$3 Billion. That’s what the Obama and Romney campaigns have spent, combined. What else that money could have bought? Here are five things I think have more value than a year’s worth of campaign commercials.
A year’s worth of meals for 5.5 million needy American families. That’s using the cost-per-meal data for a family of four from the nonprofit Feeding America . According to the USDA, the top states with food insecurity for children—meaning highest percentage of households where kids don’t know where their next meal will come from—are: Mississippi (19.2%), Texas (18.5%), Arkansas (19.2%), Alabama (17.4%), Georgia (17.4%), Florida (16.2%) and North Carolina (17.1%). It’s too bad so many of these states are considered political “battleground” states, but not battlegrounds in the war on hunger.
Eradicate polio worldwide. With some funds left over for ongoing education and vaccinations, $3 billion should cover it. That’s using numbers from the 2011 Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation white paper on the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which is currently underfunded despite their support, largely because of reductions in funding from G8 nations like ours who apparently spend the money on elections instead.
Provide clean drinking water for 150 million people. More than 1 in 8 people in the world don’t have access to safe drinking water, which then contributes to high rates of infant mortality, diseases, and conflicts over resources. According to the World Health Organization, for every $1 invested in water and sanitation, there is an economic return of between $3 and $34, so the world would get back $55.5 billion from this investment
Repair infrastructure–our inland waterways. We think of ourselves as a nation of roads, but American consumers actually depend on thousands of miles of inland and intra-coastal waterways to move approximately 630 million tons of cargo valued at more than $73 billion annually. (American Society for Civil Engineers, Infrastructure Report Card) . By 2020, 80% of our current locks in this system will be out of date and in need of repair at a cost of $50 million each. So we could get to work on 1/3 of them right now, at a savings of billions in undelivered or delayed cargo.
Toys for the kids. Okay, so you don’t want to invest in food, water or healthcare for the needy, or infrastructure repairs for the country. How about playing Saint Nick and distributing 120 million toys to kids who need them? At under $25 each, you could offer a Lego Ultimate Building Set, Syma Remote Controlled Helicopter, or Tiny Tikes basketball hoop for the little ones. Or Amazon or iTunes gift cards for the older set.