Who profits from campaign spending?

The presidential campaign will cost some $4 billion.  We worry about so much spending and what special interests contribute so much money.  But another question, Michael Wolff points out, is who gets all of that money?  The answer:  Television stations, despite the way this flies in the face of modern marketing principles:

Presidential campaigns (and statewide races that ride the national political debate) are expensive in the extreme because they’re tactically focused on convincing the people who are the most difficult and, hence, most expensive to convince. And, arguably, the more money that is spent by both sides trying to convince the undecided helps keep them unconvinced — hence, requiring more resources in this illogical quest. The two main principles of marketing — not spending more than the sale is worth; focusing the most resources on the most susceptible buyers — are thrown out in presidential politics.

Billions are spent not only on the few, but on the diffident, bored, resistant and dumb. (If you haven’t made up your mind by this point, you probably aren’t capable of making up your mind.)

Who most directly benefits? Local television stations, and the large media companies that own them. (Among them is USA TODAY parent Gannett, which owns 23 television stations.) Also benefiting are the consultants who buy this media and whose fees are a reflection of the amount of media they buy. Politics is a large and lucrative business offering a clear payoff to a small set of players, who are almost never singled out in the debate about campaign finance reform.If rich men such as Sheldon Adelson ultimately earn some advantage from backing a winner, theirs is a vastly more indirect and uncertain gain than that of station owners and political operatives.

Curiously, nobody asks the most obvious question. Why do campaigns continue to buy, almost to the exclusion of all other media, local broadcast television? It is more costly and less efficient — that is, less targeted — than cable, digital, or even newspapers, all of which attract scant political dollars.

The answer is probably simple. Broadcast television, with its vast audience and quick reach, is not only the most expensive option (not least because its space is most limited), but its use most efficiently perpetuates a seesaw effect. One candidate’s media buy must be balanced by another candidate’s media buy. The strategic goal becomes about trying to raise more money to spend more money to achieve a minor edge.

The exact people each campaign should be spending less on end up, to the enrichment of media and consultants, getting vastly greater attention and dollars. The cheapening of the debate is an inevitable side-effect. It’s all about, in 1950s mass market advertising, repetition. It’s a beautiful, and old-fashioned (think selling soap in the 1950s), advertising loop — the more repetition, the more market share — benefiting media companies.

via Michael Wolff: Give campaign ads free TV time.

Wolff goes on to propose a solution:  Since television stations are publicly licensed, let’s require them to provide free air time for political campaigns.

What do you think of that?  It seems rather tyrannical to force companies to give away their products for free.  And wouldn’t free ads just continue the dysfunctional marketing strategies?  It would seem that the solution would be for one or perhaps both candidates to refuse to take the bait, to concentrate their spending on targeted advertising, online and elsewhere.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • kerner

    Oh there are more tyrannical aspects than that. What he is basicaly saying is: “The speech is bad, so limit their opportunities to talk; people are sutpid, so don’t let them listen and decide.”

    And all of this is for our own good, of course. Don’t you just love it when tyrants take over our lives for our own good?

  • kerner

    Oh there are more tyrannical aspects than that. What he is basicaly saying is: “The speech is bad, so limit their opportunities to talk; people are sutpid, so don’t let them listen and decide.”

    And all of this is for our own good, of course. Don’t you just love it when tyrants take over our lives for our own good?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    So you say you like living in a highly prosperous, high tech, high trust/socially functioning society, but… you don’t trust those who most contribute to those particular aspects of this society to make the rules. No, we need those who cannot even manage their own lives to chip in their 2¢ to “improve” our governance. Not exactly logical reasoning.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    So you say you like living in a highly prosperous, high tech, high trust/socially functioning society, but… you don’t trust those who most contribute to those particular aspects of this society to make the rules. No, we need those who cannot even manage their own lives to chip in their 2¢ to “improve” our governance. Not exactly logical reasoning.

  • DonS

    Obviously, Wolff doesn’t own a TV station.

    His article is absurdly short of facts. A lot more money is spent on staffing and “ground game” expenditures than TV ads. It’s all about GOTV. Sure, a lot of money is spent on TV, but it’s a mere fraction of the $4 billion.

    Additionally, the licensed “over the air” local TV stations are mostly carried, and viewed, on cable and satellite systems. Few people have antennas. Cable and satellite stations do not require FCC licenses. If the government tried to strong-arm TV stations to forfeit paid ad time to political candidates, who already receive, by law, the most favored ad rates, I would guess a lot of stations would strongly consider whether they really need their license.

    The article is, in the main, totalitarian and inane, but at least he made another deadline.

  • DonS

    Obviously, Wolff doesn’t own a TV station.

    His article is absurdly short of facts. A lot more money is spent on staffing and “ground game” expenditures than TV ads. It’s all about GOTV. Sure, a lot of money is spent on TV, but it’s a mere fraction of the $4 billion.

    Additionally, the licensed “over the air” local TV stations are mostly carried, and viewed, on cable and satellite systems. Few people have antennas. Cable and satellite stations do not require FCC licenses. If the government tried to strong-arm TV stations to forfeit paid ad time to political candidates, who already receive, by law, the most favored ad rates, I would guess a lot of stations would strongly consider whether they really need their license.

    The article is, in the main, totalitarian and inane, but at least he made another deadline.

  • kerner

    sg @2:

    Who is saying that?

  • kerner

    sg @2:

    Who is saying that?

  • SKPeterson

    I think TV stations should give free airtime to Coca Cola and Pepsi so I can decide how to vote my dollars.

  • SKPeterson

    I think TV stations should give free airtime to Coca Cola and Pepsi so I can decide how to vote my dollars.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS (@3), are you sure you want to critique Wolff’s argument as being “absurdly short of facts”? Where are yours, exactly?

    A lot more money is spent on staffing and “ground game” expenditures than TV ads. It’s all about GOTV. Sure, a lot of money is spent on TV, but it’s a mere fraction of the $4 billion.

    I was curious to see if were anywhere near right. According to Open Secrets, of the money they classify as spent by presidential campaigns in 2012, 49% of it ($355M) went to media expenditures, while only 13% of it ($93M) went to campaign expenses. To break that down further, $85M was spent on broadcast media, while $120K was for GOTV. (That said, I think those numbers are not terribly recent.)

