Are the US Presidential Elections Expensive or Not?

The LA Times recently ran a story explaining that for some Chinese the US presidential elections seem like a huge waste of money. Here is an interesting op-ed by Southern Weekly columnist Liu Yu defending the expensive process. According to Liu, “spending millions of US dollars to buy citizens’ confidence in the institution of and inspire responsibility for one’s country is actually a bargain.”

 

Liu first presents the case against extravagant expenditures in US elections before knocking it down; she cites numbers and the catchy but simplistic argument that election money could be better spent to “buy textbooks for children.” She quotes an American friend criticizing election expenditures, “US democracy is very hypocritical. Here we have some people with money, during the campaign they donate a lot of money to the candidates, and then after taking office the officials give all kinds of kick-backs.” 

 

In defense of campaign expenditures, Liu explains that although rich Americans may attempt to manipulate the system, it’s the exception, not the rule. Not only is legislation in place to prevent unsavory practices, but many of the funds raised during the 2008 race have come from small, individual donations- 65% in the case of Obama. She concedes that money indeed plays a decisive role in the elections; however Liu characterizes the process not as benefiting capitalists’ monopolistic interests, but rather enabling ordinary citizens to express their wishes as “democratic stockholders.”

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