One dubious distinction of the 2012 elections is that it’s the most expensive election season ever in history. According to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, total spending on all local, state and national elections could top $6 billion, $700 million more than in 2008.
Much of that spending has gone to political advertising. Over one million presidential ads aired on local broadcast and national cable between June 1 and Oct. 29, an all-time high, according to the Wesleyan Media Project –39 percent more ads than the 2008 election.
It’s not likely to slow down any time soon. The increased spending is being driven by the controversial ‘Citizens United’ Supreme Court ruling in 2010 that allowed super PACs and advocacy groups to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money on elections. The ruling prevented the money from going directly to a candidate campaign or party, as if that made it all perfectly fine. These outside groups are expected to spend more than $970 million on this year’s election – with $70 million spent during the week starting October 21 alone. Ah, but that’s just chump change. Let’s get back to the numbers.
Here are 12 other ways to spend $6 billion.
• Provide lunch every day for a year for more than 11 million public school students. Each meal costs about $2.92.
• Reduce the annual federal deficit—now at $1.1 trillion—by just 0.5 percent.
• 250,000 new Priuses (or “Prii”) at the starting price of $24,000.
• 858 million six-packs of Budweiser beer at $6.99 each.
• 4 billion AA batteries to get through the next hurricane.
• 1.7 billion gallons of gas (currently at $3.46/gallon nationally), which could fill up 146 million Prii (and help you get through the next hurricane).
• Four years of college tuition at Harvard for nearly 39,000 students.
• Minimum wage for a year for 397,877 people (or the entire population of Cleveland, Ohio).
• 27,051 new homes at the median home price of $221,800.
• Resurfacing of 120,000 miles of U.S. roads and highways. According to a report from U.S. Public Interest Research Groups, 150,000 miles of interstate highways needed repair in 2010.
• 60 Boeing 737 airplanes.
• 75 percent of what Americans spent on candy and costumes for Halloween this year ($8 billion).