The Cost of the 2020 Elections: An Epic Waste of Money

The campaigns for the national elections this year (for president and Congress) have cost a record-setting eleven billion dollars! What kind of society is this in which such an enormous amount of money is wasted to convince us to vote for these politicians? Imagine what we could do with that money! Here’s a brief calculation based on research done by the Center for Responsive Politics, a group that follows and analyzes the money trail in U.S. politics.

  • Fourteen billion dollars would increase the amount of money the U.S. government spends on renewable and efficient energy by over six times. In other words, this society spends only one-sixth as much on addressing long-term renewable energy – a critical factor in climate change – as on this election.

  • With fourteen billion dollars, Medicaid could be provided to an additional 3.5 million people. This would provide health care to a population roughly equal to the number of people in Connecticut or Utah.

  • Fourteen billion dollars would more than double the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The budget for the EPA, which protects endangered species, monitors toxic waste, and ensures food and water quality, is only $8.2 billion. This election wastes about one and two-thirds times that amount.

  • Fourteen billion dollars would double federal aid to K-12 schools. Title I grants, which help fund schools in low-income communities across the nation, amount to $14 billion as well. An additional $14 billion could provide resources for students and jobs for educators and school staff in these underfunded schools.
  • The National Endowment for the Arts could fund 93 times as many artists. The National Endowment for the Arts, which gives a little less than $150 million a year to artists, musicians, writers, and poets could expand its support for creativity 93 times!

  • The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program could be expanded three times. Today, this federal program covers the cost of cooling and heating to seven million families with when they can’t afford it. With climate change making weather patterns increasingly harsh, this is a growing need. Fourteen billion dollars could almost quadruple the budget of this agency.

  • The U.S. could help significant numbers of refugees. With an estimated 26 million refugees in the world fleeing wars and climate destruction, the U.S. only gives a small number of refugees a safe place to live. In 2019 the U.S. spent only $2.8 billion to resettle 18,000 refugees.
  • With fourteen billion dollars, this number could be increased by five times. This is far less than what is needed, but it is that much more than the pathetic amount currently spent by the U.S. government.

  • With fourteen billion dollars, the U.S. could increase its funding for substance abuse and mental health treatment by four times. The U.S. spent just $3.5 billion on mental health and substance abuse in 2019. With the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health and substance abuse, this would be an enormous help.

These numbers show that this is a society with its priorities completely out of line. Instead of helping people live, this incredible amount of money is wasted on a political system that does not represent the majority of people in the United States, let alone in the world. While this election seems to take up all the space in the room, let’s try to think outside of the box. Can’t we imagine a better use for this wealth? Can’t we imagine a better way to organize our society?