    The Washington Post seems to back this up.

    I don’t know, Don. Doesn’t exactly look like “it’s all about GOTV”. Care to back up your claim with some facts?

    That’s to say nothing of the vast amounts of money spent by “independent” groups (e.g. super PACs) to buy ad time. Those numbers, of course, tend to dwarf the actual campaign expenditures, it would seem.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS (@3), are you sure you want to critique Wolff’s argument as being “absurdly short of facts”? Where are yours, exactly?

    A lot more money is spent on staffing and “ground game” expenditures than TV ads. It’s all about GOTV. Sure, a lot of money is spent on TV, but it’s a mere fraction of the $4 billion.

    I was curious to see if were anywhere near right. According to Open Secrets, of the money they classify as spent by presidential campaigns in 2012, 49% of it ($355M) went to media expenditures, while only 13% of it ($93M) went to campaign expenses. To break that down further, $85M was spent on broadcast media, while $120K was for GOTV. (That said, I think those numbers are not terribly recent.)

    The Washington Post seems to back this up.

    I don’t know, Don. Doesn’t exactly look like “it’s all about GOTV”. Care to back up your claim with some facts?

    That’s to say nothing of the vast amounts of money spent by “independent” groups (e.g. super PACs) to buy ad time. Those numbers, of course, tend to dwarf the actual campaign expenditures, it would seem.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 6: I think you need to take a closer look at the numbers you link to.

    I’m seeing a total of $726 million or so spent by both campaigns as of 10/21 (at the outset, I will point out that Wolffe’s $4 billion number was absurd in itself, as it included RNC, DNC, and outside group expenditures, which would never be part of any “free time” TV stations would be obligated to offer). Of that $726 million, only half ($354 million) goes to media. Of that, only $85 million to broadcast media, which presumably includes radio as well as TV, and also includes a lot of cable TV.

    So, exactly, how am I wrong again? You excluded all of the other stuff that does NOT go to broadcast media — I’m not sure why. Convenient to make your point, I guess, wrong though it is.

    Nice try, though. My point that Wolffe’s article is absurd, and totalitarian, stands.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 6: I think you need to take a closer look at the numbers you link to.

    I’m seeing a total of $726 million or so spent by both campaigns as of 10/21 (at the outset, I will point out that Wolffe’s $4 billion number was absurd in itself, as it included RNC, DNC, and outside group expenditures, which would never be part of any “free time” TV stations would be obligated to offer). Of that $726 million, only half ($354 million) goes to media. Of that, only $85 million to broadcast media, which presumably includes radio as well as TV, and also includes a lot of cable TV.

    So, exactly, how am I wrong again? You excluded all of the other stuff that does NOT go to broadcast media — I’m not sure why. Convenient to make your point, I guess, wrong though it is.

    Nice try, though. My point that Wolffe’s article is absurd, and totalitarian, stands.

  • DonS

    Let’s bottom-line it, tODD. Wolffe makes the asinine claim that $4 billion is spent on campaigns, and TV stations get the lion’s share of it. We have found, as far as the campaigns go, that only some $85 million has been spent on broadcast media so far, by the campaigns. We don’t know what fraction of that actually goes to broadcast spectrum TV stations having FCC licenses. However, it is only this fraction that could be subject to Wolffe’s prescription of free air time. The money spent by party national organizations and third party advocacy groups, whatever that number is, could never be part of such a nonsensical plan.

    Now how far do you want to take attempting to defend such inanity?

  • DonS

    Let’s bottom-line it, tODD. Wolffe makes the asinine claim that $4 billion is spent on campaigns, and TV stations get the lion’s share of it. We have found, as far as the campaigns go, that only some $85 million has been spent on broadcast media so far, by the campaigns. We don’t know what fraction of that actually goes to broadcast spectrum TV stations having FCC licenses. However, it is only this fraction that could be subject to Wolffe’s prescription of free air time. The money spent by party national organizations and third party advocacy groups, whatever that number is, could never be part of such a nonsensical plan.

    Now how far do you want to take attempting to defend such inanity?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS (@7), I’m not sure you’re paying close attention here.

    Wolffe nowhere claimed that the billions were only spent by the campaigns themselves. Your complaints otherwise make no sense.

    You asked:

    So, exactly, how am I wrong again?

    Come on, Don! I quoted you! You said, again, (@3):

    A lot more money is spent on staffing and “ground game” expenditures than TV ads. It’s all about GOTV.

    The Open Secret line items for “broadcast media” and “GOTV” in no way bear out this statement. You also seem to be ignoring the “miscellaneous media” line item, even though it is well over twice the size of the “broadcast media” line. You sure there’s no advertising costs in there? And media consultants don’t play a role in TV ads?

    And these are numbers I provided. I asked you several times to back up your claims, but it would seem all the data you have came from me. Hmm.

    Anyhow, I’m not defending Wolffe’s idea. It has bigger flaws than the ones you’re addressing. Like, I don’t know, the fact that giving candidates free air time in no way precludes massive amounts of money being spent on advertisements in addition to that coverage.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS (@7), I’m not sure you’re paying close attention here.

    Wolffe nowhere claimed that the billions were only spent by the campaigns themselves. Your complaints otherwise make no sense.

    You asked:

    So, exactly, how am I wrong again?

    Come on, Don! I quoted you! You said, again, (@3):

    A lot more money is spent on staffing and “ground game” expenditures than TV ads. It’s all about GOTV.

    The Open Secret line items for “broadcast media” and “GOTV” in no way bear out this statement. You also seem to be ignoring the “miscellaneous media” line item, even though it is well over twice the size of the “broadcast media” line. You sure there’s no advertising costs in there? And media consultants don’t play a role in TV ads?

    And these are numbers I provided. I asked you several times to back up your claims, but it would seem all the data you have came from me. Hmm.

    Anyhow, I’m not defending Wolffe’s idea. It has bigger flaws than the ones you’re addressing. Like, I don’t know, the fact that giving candidates free air time in no way precludes massive amounts of money being spent on advertisements in addition to that coverage.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 9:

    “Now how far do you want to take attempting to defend such inanity?”

