On one of the recent Sunday morning news broadcasts one of the experts described the “bad three weeks” that President Obama just had. I tried to think back and could not remember what was so bad. Greece and the Euro Zone are a mess but that problem is not yet on our doorstep. The Executive Order to not deport children brought here illegally by their parents under certain parameters seemed liked a good move for the President. The expert then went on to say that the three “bad weeks” were that Gov. Romney has raised more money that the President. The underlying definition of good or bad is directly tied to money as opposed to let’s say a new policy to create jobs or cut the deficit. Recent estimates suggest that President Obama and Mitt Romney will spend a combined $2.5 billion in this year’s presidential campaign. It is a challenge for me to comprehend a billion dollars on any one topic let alone a presidential campaign given what we all are subjected to in today’s campaigns. My struggle is that I never hear anyone say “did you see that great ad from the President or Mr. Romney?” I can only assume that the dreadful black and white ads with that same guys voice in the background impacts votes in one way or another. I just can’t find anyone who thinks positively about them. Now I realize the strident advocates on both ends of the political spectrum nod approvingly for the ads of their candidates. But do they actually move someone who may be undecided? I just can’t see how or just can’t find someone who will affirm that ads did the trick for them. More frequently, like I do, I believe people change the station or simply avoid all these ads during the campaign season.
The Supreme Court has ruled that this unfettered spending is acceptable delivery of free speech by corporations and the rest of us. I just can’t help to think that isn’t there something better we can do with $2.5 billion.
So what else could $2.5 billion of contributed dollars do for our country?
•We could fund the start up of over 70,000 small businesses from scratch (a 2009 Kauffman Foundation estimate). Isn’t this where the jobs are created?
•We could expand Head Start enrollment to close to 76,000 additional low-income children. Positioning children for educational success is important, isn’t it?
•We could provide permanent supportive housing for 1 year to over 185,000 homeless individuals, including the entire homeless veteran population and the entire chronically homeless population (National Alliance to end Homelessness). Isn’t this just the right thing to do?
•We could roughly cover the average annual cost for each child in the state of Missouri to receive care at a child center. The tragic deaths across the state of young children should make us want to do this.
•We could cover the cost for 450,000 Pell Grantees at the maximum amount. Again, education is the place to invest, is it not?
I realize that candidates need to spend money to get elected and being the leader of the free world is certainly important. I am not convinced, however, that $2.5 billion is the right number nor is the quality of what is put out very thoughtful. Until we demand something different this is what we have to suffer through.
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)
Chris Krehmeyer is the President/CEO of Beyond Housing, a Neighborworks America organization in St. Louis, Missouri. He has served in that capacity since 1993. Chris has or currently sits on a variety of boards and has been an adjunct faculty member at Washington University teaching a class in social entrepreneurship. Chris is married with three children and has an undergraduate degree in Urban Studies from Washington University.