Monday, November 30, 2015

Black Friday Sent A Powerful Message To Our Politicians: Listen To The 1%.

The holiday season is about all how we spend the time we have and the money we make. What do we choose to do with precious resources we're given?

This post isn't about the lines, camping or number of people who shopped. It's about much more than that.

For background, though...

The number of people who shopped. It's not that bad.
There's an article making the rounds online claiming more than twice the number of people who voted in 2014 shopped last Friday. With lines out the door, even people camping out for days or weeks, it can be a pretty sad comparison for American's enthusiasm for their democracy. Which we're constantly lamenting.

This article is wrong. In the final tally, only 102 million people went shopping, dealing with the insane lines and crowds. Just 34% more than voted in 2014, not 100%. So, no problem right?

How we told our leaders to listen to the 1%
Let's say you wanted a nice, intimate dinner with the President and a chance to network with some of New York's finest one-percenters. This is the perfect opportunity to get in good with Obama, or whoever's President (as the cost is determined by giving limits), and make it known that your support doesn't come free.

For the ultra-rich, it costs a meagre $36,000 to get your issue directly in front of the President - and you get a ridiculous, private dinner from a 5-star chef to-boot!

Cards Against Humanity
On the other hand, this Thanksgiving people gave over $71,145 away to Cards Against Humanity for absolutely nothing except a joke. Not even a copy of the game.

At $5 a pop, people literally handed over TWICE what it costs to get a seat with the President of the United States to a for-profit company. What did they do with all that money? Well, they bought themselves toys.

Sweet, Sweets Spending
But perhaps one of the best benchmarks is the first fall holiday - Halloween. Here are two numbers from 2015:
  • $6.9 billion: Total estimated Halloween consumer spending in the United States for 2015.
  • 64: Percent of Americans who planned to celebrate Halloween this year.
In 2012, small donors gave $284 million to both Presidential candidates combined with a voter turnout rate of 55%. Think about that. 9% MORE people do Halloween than vote and they're spending 2,253% more on it.

For perspective, that is over 3.5 times the cost of ALL Presidential campaign spending COMBINED - no SuperPACs or Billionaires required.

Why Do Billionaires Win?
When you think about it, it's obvious. Combined, American easily have the firepower - in votes and money - to put their issues in front of Presidents and fund entire elections themselves. In fact, if all the small donors gave, it would probably reduce the cost of elections because politicians would know their actually reaching people.

But it's not like it costs a lot as it is. A dinner with the President is easily within the reach of the mega-rich; in part because everyone else isn't giving. The 1% don't run politics simply because they have more money, it's because they invest money in ways that yield a return. Including in politics.

Alternatively, it seems people would literally rather give their money away to a funny (but still private) corporation to pad the owners' pockets.

But maybe the problem is just that we don't have a way of putting our money together to demand things of politicians like wealthy donors. Maybe if people could see their power, up front and personally, it would change things. Well, that's what we're working on at ShiftSpark. Please come by and check out what we're doing, we'd love to hear your thoughts.

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