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Many people are now calling for complete public funding of elections by taxpayers,...

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carnige | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Honors

Posted April 30, 2010 at 4:36 AM via web

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Many people are now calling for complete public funding of elections by taxpayers, meaning that people's tax dollars will go to candidates...

in an equal amount so they can run their campaigns. Supporters of this idea argue that it will help make elections cheaper and reduce the influence of the rich and of private corporations. Some say public financing can be accomplished for as little as 6 dollars per citizen.

However, other people argue that we should not publicly finance our elections. They argue that the current system is fair and that it encourages more participation because it forces people to get involved in the political process by helping raise money for their candidate. They argue that by no longer allowing private contributions, the government would be taking away the political voice of the people who most want to be involved in politics.

THIS IS MY QUESTION.. WHICH SIDE DO YOU BELIEVE IS CORRECT? SHOULD WE MOVE TO PUBLIC FINANCING OF ELECTIONS, OR CONTINUE THE SYSTEM AS IT EXISTS TODAY?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted April 30, 2010 at 4:46 AM (Answer #1)

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Personally, I do not buy the argument that public financing would take away people's ability to have a political voice.

If two people are running for office and one of them has the better ideas, it seems that that person would be able to attract the most support if both of them had the same amount of money to spend.  I think that allowing unlimited spending for or against a candidate (as the recent Supreme Court case does) simply allows (potentially) the candidate who is favored by the most rich people to drown out the message of the other candidate.

To me, that is the equivalent of saying that one candidate should be able to buy a huge bullhorn and yell whenever the other candidate is talking.  It's like saying that whoever yells louder has the better message.

However, the people who would have to vote for a law instituting public financing are the same ones who have been elected under our current system and are likely to think that it is good.  This makes it highly unlikely we'll ever see public financing.  In addition, the recent Court ruling makes it impossible to say corporations and people can't spend as much of their money as they want on ads.  So it's just not happening.

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted April 30, 2010 at 4:46 AM (Answer #2)

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Whoo, boy, I do believe I can think of a few thousand (or more) ways that our tax dollars can be used than to save our dishonest politicians money from their own pockets. Can you imagine public dollars financing the Presidential campaigns of the two George Bushes? They are wealthy beyond belief. The same can be said of most local, state and national politicians. With so many people out of work, poverty levels escalating, and states running on deficit budgets, how can such an idea even be considered? I look forward to seeing others' opinions about this. 

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scarletpimpernel | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 30, 2010 at 4:47 AM (Answer #3)

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Personally, I would not like to see elections be publicly funded.  There is already too much room for corruption in regards to fair and valid elections, and government funding/intrusion would most likely result in more corruption.  Just look at how difficult it is and has been for decades to find out where taxpayer dollars are going.  It would be too easy for one politician (who is in charge of spending the taxpayer's money) to funnel funding to one candidate over another.

While there certainly are problems with the current situation, Americans still choose for whom they vote.  While one candidate might have a significant amount of money to fund his campaign and, thus, more publicity, the voter still goes to the ballot box himself and make his or her choice based on a variety of factors.  No matter where the funding comes from for various candidates, voters should not be affected. Those who choose to vote for someone based on superfluous reasons will most likely continue to do so again.  Those who vote for a candidate based on his or her research on those candidates will also not be affected by the source of the funding. 

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krishna-agrawala | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted April 30, 2010 at 11:27 AM (Answer #4)

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Laws are attempts to regulate behavior of individual and societies. This does not mean that laws fully achieve their intended objectives. There have been laws against crimes like theft and murder for thousands of years, but that has eliminated such crimes. The question is not just of desirability of laws to regulate election spending, but also of practicality of developing and implementing such laws.

If the purpose of the law is to reduce the spending on elections by the candidates, this purpose can be achieved, at least theoretically, by enacting a law putting a limit on maximum spending. But fact is that there are ways of bypassing such laws. In India a law of this kind is in force. But the candidates are able to flout this law flagrantly without getting caught by law.

I believe, public funding of election expenses will not have much impact on controlling election expenses or in creating a level playing field for the candidates. It will only increase the complications of allocating and accounting for public funds.

We have been too much preoccupied by the concern for controlling the influence of unfit and unscrupulous candidate. I think better results may be achieved if we adopt the positive approach of improving the means of creating better leaders, of assessing and identifying their fitness for representing the people, and then conveying the result of such assessment to people in simple terms without fanfare and expenses of election propaganda.

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