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How much is too much to spend on an election?

According to a report from The New York Times , the 2012 elections for president, Congress, and state and local offices, saw a total of about $5.8 billion spent. The money raised went to the campaigns, including advertising, fundraising, travel, and staff. Many people worry that politicians spend too much time raising money and end up entangled with special interest groups that make major donations. Critics would prefer a system that restricts what candidates can spend, perhaps in exchange for limited public campaign financing or free television advertising time.

How much spending on campaigns is too much? Five billion dollars will buy a lot of potato chips, but in the U.S. economy, which exceeded $16 trillion in 2012, the $5.8 billion spent on political campaigns was about 1/25 of 1% of the overall economy. Here is another way to think about campaign spending. Total government spending programs in 2009, including federal and state governments, was about $5.1 trillion, so the cost of choosing the people who would determine how this money would be spent was about 1/10 of 1% of that. In the context of the enormous U.S. economy, $5.8 billion is not as much money as it sounds. U.S. consumers spend about $2 billion per year on toothpaste and $7 billion on hair care products. In 2008, Proctor and Gamble spent $4.8 billion on advertising. It may not be sensible to believe the United States is going to decide its presidential elections for less than we spend on toothpaste or than Proctor and Gamble spends on advertisements.

Whatever we believe about whether candidates and their parties spend too much or too little on elections, the U.S. Supreme Court has placed limits on how government can limit campaign spending. In a 1976 decision, Buckley v. Valeo , the Supreme Court emphasized that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution specifies freedom of speech. The federal government and states can offer candidates a voluntary deal in which government makes some public financing available to candidates, but only if the candidates agree to abide by certain spending limits. Of course, candidates can also voluntarily agree to set certain spending limits if they wish. But government cannot forbid people or organizations to raise and spend money above these limits if they choose.

In 2002, Congress passed and President George W. Bush signed into law the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) . The relatively noncontroversial portions of the act strengthen the rules requiring full and speedy disclosure of who contributes money to campaigns. However, some controversial portions of the Act limit the ability of individuals and groups to make certain kinds of political donations and they ban certain kinds of advertising in the months leading up to an election. These bans were called into question after the release of two films: Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 and Citizens United’s Hillary: The Movie . At question was whether each film sought to discredit political candidates for office too close to an election, in violation of the BCRA. Moore’s film was found by lower courts not to violate the Act, while Citizens United’s was. The fight reached the Supreme Court, as Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission , saying that the First Amendment protects the rights of corporations as well as individuals to donate to political campaigns. The Court ruled, in a 5–4 decision, that the spending limits were unconstitutional. This controversial decision, which essentially allows unlimited contributions by corporations to political action committees, overruled several previous decisions and will likely be revisited in the future, due to the strength of the public reaction. For now, it has resulted in a sharp increase in election spending.

While many U.S. adults do not bother to vote in presidential elections, more than half do. What motivates them? Research on voting behavior has shown that people who are more settled or more “connected” to society tend to vote more frequently. According to the Washington Post , more married people vote than single people. Those with a job vote more than the unemployed. Those who have lived longer in a neighborhood are more likely to vote than newcomers. Those who report that they know their neighbors and talk to them are more likely to vote than socially isolated people. Those with a higher income and level of education are also more likely to vote. These factors suggest that politicians are likely to focus more on the interests of married, employed, well-educated people with at least a middle-class level of income than on the interests of other groups. For example, those who vote may tend to be more supportive of financial assistance for the two-year and four-year colleges they expect their children to attend than they are of medical care or public school education aimed at families of the poor and unemployed.

Visit this website to see a breakdown of how different groups voted in 2012.

A number of proposals have been offered to encourage greater voter turnout: making it easier to register to vote, keeping the polls open for more hours, or even moving Election Day to the weekend, when fewer people need to worry about jobs or school commitments. However, the changes that have been made do not seem to have caused a long-term upward trend in the number of people voting. After all, casting an informed vote will always impose some costs of time and energy. It is not clear how to strengthen people’s feeling of connectedness to society in a way that will lead to a substantial increase in voter turnout. Without greater voter turnout, however, politicians elected by the votes of 60% or fewer of the population may not enact economic policy in the best interests of 100% of the population. Meanwhile, countering a long trend toward making voting easier, many states have recently erected new voting laws that critics say are actually barriers to voting. States have passed laws reducing early voting, restricting groups who are organizing get-out-the-vote efforts, enacted strict photo ID laws, as well as laws that require showing proof of U.S. citizenship. The ACLU argues that while these laws profess to prevent voter fraud, they are in effect making it harder for individuals to cast their vote.

Key concepts and summary

The theory of rational ignorance says voters will recognize that their single vote is extremely unlikely to influence the outcome of an election. As a consequence, they will choose to remain uninformed about issues and not vote. This theory helps explain why voter turnout is so low in the United States.

References

Olson, Mancur. The Logic of Collective Action: Public Goods and the Theory of Groups , (Boston: Harvard University Press, 1965).

Downs, Anthony. An Economic Theory of Democracy . New York: Harper, 1957.

Skinner, B.F. Walden Two . Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 1948.