    I guess I have my answer.

    So, unless you are terribly stupid, and I know you are not, you surely understand that the campaigns have spent, and more importantly will spend, more than $119,000, COMBINED, on GOTV. They spend years analyzing and targeting districts, developing and analyzing voter databases, developing and training paid staff and volunteers, targeting direct mail, door-to-door visits, telephone calls, etc. to this effort. The GOTV itemization line obviously covers only very specific things, like gas for the buses, or the paid bus drivers. GOTV is included in a multitude of the budget break-outs, such as administration, campaign expenses, direct mail, and the like. I didn’t have the Open Secrets cost breakdowns in mind when I made my comment — I had reality in mind, which is that most of the effort of a campaign is directed to GOTV, and advertising is only a fraction of that.

    You also seem to be ignoring the “miscellaneous media” line item, even though it is well over twice the size of the “broadcast media” line. You sure there’s no advertising costs in there? And media consultants don’t play a role in TV ads?

    No. Are you sure there is? Even if all of the “miscellaneous media” costs are for over-the-air TV stations, we still are at a pitiful fraction of Mr. Wolffe’s “$4 billion” figure. And, if you are going to stick to the GOTV break-out as the only GOTV expenditures, aren’t you a bit hard-pressed to, at the same time, claim that broadcast media is included in other categories?

    And these are numbers I provided. I asked you several times to back up your claims, but it would seem all the data you have came from me. Hmm.

    I made a very obvious point that shouldn’t have required data, to anyone that understands anything about political campaigning. However, since you insisted on data, I figured I would use the data you provided, to show you how you were misinterpreting it.

    Wolffe nowhere claimed that the billions were only spent by the campaigns themselves. Your complaints otherwise make no sense.

    Um, his article is limited to TV stations giving free time to the campaigns themselves. So, shouldn’t we also be talking about that universe of spending? $4 billion is a non-sequitur, because he was really only talking about the campaigns, which is the point I was clarifying, since he didn’t bother to.

    Anyhow, I’m not defending Wolffe’s idea. It has bigger flaws than the ones you’re addressing. Like, I don’t know, the fact that giving candidates free air time in no way precludes massive amounts of money being spent on advertisements in addition to that coverage.

    Huh? That’s your only concern? That requiring TV stations to give campaigns free ad time wouldn’t prevent other people from paying to exercise their free speech rights?

    Let me introduce you to the First Amendment.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 9:

    “Now how far do you want to take attempting to defend such inanity?”

    I guess I have my answer.

    So, unless you are terribly stupid, and I know you are not, you surely understand that the campaigns have spent, and more importantly will spend, more than $119,000, COMBINED, on GOTV. They spend years analyzing and targeting districts, developing and analyzing voter databases, developing and training paid staff and volunteers, targeting direct mail, door-to-door visits, telephone calls, etc. to this effort. The GOTV itemization line obviously covers only very specific things, like gas for the buses, or the paid bus drivers. GOTV is included in a multitude of the budget break-outs, such as administration, campaign expenses, direct mail, and the like. I didn’t have the Open Secrets cost breakdowns in mind when I made my comment — I had reality in mind, which is that most of the effort of a campaign is directed to GOTV, and advertising is only a fraction of that.

    You also seem to be ignoring the “miscellaneous media” line item, even though it is well over twice the size of the “broadcast media” line. You sure there’s no advertising costs in there? And media consultants don’t play a role in TV ads?

    No. Are you sure there is? Even if all of the “miscellaneous media” costs are for over-the-air TV stations, we still are at a pitiful fraction of Mr. Wolffe’s “$4 billion” figure. And, if you are going to stick to the GOTV break-out as the only GOTV expenditures, aren’t you a bit hard-pressed to, at the same time, claim that broadcast media is included in other categories?

    And these are numbers I provided. I asked you several times to back up your claims, but it would seem all the data you have came from me. Hmm.

    I made a very obvious point that shouldn’t have required data, to anyone that understands anything about political campaigning. However, since you insisted on data, I figured I would use the data you provided, to show you how you were misinterpreting it.

    Wolffe nowhere claimed that the billions were only spent by the campaigns themselves. Your complaints otherwise make no sense.

    Um, his article is limited to TV stations giving free time to the campaigns themselves. So, shouldn’t we also be talking about that universe of spending? $4 billion is a non-sequitur, because he was really only talking about the campaigns, which is the point I was clarifying, since he didn’t bother to.

    Anyhow, I’m not defending Wolffe’s idea. It has bigger flaws than the ones you’re addressing. Like, I don’t know, the fact that giving candidates free air time in no way precludes massive amounts of money being spent on advertisements in addition to that coverage.

    Huh? That’s your only concern? That requiring TV stations to give campaigns free ad time wouldn’t prevent other people from paying to exercise their free speech rights?

    Let me introduce you to the First Amendment.

  • Andrew

    In New Zealand (might not be currently the case, but was a few years back), the government paid for advertising for each political party on TV in proportion to their vote at the last election. that was the only TV advertising permitted. i think you could go to town in print if you wanted.

    it did stop an arms race, and while it might make it harder for an upcoming party to get coverage, there are probably more minor parties in the NZ parliament than in many other parliaments.

    it did also keep all the political ads to one time slot, and if you didn’t want to see them, you could avoid them.

  • Andrew

    In New Zealand (might not be currently the case, but was a few years back), the government paid for advertising for each political party on TV in proportion to their vote at the last election. that was the only TV advertising permitted. i think you could go to town in print if you wanted.

    it did stop an arms race, and while it might make it harder for an upcoming party to get coverage, there are probably more minor parties in the NZ parliament than in many other parliaments.

    it did also keep all the political ads to one time slot, and if you didn’t want to see them, you could avoid them.

  • kerner

    But Andrew, doesn’t that give more of a voice to those in power than to those out of power? And just how does that serve the free exchange of ideas?

  • kerner

    But Andrew, doesn’t that give more of a voice to those in power than to those out of power? And just how does that serve the free exchange of ideas?

