Saturday, August 15, 2015

Candidate Wealth and the Buying of Presidential Elections

Clinton 'Had No Choice' But To Come To My Wedding Because I Gave Her Donations
–Donald Trump

American’s say that like to identify with presidential candidates, that they could sit down and have a cup of coffee with them.  They also want candidates whom they think will understand them, that share their concerns.  If that is the case then most Americans must be millionaires, at least that would have to be the conclusion based on the personal wealth of many of the leading presidential candidates.
Personal Capital has produced a terrific chart of the personal wealth of the leading 2016 presidential candidates, pointing out that the Republican and Democrat frontrunners Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton are billionaires and millionaires, respectively.  At a time when according to CNN Money, the medium net wealth of Americans was $44,900 (down $77,300 in 2010), Trump is estimated to be worth $4.1 billion and Clinton $59 million.  One wonders both why Americans see these two candidates as capable of empathizing with their plight or serving as the champions of their causes.  In fact, in the case of Trump, his land speculation and penchant for telling others “You’re fired!” makes one wonder why his support is so strong, especially among those hardest hit by the types of behavior he engaged in.
Personal Capital has also pointed out the cost of elections, showing too that it is the game of millionaires and billionaires.  In 2012 $7 billion was spent on all US elections with $2.6 of that just on the presidential election.  And that may be a low ball estimate Alone in 2012 Obama raised $1.1 billion and Romney $1 billion.  My estimate is that Republican and GOP party nominees will each need to raise $1.5 billion for their presidential runs.  Throw in SuperPAC and third party spending, I easily see a presidential race costing $4-5 billion.  Most of this money will come from one to two percent of the population, meaning that the super rich will be contributing money to run a presidential election where the contest might be among the super rich.  An election by the rich, for the rich, and of the rich, especially when we consider the economic bias and class stratification in terms of who votes.
There are a lot of problems with this scenario; the cost of elections, the huge gap between the rich and poor, and the failure of public policy over the last 30 years to address the problems of how to build wealth for all, not just the rich.
Perhaps Donald Trump was correct about one thing–maybe contributions do buy elections and politicians and given who gives and runs, that might tell us something about the bias in our political system.

Acknowledgments: Graphic courtesy of  Personal Capital.

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