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). "Voting Rights." https://www.aclu.org/voting-rights.

The New York Times. “The 2012 Money Race: Compare the Candidates.” http://elections.nytimes.com/2012/campaign-finance.

The Washington Post. “Exit Polls 2012: Where Americans Stood this Election.” Last modified November 7, 2012. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/politics/2012-exit-polls/national-breakdown/.

Cornell University Law School: Legal Information Institute. “Citizens United v. Federal Election Committee (No. 08-205).” Last modified January 21, 2010. http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/08-205.ZS.html.

U.S. Department of Commerce: United States Census Bureau. “Voting and Registration: Historical Time Series Tables; Table A-9: Reported Voting Rates in Presidential Election Years, by Selected Characteristics: November 1964 to 2012.” http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/socdemo/voting/publications/historical/index.html

Questions & Answers

the system of economics
molos Reply
what is economics system
molos
is an arrangement for managing the relatively scarce resources in a particular place and at a particular time
Samuel
but also allocate resources equally ?
Furkan
economic is the study of what
Abba
Economics is a science which studies humam behaviour as a relationship between ends and scarce means which have alternate uses
Samuel
what is the law of equilibrium.
Henry Reply
The law of equilibrium states that when the demand of a commodity is equal to the supply
Stanley
what is demand curve
Gift
demand carve is a graphical representation of the relationship between the price of the or the service and the quantity demanded for a given period of time
Adamsvictor
Is the graphical representation of demand schedule. Also it has negative slope
Abubakary
The law of equilibrium is state that the quantity demand are equal to quantity supply.
Abubakary
sometimes demand exceeds supply or vice versa .In the first situation prices tend to rise therefore supply and demand meet the balance point called as equilibrium .
Furkan
The difference between cyclical unemployment and structural unemployment
Prince Reply
Cyclical unemployment .it has to do with an increase in the quantity of good demanded or there is over production which result in fall in prices. Industries will be affected it will now causes retrenchment of workers in the industries while structural unemployment arises as a result of slight change
Adeoti
In the industrial structure of a countries workers wil now be retren
Adeoti
Will now be retrenched as a result of economic recession... That is the little i knw....
Adeoti
what is the condition of a consumer behaviour in the equilibrium under the theory of consumer behaviour
Sahr Reply
what is equilibrium
Sahr
A point where quantity demand & supply meets called equilibrium
Hasham
a state is said to be equilibrium when there is no tendency of movement.
Nibedita
Pls @Nibedita am confused
Prince
The state of balance achieved by an end user of products that refers to the amount of goods and services they can purchase given their present level of income and the current level of prices. Consumer equilibrium allows a consumer to obtain the most satisfaction possible from their income.
Okwori
where is the calculations?
Nathan Reply
what are the two conditions for aconsumer to be in the equilibrium under the theory of consumer behaviour in
Sahr
Economic equilibrium is a condition or state in which economic forces are balanced. In effect, economic variables remain unchanged from their equilibrium values in the absence of external influences. Economic equilibrium may also be defined as the point at which supply equals demand for a product,
vinay
Hello there, let's make a time to chat about econimics and its issues.
DA Reply
it's true
Adamsvictor
hie Sir /Madam l need help when it comes to Economics lm doing it for the first time
Thembelani
So, share your problems that you have in terms of economis and we will discuss on it.
DA
Basic Economic problems
Thembelani
what is the Basic Economic problem
Thembelani
what is the Basic Economic problem
Thembelani Reply
scarcity
Rhaiymornd
a bit of explanation please its my first year doing Economics
Thembelani
rare, limited. economic agents eg You dube, the govt & the business entities wants to maximise their utility/satisfaction but because limited resource or scarcity of such resources they are unable to satisfy their needs.
ian
thank u Sir , l understand what you are saying now
Thembelani
limited resources; you wanna take the most benefits from the minimum resource.
DA
if u ar a fresher, eco has to 2 fundamental parts "micro & macro". micro(small) this is were the economc agents ar discussd, economc systms, dmand & supply, typs of market systms etc and the macro (big) part the elucidates the functns of central bank, typs of employmnt, functns of money & int trade.
ian
there is an old adage that says "a picture is worth a thousand words" economics is full of graphing so it requires on the side of the student to master the art of keeping information in form graphs.
ian
oky Sir
Thembelani
scarcity becomes the fundamental problem of economics because of limited resources, when we take an individual, he or she has many wants, thus unlimited wants but can never satisfy all but only few.
Rhaiymornd
now when we take a firm, a firm maybe willing to produce two or more product into the market but due to limited resources they only produce one. the same way if we take the government, he or she maybe willing to bring development either through infrastructures,
Rhaiymornd
that is when consumer decision making rule comes in
Olusegun
