Monday, January 29, 2007

The Best Government Money Can Buy At Costco

Every election cycle, and the US now has a permanent election cycle, just like for baseball news, political journalists and high-minded commentators spend a great deal of time bemoaning the huge sums needed to run for national office. This ritualistic "tut-tutting" allows these lazy sods to avoid the real questions about just what's at stake in any given election.

Every editorial, lecture, article, broadcast, etc. on the high cost of politics ignores the most salient fact of the issue. The "huge" sums are chicken feed. America sells itself very cheaply indeed, so it's no wonder so many vested interests are willing to pay for play. Considering the potential return on investment, it's as if Pebble Beach were to cut its greens fees to $10 a round.

Proving this contention is absurdly simple. Merely look at the money in politics through the prism of the money in American sports.

In last year's Massachusetts' gubernatorial election, venture capitalist Chris Gabrieli spent approximately $15 million to finish a decisively beaten second in the Democratic primary. This was a record amount discussed in the same awed tones as track fans discussing Bob Beamon's long jump in the 1968 Olympics.

Gabrieli spent $1 million more than it'll cost the Red Sox to employ J.D. Drew this season. The chief executive office of the Commonwealth has roughly the same market value as an oft-injured, well-traveled outfielder. That's not so bad, considering a well-funded bid for the US House of Representatives costs $5 million, and you can't even buy a decent middle reliever with that kind of chump change.

As has been true in every presidential election since Jefferson and Adams locked horns in 1800, the 2008 campaign will be the mopsr expensive ever. Sounding exactly like Dr. Evil in the Austin Powers' movies, Gwen Ifill of PBS noted the total sum spent by the eventual Republican and Democratic candidates could be as much as "ONE BILLION DOLLARS!"

A billion dollars is a lot of money, yet then again, it isn't. It's value rests upon what one spends it on.

A billion dollars is roughly the value of a large-market NFL franchise. It's about what Bob Kraft would expect to realize from the sale of the Patriots, Dan Snyder for the Redskins, or Jerry Jones for the Cowboys. And since the billion cited by Ifill is the total spent by two people, the real purchase price of the presidency is $500 million. You can't buy any NFL franchise for such a trifling sum. Go try the NHL, piker.

There's our national public life in a nutshell. A chance to get your hands on the Vince Lombardi trophy is twice as valuable as the chance to get your face chiseled onto Mt. Rushmore.

God bless America.


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