Eugene Cho

30 minute obama-mercial and the cost of winning an election

Well, what did you think?  I missed it on TV but saw it online via here:

I thought it was well done.  Certainly very compelling.  But to be honest, I still really struggle with all the money that goes into buying an election getting elected.  This AD alone cost $1 million to be aired each time at CBS, NBC, and FOX.  Geez, ABC must have felt really left out! It will also run later on Univision, BET, MSNBC and TV One and just wait to see how many people view on YouTube.  According to some sources, about a billion dollars will be spent by both candidates in this election. 

I appreciated what Christine Sine shared on her blog regarding the enormous cost of “winning” an election.  I miss the days of middle school when I ran for President.  I gathered my few friends, made posters and a few T-shirts, delivered a stuttering speech…and got slaughtered.  But I tried.

The cost of electing a president in America is enormous.  The Center for Responsive Politics estimates that candidates already raised half a billion dollars in 2007.  By the time the election rolls around in November that figure will probably be well over a billion dollars.   Obama and McCain will probably raise at least half a billion dollars each in their efforts to become president and maybe it is because at heart I am still a cynical Australian but I cannot imagine that either candidate will do much to help the poor when they are so beholden to the wealthy who have supported them.

What could we do with a billion dollars?  Maybe as my friend Joy Cross suggests we could help end poverty and stop the deaths of 4,000 kids a day in the poorer nations of our world.  Maybe we could do something to help the 45 million + people in the US that have no health care coverage and change the astounding fact that the US has the highest infant mortality rate of any industrialized nation.  Or we could do something to provide jobs for the growing unemployed in the US – new figures today say that unemployment has risen to an all time high of 6.1%  And maybe we could raise the minimum wage to a livable wage so that when those people get jobs they can actually afford to support themselves and their families. Or we could help rebuild the communities that are still struggling with the devastation of hurricane Katrina that has just been added to by the onslaught of Gustav. [full post]

And in case you were curious, John McCain’s presence on YouTube pales in comparison to Obama.  The most viewed ad for John McCain was actually a video created by an Iraq War veteran named Joe Cook who lost his lower leg and foot.  Over 11+ million views.  Compelling video but I’m sorry Greenwood fans, the music scares me.

Filed under: politics, , ,

24 Responses

  1. randplaty says:

    Wow. Hate to say it, but Obama sealed the deal with that ad.

  2. Tom says:

    Sometimes we have no choice but to choose the least objectionable option in politics.

    No doubt the whole thing is saturated in money and grasping for power, but on the other hand, decisions political leaders make really influence the lives of others, and in particular, the poor.

    While we evangelicals work to reduce the influence of money in politics (I say that without much evidence but with some hope for things not seen), we probably need to make the best judgments we can given the political world we have.

    Obama’s hundreds of millions include far more $50 and $100 dollar contributions than any candidate in history.

    No particular reason why Christians should support an especially democratic form of government. The church has done just fine under kings and dictators and corporate oligarchs over many thousands of years.

    But if some of us are going to go out on a historical limb and support real democracy, I think we should pay attention to where the money is coming from.

  3. Leslie says:

    I was listening to a very wise person speak last night as we were talking about the importance of vision in leadership…and how it has historically been the most compelling when a leader can point us towards a vision that transcends our entrenched individualism and makes us believe in something greater that pulls us all toward each other…and how this is so rare in politics…I wonder if maybe Obama’s investment in 30 minutes of America’s most accessible medium is wisely invested in an attempt at inspiring us to look to what is possible…I guess I am not so sure the ad was a “waste” per se…just a thought…

  4. eugenecho says:

    @tom: i agree with you. in the scope of the big picture, one billion is a penny.

    i guess in my ideal world…i want both. i want candidates to make their own posters, write their own speeches, and speak over the loudspeakers so that others can hear what you want too do…and once elected, do it.

  5. Tracy says:

    Obama’s supporters paid for this ad not Obama. His campaign was given a lot of money so he should use it to sell his politics…its just politics the old fashion way but with a rich modern twist.

    One side comment on Obama being a socialist: I would like to say as a Christian the Bible teaches us to share. I remember being in elementary school, I was told to share my toy/book/time or to share my sandwich or treats. Why is sharing a negative thing?

  6. Rick says:

    @tracy: sharing is a good thing if it is done by a generous self. When it is done because it is forced or coerced by outside force, itis called theft. The difference is like the difference between marital love-making and rape.

  7. Tracy says:

    What so forced about giving middle class families/earners a tax break?