choice arises as a result of scarcity of resources
Olusegun
so if we look through, the individual, firm and government, their wants are unlimited but due limited resources, all of their wants cannot be satisfy. therefore scarcity can be term as limited in supply of resources. scarcity is not lack of resources but insufficient resources
Rhaiymornd
there is a marriage with the following; scarcity, factors of production, opportunity cost curve (occ) or (ppc, ppf, tc) production possibility curve productn possibility frontier transformation curve. The OCC, PPC, PPF & TC explains the decisions made by householders, firms & the govt.
ian
opportunity cost also arises as a result of firm willing to produce a particular commodity but resources use in satisfying or producing such output is limited
Olusegun
wat ar those decisions? the most important is WHY nations economise tht is if they hav abundancy of factors of productn eg land, labour & entreprise? now since all of us have unlimited needs against few resourcs PPC, PPF, TC, OCC walks in to make wise allocatn of resources.
ian
how do those decisions made? eg by economic agents; a. Household (You) - if u have R10 & wish to buy a book & a pen & realise that both commodities seĺl at the same price which of the two (2) can u buy (necesity) and which one can u forgo (not all tht important).
ian
b. firms - they allocat mo resourcs to all thoz commoditz tht they think will yield mo profit. c. Govt - if the govt SA was to come in yo area which 1 would u think they can consider first tht can benefit the majority & the minority. So instead of building football stadium they construct a hospital.
ian
if the SA govt had enough resources they would have built both the stadium and the hospital but because of scarce in terms of resources they had to forgo the construction the stadium to build a hospital which is necessary for the majority to benefit.
ian
Opportunity cost well broken down..
Andres
opportunity cost means the lose of other alternatives when the alternative is chosen
saad Reply
is the benefits that you loose by not selecting a certain alternative.
EDWINY
individual wants maybe unlimited, but means to satisfy them are limited there one has to forgo some alternative in order to acquire other alternative and it must according priority, that is when scale of preference set in for individuals to make choice
Rhaiymornd
hello everyone
Aliyu
Next best alternative forgiven
Shoaib
demand is the amount of goods and services that consumer is willing and able to purchase at a particular prices over given period of time
Rhaiymornd Reply
yep
Abraham
what's demand?
labi Reply
What customers want the most...
Abraham
not only what customers wants, want is just mere desire but demand is backed by purchasing power, ability and willingness
Rhaiymornd
thanks
Abraham
What's opportunity cost?
Abraham
what are the differences between demand and supply
Zakariyah Reply
who is called lender of the last resort
Divyanshu Reply
Hi
Linda
hlw
Karishma
Central bank
Majeed
hy
Karishma
Hello
Majeed
hy
Karishma
How are you
Majeed
Am gud
Linda
fine
Karishma
Am gud
Linda
hello
Chandra
Well! what's going on
Majeed
r u study in economics
Karishma
anybody there?
Chandra
r u study in economics
Karishma
the central bank
Sessay
Has completed already
Majeed
hey
neha
yes
Abigail
Yesss
Majeed
ok
Karishma
hey
Doctor
yh
Abigail
more questions
Sessay
how ar you
Doctor
split the price effect into income effect and substitution effect
Karishma
fine and u
Abigail
Hi
Godwin
hi
Hey, I am new here. Hope, discussion on Economics will clear our concepts more.
yasir
yes
Abigail
do u speak hindi or english
Karishma
how to consumer equlibrium through ic
Karishma
consumer equilibrium demand equals supply
Kenneth
the consumer is in equilibrium when the indifference curve is tangential to the budget line. or when the BL and IC intersect
Sessay
reasons indifference curve slopes downwards?
Kenneth
fine Abby any good,
Doctor
ur lost
Doctor
hey. im new year. economics teacher how we can discuss some thing interesting.
EDWINY
which one
Doctor
what do u understand the concept of poverty cycle.
EDWINY
hey
Ebong
I'm New here
Ebong
hi
ian
just new here guy's and also an Economics fresher of Kogi State University Anyigba
nelson
wxup
Ayegba
who can tell the laboratory of economic?
Amara
, Dennis Weissman Associates, LLC Laboratory Economics is the monthly business newsletter that gets behind the headlines and press releases.
Ayegba
sooo teah me what an LLC
Emmanuel
what's the topic
Adamsvictor Reply
economic systems
gracious
hello
Antonio
market
aba
hello where can I find the diagrams
Manu
Hello I am totally out ,I am not understanding why we are here. can someone help me out?
Amara
why Economic is not a pure science can someone help me out
Mohamed
because economics like science put forth a some hypotheses and then do experiments to prove them
Anwesh
but these experiments are not completely controlled
Anwesh
Hello
Comfort
hey
suraj
hi people can you help me out on "demand and supply"
Milton
Am not understanding can someone enlighten me pls
Bertilla
hi people can you help me out on "demand and supply"
Sessay
hello. if Mr.Patrick's income is #900.00 while that of Mr.Shodawe is #1300.00 if Mr.Patrick and Shodowe pay #90.00 and #130.00 as taxes,the tax system is?
Benjamin
I need the answer please
Benjamin
regressive tax system
shaikh
OK thanks
Benjamin
Isn't this called proportional tax rate because the rate stays the same - 10%? Tell me if I'm wrong
Ioan
Supply is perfectly elastic and demand increases.
kishore Reply
whose there
Waseem
show the demand curve
Hameed Reply
it slopes downward from left to right
Ama

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