Opposing View in USA TODAY: Drop Subsidies for Politicians
Since 1976, more than $1.5 billion in taxpayer money has been given to politicians to run for office. The underutilized Presidential Election Campaign Fund has subsidized presidential candidates and nominating conventions from its inception.
Four decades later, the presidential fund has fallen into obsolescence, so much that in the 2012 election cycle nobody chose to participate in the program, yet the parties did take funds for their respective conventions.
Because of President Obama's decision in 2008, no major party candidate has participated in public funding because the funds that major party candidates can utilize are so restrictive.
Supporters argue for the need to modernize the public funding system, but we should examine whether valuable taxpayer dollars are better used on other programs. The fund does not create jobs or stir innovation of any kind, which begs the question: Why should Americans be providing taxpayer subsidies for politicians?
Last April, the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act became an example of Congress prioritizing a pediatric research initiative at the National Institutes of Health over taxpayer funding of political conventions. In a time of scarce resources and a need for smaller government, that was not a hard decision.
In the American political system, private contributions have opened up new choices for candidates. In recent memory, it was private money that backed outlier candidates such as Ross Perot in 1992 and Ron Paul in 2008. It is the freedom to raise and spend money freely that has increased the likelihood of viable candidates.
In 1980, 28.7% of taxpayers participated in the presidential check-off fund. That declined to 6% last year.
People are voting with their feet and leaving behind a public funding program they find no value in. It is a mistake to continue to promote wasteful public spending programs for which the taxpayer continually must foot the bill.
Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss., co-sponsored a bill to eliminate public funding of presidential campaigns.