2012 is NOT the Most Expensive Election in History, in GDP-adjusted Terms

Last year, I suggested that liberal objections to Citizens United were partly justified by predictions about its effects that I didn’t see as probable. As the election draws to a close, we can begin to say whether the consensus view or my own views were accurate.

Here goes: as a percentage of GDP, this is simply a cheaper election than 2008.

When I looked at this question a year ago, I used estimates by this firm that showed that the 2012 elections would cost $7 billion dollars. Now the Center for Responsive Politics says the election will actually cost about $6 billion. (Note that this includes down-ticket races, not just the Presidential eleciton.) Combined with the revised and increased GDP numbers, the “massive increase in spending” hypothesis doesn’t look to have been supported this year, and 2010 looks like more like a blip than the start of a trend. Here’s what the cost-curve looks like:

There’s still plenty of room to discuss the ways that Super PACs affect the elections. Surely the increased attention to primaries (as rent-seeking money has been crowded out of general elections) might account for the ideological stripe and quality of candidates currently running for office. That said: never attribute to corporate malfeasance that which is adequately explained by citizen apathy.





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