Thursday, October 28, 2010

Trick ‘em or Treat ‘em

It’s Halloween. Boo! I’m not a big fan. I used to be. I have a vivid memory of Mom making me a car outfit – a cardboard box attached to my shoulders by string. We colored the box, putting headlights on it and made a racing stripe. I loved cars and this was the be-all-and-end-all of costumes. It was totally fun, not to mention I loved the gargantuan amounts of sugar that my siblings and I would consume.

I never liked the scary part of All Hallows Eve. I’ve never liked being scared. Maybe it was my older brother making me sit through Hithcock’s “The Birds” at like 4-years old...maybe I’m just sensitive! Today when I’m startled I will jump 3 feet in the air – likely the only time this white man jumps that high. I’m the exception. Scaring people is a huge business, though.

The horror genre of media generates big money. The average person will spend $66 on Halloween this year – similar to 2008 – and total holiday spending will reach nearly $6 billion.

Nearly on-par with that spending is the $4 billion that will be spent by political candidates this election cycle.  It’s a monumental amount of money. If the same number of people vote as voted in 2008 election (not likely) that works out to nearly $33 per vote; about half of what the average person is spending on Halloween. It’s terrifying.

Most of this money is spent to scare the very constituency that is being courted. Candidates are buying ads, placards, mailers not to introduce themselves, their goals and ideals to voters – but instead to change the perception of their opponent. More often than not that’s to allege that a vote for that person is a vote for the devil. Or in one case this year, a witch.

Money has always been in politics. In today’s fragmented media driven world it costs more and takes more effort to get a message through to the constituent. Through the years there have been various schemes to choke off the funds – none of which have worked as each election cycle becomes more expensive than the last election cycle (mid-term to mid-term and Presidential to Presidential.) The Supreme Court weighed in last year that has allowed all sorts of organizations and businesses to contribute funds.

My campaign finance “reform” is very simple, achievable, and therefore likely never to see the light of day: If you can vote for a candidate or an issue you can contribute as much as you want so long as it’s your money (not laundered) and it’s fully disclosed. That means that as a resident of California I could no longer write checks to support the Yes on 3 (Rolling back the sales tax) in Massachusetts. Nor could I support a Congressional or Senate candidate that I couldn’t vote for. It would return our politics to those who are most impacted by the election: the electorate. Companies don’t vote, so they couldn’t contribute. Neither could Unions. Or dead people. Or dogs. And if I chose to give thousands and thousands to Dale Ogden (Libertarian candidate for Governor in California) I could. If I did, everybody would know … and know within say 72 hours of depositing the funds. Maybe it becomes an issue, maybe not...but it's very transparent.

Even with my proposal that wouldn’t eliminate negative ads, nor take all of the funds out of the equation. But it would be a start, and by being more locally focused by being locally funded the issues might actually start to be relevant over personalities. And maybe people would begin to participate. And maybe that would be the biggest Treat of all!

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