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Tim Taylor summarizes the data from the Center for Responsive Politics:

Total spending for the 2014 Congressional races looks like it will come in at about $4 billion, quite similar to the amount spent in 2012 and 2010. In the context of a high-income country with a population of nearly 320 million, this is not a large amount. As I point out in my Principles of Economics textbook (which I naturally recommend for its combination of high quality and moderate price), “For example, consumers in the U.S. economy spend about $2 billion per year on toothpaste. In 2012, Procter and Gamble spent $4.8 billion on advertising, and General Motors spent $3.1 billion. Americans spend about $22 billion per year on pet food—three times as much as was spent on the 2012 election.” As another comparison, Americans spend about $8 billion each year celebrating Halloween.  With the US government making decisions that involve $3.5-$4 trillion in spending and taxes, not to mention the nonmonetary effects of other laws regulatory rulings, people are going to allocate resources to try to affect those outcomes.

I recommend clicking through to some of the charts. On the snarky side, you may want to focus on this one:

As the list shows, these biggest organizational donors tend to lean to the Democrats. Koch Industries, which seems to get considerable public attention, is 17th in these rankings.

I wonder if the kids who crashed the ASSA meeetings condemned the non-Mankiws of the wold? Did they scream at Picketty for taking money from Big Left donors? Of course, I am not asking for equal treatment, I happen to not think Picketty or Krugman or people of the left take money from evil interests and then research and write according to their puppet masters. If anything, the arrow goes in the other direction. In any case, there is lots of interesting data in the post.

For those of you who like supply and demand and basic economics – does the lack of dollars in American politics give you reason to be happy, sad or otherwise?

6 Responses to “Spending in American Politics”

  1. john barry says:

    Some assert that more money would be spent on politics if not for campaign finance limitations (you know, free speech limits). But I am not so sure. Maybe we aren’t inspired to send money to politicians because we realize it doesn’t have much of an impact on outcomes (maybe $7 billion is the point of diminishing returns).

    • Harry says:

      John, you make a great point about donating money, especially when contributing to general state and national political groups. I do think it is worthwhile giving money to the local organization to buy yard signs for campaigns for statewide office, for bumper stickers for one’s car and some to distribute to others, and to, if possible, to circulate petitions for candidates, even in big elections, in primaries. This sort of thing happens at the grass roots spontaneously, provided that your candidate has the right stuff. The other money and effort goes down the drain. It may also go down the drain if your candidate who has the right stuff loses, but one does not regret it.

      That does not mean big money, really big money, is not influential in a bad way. For example, the guy from Silicon Valley — I forget his name — has threatened to withdraw hundreds of million dollars in annual contributions to the Democrats if there is the slightest deviation from radical environmental doctrine, which includes defining carbon dioxide as a pollutant, keeping hydrocarbons in the ground forever, and in passing denying the construction of the Keystone Pipeline, even when a Canadian company will pay for it.

      But then, is it not better to just allow unlimited free speech to defeat these bad ideas? (I realize I begged the question there, calling a stupid idea bad?)

      To which I add a question to Wintercow: are you lying low now because heretics get threatened these days with murder? You need not answer that.

      • Trey says:

        Harry, I think you are thinking of Tom Steyer. He is number one on the list where Koch Industries are only number 17.

  2. Harry says:

    I added Tim Taylor to my favorites list. If he follows TUW, he might be advised to enable one to expand the graphs on a smart Thanks for the link.

  3. Harry says:

    It is a drop in the bucket, financially. Every poor politician’s dream is to be relieved of the drudgery of raising money, and hopes that every day they will not have to make any effort to ask like-minded people for money to support their careers. To achieve an end to this drudgery, incumbents devise laws to hobble competitors. Or, totalitarian dictators, to perpetuate their authority, use force to limit dissent by beheading the opposition, which is the first definition I learned of Fascism. The Ayatollah Ali Khameni. Kim Jong UN, and other totalitarian dictators, fear any challenge to their authority, especially heresy, just as the vampire fears the silver stake, garlic, and sunshine.

    So when they are able to provide an excuse for killing infidels who drew offensive cartoons, they do the deed, especially if it protects the authority of the dictator-in-charge, having calculated that their enemies are weak and might not have enough resources to defeat them.

    This is what Hitler thought when taking the Sudetenland and Poland, and thinking about predestiny, took France and bombed England.

    Nobody wants war, but my fear is that we have seen this movie before, where whole peoples impoverished by their desperate rulers seek to settle the score, unaware that breaking windows and making a big mess is counterproductive. What worries me the most is that our enemy welcomes Armageddon, the chief prophet, Ayatollah Ali, not having many years left to go.

  4. chuck martel says:

    ” hopes that every day they will not have to make any effort to ask like-minded people for money to support their careers.”

    It’s truly a debasement of any concept of a democratic society that elected office should be a “career”. The pompous, all-knowing blowhards that wobble through the halls of congress in their dotage are an embarrassment to a country that considers itself a world leader in representative government.

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