Friday, October 31, 2008

$3,000,000 For Half-An-Hour is Cheap!!!

Though some will find Wednesday night's Phila. Phillies "World Series" victory (surely an exaggerated title?!) remarkable, others were equally if not more astounded at the half-hour USD$3 million infomercial splurge by the Obama campaign, reportedly watched by (depending upon one's source) 25 to 33 million Americans (or is it households?). The grey man trailing was quick to chastise the leader for such extravagance, but then, of course, he would given his purse of loose change, botox, and duct tape. I have no doubt he would have done the same were he so able. Ignoring the partisanship, however, I will put to you that I think Americans on all sides miss its true significance.

While others were aghast at the cost, I was stunned by the pittance. ONLY USD $3,000,000 for half an hour of prime time with electorate of the most powerful nation on earth? No wonder reality TV is the rage if that's the miniscule value afforded one-half hour of the nation's undivided attention (excepting to make popcorn and pull a beer out of the fridge). Indeed look at the spend of the Oil Industry or Automobile sector lobby groups and one will begin to see how pathetically cheap it is to buy policy, and why the returns to rent-seeking investments far outstrip the return on capital expenditure.

But Obama's campaign has miraculously been financed in the main from large numbers of individual donations. And with the popular vote, not nearly as lopsided as the electoral vote, one would be forgiven for wondering why the grey challenger has not inspired similar broad-based financial support? Surely, the demographics of his supporters would suggest they are more-than- able (in comparison to the Dems dems) to provide the money. It is almost as if The People, (and here please forgive my idealism) or the motivated majority, are contributing to a campaign that seeks to repurchase the Public Interest from the corporate rent-seeking interests who've wielded the power-levers for the last three decades leaving us in our sad rudderless predicament. And a fine thing too, for rent-seeking is a pathetically selfish and short-sighted endeavor, more often than not preventing competition, innovation, adaptation, and capital investment in manufacturing, while encouraging parasitic and imprudent pursuits in the financial realm, that characterize an environment devoid of a sense of Public Interest. German pets do not receive Credit Card special offers, nor are French households teased with low-rate combustible mortgages completely outside the realm of the applicants probable future ability to service it. Yet, for three decades, The People in the USA have come to accept such malformed oddities as a "normal" element of capitalism, despite the reality that The People will ultimately underwrite and social the downside, the larger it becomes.

I look at the $3 million for half-an-hour and I see incredible possibilities to educate the nation about policy and their interests and thereby broaden the mandate for change - not with ubiquitious, whitewashed Maoist slogans - but with a slickly non-patronizingly put-together educational pieces that might go something like:
(fade in with voiceover by Colin Powell) ...."Here is America. We spend nearly 15% of GDP on Healthcare and a large minority are not, or insufficiently covered. Approx 28% of private expenditure is spent on administration. Here is France and Canada. They spend 10% of GDP on Healthcare and EVERYONE is covered. They spend approximately 3% of each healthcare dollar on administration. The different is astoundingly large! $350,000,000,000 dollars!!! What could America do with the $350 billion we might save? We could nearly balance our budget. Provide proper body armour to our troops. We could improve our primary and secondary educational system and public transport, invest in much-needed child-care. We could subsidise housing for the indigent and the truly needy, make long-term investments in sustainable energy and associated R&D, perhaps cure cancer.......
Or imagine how little money it would take to effectively educate and counter the demagoguery against higher carbon taxes:
(fade in with voiceover by Morgan Freeman)
"No one WANTS higher energy taxes (except maybe the manufacturers of bicycles). I certainly don't. But over-intensive energy use in America comes at an outrageously high price that collectively hurts all of us: it stultifies our national competitiveness against our economic competitors who've chosen forward-looking energy policies for the 21st century where hydrocarbons are scarcer and more expensive which of course costs us much-needed jobs; it impoverishes our national finances by the continuous trade deficits such use forces us to run, ultimately leading to higher interest rates, inflation and yes, higher taxes; it jeopardizes the environment that we will bestow upon our children; and it emboldens Freedoms' political adversaries by filling their coffers instead of using the hard-earned wealth to improve the society in which we live. For years, we've hoped that common sense and individual responsibility would prevail over personal choice, but history has proved this assumption to be false. Only "price" can meaningfully change consumption behaviour in a free society. But "price" rarely effects longer-term supply/demand conditions, investment necessities, or negative externalities, such that when market prices fall, people naturally become lazy and backslide. We are of course, only human. To counter this, and in the long-term interest of citizens, this nation, and our children's futures, over the next eight years, we will phase in meaningfully higher carbon taxes that will encourage more intelligent energy-use and civic-minded behaviour, the result for which we will all be better off...
Or how about the financial education ditty.
(Fade in to voice over by Warren Buffett):
"Good evening everyone. I am Warren Buffett and you probably know me a the richest man in the world. I didn't inherit it, nor did I win the lottery though I will admit I have had some luck, such as being born in America, having the benefit of a no-nonsense education, and a paper route at a young age. For those looking for advice let me begin by telling you that Jim Cramer is an idiot. So is Larry Kudlow, and Arthur Laffer. It is likely that your stock-broker and your mortgage consultant are also idiots are little better than snake-oil salesmen." I drive an old car. I live in a modest house almost certainly beneath my means. I save. And I invest wisely.I am suspicious of "something for nothing", and rarely borrow, or accept promises from people whom I believe are unlikely to pay..... etc. etc.
Three-million dollars for half an hour of prime-time!!! Oh, the value-for-money....

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey, I read this blog for the cynicism. If I want an upside slant there's lots of choice. Anyway, Yeats had all this covered with "the best lack all conviction, blah, blah, passionate intensity" didn't he?

- Phil

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure Warren Buffett is the type to give sound advice these days. First, he invests in a way that most people can't. How many individuals do you know who could get a deal like he got with Goldman? That was a rich helping the rich gig.

He also seems to support the "something for nothing" mantra these days. For example, he supports large government spending (which will certainly be monetized to some extent), including the recent bailout of Wall Street (which may have had something to do with his bank positions--new and old--getting killed this year).

Yeah, I lost a bit of respect for the man this year.

OperationNorthwoods said...

Your cynicism seems to be only skin deep here. Obama seems to me to be an American version of the color revolutions. He and his acquaintances/friends have that foundation/NGO/left-CIA feeling that we've come to know so well over the years. It's just that I'd rather get a friend of an agent provocateur such as Ayers (with a father on the board of General Dynamics) over the disastrous neo-cons.

We should at least have the right to choose how we go to hell.

Anonymous said...

What would Homer Simpson make of your 30 minutes of prime time?

"Cassandra" said...

Please, I am NOT a cynic...but rather a mere healthy skeptic. There is little satirical element in this post. I really DO think its a pittance and the lack of recognition of this has meant the public interest has been abnegated for three decades due to the paltry sums expends by [primarily corporate] lobby groups.

Anonymous said...

The question is of course who would bother watching? Obama is special for being an exciting charismatic figure.

Minor nitpick, the CBO estimates US healthcare expenditure will be 16% of GDP this year.

bobn said...

Anonymous, re: Yeats

Something a few days ago motivated me to reread "The Second Coming" - it seems scarily fit, at least the whole first paragraph.

I printed it off and hung it outside my cube. So far, no response from managment.....

Joe said...

WOW this is a great blog that I just found. Keep it up!