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Politics and money, it’s a gas

February 5th, 2015

Pink Floyd had it right in its song “money.” Well, at least when it comes to campaign spending.

As the 2016 presidential election quickly approaches, money is already flowing into campaign accounts and political action committees (PACs). Democrats and Republicans are gearing up for a bloody battle to determine who will be the next president of the United States.

Why should you care? It’s simple: Big money makes a big impact on your life.

Big money plays an integral part in politics. Money buys political favors from politicians, and, in return, favors ensure politicians’ support of certain laws or regulations. Politicians don’t just serve their constituents, such as you and me – they also serve their donors.

Money in and of itself is not evil. How we use it defines both it and us. This especially rings true in campaign spending. Donating to a campaign is not necessarily evil. It can be a beautiful expression of free speech. But done in excess, it loses its luster.

A perfect example is the Koch brothers.

Charles and David Koch are tied as the fourth richest people in America, as each is worth about $42 billion, according to Forbes. The brothers ascended to this position in large part thanks to their father, Fred C. Koch, who founded Koch Industries. The brothers made it big through oil refining, though they have since diversified their holdings.

According to multiple media reports, the Koch brothers are reportedly planning to spend $889 million on the 2016 elections. The money will largely be used to fund conservative campaigns, as the Koch brothers are pro-big business, and thus interested in placing Republicans in office.

According to the letter of the law, the brothers are not committing an illegal act. The Koch brothers are expressing their right to free speech and doing it in a legal way with a wide network of PACs and donors.

While it might be legal, is it right?

Since this is a monetary issue, let’s first think in financial terms: What will the return on investment be for the Koch brothers? If all goes right for the two, a Republican president will sit in the White House with a Republican-controlled Congress. What will happen then? Will positive change occur? Or, will the culture in Washington, D.C. remain the same, with bipartisan bickering and a largely inept and unpopular government?

While the Koch brothers plan to spend a great deal on the upcoming election, liberal donors plan to do the same. No matter how much the Koch brothers spend, Republicans will not win every seat in Congress or every governor race in 2016.

Now, think about the return of investment for a different venture. For example, imagine that the Koch brothers invested that $889 million into cancer research or towards eradicating world hunger. That money could help save thousands of lives, or increase the quality of life for millions.

I’m not here to vilify the Koch brothers, or any other wealthy political donor. Not all rich people are evil. Look at Bill Gates, both the richest man in America and the “most generous philanthropist in history,” according to Forbes.

Here’s my point: stop tossing money into the political machine.

I don’t care whether you are a Democrat or a Republican. This has nothing to do with political affiliation. The money all flows to the same place – the political system, which rarely produces results today. This has everything to do with affecting positive change in the world.

Instead of receiving a minimal return on investment with the political system, see your money in action by donating to your local animal shelter, to your high school or to a medical organization. Place your money in worthwhile endeavors and help others, one small step at a time.

If you still feel strongly about politics, invest something else much more important – your time.

Don’t let campaign spending serve as an excuse to quit politics altogether. Keep voicing your opinion and keep voting. But open your eyes and take a critical look at campaign spending.