  • DonS

    Andrew @ 11 — I’m with Kerner @ 12. I can’t think of a better way to entrench the incumbent party in power than that.

    The U.S. right to free political speech may result in a lot of annoying exercises of that speech during campaign season, but it truly is a right to be treasured.

  • DonS

    Andrew @ 11 — I’m with Kerner @ 12. I can’t think of a better way to entrench the incumbent party in power than that.

    The U.S. right to free political speech may result in a lot of annoying exercises of that speech during campaign season, but it truly is a right to be treasured.

  • Andrew

    I am talking only of how it has actually worked rather than the theory of it. Although the funding is paid for by the state, the allocation of funds is done indepdendtly of each party. it is very similar to what happens in the UK. Despite all the 1984 dystopic books about the UK, it’d be a stretch to say the incumbents are entrenched.

    The american election season seems to last 18 months in a 48 month cycle. close to half of your time the parties are waging trench warfare with each other at considerable expense, and about as much effectiveness as WW1 trench warfare. Can political free speech be exercised without needing to buy massive parcels of time on TV?

    I realise that americans will give up absolute free speech about as readily as they would give up the right to carry military spec assault weapons, but seemingly large swaths of the rest of the western world is able to have elections that result in representative governments.

    This short document seems to review the various schemes around the world. Make of it what you will
    http://www.law-democracy.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Elections-and-Broadcasting-Final.pdf

  • Andrew

    I am talking only of how it has actually worked rather than the theory of it. Although the funding is paid for by the state, the allocation of funds is done indepdendtly of each party. it is very similar to what happens in the UK. Despite all the 1984 dystopic books about the UK, it’d be a stretch to say the incumbents are entrenched.

    The american election season seems to last 18 months in a 48 month cycle. close to half of your time the parties are waging trench warfare with each other at considerable expense, and about as much effectiveness as WW1 trench warfare. Can political free speech be exercised without needing to buy massive parcels of time on TV?

    I realise that americans will give up absolute free speech about as readily as they would give up the right to carry military spec assault weapons, but seemingly large swaths of the rest of the western world is able to have elections that result in representative governments.

    This short document seems to review the various schemes around the world. Make of it what you will
    http://www.law-democracy.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Elections-and-Broadcasting-Final.pdf

  • Andrew

    Please don’t get me wrong – I’m definitely on the conservative side of politics, and am in favour of the state getting out of people’s lives as much as possible.
    the absolute free speech in the USA when it comes to politics, if you could disengage your brains from the first amendment for a minute, of all the places in the world where there is light forms of regulation in political advertising you still get ideas exchanged, you still get the light shone on incompetence and poor character, but you don’t get billions dumped into advertising needlessly.

    The USA is a fantastic place for many reasons, but there does seem to be a level of insularity and reluctance to do things the way the rest of the world does (I’d cite the metric system as one instance) no matter what. Of all the countries to be dominant in our time, I’m thankful that it is still a country that is notionally christian, and has a culture that is informed and shaped by christian values.

  • Andrew

    Please don’t get me wrong – I’m definitely on the conservative side of politics, and am in favour of the state getting out of people’s lives as much as possible.
    the absolute free speech in the USA when it comes to politics, if you could disengage your brains from the first amendment for a minute, of all the places in the world where there is light forms of regulation in political advertising you still get ideas exchanged, you still get the light shone on incompetence and poor character, but you don’t get billions dumped into advertising needlessly.

    The USA is a fantastic place for many reasons, but there does seem to be a level of insularity and reluctance to do things the way the rest of the world does (I’d cite the metric system as one instance) no matter what. Of all the countries to be dominant in our time, I’m thankful that it is still a country that is notionally christian, and has a culture that is informed and shaped by christian values.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS (@10), much as I appreciate your insinuating that I’m stupid, has it occurred to you that your own definition of GOTV might not be, you know, universal? And that this might be reflected in the line items we are discussing? You’ve now given me some hint as to what you think GOTV entails, specifically, but frankly, you’ve made it so all-encompassing that I see no reason to think TV ads aren’t also included.

    You know what would be helpful here? Some actual facts from you. I keep asking for them, but you keep dodging. Now you tell me you “had reality in mind”. Great. That’s really helpful, Don. I’ll just go consult “reality” then, and then I’ll get your point.

    That’s your only concern? That requiring TV stations to give campaigns free ad time wouldn’t prevent other people from paying to exercise their free speech rights?

    When did I say that was my “only concern”? Are the straw men going to be like this until Election Day? I think arguing that Wolffe’s idea would be ineffective is a pretty significant main flaw.

    As to your “First Amendment” jab, let me introduce you to the FCC. They regulate content that is broadcast over publicly owned airwaves. That’s why we have, amont other things, the equal-time rule. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and suggest that Wolffe’s idea could be implemented in the same constitutional manner.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS (@10), much as I appreciate your insinuating that I’m stupid, has it occurred to you that your own definition of GOTV might not be, you know, universal? And that this might be reflected in the line items we are discussing? You’ve now given me some hint as to what you think GOTV entails, specifically, but frankly, you’ve made it so all-encompassing that I see no reason to think TV ads aren’t also included.

    You know what would be helpful here? Some actual facts from you. I keep asking for them, but you keep dodging. Now you tell me you “had reality in mind”. Great. That’s really helpful, Don. I’ll just go consult “reality” then, and then I’ll get your point.

    That’s your only concern? That requiring TV stations to give campaigns free ad time wouldn’t prevent other people from paying to exercise their free speech rights?

    When did I say that was my “only concern”? Are the straw men going to be like this until Election Day? I think arguing that Wolffe’s idea would be ineffective is a pretty significant main flaw.

    As to your “First Amendment” jab, let me introduce you to the FCC. They regulate content that is broadcast over publicly owned airwaves. That’s why we have, amont other things, the equal-time rule. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and suggest that Wolffe’s idea could be implemented in the same constitutional manner.

  • DonS

    Andrew @ 15:

    The USA is a fantastic place for many reasons, but there does seem to be a level of insularity and reluctance to do things the way the rest of the world does (I’d cite the metric system as one instance) no matter what. Of all the countries to be dominant in our time, I’m thankful that it is still a country that is notionally christian, and has a culture that is informed and shaped by christian values.

