Liberals always say we need to get money out of politics. But there are three big problems with that: (1) the Supreme Court has made it near-impossible without amending the Constitution; (2) no matter what barriers you erect, money will always find ways to influence politics; and (3) maybe most importantly, politics costs money.
What’s truly remarkable about politics in the United States is how little politics there is. A healthy democracy would have political organizers living on every block, a thriving political media, think tanks on local, state and national levels coming up with new policy ideas and publicly funded political campaigns. We have none of that. All of it would cost money.
Yes, the presidential race next year may cost $5 billion. But rather than gasping at that, remember that the U.S. annual gross domestic product is $17 trillion, so $5 billion is about 0.03 percent of our economy. The U.S. is expected to spend $190 billion in 2016 on advertising alone, so $5 billion is only 2.6 percent of that — and there’s only a presidential race every four years, so a better comparison is to say the presidential election will cost perhaps 0.6 percent of total U.S. advertising in 2016-19.
So the problem isn’t that we’re spending too much on politics. Instead, it’s two problems: we’re spending way too little, and what money there is is coming from far too few people.
That’s why it’s good news to see “The Tea Party Case Against Mega-Donors” by John Pudner, in which Pudner advocates “giving average citizens a $200 tax credit for their small campaign contribution to the candidate of their choice.” Pudner is president of the Take Back Our Republic Action Fund, which tries “to advance campaign finance reform that empowers voters and encourages higher voter turnout aris[ing] from a conservative, market-based political philosophy.”
A longtime campaign consultant, Pudner was a top strategist for Rep. Dave Brat, who beat then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the 2014 Republican primary. He also created the sophisticated basketball ratings and prediction website ValueAddBasketball.com, and according to Breitbart, “has advised general managers before the NBA Draft.”
Jay Cost, a Weekly Standard staff writer, endorsed Pudner’s idea as a possible “foundation of a privately directed system of public finance.” He concluded that “After more than a century of bad campaign finance laws, it is worth a shot.”
To understand the potential scale of this proposal, you have to multiply the number of adult American citizens (about 230 million) by $200, to get $46 billion. With that kind of money flowing into politics, it wouldn’t be necessary to try to keep out money from the Koch Brothers (or George Soros); it would simply be swamped by much larger amounts coming from regular people.
It’s not hard to see why genuine grassroots conservatives might find this concept appealing. It’s simple, straightforward and wouldn’t create a big bureaucracy, it’s clearly constitutional and it doesn’t require the government to make decisions about what constitutes acceptable political speech. Liberals would be wise to start exploring whether this is potential ground for a right-left alliance to drain the stinking swamp of U.S. politics.
(This post is from our blog: Unofficial Sources.)
Photo of John Boehner with David Brat and his wife (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)