The $524 million and counting that Mitt Romney has raised for the Presidential campaign could be used to do the things conservatives claim they want for America.
The amount of money now spent on presidential campaigns in the United States is obscene. It’s staggering. For the 2012 election between President Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney, there’s over a billion dollars in play. Compare that to the 1996 election between Clinton and Dole, when just over $400 million was spent all together. Both sides are increasingly dependent on ‘super PACs’: political action committees funded by donors whose identities often remain hidden from the public. Because after all, according to the Supreme Court, corporations are now people, giving the country’s most profitable industries an even tighter grip on the political process.
But what if, instead of funding attack ads and smear campaigns, that money went toward the things that each candidate’s backers actually claim to support – for example, in Romney’s case, bringing jobs back to America, raising future entrepreneurs and reducing the incidence of abortion? Let’s take a look at how the $524 million raised thus far by Mitt Romney’s supporters could have been better spent.
Do as Jesus teaches: help the poor.
It’s safe to say that the GOP aligns itself with Biblical values. That doesn’t mean there aren’t Christian Democrats – much to the contrary – but Republicans are more vocal about it, and far more eager to blur the lines between church and state. But isn’t it kind of funny that for all of the Christianity that Republicans try to bring into politics, they almost never mention the actual teachings of Jesus? Maybe that’s because Jesus was really kind of a bleeding heart liberal, dedicating his life to helping the less fortunate.
If Mitt Romney and Co. really want to let the Bible guide their legislative decision-making, maybe they should consider what Jesus would do and give to the poor. A good portion of the $524 million wasted on TV campaigns full of lies and misdirection could provide any of the following:
1. Feed 10,480,000 children for a year. According to World Food Program USA, it can cost as little as 25 cents to provide a child with a healthy lunch.
2. Start 1,048 mobile health clinics and fund each of them for an entire year. Mobile health clinics can respond to natural disasters, and serve thousands of people living in poverty in the United States, including migrant farm workers and their families.
3. Feed 1,200 homeless New Yorkers a hot, nutritious meal and provide counseling and referral services every day for 238 years. It costs about $2.2 million a year to run New York’s Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen.
But that’s ridiculous, right?
Bring jobs back to America.
The Romney campaign has really been laying into President Obama on outsourcing American jobs, despite the fact that multi-millionaire Romney has profited handsomely from investments in companies that pioneered shipping American jobs overseas. Just over a month ago, the GOP blocked the number 1 item on President Obama’s to-do list: giving tax breaks to companies that “insource” jobs to the U.S., while eliminating deductions for companies that move jobs to other countries.
There’s an easy solution for this, but Romney’s major campaign contributors aren’t going to like it, because it would cut into their own profits. Imagine if the corporations that have donated to Romney used that money to start bringing back some of their own outsourced jobs. Some of the corporations whose owners or political action committees have donated handsomely to Romney who also ship jobs overseas include Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and the notorious Bain.
Cut drug use with programs that actually work.
We’ve spent more than a trillion dollars on the war on drugs. Romney’s $524 million in campaign funds is obviously a drop in the bucket compared to that figure, but consider this: we could be spending far less on more effective long-term solutions. It costs nearly $25,000 to imprison one person for a year. Drug courts, in contrast, have an annual cost of just $900 to $3500 per person.
Drug courts are mandatory programs that keep drug-addicted individuals who have been charged with crimes out of jail. Participants in drug court programs are provided with intensive supervised treatment for a minimum period of one year, held accountable by a drug court judge for meeting their obligations to stay sober once they are released, and randomly tested for drug use. Drug court programs also require participants to appear in court before the judge on a regular basis for reviews of their progress.
Despite the fact that drug courts are highly effective, with 75% of adult graduates staying out of the criminal justice system after completing the program, drug courts serve just a small fraction of the estimated 1.2 million drug-addicted people currently in prison or on probation.
Prevent unwanted pregnancies, and by extension, many abortions.
Women should have the right to choose – period. No nitpicking over the circumstances of the pregnancy. No attempts to redefine or excuse rape. No questioning the extent to which a woman’s life must be in danger to justify an abortion. No questioning at all. But if Republicans want so badly to limit the number of abortions that are performed across the country each year, they should stop standing in the way of contraception and sex education. Planned Parenthood and other care providers offer crucial access to these services, potentially cutting the number of unplanned and unwanted pregnancies among their clients.
Plus, there’s the financial aspect. Conservatives like the big-money Koch Brothers (who have contributed millions to Romney’s campaign and many others) argue that cutting federal funds to Planned Parenthood makes fiscal sense, and Republicans tried to revoke all $317 million in Title X funding for family planning and preventative health services.
But in the long run, it actually costs more. As Slate’s Amanda Marcotte argued last year, patients who can no longer rely on Planned Parenthood will likely end up at other clinics that cost the government more money for the same services. If the GOP wants to save millions upon millions of dollars, they should spend that $317 million and more.
Improve public schools, educating future entrepreneurs.
Why is America falling behind in the global race for business leaders and other highly talented individuals? At its very core, American conservatism and indeed, capitalism itself is rooted in the idea that any individual can be wildly successful, if he or she works hard enough. But getting into an exclusive and increasingly pricey college is a lot easier if your family is wealthy, especially if you’re sent to private schools where you don’t have to worry about underpaid teachers, outdated textbooks and equipment and dilapidated facilities.
We could produce a lot more of the entrepreneurs that the GOP loves to trumpet – not to mention scientists, engineers, doctors and other highly skilled workers – with higher-quality public schools. The financial needs of our public school system definitely go far beyond $524 million. According to Teach for America, the nation’s major city public schools are in need of at least $15.3 billion in new construction, $46.7 billion in repair, renovation and modernization needs, and $14.4 billion in deferred maintenance needs, and that figure would multiply many times over when considering the entire nation. But it would be a start.
Pay for some of the “We Built It” state GOP projects that were actually funded by the federal government.
Seizing on a (misinterpreted) remark that President Obama made during a speech, Republicans turned “We Built It” into this summer’s GOP slogan. It’s like 2008’s “Drill Here, Drill Now,” except even more nonsensical. They took the phrase out of context to make it sound as if the President was telling business owners that they weren’t responsible for their own success. The Romney campaign immediately responded with an ad saying as much, and a number of speakers at the Republican National Convention repeated it.
The funny thing is, many of the things those speakers are so proud to have “built” were paid for by the federal government. For example, Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas praised this Congress’ record of “implementing free enterprise policies that create jobs, cutting spending and repealing Obamacare” while failing to mention that he secretly requested $81 million in stimulus money. Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan called President Obama’s stimulus plan “wasteful,” but turned around and sought money from it for his own state. Instead of putting millions toward false and hypocritical attacks, perhaps conservative donors should help their party do what they claim to do and pay for their pet projects themselves.