Traverse City Record-Eagle

October 7, 2012

Fred Goldenberg: What 5.8 billion buys

BY FRED GOLDENBERG, Local columnist

---- — The presidential candidates are on the road, they and their minions battling for the hearts and souls of the swing states. We, the electorate, now must endure a barrage of political chest pounding and posturing. Over the next month I suspect we will be treated to a spectacular road show that would put Barnum & Bailey to shame.

And cost millions and millions of dollars more than the Greatest Show on Earth ever spent.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the 2012 elections will cost approximately $5.8 billion, a 7 percent increase from the 2008 cost of $5.4 billion.

Between the campaigns, political parties, traditional third party groups and the new ones that have sprung up in the light of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, $2.2 billion has already been poured into the race and millions upon millions is being added every day.

It's a huge number: $5.8 billion. It will mean more and more "mudslinging" television commercials, more pop-up Internet ads, mailings, harassing robo phone calls and any other way politicians can think of to try and reach voters.

In fact, this number is so big that I had to break it down into "things" I could use or buy just to really comprehend the colossal purchasing power of $5,800,000,000. With that sum, in 2012 U.S. dollars, you could also:

n Buy 2,416 Bugatti Veyron Super Sports cars, the priciest street-legal production car on the market today;n Give away nearly 2 pounds of rice for every man, woman and child in Africa;n Acquire 8,682,635 shares of Apple Computer at current price;n Purchase 145 Gulfstream G550 private jets;n Reserve the Royal Penthouse Suite in Geneva's Hotel President Wilson — the world's most expensive hotel room at $65,000 per night — every day for more than 244 years;n Pay the annual salary of the U.S.A's Olympic basketball team for 23 years;n Pay the annual overhead for Rafalca, Mitt Romney's Olympic dressage-competing Oldenburg mare, for 75,324 years;n Buy the Obama's dog Bo 1,450,000,000 Air Kong squeaker Ball with Rope dog toys;n Buy 120,959,333 dozen Titleist Pro V1 golf balls;n Name a star after yourself, as well as naming one for 115,999,999 of your closest friends;n Purchase at Glen's Market 645,161,290 12 packs of Bud Light beer.

Just think if we really get serious we could:

n Pay the annual part "B" Medicare premium for 4,202,898 seniors;n Pay the annual salary for 124,865 teachers;n Feed 9.2 million malnourished children for 50 days;n Have 29 million children Immunized for life;n Provide clean water for 500 million children for 40 days;n Give $1,000,000 to each of the 600 Michigan food pantries listed on for the next 10 years.

Or, of course, you could just pay down 0.000285 percent of the U.S. federal deficit (as of October 1, 2012).

I for one wonder what will we really get for the 5.8 billion being spent this election cycle. Obfuscation, innuendo, mudslinging, half-truths, falsehoods and outright lying seems to be the creed our politicians all live by and we allow it to continue by not challenging them on what they say and do.

Until we, the electorate, force true campaign reform nothing will stop this runaway train. Billions spent to get the job; billions raised through fundraising to keep the job and from day one on the job thinking of ways to cut funding for programs that benefit those who put them into the job.

When I look at the money spent I have to agree with former President Ronald Reagan when he said, "Politics is supposed to be the second-oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first."

Fred L. Goldenberg is a Certified Senior Advisor (CSA) and the owner of Senior Benefit Solutions, LLC, a patient & consumer advocacy and financial services organization in Traverse City. If you have any questions or comments about this article or any other senior issue he can be reached at 231-922-1010 or Also like at