Sea Creatures and Political Monsters

An illustration from the original edition of T...

Giant Squid Illustration from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

I am so disappointed to find that scientists did not discover a new sea monster this week.  Yes, that’s right.  That giant eye is believed to have come from a swordfish.  Apparently, they can grow up to 1,400 lbs, so finding an eye that large is not completely unlikely.  Not that I would want to have that thing on the end of my fishing pole.  It would take hours to reel in, and as beautiful as that deep blue is, it would still creep me out.

As much as I would like to continue discussing that big, blue eye, there are other pressing matters that draw my attention.  Of course, there is the Presidential campaign and debates.  People spend entirely too much time discussing what each person is and is not saying or doing, or has and has not said and done in the past.  There is so much mud-slinging out there, I have wondered how bad it would be to go live with that 1,400 lb, one-eyed sea monster that is probably a swordfish.

However, since I can’t do that, I am going to rant about an issue no one seems to be raising:  Campaign Spending!

No matter what is said in the Presidential and Vice Presidential debates, I just can’t wrap my head around the amount of money spent on the two major campaigns combined.  Just this month, Romney’s campaign has raised over $170 million and Obama’s campaign raised $181 million last month.  According to the New York Times, by July, the two parties had already spent over $1.1 billion.

Since the landmark decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, corporations and wealthy individuals pretty much have carte blanche through super PACs to do anything they want for their chosen candidates.  I’m not even referring to the smaller donations of people like film director and producer J. J. Abrams ($50,000 to Obama’s Priorities USA) or Chairman and CEO of Cisco Systems, Inc. John Chambers ($50,000 to Romney’s Restore Our Future).  It’s the people and corporations at the top of the lists that really boggle my mind.  Priorities USA shows 16 donors over $1 million and up to $2 million, including heads of large corporations, philanthropists, and unions.  Restore Our Future shows 20 donors between $1 million and $2 million, as well as two $5 million donors and one $8 million donor.

I know these numbers are becoming commonplace in politics, but let’s take a look at what else this money could buy.  To keep things simple, let’s work with $2 billion, which is less than what the two parties have spent so far on this campaign.

Using the Federal Net Calculator, a Massachusetts resident at Holyoke Community College (a modestly priced, 2-year community college near my city) can expect to pay about $40,000 (total, over the course of the two years) for tuition, fees, books, supplies, health insurance, and indirect expenses of transportation, clothing, and other daily expenses, including food and lodging.  (The cost would be slightly higher for out-of-state students.)  This means that $2 billion would buy 50,000 Associates degrees.

In that same city of Holyoke, the average starting salary for a teacher is between $18,808 and $28, 212.  Yes, you read those numbers right.  I don’t know of many places in the country, let alone in Massachusetts, where $28,212, let alone $18,808 is not considered dirt poor.  Families and children are defined as poor if family income is below the federal poverty threshold. The federal poverty level for a family of four with two children was $22,350 in 2011, and it is generally accepted that a family needs twice the poverty level to meet basic needs.  That means $44,700 is needed to meet basic needs for a family of four.  That means that the average starting salary for a teacher in Holyoke is $16,488 – $25,892 short.  $2 billion would raise the income of over 94,000 teachers to a living wage level.

I could go on and on with the comparisons, but I think you get the point.  When are we, the American people, going to say “Enough!” to the smear campaigns that do nothing but waste money that could be better spent?  When are we going to demand that our organizations and our wealthy donate their money to make a direct difference in people’s lives, rather than a direct difference in the lives of their favorite politicians?  Oh wait, that’s right, that’ll never happen.  Well, it was a good thought for a moment, anyway… Think I’ll go live with the squid…

English: Number in Poverty and Poverty Rate: 1...

English: Number in Poverty and Poverty Rate: 1959 to 2009. United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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