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 V.17 No.40 | October 2 - 8, 2008 

The Real Side

Buddy, Can You Spare Some Change We Can Believe In?

Politicians rake it in while America suffers

There’s not a thing wrong with the American economy. We’re doing great. Just look at all the extra cash Americans are able to give to politicians despite high gas prices and a rocky stock market.

By now we’re used to Barack Obama beating his own record in fundraising each month. If the Federal Reserve ever needs tips on printing money, they should have their people talk to his people. Last month, as the economy was sliding off the table, First National Bank of Obama earned a staggering $66 million.

John McCain is not far behind. He raised $47 million for the month, a personal best. He also gets $84 million from the U.S. Treasury because he has accepted public financing. Betting he can do better on his own, Obama is going to continue squeezing donors until Election Day. His campaign is shooting for $100 million a month.

While school was out for the summer, the Republican National Committee raised more than $48 million. The Democratic National Committee brought in more than $37 million.

If you total up all the money raised so far in the presidential race, including the war chests of unsuccessful primary candidates, Americans have thrown more than a billion dollars at politicians in the past 18 months.

No one has yet tallied the money raised in all the congressional races around the country. But that sum is easily hundreds of millions of dollars raised and spent by candidates to win jobs that pay less than is forked over in the first half-hour at an Oprah Winfrey Beverly Hills shakedown.

Americans have thrown more than a billion dollars at politicians in the past 18 months.

Demand for American-made cars and other manufactured goods may be declining in the U.S. Housing prices may be nose-diving. But we seem to have an insatiable urge to give money to American politicians, and we’re willing to give more than ever.

What exactly do we hope to get for all this money? It’s not being invested in alternatives to oil. It’s not being spent on the cure for cancer, fixing roads and bridges, improving our schools, or putting more police on the street. It’s being spent mostly on television advertising.

While writing this column, I had the TV playing. I hardly saw one commercial that wasn’t Obama bashing McCain, McCain dissing Obama, Steve Pearce calling out Tom Udall, Udall trashing Pearce, Harry Teague being folksy, Darren White and a bunch of beefy guys flexing under Kevlar vests or Martin Heinrich with an out-of-shape runner pulling a geezer in a kid’s wagon.

That’s what we’re getting for our money? No wonder China and Japan own us.

The presidential campaigns are mail-order houses. At McCain’s online store, you can buy embroidered polo shirts in navy, white, stone, pink or kiwi. You can choose from an array of tees that say “Honor,” “Duty,” “Integrity” and “Service” 50 different ways. Or you can browse McCain’s eco-friendly line of biodegradable apparel made from bamboo fibers.

As you’d expect of a store catering mostly to Republicans, there’s a selection of McCain golf gear, including a customized divot tool. So far, however, the McCain store is not offering anything in moose hide or trimmed in fur. And, no, there is no Suddenly Sarah line of lipstick and hunting togs. Not yet, anyway.

Store Obama offers “Runway to Change,” a line of shirts, tank tops and bags by designers including Diane von Fürstenberg, Vera Wang and Juicy Couture. It also offers women’s jewelry, housewares and winter clothing. And while Obama may not have golf gear, he’s got threads called “Hope Gear.” No word yet on when “The One” basketball shoes will be available.

In the week beginning Sept. 14, 2008, more than a trillion dollars evaporated from retirement accounts and pension plans as the stock market tanked. The federal government is struggling to stabilize a rotten financial industry. Wall Street is scared. Talk of a crash is in the air.

If another Great Depression does come, future generations won’t see us the same way we look back upon the gray, forlorn lines outside soup kitchens during the '30s. We’ll be nattily attired in our Hope Gear, hoping for a hot meal and a dry place to sleep and looking to trade our McCain divot tool for some coffee we can drink from our Honor-and-Duty or Change-We-Can-Believe-In insulated, stainless steel, dishwasher-safe travel mugs.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author. E-mail jims@alibi.com.

 

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