    Bingo! Well said. What you are missing, though, is that there is a direct correlation between your first and second points. The U.S. doesn’t want to do things differently JUST BECAUSE the rest of the world does them that way. That is a function of Americans’ individualistic mentality which dates back to the American Revolution — it’s an attitude that the government exists only to serve the citizens in performing uniquely governmental functions. The country is the people, not the government, and it is the preservation of the people’s inalienable rights that is its highest goal. If there is a conflict between the rights of the individual and the perceived needs of government, the people win. Other countries didn’t begin in the same way, and don’t have those same values. Why is America still notionally Christian? — because it was begun by people who were Christians and came here specifically to gain the full liberty, now enshrined in our First Amendment, to practice their faith.

    May it always be so.

  • DonS

    Andrew @ 15:

    The USA is a fantastic place for many reasons, but there does seem to be a level of insularity and reluctance to do things the way the rest of the world does (I’d cite the metric system as one instance) no matter what. Of all the countries to be dominant in our time, I’m thankful that it is still a country that is notionally christian, and has a culture that is informed and shaped by christian values.

    Bingo! Well said. What you are missing, though, is that there is a direct correlation between your first and second points. The U.S. doesn’t want to do things differently JUST BECAUSE the rest of the world does them that way. That is a function of Americans’ individualistic mentality which dates back to the American Revolution — it’s an attitude that the government exists only to serve the citizens in performing uniquely governmental functions. The country is the people, not the government, and it is the preservation of the people’s inalienable rights that is its highest goal. If there is a conflict between the rights of the individual and the perceived needs of government, the people win. Other countries didn’t begin in the same way, and don’t have those same values. Why is America still notionally Christian? — because it was begun by people who were Christians and came here specifically to gain the full liberty, now enshrined in our First Amendment, to practice their faith.

    May it always be so.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 16: I most certainly did not insinuate that you are stupid. In fact, I specifically disavowed that possibility, by saying that “I know you are not”.

    Regardless of the “universal” definition of GOTV, most certainly no reasonable person would say it is so narrow that it could be fully funded, for both campaigns, with an investment of $119,000. Please. I’m sorry that you did not understand what I originally meant by “staffing and ground game expenditures” in my comment @ 3. To clarify, I meant all paid campaign staffing, consultant staffing that supports the ground game components of a campaign, and all direct voter contact activities where voters having a propensity to vote for your candidate are identified, contacted, and encouraged to vote. These activities include phone calls, door-to-door visits, and targeted mail, as well as all of the necessary database building so that you know who those voters are. General media advertising aren’t “ground game expenditures”, per se, because they aren’t specifically targeted to individual voters.

    Again, I don’t think you should need to footnote each blog comment you write. They are not research papers, but rather opinion. Within the general base of knowledge we all should have would be the recognition that Mr. Wolff, who footnoted NOTHING in his original article, and apparently snatched a wildly inflated campaign spending number of $4 billion out of thin air, was blowing smoke.

    When did I say that was my “only concern”? Are the straw men going to be like this until Election Day? I think arguing that Wolffe’s idea would be ineffective is a pretty significant main flaw.

    OK. Well, it’s the only one you mentioned. I’m not a mind reader. What are your others?

    As to your “First Amendment” jab, let me introduce you to the FCC. They regulate content that is broadcast over publicly owned airwaves. That’s why we have, among other things, the equal-time rule. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and suggest that Wolffe’s idea could be implemented in the same constitutional manner.

    Actually, there is not much left of the equal time rule. That’s why political talk radio became popular in the late ’80′s. The rule pretty much only requires that the other side of an issue be afforded an opportunity to respond, with roughly equal time if one candidate is given time on a TV or radio station, and also that both party candidates have the same opportunities to purchase ad time at the most favorable rates available. I don’t think Wolffe’s idea, forcing TV stations to give ad time for free, would pass constitutional muster — that would be a taking if required extensively, at least, even given the fact that the station is licensed. The government would probably have to use public funds to compensate the stations, leading to a whole host of other concerns.

    Bottom line — the article proposes a stupid idea that wouldn’t even begin to address the problems Wolffe perceives to be inherent in the current system, and would raise both First Amendment and takings clause issues that would clearly be unconstitutional, at least under current jurisprudence, and I hope forever.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 16: I most certainly did not insinuate that you are stupid. In fact, I specifically disavowed that possibility, by saying that “I know you are not”.

    Regardless of the “universal” definition of GOTV, most certainly no reasonable person would say it is so narrow that it could be fully funded, for both campaigns, with an investment of $119,000. Please. I’m sorry that you did not understand what I originally meant by “staffing and ground game expenditures” in my comment @ 3. To clarify, I meant all paid campaign staffing, consultant staffing that supports the ground game components of a campaign, and all direct voter contact activities where voters having a propensity to vote for your candidate are identified, contacted, and encouraged to vote. These activities include phone calls, door-to-door visits, and targeted mail, as well as all of the necessary database building so that you know who those voters are. General media advertising aren’t “ground game expenditures”, per se, because they aren’t specifically targeted to individual voters.

    Again, I don’t think you should need to footnote each blog comment you write. They are not research papers, but rather opinion. Within the general base of knowledge we all should have would be the recognition that Mr. Wolff, who footnoted NOTHING in his original article, and apparently snatched a wildly inflated campaign spending number of $4 billion out of thin air, was blowing smoke.

    When did I say that was my “only concern”? Are the straw men going to be like this until Election Day? I think arguing that Wolffe’s idea would be ineffective is a pretty significant main flaw.

    OK. Well, it’s the only one you mentioned. I’m not a mind reader. What are your others?

    As to your “First Amendment” jab, let me introduce you to the FCC. They regulate content that is broadcast over publicly owned airwaves. That’s why we have, among other things, the equal-time rule. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and suggest that Wolffe’s idea could be implemented in the same constitutional manner.