    When the middle class family represent majority of the American lifestyle vs the worthy…

  8. Rick says:

    Tracy, if the objective is to let people keep more of the money they earn – a worthy goal – then we should want to keep government as small as possible, doing as little as necessary, and keep government spending as low as possible. THAT is one solution, and I am fully in agreement with it; if government costs less, they won’t need to take as much out of my pocket, and I will then be free to give more money to help others less fortunate than myself. So if this is your perspective, we are fully in agreement, and one of the Presidential candidates agrees with us.

    If however the goal is to spread wealth around in a more equal fashion, the solution is to take more in the form of (forced) taxation, away from those who earned more in order to give it to others who did not earn it. The top 1% of income earners already pay 20% of all taxes paid, according to the NYT (it’s an old article – 2004 – but I doubt if it has changed much.) If this number seems too low to you and you want to “stick it to the wealthy” and force them to share (i.e., steal from them), one of the Presidential candidates agrees with your perspective.


  9. Tracy says:

    Considered the 1990s when Clinton was President, such tax breaks for the wealthy was not even warranted as it has been by this current Republican administration. And due to such imbalanced, our economy is weaken and fragile.

    Rick, YOU may be “free” to give more if that situation was the standard but in reality its not that way, and your generosity may not be the same as another. And that is why a sound standard should be in place that would aid a type of situation that would lead to a uniformed regulative economy and social standards.

    I know there will always be poor people and trust me, they will always be rich people. But just because one is a hard worker does not mean they will be rich. Gosh, I know a lot of hard working people and they are just that: hard working people. And no they are not rich.

    Yes, I can e-converse with you about hypotheticals but the FACT is our economy is imbalanced, our stock market is fragmented, our lack of control on making steady regulated polices has been hampered by old government politics that were not established because they cared or were thinking about poor people.

    I did not vote for Obama because he agrees with my prespectives (and trust me I have many…big smiles), I voted for him because he has communicated with sharing his life, views, and family by making better judgment WITH THE COMMON American in mind should be the standard in which politics are offered and established. And in this it makes for a stronger people and a strong nation.

  10. Rick says:

    The oath of office doesn’t call on the President to share his life, views and family. It calls on him to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution. Obama has already said that he considers it unfortunate that the Supreme Court of the civil rigths era remained bound to the constraints placed upon it by the Founding Fathers and the Constitution – i.e., they stayed where the Constitution told them to stay and that is a tragedy in his opinion. So I’m certainly not ready to charge him with preserving the Constitution. If he does win, I think the America we’ve known forover 230 years will be irreparably damaged – especially if he has both houses and even more if he has 60 seats in the Senate.

  11. randplaty says:


    A lot of people misunderstand the purpose of giving and sharing as described by the bible.

    The fundamental concept of giving and sharing in the bible is not because it benefits the receiver, but that it benefits the giver. Its more blessed to give than to receive. That’s the fundamental concept that we need to understand when talking about sharing. God loves a CHEERFUL giver. Meaning the heart of the giver is more important than the actual act of giving. Freely you have received. FREELY give.

    That is why the poor widow who gave two coins gave more than all the rich people. It’s not the result of the giving that matters. It’s not how many people we can help with or how much good we can do with the money. The widow couldn’t really help anybody with two coins. What matters is her heart. In that way, she gave more than anybody.

    Now taxing the rich to give to the poor, does that follow the concept of a cheerful giver? Does that care more about the heart of the giver or does that place the emphasis on what “good” can be done for the poor?

    A couple other practical points:
    1. Charities utilize resources more efficiently than government programs. Charities easily recognize dead beats and drug addicts and system abusers. Government programs have a hard time doing that.
    2. Charities receive a lot of their money from rich donors. Will these rich donors still be able to support organizations such as Worldvision or Compassion International?
    3. Will churches suffer because they lose their large donations to taxation?
    4. The government will never support mission organizations like Wycliffe Bible Translators or campus ministries like IV. Will missions suffer as a result of heavy taxation of the rich?

  12. Eugene,
    I appreciate you mentioning my article. This is the first election in which I will have an opportunity to vote having just become an American citizen. However I am really struggling because of the costs of the election as well as by the way that the poor constantly get hammered in hard economic times.
    My gospel reading this morning was from Luke 12: 32-34. “Do not be afraid little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out., a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no theif comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is there your heart will be also.”
    It certainly seems to suggest that Christians are meant to have different values and priorities in terms how how they view money.

  13. Tracy says:

    randplaty, so taxing the middle class more does? And anyone can use scriptures to justify about anything.

    One of the purpose of Obama’s tax plan is to provide a tax break for the middle class. He will just reverse the RECENT ( 8 years recent) tax break from the selective rich and provide it BACK to the middle class. And I don’t see the problem with that, rich will always be rich and there will always be poor people. I don’t think Obama’s plan will hurt anything AT THIS PARTICULAR time in America’s history, I guess it can be worst when it comes to the economy but gosh its pretty bad now (i.e. gas prices, mortage foreclosures etc).

