It was Monday evening and the phone rang - again. It was probably the fifth time in two hours. A pleasant voice said she was from the - oh that really doesn’t make any difference. Both presidential candidates have volunteer minions on the phones and Internet day after day, month after month, for what seems like years.
A half-dozen or more e-mails a day from candidates, surrogates, and candidate support groups flood our in-boxes; letters and oversized postcards clog our mail boxes. They all give us information, or ask us to fill out a poll that has no value, and then beg for donations, every plea making it seem as if the fate of western civilisation will be determined by our bank withdrawal slips.
In August alone, the campaigns of John McCain and Barack Obama spent about $3 million a day, according to the Federal Elections Commission (FEC). By the end of this presidential campaign, each presidential candidate will have spent more than $500 million; by the end of August alone, more than $380 million has been spent on House races, more than $200 million on Senate races, according to the FEC.
But, here’s some other numbers. About 9.4 million Americans are unemployed, up 2.2 million from last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The 6.1 per cent unemployment rate is one of the highest in the nation’s history. For those with jobs, effective buying power has decreased, as inflation has taken any pay increases.
The cost of consumer goods is up almost 6 per cent from a year ago, the sharpest increase since 1991, according to the Department of Labor. The value of worker pay cheques, adjusted for inflation, is down about 3.1 per cent over the past year, also one of the sharpest declines since the early 1990s.
About 2 per cent of all mortgaged homes are now in foreclosure; owners of about 3.6 million homes are now significantly past due with their payments, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. To try to keep their houses and to pay routine bills, millions of Americans have withdrawn funds from their retirement accounts, reluctantly paying taxes and penalties in order just to keep from falling further in debt.
The value of home prices has declined by about 7 per cent nationally and there has been almost an 8 per cent decline in the number of building permits, according to the US Conference of Mayors. Forty million Americans, one-third of them children, are living in poverty. About 46 million Americans don’t have health insurance. About 800,000 Americans, at least 150,000 of them veterans, are homeless, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
For more than a year, with the Bush-Cheney Administration in denial, the nation has been in a recession.
During the past month, the bottom has fallen out of our nation’s financial system. At least another $700 billion was needed, according to President Bush, to shore up the financial moguls. Once again, taxpayers were being asked to save multi-million corporations and their million dollar executives from the foreclosure and unemployment the rest of us face.
Any help to individuals is just an after-thought by politicians in an election year. There aren’t any contribution drives, any government programs that target those who have lost their homes, their jobs, and their self-worth and self-respect. Humanity is not a campaign issue for either party.
It is callous and shallow for both the Obama and McCain campaigns to be begging for money while Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, and dozens of mega-financial institutions, by their own incompetence and greed, assisted by the government’s “asleep-at-the-switch” deregulation, brought the nation into the greatest financial freefall it ever experienced since the Great Depression of 1929.
John McCain’s actions this week speak volumes about the problem.