    Actually, there is not much left of the equal time rule. That’s why political talk radio became popular in the late ’80′s. The rule pretty much only requires that the other side of an issue be afforded an opportunity to respond, with roughly equal time if one candidate is given time on a TV or radio station, and also that both party candidates have the same opportunities to purchase ad time at the most favorable rates available. I don’t think Wolffe’s idea, forcing TV stations to give ad time for free, would pass constitutional muster — that would be a taking if required extensively, at least, even given the fact that the station is licensed. The government would probably have to use public funds to compensate the stations, leading to a whole host of other concerns.

    Bottom line — the article proposes a stupid idea that wouldn’t even begin to address the problems Wolffe perceives to be inherent in the current system, and would raise both First Amendment and takings clause issues that would clearly be unconstitutional, at least under current jurisprudence, and I hope forever.

  • Andrew

    @DonS: it’s your system. your billions to squander.

    “If there is a conflict between the rights of the individual and the perceived needs of government, the people win. ”
    How’s that working for you in your enhanced screening at airports?
    Or government sanctioned drone assassinations of US citizens?

    Like I said, there is much that is admirable about america, but there is enough silly stuff that makes the rest of the world shake its head in disbelief and say “only in america”. as a “for instance” i reckon that even if abortion was off the table, that level of individualism would make many oppose public healthcare, even if it provided better care for all at a cheaper per capita price.

  • Andrew

    @DonS: it’s your system. your billions to squander.

    “If there is a conflict between the rights of the individual and the perceived needs of government, the people win. ”
    How’s that working for you in your enhanced screening at airports?
    Or government sanctioned drone assassinations of US citizens?

    Like I said, there is much that is admirable about america, but there is enough silly stuff that makes the rest of the world shake its head in disbelief and say “only in america”. as a “for instance” i reckon that even if abortion was off the table, that level of individualism would make many oppose public healthcare, even if it provided better care for all at a cheaper per capita price.

  • DonS

    Andrew @ 19: That’s the beauty of it — they aren’t my billions. I don’t make political contributions, and that $4 billion is private money. No candidate is using my hard-earned tax dollars to promote a political agenda I disagree with, as is the case in publicly funded environments.

    I’m glad that Australia is so perfect. The U.S. is located on earth, so sometimes things are imperfect here.

    As for your statement about public healthcare, whether or not it provided better care for all at a cheaper per capita price is a big IF.

    In what way are you conservative, as you indicated @ 15? So far you have pretty much seemed to fall on the statist side of things.

  • DonS

    Andrew @ 19: That’s the beauty of it — they aren’t my billions. I don’t make political contributions, and that $4 billion is private money. No candidate is using my hard-earned tax dollars to promote a political agenda I disagree with, as is the case in publicly funded environments.

    I’m glad that Australia is so perfect. The U.S. is located on earth, so sometimes things are imperfect here.

    As for your statement about public healthcare, whether or not it provided better care for all at a cheaper per capita price is a big IF.

    In what way are you conservative, as you indicated @ 15? So far you have pretty much seemed to fall on the statist side of things.

  • Andrew

    australia isn’t perfect. it simply seems that americans are stoic in refusing to move one iota to improve their system, or admit that other parts of the world might do things better.

    all those private dollars come from profits people make in selling things to other citizens. you may not directly pay for it in writing a cheque for a party, but you are paying for it none the less.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_total_health_expenditure_(PPP)_per_capita
    It isn’t an “IF”. Look at international health expenditure of similarly wealthy western countries. I struggle to believe that americans are getting 50% better value for money from their health spend than switzerland, or twice the benefit of the british.

    Because I don’t sign off on YOUR consitution, and might be marginally more liberal than you doesn’t make me consider myself less conservative. Is “statist” a nice way of saying that i’m two steps away from bolshevism in your eyes?

    over here I’d be among the most conservative people i know. i believe that the free market are the best tools for picking winners in business. some regulation is needed to protect the vulnerable from exploitation. There is some benefit, though, in collective purchasing of some things. our pharmaceuticals are far cheaper on the whole as the government negotiates with the suppliers as to the prices and the medicines it will subsidise. your doctor can choose what they prescribe but if it’s off the list, you get the liberty of paying full market price (what you’d be up for in the states).

  • Andrew

    australia isn’t perfect. it simply seems that americans are stoic in refusing to move one iota to improve their system, or admit that other parts of the world might do things better.

    all those private dollars come from profits people make in selling things to other citizens. you may not directly pay for it in writing a cheque for a party, but you are paying for it none the less.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_total_health_expenditure_(PPP)_per_capita
    It isn’t an “IF”. Look at international health expenditure of similarly wealthy western countries. I struggle to believe that americans are getting 50% better value for money from their health spend than switzerland, or twice the benefit of the british.

    Because I don’t sign off on YOUR consitution, and might be marginally more liberal than you doesn’t make me consider myself less conservative. Is “statist” a nice way of saying that i’m two steps away from bolshevism in your eyes?

    over here I’d be among the most conservative people i know. i believe that the free market are the best tools for picking winners in business. some regulation is needed to protect the vulnerable from exploitation. There is some benefit, though, in collective purchasing of some things. our pharmaceuticals are far cheaper on the whole as the government negotiates with the suppliers as to the prices and the medicines it will subsidise. your doctor can choose what they prescribe but if it’s off the list, you get the liberty of paying full market price (what you’d be up for in the states).

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Please, people. I have family in both Australia and the US (as does Dr. Veith). This discussion can go nowhere good. Let’s all simply agree that Tim-Tams are, in fact, tasty, and leave it at that.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Please, people. I have family in both Australia and the US (as does Dr. Veith). This discussion can go nowhere good. Let’s all simply agree that Tim-Tams are, in fact, tasty, and leave it at that.

  • DonS

    Andrew @ 21:

    australia isn’t perfect. it simply seems that americans are stoic in refusing to move one iota to improve their system, or admit that other parts of the world might do things better.

    Andrew, I don’t believe the kind of movement you are advocating would be an improvement. It’s as simple as that. Prioritizing the rights of the individual as against the state can be messy at times, but Americans believe that the mess is worth it to preserve the freedoms. Obviously, you disagree.

    all those private dollars come from profits people make in selling things to other citizens. you may not directly pay for it in writing a cheque for a party, but you are paying for it none the less.

