The Best Leaders That Money Can Buy
Are you as tired as I am of hearing about how much money is being raised by these presidential candidates? It's become synonymous with a Jerry Lewis Telethon, with the numbers continuously changing on the tote boards.
"All right, ladies and gentlemen, let's go back to the board to see how much has been added to the total. As of five minutes ago, Mitt Romney was in the lead with $17 million, but we have some new figures coming up." The numbers begin spinning as multi-colored lights flicker. A new number emerges, and the host becomes visibly excited. "Great Scott, people, here comes Rick Perry with just over $15 mil. The Texas governor may have flubbed some debates, but he's no slouch when it comes to amassing the long green. Newt Gingrich is a distant third with a mere $8 mil, but his dollar signs are growing fast lately. Hold on to your hats, folks -- this is just the beginning."
That's a lamentable fact; it is just the beginning! We have to put up with this for the next several months as each Republican White House wannabe rakes in the dough at one event after another like a celebrity performer on a concert tour.
As for the current chief executive, reports indicate that he'll have about a billion dollars in the bank to fund his reelection effort. That's a one, followed by nine zeros! That means that the president will have enough money to pay his annual salary ($400,000) for 2,500 years, until A.D. 4512.
The reason why the current and would-be commanders in chief are scrounging around the country for cash is because they need to pay for the advertising legerdemain -- that is, persuade voters to forget everything negative said voters already know and supplant that knowledge with a list of achievements that, hitherto, never existed.
Called "the mother's milk of politics," money is used to create mass hypnosis. With a large enough bankroll, you can make people believe that Madonna is a virgin and Sean Penn is a patriot.
There is something fundamentally dishonest about this gluttonous quest to accumulate a swollen treasury in order to sell oneself to the voters. Moreover, the system is so corrupted by money that the candidates don't even talk about how their opponents got it. Like partners in crime, each candidate fears that if he points to questionable largesse, fingers will be pointed right back at the lucre-laden haul he himself has gathered.
Recently, I received an invitation from one of the GOP candidates (I'll omit the name because they all do it). It began, "You are cordially invited to a dinner with [Candidate]." Upon reading further, I found that my acceptance would cost me a cool grand -- not exactly my idea of a cordial way to invite someone to dinner. Oh, and if I wanted a VIP reception with the candidate, the price was $2,300. I wonder how many people in the middle and lower economic brackets could afford to attend.
If the axiom about getting what you pay for is correct, most Americans will be going to bed hungry. The only way I'd pay $2,300 to be in the same room with a notable politician is if Abraham Lincoln was brought back to life and wanted to give me a review of "Our American Cousin."
It's sad that we the people have countenanced a system that produces the best leaders that money can buy. To tell ourselves that there's no quid pro quo surreptitiously bundled into those hundreds of millions of greenbacks is to engage in the same suspension of disbelief that occurs when we watch Spiderman catapult himself throughout the city on web-like membranes. While we're facing a $15-trillion debt, those who proclaim to be capable of leading us back to prosperity are undoubtedly making deals with their most affluent contributors, many of whom are partly responsible for getting us into this economic quicksand. I think it's fair to say that the average man or woman who gets up every day, goes to work, obeys the law, pays his or her taxes, and struggles to raise a family has had nothing to do with the meltdown of the financial markets.
Nevertheless, these same average men and women are the ones who suffer the most when high-ranking elected officials begin these incestuous relationships with Wall Street brokers and bankers, many of whom are still walking away with multimillion-dollar bonuses during a recession they themselves caused. I'm not naïve enough to think that life is fair, but I do believe that it doesn't have to be so one-sided that the maniacal quest for money, notwithstanding the corruption accompanying its acquisition, becomes the only pathway to success. Perhaps we should vote for the candidates that have the least amount of contributions to their campaigns.