22 April 2015

$2 Billion for Campaigning May Sound Like a Lot But It's a Trivial Sum

I recently heard that Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton will probably spend a billion each for their presidential campaigns. This seemed to the commentator further proof that our campaigning is spiraling out of control. I think it shows good judgement.

A billion sounds like a lot. It's not. It's pocket change. Literally. It works out to $3 per person. Less than a penny per day over the course of a year, roughly a penny a week over the course of a 4 year presidential term.

Annual GDP in the US will be $18 trillion by the time the next president takes office. The difference between 1% and 5% growth in GDP during their term means a cumulative difference of $8 trillion in total GDP. That works out to a per capita difference of about $23,000 during first term.

If we spent nothing on campaigns and gave it all to you, you could buy a small starbucks coffee. If we manage to choose a candidate whose policies make a significant difference in GDP growth, you could buy a small car.

No. This post doesn't delve into campaign finance reform. I don't disagree that it is absurd that people can spend money on campaigns anonymously. I don't doubt that we could do a much better job of demanding actual information from candidates rather than just letting their platitudes float around the media-sphere without hard analysis or firm commitments. I don't doubt that campaigning has huge flaws. I'm simply arguing that anyone who says that spending billions on choosing candidates is a waste of money fails to realize what is at stake.

No comments: