Thursday, February 02, 2012

cost of democracy?

I was listening to the BBC World Service the other night, as you do…
They were talking about Mitt Romney’s victory in the Florida primary. The pundit in the studio was asked what was required to win elections and she responded that you needed a) to spend enough on advertising and b) to have an effective negative campaign against key opponents. She went on to explain that Romney’s advertising in Florida had amounted to something like $18million dollars.
I just couldn’t believe my ears!
Just a few moments later, I was well and truly shaken from my “slumbers” when one of the other studio guests pointed out that he understood that the Democrats were likely to be able raise $1BILLION for Barack Obama’s “Re-election Fighting Fund”!!
Surely, I’d misheard?
Well, I decided to try to check this out.
According to a report from
Reuters (last August), this year’s US elections will be the most expensive ever, with a total price tag of $6billion or even more, “fuelled by millions of dollars in unrestricted donations as Republicans and Democrats vie for control of the White House, Congress and state governments”.
I’ll type out the figure again: Yes, $6BILLION. Just staggering!
In the UK, overall general election expenditure is far, far less than in the USA - yes, I accept that we’re a tiny nation by comparison. Apparently, in 2009, the
figure was just over £30million (it was just over £40million in 2005). Even these levels seem pretty ridiculous to me!
Somewhat pathetically, perhaps, I’m one of those naive people who feel that elections should be about “level playing fields” and that people’s votes shouldn’t be dependent on advertising and/or private funding. Having said that, I absolutely accept that, in this country for example, it would be awful if the BNP were “given” the same election funding as the main parties!
No doubt people will tell me that all these vast sums actually go to pay party workers, advertising companies and the like. But, it seems to me that at a time when individuals are suffering in terms of unemployment and financial cut-backs and when money is being taken away from education, health, welfare, environment etc etc, don’t the amounts spent on elections seem embarrassing, excessive and unjustifiable?
PS: It’s JUST possible that the USA/UK figures I’ve quoted are not strictly comparable… but, even if that’s right, I’m sure the numbers will be VERY large!

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