    Please, Andrew. That is difficult logic. If someone purchases a boat using the money they have earned, am I paying for that too?

    It isn’t an “IF”. Look at international health expenditure of similarly wealthy western countries. I struggle to believe that americans are getting 50% better value for money from their health spend than switzerland, or twice the benefit of the british.

    In my view, and the view of many others, our current health system has been compromised by the intrusion of government into the health care market, not the lack of socialized health care. We advocate moving toward a system empowering the individual by using high deductible catastrophic health insurance combined with health savings accounts to allow Americans to purchase healthcare within their deductible using tax-advantaged dollars. The government’s role would be to subsidize or pay for the health insurance, as well as contribute to the HSA’s of the poor. This approach would greatly reduce health care costs overall, as many studies have shown. Obamacare, unfortunately, took us in the exact opposite direction, into an ugly land of limbo between private health care and socialized health care. In any event, though, quality health care is about a lot more than cost. It’s about choice and ready availability, which is not a feature of rationed nationalized health care systems.

    Because I don’t sign off on YOUR consitution, and might be marginally more liberal than you doesn’t make me consider myself less conservative. Is “statist” a nice way of saying that i’m two steps away from bolshevism in your eyes?

    You can consider yourself whatever you want. In this country, you would not be considered by most to be a conservative, given the viewpoints you have expressed. “Statist” means simply that you don’t mind government-based solutions to problems that have been historically handled by the private sector, as well as the loss of liberties which inevitably occur when government grows. Remember, the only way government can act is by regulation, i.e. coercion, and the only way government receives funding is through involuntary taxation.

    over here I’d be among the most conservative people i know. i believe that the free market are the best tools for picking winners in business. some regulation is needed to protect the vulnerable from exploitation.

    We agree, with the understanding that you are conservative “over there” and with the further understanding that we probably have two very different ideas of the appropriate level of “some regulation”.

    There is some benefit, though, in collective purchasing of some things. our pharmaceuticals are far cheaper on the whole as the government negotiates with the suppliers as to the prices and the medicines it will subsidise. your doctor can choose what they prescribe but if it’s off the list, you get the liberty of paying full market price (what you’d be up for in the states).

    I agree, in theory, that there is some benefit in collective purchase of some things, but would strongly argue that is not the case when government is doing the purchasing. The two most inflation-impacted sectors of the U.S. economy are health care and higher education. Not coincidentally, these are the two sectors where our federal government has chosen to interfere the most. And you’re welcome, as we Americans are greatly subsidizing your pharmaceutical costs. Should we ever adopt a system over here which allows effective free market forces to work in the pharmaceuticals market, and if our physicians stop the absurd over-prescription of pharmaceuticals which they routinely engage in today, you may find yourself paying a sharply higher price. Or, we will stop developing new pharmaceuticals.

  • DonS

    Andrew @ 21:

    australia isn’t perfect. it simply seems that americans are stoic in refusing to move one iota to improve their system, or admit that other parts of the world might do things better.

    Andrew, I don’t believe the kind of movement you are advocating would be an improvement. It’s as simple as that. Prioritizing the rights of the individual as against the state can be messy at times, but Americans believe that the mess is worth it to preserve the freedoms. Obviously, you disagree.

    all those private dollars come from profits people make in selling things to other citizens. you may not directly pay for it in writing a cheque for a party, but you are paying for it none the less.

    Please, Andrew. That is difficult logic. If someone purchases a boat using the money they have earned, am I paying for that too?

    It isn’t an “IF”. Look at international health expenditure of similarly wealthy western countries. I struggle to believe that americans are getting 50% better value for money from their health spend than switzerland, or twice the benefit of the british.

    In my view, and the view of many others, our current health system has been compromised by the intrusion of government into the health care market, not the lack of socialized health care. We advocate moving toward a system empowering the individual by using high deductible catastrophic health insurance combined with health savings accounts to allow Americans to purchase healthcare within their deductible using tax-advantaged dollars. The government’s role would be to subsidize or pay for the health insurance, as well as contribute to the HSA’s of the poor. This approach would greatly reduce health care costs overall, as many studies have shown. Obamacare, unfortunately, took us in the exact opposite direction, into an ugly land of limbo between private health care and socialized health care. In any event, though, quality health care is about a lot more than cost. It’s about choice and ready availability, which is not a feature of rationed nationalized health care systems.

    Because I don’t sign off on YOUR consitution, and might be marginally more liberal than you doesn’t make me consider myself less conservative. Is “statist” a nice way of saying that i’m two steps away from bolshevism in your eyes?

    You can consider yourself whatever you want. In this country, you would not be considered by most to be a conservative, given the viewpoints you have expressed. “Statist” means simply that you don’t mind government-based solutions to problems that have been historically handled by the private sector, as well as the loss of liberties which inevitably occur when government grows. Remember, the only way government can act is by regulation, i.e. coercion, and the only way government receives funding is through involuntary taxation.

    over here I’d be among the most conservative people i know. i believe that the free market are the best tools for picking winners in business. some regulation is needed to protect the vulnerable from exploitation.

    We agree, with the understanding that you are conservative “over there” and with the further understanding that we probably have two very different ideas of the appropriate level of “some regulation”.

    There is some benefit, though, in collective purchasing of some things. our pharmaceuticals are far cheaper on the whole as the government negotiates with the suppliers as to the prices and the medicines it will subsidise. your doctor can choose what they prescribe but if it’s off the list, you get the liberty of paying full market price (what you’d be up for in the states).

    I agree, in theory, that there is some benefit in collective purchase of some things, but would strongly argue that is not the case when government is doing the purchasing. The two most inflation-impacted sectors of the U.S. economy are health care and higher education. Not coincidentally, these are the two sectors where our federal government has chosen to interfere the most. And you’re welcome, as we Americans are greatly subsidizing your pharmaceutical costs. Should we ever adopt a system over here which allows effective free market forces to work in the pharmaceuticals market, and if our physicians stop the absurd over-prescription of pharmaceuticals which they routinely engage in today, you may find yourself paying a sharply higher price. Or, we will stop developing new pharmaceuticals.

