The news this past year has been filled with some decadent expenditures. In April, we learned that an anonymous couple spent $100,000 dollars to spend a day with Tim Tebow, a backup quarterback with the New York Jets. Around the same time, the General Services Administration was embroiled in a scandal after it spent $823,000 on a four-day Las Vegas retreat. Not to be outdone, another NFL player, Pacman Jones, reported in July that he blew $1,000,000 in a single weekend.
The latest excess though, is one that we all participated in. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research group, this year's federal elections will run a tab totaling 6 billion dollars, more than 700 million dollars over the previous campaign. That figure does not even include the untold millions spent by tax-exempt advocacy groups that do not report to the Federal Election Commission. To put that in perspective, for the price of our elections you could buy 164 years with Tim Tebow. Alternatively, the GSA could partake in an 80-year long intensive retreat. Even Pacman could afford a long weekend with that kind of money, as in, a 33-year weekend.
For a country in the throes of difficult economic times, this seems reckless. According to CNN, the money has primarily benefited broadcast media companies. No surprise there, as the airwaves have been blanketed by pointless, fallacious, and just annoying campaign ads. How long is it until we have candidates endorse corporate sponsors? Before Air Force One resembles Jimmie Johnson's NASCAR Chevy? Granted, it would be hard to resist the opportunity to see Mitt Romney don a Red Bull jacket on the campaign trail.
This wouldn't be a proper campaign finance reform article if I didn't point to at least one cause that is far more worthy and absolutely under-funded. In the next year, the U.S. government will invest approximately one tenth of the money that was wasted on campaigns to conduct research on Alzheimer's disease. Yet Alzheimer's is estimated to cost Americans 200 billion dollars per year, with Medicade and Medicare doling out 130 billion of those dollars. By 2050 the number of people suffering from Alzheimer's is predicted to triple and the expenses will balloon to 1.1 trillion dollars annually (in today's money). Heck, of the nine Supreme Court justices whose ruling allowed corporations to enjoy free speech as individuals (which facilitated excessive campaign spending), there is a very good chance that at least one will develop Alzheimer's disease.
I would take 164 years with Tebow rather than partake in another election season like this one. At least Tebow gave his money to a good cause. Not us, though. We are spending more like Pacman. Actually, more like SuperPacmen.