NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

April 30, 2013

Politics as usual

As I See It
Sara-Anne Eames

---- — It’s spring, the snow has finished hopefully! The white hues have paled and so have I. The past year was a long political siege that gets worse and more expensive with each presidential election.

First, the run for the primary and then the surge of long speeches, rhetoric, false promises and the spending of lots of money on advertising. The conventions came and went with CBS reporting in October that the previous conventions had cost approximately $24 million a day, yet local restaurants and retail stores lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue at the site of the convention.

Pictures appeared on TV of computer sets, telephone wiring, cameras, overtime for city workers, entertainment and food services within the convention areas, never mind the closures of local highways, the shutting down of their city offices for several days, work schedules being adjusted and people, in general, avoiding the convention cities.

After the Democratic convention it was announced by the media that the Obama and Romney campaigns would spend $45 million in media ads alone. What is wrong with this political scenario? Each party spending millions of dollars, politicians getting exhausted, they strain their voices and put on personality shows. $193 million was spent on both campaigns. Shame on us!

We should be embarrassed for ourselves by allowing this diabolical waste of money. The illiterate and poor in this country, school systems that have been forced to cut programs and lay off teachers, businesses that are struggling to provide health care insurance for employees or who have canceled their benefits, now sit by and watch our political parties spend money like free-flowing water.

We are supposed to be the wealthiest nation in the world, yet we haven’t paid our United Nations dues for years, bringing us into millions of dollars worth of debt, yet we expect the U.N. neighbors to comply with our requests. Imagine what these countries must think about the expenditures in our elections. Corporations and the politically correct people made $43 million in contributions for our January inauguration of President Obama.

Believe me, no one is going to cure the financial crisis in our country in one more four-year term. How do you straighten out a mess that has taken so many years to create? It doesn’t matter if you’re a Republican or a Democrat as president, the cooperation of both the Senate and the House in making changes for the betterment is what counts.

As I’ve said many times, most European countries allow only six weeks for campaigning while others tell you whom you can elect. We, as Americans, are fortunate that we are given a choice. But why does it have to cost so much? The money figures in this recent campaign have shown that changes need to be made in our political system. Why is a primary election needed or why are conventions needed? Let all candidates go on one ballot, six weeks total for campaigning, voters choose the best candidate in their own minds. It’s done! Now we no longer have a year of bantering and boredom. If a candidate can’t tell the voters in six weeks why you should vote him or her into office, then why should we give them four years to run the country?

Recently, while waiting in a doctor’s office, a patient told me that she had lost her job a year ago in December and has no unemployment or health insurance. Now she has severe back problems and needs to be hospitalized but can’t afford it. When she hears about the $193 million being spent on this last campaign, it makes her sick to think of all the rhetoric about the country being in recovery. She thinks the bandage is “leaking.” At this point she’s so disgusted that she didn’t want to vote at all! This won’t solve the problem, folks; it just allows the bandage to keep leaking.

We need to find solutions and those of us who want changes in the election structure need to step up to the plate. We need to shorten the time allowed for campaigning, limit amounts to be spent, cancel primary elections and conventions and have one main election six weeks later. And vote!

Maybe we can use the billions of dollars saved for our jobless citizens, a fair national health insurance program and fair distribution of funds to states that have had to cut educational and public programs. I don’t believe our forefathers ever dreamt that voting in elections would be so expensive. Maybe it’s time to eliminate the electoral vote and accept the public vote.

If some of my ideas sound familiar I wrote a column in September 2004 about the same financial situation in politics. Only in 2013 the cost has more than tripled and we still have not done anything to rectify the situations. For those of us who want change we need to stand up and tell Congress to get to work.

---

Sara-Ann Eames lives in Newburyport.