While there were many crucial topics that could have or should have been part of this year’s election debate, such as climate change and violence in every corner of globe, the debate continually focused on money. The economy is certainly important when we experience the gap widen between the rich and the poor. However, rather than attending to this gap, the real money argument is about who should pay for what rather than figuring out how to share the tax burden that ensures the common good.
Just one day after the election, Congressional leaders held separate press conferences setting the stage to continue the money debate. The fiscal cliff, as we’ve learned to call it, is looming and the showdown in Washington has begun anew. While we must make some immediate changes in our revenue and spending plans by the end of this year, it will take more than just one set of negotiated compromises over a much longer period to set a vision for our country’s (and world’s) economic future. We have to accept that historic greed exercised by those who retain the most wealth will not change until our social policies require that they pay their fair share of taxes.
Speaking of money, hearing the actual dollar amount spent of this year’s elections was appalling. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the cost of this election is predicted to exceed $6 billion of which $2.6 was spent on the Presidential election alone. It is not only the most expensive in history; it will actually surpass the second most expensive one by $700 million.
Where does all that money come from? According to Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, "In the new campaign finance landscape since the Citizens United Supreme Court Ruling, we're seeing historic spending levels spurred by outside groups dominated by a small number of individuals and organizations making exceptional contributions." She claims that we may never know how much was actually spent because much of it, known as “shadow money,” goes to other unreported non-political activities. So there is money everywhere, depending on who has it and what they want to spend it on.
Since I’m on the topic of money; just when we had gotten over the barrage of campaign advertising that we know was costing millions of dollars, we began to see the product promotions heading into the Thanksgiving season. According to the National Retail Federation, there was more than $59 billion in estimated sales from Thursday through Sunday, courtesy of 247 million shoppers. Online sales for Thanksgiving and Black Friday were up almost 20% from the same two days in 2011, according to data from IBM Smarter. There seems to be money, money, money everywhere.
Like many of us, I cannot fathom how much food, housing, clothing, and child care could be purchased with the $6 billion spent on elections plus the $59 billion spent on one weekend of shopping. We make the choice to spend these astronomical sums. Instead of complaining about sharing the cost of health care and so-called entitlement programs for our elders – why not choose to collectively support those who are most in need.
The United Church of Christ has 5,194 churches throughout the United States. Rooted in the Christian traditions of congregational governance and covenantal relationships, each UCC setting speaks only for itself and not on behalf of every UCC congregation. UCC members and churches are free to differ on important social issues, even as the UCC remains principally committed to unity in the midst of our diversity.