The author is a regular contributor to Voices. He lives in Solvang.
There is no other category of wrongdoing that repeats with such frequency or focus than the abuse of speech.
Speech by politicians and those vying for political office has a great cost and questionable cogency. In fact, during election cycles, the country is awash with solicitations for donations, PACS and Super PACS, etc.
The 2020 elections will find the presidential race costing over $3.1 billion, congressional races will demand $5.3 billion, with PACS spending $1.8 billion. These figures do not take into account ancillary costs, such as postage, rentals, personnel, transportation, printing, etc.
As one broadcast television syndicate executive was quoted as saying, “we won’t be able to get out of the way of the dollar sunami.” In fact, broadcast television media will rake in $3.2 billion, digital $1.6 billion, radio $4 million and cable $1.2 billion.
Also, consider local and county costs for elections to councils, supervisory positions, ballot measures, school boards, library boards and a host of other money eating targets. In Santa Barbara County alone, the cost to an individual seeking the position of supervisor rises to approximately $750,000.
Now, let’s look at some other startling statistics. The population of the United states is close to 350 million. Yet there are 45 millionfolks living in poverty. It happens that California leads the nation in poverty with 5,773,408 people, and second place goes to Texas with 4,291,384. Thus, almost 13% of us in the United States are living in bad straits.
It gets even worse when homelessness is factored in. In all, the United States has approximately 550,000 homeless folks and, once again, California leads the pack with 129,000.
If one is tempted to think of us as “great” in some way, it is wise to think again. If almost 50 million of our people are stuck in the cellar of society, how really great are we? Where are manifestations of the teachings in our churches, synagogues, mosques and from individuals who preach charity, concern and should like to reach out a hand? There are many organizations that try to deal with this, but they are overwhelmed and always desperate for money to carry out their missions.
Which leads to another issue. If our elections cost us upward of $10 billion to $13 billion because individuals are eager to support an ideology or a candidate, therein lies a dirty secret.
Politicians attract support from those who just simply like them and fewer who support their ideology, whichever. So, after all the money is spent, with what are we left? A divided society, no allies internationally, rising tides of hatred, and 50 million folks on the bottom.
However, if the FCC, which licenses broadcast television stations, were to withhold licensing and re-licensing unless something like .07% of their prime time hours were allocated free to qualified candidates, that would knock off $3 billion-plus of the cost and provide about 370 hours for shouting out a message, nationally, statewide and locally.
There is more, much more, that can be done to redirect public largess for politicians. What could $13 billion do in the right hands for donating and for underwriting policies to improve our society? Generous grants, programs with good oversight, education, jobs, self-respect and less conflict within our society.
Why do we need more than six months and huge costs to figure out the shortcomings of our representatives or to discover their better selves? Some well-established European countries limit their elections to as few as six weeks.
Think about it.