What would you do with $5.3 billion?

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By Shawn Dobbs, Contributor

Five point three billion dollars.  That’s how much was spent on campaigning in the 2008 election year.  That’s more than the GDP of 65 of the nations on Earth.  President Obama alone spent more than one billion dollars in 2008.  Obama by himself spent more money than 23 individual countries even made.  Say what you will about the lavish lifestyles of celebrities and bank CEOs, it is in politics that the terms “filthy rich” and “disgustingly wealthy” truly take on meaning.

It is incredible that the citizens of a nation in which one person can outspend several nations combined, could even take seriously the pledges of such people to adhere to a set of principles guided by fiscal responsibility.  It is even more amazing that said citizens would take seriously any statements from such individuals expressing empathy for those “less fortunate.”  These people have lost the meaning of the words “less fortunate” somewhere in the unfathomable depths of their greedy pockets.

What could be done with $5.3 billion?

In today’s dollars, the Hoover Dam would have cost $680 million to build.  Think what kind of aquifer and water purification system could be built with that kind of money in third world countries, where 5,000 children die every day of from water-related illnesses.

Detroit, largely considered one of the worst-performing school districts in the United States, spends close to $60 million annually on education.  What could a $5.3 billion injection of funding into the worst performing school districts in the U.S. do for struggling students?

There is no question that the United States is in danger of facing a monetary crisis worse than that of Greece, but we are facing a much more serious crisis as well, and that is a culture crisis.  We have turned our political process into an all-too-real version of “American Idol.”  There is a solution to this, but it would take a strong will shared by all citizens in order to change the culture in Washington.

Before we can reform our tax policies, our energy policies, our social policies or our foreign policies to reflect our values, we must determine what those values are and establish a culture in government that embodies those ideals.  Drastic campaign finance reform is the first step.  We must recognize our elected officials are leaders and not celebrities.  It is shameful that more people vote for the American Idol than the American President.  The election process must be wrested from Hollywood and Wall Street and returned to Main Street where it belongs.

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