The Charity of Politics

I was sitting on my back porch the other night just before bed when a peculiar thought came to mind.  At first I was fascinated by the thought but as I dwelt upon it I found myself more agitated then amused.  The more I thought about it and analyzed it the more frustrated I found myself becoming.  The thought itself was not particularly frustrating but some of the offshoot lines of thought led me down paths that in my core as a compassionate person were perplexing.  As I reflected on these lines of thought I started asking myself questions about why this particular phenomenon exists.  I wondered why we, as human beings, do some of the things we do.  How do we as a culture set our priorities?  What can each of us do as individuals do to make a difference?

 Every two years we here in the US participate in a process called an election.  Every two years all members of the House of Representatives and one-third of Senators get voted in or out of office.  Every four years we are asked to select a President and Vice President.  Each one of these cycles lends themselves to endless campaign commercials, speeches, interviews, and appearances by the candidates.   Another thing that takes place in the cycle is part of what I was thinking that had me perplexed and frustrated.  That is campaign and Super Political Action Committee donations.

 I understand that running a campaign costs money, especially when it is a national campaign where every state is involved.  I also understand that not every candidate has unlimited funds on their own to finance the TV and radio commercials, travel, and other expenses that are part of the election process.  I know that without donations it would be almost impossible for candidates to get their message out to the people.  I do not begrudge people who choose to donate to candidates’ campaigns or to Super PACs.  My issue is not with individual donors or donations but how the process works and my frustration with the millions of dollars that are spent.  In the case of the President, hundreds of millions of dollars are spent to get a job that pays only $400,000 per year.  That is a negative return on investment.

 Politicians, especially those on the Left are always saying that the rich need to pay their fair share and talk about raising taxes on the wealthy.  Never mind that the top 10% of income earners pay nearly 90% of all income taxes, but that is a discussion for another post.  The problem with these politicians is that as soon as election time rolls around, sometimes more than a year before Election Day, the people they go to for donations are the very rich they demonize.  In fact, many of these politicians are just as wealthy as their donors.  These wealthy donors will hold fundraiser dinners for $12,000 plus a plate and some even bundle multiple donations for their chosen candidate.  The amount of money that candidates raise is staggering to say the least.

 Now I am a free market capitalist and I believe that what you earn is yours and no one should be allowed to tell you how to spend your money.  Furthermore, I believe that we are called by God to help those in need.  I believe if you are richly blessed with wealth you should bless others through your church, synagogue, mosque, or other charitable organization that helps those in your own area.  Do I think you should give all your money away?  No, I think each individual should decide if and how much they are willing to give to charity as well as if and how much they give to politicians.  But I am perplexed at the fact that no one seems to bat an eye at private political donations but these same people will bemoan the plight of the poor in the US and give very little to organizations that help the poor.  Imagine if a charity could raise half of what a politician raises. 

 In 2012, President Obama was able to raise over $1 billion for his re-election campaign.  That equals out to $2.86 for each person in the US.  How much good would that kind of volume do for an inner city organization that helped kids stay off the streets and out of gangs.  Could it give them a safe place to go where they could learn and grow without feeling the need to join a gang to belong?  Could you imagine if the same people who would pay $12,000 a plate showed up for a $5,000 a plate dinner for a shelter for battered women?  These are worthy more so than a wealthy politician any day.

 Another thing that I have noticed about so-called charities ran by such people as George Soros is they give a lot of money to organizations that do nothing or very little in the way of assistance for those in poverty.  In fact, Soros’ “charity” has given millions to Black Lives Matter, an organization that seems to exist only to protest and insight riots in the very communities that need help.  The money that BLM receives from Soros could be better spent in the inner city to promote safer streets and getting kids out of the clutches of gangs.  Don’t get me wrong, I believe George Soros has every right to spend his money any way he sees fit.  I just find it ironic that instead of trying to help build up the Black Community, BLM with the help of Soros is causing damage in the very community it claims to serve. 

 What is the solution to this dilemma?  The reason I believe that these wealthy donors give so much to politicians and not to charity is simply that they believe they will be able to benefit from policies once the candidate is in office.  No such incentive exists for donating to help the poor.  When this country was first founded, the only way to know the candidates was by newspaper or in person.  There was no television, radio, or internet only letters and newspapers.  Most candidates would write letters to the local paper to be published to get their message out.  Candidates in that time financed their campaigns by soliciting donations from local people as they travelled, “passing the hat” kind of situation.  Granted, the US only consisted of a dozen or so states for a long time and multi-million dollar campaigns did not exist but I believe people were more informed politically in that time. 

 We could debate campaign finance reform for days but in the end it still boils down to personal decisions.  Even if donations were not needed for campaigns does not mean the money would go to charity.  Still in yet, I would urge those large campaign donors to consider increasing their contributions to local charities.  The perplexing part of all this is that people will donate tens of thousands of dollars to a political candidate but when the plate is passed around for those with true needs, these same people suddenly have little or nothing to give.  If we all give some, together we can make a difference.

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