As regular readers know, I’m doing my part to help the U.S. government to fight its debt and deficits even though I’m only a friend of the U.S, but not an American citizen. In two previous articles (part 1 & part 2) I offered some ideas for generating new government revenues and cutting government costs. Here’s another revenue generation idea. It’s a little controversial, but we have to make some hard choices if we’re going to get through this.
According to a November 5, 2008 article (http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1108/15283.html) on Politico.com, candidates, political parties and interest groups spent $5.3 billion on the congressional and presidential races during the 2008 U.S. election. The article made no mention of whether that includes spending on the primaries, but it definitely doesn’t include the cost of actually running the elections. Clearly, big bucks are spent to choose senior elected officials. Why isn’t the government or, more accurately, the taxpayers getting their cut?
And what is the end-result of all of this spending? Let’s face it, choosing a politician is pretty much a crap shoot. In an election campaign you don’t get to see the true character of the candidates. Instead, you see a fabricated image packaged by high-priced ad and public relations firms. Madison Avenue is telling you what they think you want to hear about the candidates. That’s no basis for making an informed, rational decision.
True, the news media make some attempts to go behind the spin, but during an election campaign there is so much news out there that the right-wing media have more than enough material to fill their time and space with only news that has passed through a narrow, right-wing filter. And, similarly, the left-wing press report only left-wing filtered news. Consequently, the average citizen, who does not have access to his or her own independent information-gathering resources, does not get a complete, impartial view of the candidates and their policies.
Without complete and impartial information your ability to make the best choice is only slightly better than what could be achieved by tossing a coin. Well, if election choices are, to mix metaphors, crap shoots, why isn’t the government making money off that? Craps tables take in big bucks in casinos.
Here’s my idea: Instead of elections, hold lotteries for senior political positions. Pulling some numbers out of my head, a ticket in the Presidential lottery should cost $100. A Senate seat ticket should go for $50. And, even a fairly low-income earner should be able to afford a shot at a House of Representatives seat for just $5.
My advice is to not limit the number of tickets that anyone can buy. That way, the big parties can still spend as much money as they do now, but instead of spending it on ads, rallies and other campaigning they can use their money to buy more tickets in the lotteries, with the revenue going to pay down government debt. What could be more patriotic than that?
And, while the government vacuums up all of the political party election spending, individuals will also want to get in on the act. True, with the parties buying up so many tickets, the average Joe’s or Jill’s chance of winning, say, the presidency will be miniscule. However, that’s infinitely more than his or her chances now, despite all of that nonsense about anyone being able to grow up to be President.
Will people be stupid enough to buy tickets when their chances of winning are so slight? Of course they will! Look at how many dollars are wasted today on lotteries with longer odds.
If you want to increase the revenue from these lotteries even further, get rid of the rule about Presidents having to be born in the U.S. If you also remove the citizenship and residency requirements I’m sure millions of people around the world would buy tickets. Hell, I’d pop for some tickets myself. The government would be out of hock in no time.
The lotteries will be extremely exciting, particularly considering that everyone who buys a ticket has a shot at a dream political job. Don’t let that excitement go to waste! A flamboyant show staged around the draws would attract a huge audience. If the government retains the broadcast rights and sells commercial time it can pull in a lot of advertising revenue from the venture.
Not only will the revenue from the lotteries and lottery shows be humongous, but if you replace elections with lotteries you can get rid of the expense of administering the elections.
Of course, it’s not only the federal government that has a huge fiscal hole to fill. State and local governments are struggling as well. There probably wouldn’t be enough interest for some of the more junior state-level and local-level positions, such as attorneys general, sheriffs and judges, to generate much revenue through lotteries. In the coming weeks I’ll present an idea I’m working on that will help to generate some deficit- and debt-busting revenue when filling these positions. Stay tuned.
Categorised as: economy