USA Today has an interesting front-page piece today about the record amount that will be spent this year on U.S. elections -- $5.3 billion.
That's nearly $1 billion more than the 2004 election, and is fueled in part by Barack Obama's record-breaking fundraising prowess (which came, as has been well noted, at the expense of his early campaign promise to accept public financing).
But after watching Congress doll out $700 billion for a financial rescue, and all the talk of the Iraq war possibly costing as much as $1 trillion before all's said and done ... and on top of the mind-boggling number of zeroes that accompany any billion- or trillion-dollar amount ... it's hard to make rational sense of a number like $5.3 billion.
USA Today helpfully points out that it's less than what Americans will spend on Halloween in 2008, according to estimates by the National Retail Federation. We'll spend $6 billion on costumes, candy, fake cobwebs and scary music ... not to mention those ridiculous blow-up lawn ornaments. (Incidentally, you can look to The Daily Green for homemade Halloween costume ideas and good safe alternatives to candy.
It got me thinking about how election spending measures up against other American milestones. What follows is a look at how much is spent, per capita, by Americans (assuming a population of $305.48 million, with each spending equally). The numbers, with the exception of the elections figure, are from the National Retail Federation.
$11.92 : St. Patrick's Day 2008 (est.)
$17.35: 2008 U.S. Election (est.)
$19.64: 2008 Halloween (est.)
$47.13: Easter 2008 (est.)
$51.72: Mother's Day 2008 (est.)
$1,507.46: Christmas 2007
$1,539.87: Christmas 2008 (est.)
So, there you have it: If dollars are the measure, we care a bit more (about $5.50 more) about our president, senators and congressional representatives combined than we do about drinking green beer and wearing "Kiss Me I'm Irish" pins ... but not quite as much as we do about a good Halloween costume ... less than half as much as we care about Easter candy or our dear old mothers ... and just a fraction of what we care about Christmas shopping.
(One notable silver lining - according to Giving USA, Americans in 2007 gave, on average, $1,002.98 to charity -- not as much as we spent on Christmas gifts, but a nice donation nonetheless.)
Just think of the mountain of useless "stuff" this adds up to. (The Daily Green, admittedly, is contributing to the problem in its own way with it's (100+ Sustainable Holiday Gift Ideas, our holiday gift guide.) All that stuff that has to be made, transported and -- much of it -- tossed, buried or incinerated. (Insert big, collective "ugh" here.)
Of course, U.S. candidates aren't consumer goods. We aren't really about buying a candidate, right?
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