock a Burger King.

Whichever man gets the job likely will face a divided Congress, assuming the Democrats maintain control of the Senate. That means either man will be up against it when he tries to push through his legislative agenda.

By inauguration day, the nation may have plunged off the fiscal cliff if a lame-duck Congress doesn’t deal with $100 billion in draconian sequestration defense cuts and $400 billion in tax hikes scheduled to take effect Jan. 1.

Should we plunge off the fiscal cliff, 6 million jobs are expected to be lost through 2014, which will boost the unemployment rate to close to 12 percent.

Then there’s the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, the mess in Syria, the continuing conflict in Afghanistan, not to mention all the other problems, complaints and issues that figure to slide across the president’s desk in the next four years, and it makes you wonder why anyone in their right mind would want this job.

The president, it seems, can’t do anything right. If he’s too far right, the left howls, and vice versa, and if he tries to stay in the middle, he is accused by both factions of being indecisive.

If his rhetoric is too harsh, he is considered abrasive, if it is too mild, he is labeled a milquetoast.

If the economy is sluggish, it is his fault, if our enemies attack us, it is his fault, if the deficit grows, it is his fault. Heck, if a hurricane slams ashore and destroys life and property, some will even blame him for that.

The president’s actions are generally considered to be too much, too little, too soon, too late, wrongheaded, ill-conceived, partisan, jingoistic and just plain stupid.

And for the privilege of holding this office, the candidates and their campaigns are spending a fortune.

As of Friday afternoon, presidential campaign fundraising had topped more than $2 billion. That includes $1.7 billion raised by the Obama and Romney campaigns, and another $300 million chipped in by so-called super PACs.

Nearly as fast as it is coming in, the cash is flowing out. Again, as of Friday, the campaigns had combined to spend more than $900 million for advertising, with that total expected to top $1 billion by election day. For everything related to the campaign, like rallies, buttons, banners, websites, T-shirts and brochures, on top of TV, radio, newspaper and direct mail ads, the candidates have combined to spend $1.5 billion.

That means the campaigns are teaming to shell out $26.86 every second. The Obama campaign has spent roughly $5.33 for every registered voter, compared to $4.81 for the Romney campaign, a total of $10.14 per voter.

Personally, I’d rather they just gave me 10 bucks. They can keep the 14 cents. The advertising this money buys is slick, expertly packaged and about as accurate and informative as a fortune cookie.

So they have raised more than $2 billion and figure to spend more than $1 billion on ads alone, plus another half billion on other stuff.

I can’t help but think there are far better uses for $2 billion. At present, 46 percent of the U.S. population, 15 percent, live below the poverty level, and another 30 million, the so-called “near poor,” are struggling to keep their heads above water.

More than 50 million Americans live in households suffering from food insecurity — in other words, they don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

How much food would $2 billion buy, or clothing, or shoes?

And how many seniors trying to eke out a living on Social Security and who find themselves having to choose between buying food and medicine could be helped by $2 billion?

For those who favor a hand up rather than an handout, how many jobs could $2 billion create, how many businesses could it grow? And how much education and job training would $2 billion buy?

Far be it from me to complain about advertising spending, since ad revenue helps keep the lights on and the paychecks coming in every media outlet in the country, this newspaper included.

But given that the vast majority of political advertising is long on style and painfully short on substance, it seems that money could be far better spent elsewhere.

Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at jmullin@enidnews.com.

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