  • DonS

    Too late, tODD @ 22. I didn’t see your comment in time :-)

  • DonS

    Too late, tODD @ 22. I didn’t see your comment in time :-)

  • kerner

    tODD:

    And let us further agree, as my son claims to have discovered when he was in Australia, that Foster’s is NOT Australian for beer.

    Or maybe Andrew can set us straight on that.

    Andrew:

    I have to disagree about Government health care, which appears to me to be universally available, but bad, health care.

    I would probably concede on the metric system…if I weren’t so, well, American.

    But where I really agree with you is our stubborn unwillingness to learn to speak any language other than English. Simple arrogant ignorance.

  • kerner

    tODD:

    And let us further agree, as my son claims to have discovered when he was in Australia, that Foster’s is NOT Australian for beer.

    Or maybe Andrew can set us straight on that.

    Andrew:

    I have to disagree about Government health care, which appears to me to be universally available, but bad, health care.

    I would probably concede on the metric system…if I weren’t so, well, American.

    But where I really agree with you is our stubborn unwillingness to learn to speak any language other than English. Simple arrogant ignorance.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Kerner (@25), the conversation having been derailed, I’m going to bother to reply to your points, tangential as they are.

    Foster’s is no more beer than are Coors, Miller, et al. They are all fairly harmless brands of canned water. The best beer I ever had in Australia was from Little Creatures, though it seems they’re really not into flavorful ales over there, which pains me as an Oregonian. And whatever simplicity the metric system may have brought them is pretty much wiped out by the bewildering array of container sizes in which beer is served over there (pots, schooners, pints, and more).

    My sister-in-law has generally found the health care there to be quite nice. Do you really think that the average Australian thinks his health care system is “bad”?

    As for the metric system, its main benefit is in ease of conversions (no need to memorize three of those in that, four of this in the other, and so on). But some of the units are less than useful in everyday use. It’d be one thing if Australians actually used decimeters, but they don’t (which somewhat gives the lie to the whole metric system thing). They use centimeters or meters, neither of which have as nice a granularity for measuring height as does the foot. And while proponents of the metric system think it’s really clever that their temperature scale goes from freezing to boiling, the most common use for temperature (weather forecasts) generally only sees people experiencing maybe half of that range (less than that in Australia — though in colder climates, you’ll regularly need to employ negative numbers). Whereas the Fahrenheit system stretches its 0-100 range over a more realistic range of what humans experience day-to-day. I could go on, but I’ll note in closing that even the British still use miles and pounds (well, “stone”) for things.

    As for English-speaking arrogance, have you ever noticed where English speakers live? Great Britain and Australia are islands. Canada only borders another English-speaking country (let’s ignore Quebec). And even most Americans live far from a border across which lie speakers of another language. So it’s hardly arrogance that those for whom English is a first language rarely bother to learn another one. Unless you travel south, you know. Then you’ll see signs (literally) that it’s harder to do business with that attitude.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Kerner (@25), the conversation having been derailed, I’m going to bother to reply to your points, tangential as they are.

    Foster’s is no more beer than are Coors, Miller, et al. They are all fairly harmless brands of canned water. The best beer I ever had in Australia was from Little Creatures, though it seems they’re really not into flavorful ales over there, which pains me as an Oregonian. And whatever simplicity the metric system may have brought them is pretty much wiped out by the bewildering array of container sizes in which beer is served over there (pots, schooners, pints, and more).

    My sister-in-law has generally found the health care there to be quite nice. Do you really think that the average Australian thinks his health care system is “bad”?

    As for the metric system, its main benefit is in ease of conversions (no need to memorize three of those in that, four of this in the other, and so on). But some of the units are less than useful in everyday use. It’d be one thing if Australians actually used decimeters, but they don’t (which somewhat gives the lie to the whole metric system thing). They use centimeters or meters, neither of which have as nice a granularity for measuring height as does the foot. And while proponents of the metric system think it’s really clever that their temperature scale goes from freezing to boiling, the most common use for temperature (weather forecasts) generally only sees people experiencing maybe half of that range (less than that in Australia — though in colder climates, you’ll regularly need to employ negative numbers). Whereas the Fahrenheit system stretches its 0-100 range over a more realistic range of what humans experience day-to-day. I could go on, but I’ll note in closing that even the British still use miles and pounds (well, “stone”) for things.

    As for English-speaking arrogance, have you ever noticed where English speakers live? Great Britain and Australia are islands. Canada only borders another English-speaking country (let’s ignore Quebec). And even most Americans live far from a border across which lie speakers of another language. So it’s hardly arrogance that those for whom English is a first language rarely bother to learn another one. Unless you travel south, you know. Then you’ll see signs (literally) that it’s harder to do business with that attitude.

  • kerner

    tODD:

    On the beer issue, what you say pretty much squares up with what my son told me. And you have some pretty good points about the metric system; something equivalent to the foot would be nice.

    And you may be partly right about the reason why Americans don’t learn foreign languages more readily, but I still think stupid arrogance has something to do with it. Part of it is a prevailing attitude that English is the language of America, so everybody who comes here should learn it. And any suggestion that we should learn how to speak the languages of the new-comers is viewed as some kind of cultural surrender. But people who can speak a language other than English simply use that language as kind of a code when they don’t want us to know what they are saying. Knowledge (including knowledge of languages) is power, and refusing to acquire knowledge because you think it is beneath you is stupid and arrogant. We should not only be teaching and learning Spanish, but Arabic and Farsi as well.

  • kerner

    tODD:

    On the beer issue, what you say pretty much squares up with what my son told me. And you have some pretty good points about the metric system; something equivalent to the foot would be nice.

    And you may be partly right about the reason why Americans don’t learn foreign languages more readily, but I still think stupid arrogance has something to do with it. Part of it is a prevailing attitude that English is the language of America, so everybody who comes here should learn it. And any suggestion that we should learn how to speak the languages of the new-comers is viewed as some kind of cultural surrender. But people who can speak a language other than English simply use that language as kind of a code when they don’t want us to know what they are saying. Knowledge (including knowledge of languages) is power, and refusing to acquire knowledge because you think it is beneath you is stupid and arrogant. We should not only be teaching and learning Spanish, but Arabic and Farsi as well.


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