By Wayne Caswell, Vice Chairman, Alliance of Progressive Voters
After Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act last month, articles everywhere quoted analysts who called it a trillion-dollar giveaway to wealthy Republican donors. That caused me to dig up and re-watch a whiteboard video by Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich. In “The Koch Machine,” he shows us how the Koch brothers strategically spent hundreds of millions of dollars on:
- showy political front groups,
- deceitful ad campaigns,
- Think Tanks that reinforce their beliefs,
- voter suppression schemes,
- anti-unions efforts, and
- a long-term strategy to unravel America’s campaign finance laws.
Like Corporations, the Koch brothers measure success in business terms: profit, quarterly stock price, payback period, and Return On Investment. Their largest ROI by far has come from political influence.
The lesson from the Republican tax bill and this video is that campaign donation returns are huge. This would be troubling any time, Reich says, but it’s made worse today with record levels of income inequality and the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which opened the floodgates for big money to corrupt politics.
Today’s campaign funding environment is great for Republicans dependent on wealthy donors, but it’s not good for Democrats. We can change that, however, and here’s how YOU can help.
Think and Contribute Strategically
Democrats, being the party of the average person, have not been investing strategically. We’ve not been spending nearly as much to fund Think Tanks, focus groups, and marketing & opposition research using AI and Big Data analytics. That’s because the Dems rely on much smaller donations without the same level of coordination. We should think strategically about ROI too.
First, look at the how much Trump’s tax law will cost us long-term, after healthcare costs spike because the insurance mandate was repealed, fewer students get college degrees or advanced degrees, 75% of the nation pays “higher” taxes, and we see the full effect the GOP attack on public education, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and more that Robert Reich talks about in his videos and lectures.
In “The Koch Machine,” Reich explains why the economy won’t grow as Trump promised and “trickle down” to you. The economy will instead likely suffer, and may even fall into a recession with War as the only way out. That’s the collective cost to you us all because we didn’t make sustained political contributions with ROI in mind, like the wealthy Republican donors did.
In my rough estimate, if you make $75K/year now, the new tax law could easily cost you $75K or more over the next 10 years. Think beyond 2018, and do the math yourself. And next look at how your future might be different if we all made sustained contributions to the version of the future WE want, promoting candidates and policies WE want.
How Much Should I Give?
Christians have no trouble giving a tithe, described by the BIBLE as 10% of their income, to their church, but maybe they should also set aside some for political influence like corporations do, with sustained monthly contributions. How much should that be?
Here’s one way to look at it. If you make $75K and already contribute to a church, maybe a lesser amount makes sense. Five percent of income would be $3,750/year or $312/month, but even one percent would be $750/year or $62/month. If you don’t go to church, then consider a larger strategic investment in your future with good ROI.
What might be your expected 10-year return on that investment if it results in Democratic control of government? History shows that when Dems are in control wages rise with GDP, and deficits fall. It also shows that companies expand and hire to meet increased demand for their products when consumers have more money to spend. If you follow Robert Reich, you already know that, but crunching the numbers and making personal economic projections is difficult for most of us.
My rough, back-of-the-napkin estimates already show a large ROI of more than 50%, which any business person would say is great. But I’m not an economist and not qualified to build a model that others rely on. That’s why we need the DNC or some other organization to do that and help us estimate the personal benefit we can expect from our political contributions.
My purpose with this article is to at least get you thinking strategically. Pick a good cause and candidates to support, and then setup a sustaining contribution with ROI and your preferred future in mind.
But I’m not Privileged and Can’t Contribute
There are other ways to support candidates, including volunteering your time and talents. I decided that the best way I could contribute to Ramona’s campaign was not with cash but by investing time to write articles, design graphics, develop her website, and promote her candidacy through social media. I retired with a pension and Social Security, giving me time and the ability to make thousands of dollars of in-kind donations of time and services.
No matter your socioeconomic condition, Democrat candidates can use your help in any way you can offer it. Select the VOLUNTEER tab if you’re interested in helping with Ramona’s campaign, or DONATE if you can give cash.
About the Author
Wayne Caswell lives in Frisco Lakes in the same Del Webb community as Ramona and has worked closely with her as Vice Chairman for the Democratic group she founded just over a year ago. He’s a retired IBM technologist, market strategist, futurist, consumer advocate, and founding editor of Modern Health Talk.
Inequality, Healthcare and the Economy (also by Wayne Caswell) – Rising inequality of income and wealth leads to inequality of opportunity and political influence, and that threatens our democracy. This long-format article features several important videos, including two documentaries by Robert Reich.