    Sorry I don’t have scriptures to use to justify the above point.

  14. randplaty says:


    I don’t like to be a bible thumper. I only referred to the bible because you referred to it first: “I would like to say as a Christian the Bible teaches us to share. I remember being in elementary school, I was told to share my toy/book/time or to share my sandwich or treats. Why is sharing a negative thing?”

    I was merely clarifying what biblical sharing actually is. I’m not trying to use the bible to justify anything. I don’t believe the “Jesus loves the poor and the democrats love the poor, therefore we should love the democrats” argument that many neo evangelicals are using these days.

  15. eugenecho says:

    @rick: maybe this is where the rubber meets the road for some.

    What is the constitution?
    is it LIVING or STATIC?

  16. JB says:

    I was already pro-Obama. But after watching that ad, I felt a strong urge to DO something, or some things. Give blood, pay my taxes a little more cheerfully, build a Habitat house, smile at a republican.

    If we had a visionary leader, the country would come together to solve our huge and historic problems. Instead of “going shopping”, he might call us into service of each other, and our country. I’m so tired of the two parties trying to manipulate us into hating each other…what if we returned to a time of more respect, and worked together?

    He’s inspiring and motivating. He might just bring out the best in us.

  17. JB says:


    Obama was referring to the fact that the Constitution originally considered non-whites to be 3/5ths a person. Sticking to that was a tragedy, in his opinion. Your views may vary.



  18. Tom says:

    @ Rick and randyplaty

    Both of you obviously support generosity.

    Sounds like–in general–you just don’t want any ‘government’ beyond the level of the individual person to make that decision. I agree that we want as many individual people making their own ethical decisions as possible, but I wonder about the practicality of a vision of the world ‘without collective government.’

    In the business world, every business has a ‘government’ (it’s called the owners and the management). In my experience they don’t normally hold many elections to decide on corporate policy, including where monies are going to be invested generously in the ‘human capital’ others of us prefer to call ‘the poor ‘. Even the huge majority of individual stockholders who don’t control hundreds of millions of dollars normally have little to say about the direction that corporations take.

    I only mention the realities of the ‘individual’ in the business world because most current American evangelical conservatives seem to feel very comfortable with a private business system where individual moral choice has relatively little influence. And in particular, very little influence on how monies are invested in helping poor folks get a leg up,

    Most expressions of the Christian church are barely ‘democratic’ (i.e., actually pay serious attention to individual church members in major decisions.) The church takes some pride in being a spiritual and ethical hierarchy where the ‘best’ make decisions for the rest.

    I’m assuming you two are as negative about the way business and religion largely ignore individuals as you are about the way our political system does.

    Personally, I feel comfortable with governments of all kinds because I can’t imagine how we’d do without them.

    I just want them to be more fully democratic than they are. That seems like a realistic vision to me.

    Why are you two so obviously hostile the idea of a federal government directing more tax monies toward middle class and poor folks? Particularly if most of the American people want it so?

  19. Rick says:

    JB – I have listened to it. I know that his starting place was voting rights and rights to sit at an integrated lunch counter. But then he raised the subject of the redistribution of wealth – his words not mine – his change of topic, not mine – and bemoaned that the court remained bound to the constraints placed on them by the Founding Fathers. The clear intent of his words was “It would have been good if they had gone beyond where they went and made inroads in the direction of redistributing wealth, but they did not do so, because they felt obligated to observe the Constitution, and that is unfortunate”. Clearly your interpretation is inaccurate, because the civil rights era Supreme Court (The Warren Court) did NOT stick to a consideration of non-whites as 3/5 of a person – the issue was not before them – and he explicitly names the Warren Court as the body which, unfortunately is his estimation, remained bound by the constraints placed upon it by the Constitution and the Founders.

  20. JB says:

    Listen to what he said in that interview. He said that despite what people think the SCOTUS didn’t do anything radical during the civil rights era, and that the tragedy was that the movement was overly focussed on trying to make gains through the court instead of using more practical ways for the disempowered to gain their seat at the table of power: community organizing. This fits with his past activities: pragmatic ways to help people register to vote (not exactly unAmerican, eh?) find jobs, buy homes and get off drugs, which is what community organizers do. Used to be part of the “thousand points of light”, now just objects of republican ridicule.

    Nowhere does he say that the court was mistaken in not issuing radical positions. He’s stating a fact: they weren’t radical. And the mistake was trying to catch up through the courts, expecting some sort of radical divergence from the Constitution, instead of building power in pragmatic ways.

    Anyone listening to the interview with an open mind could not come away with the idea he was criticizing the court. Sorry, I don’t buy it for a minute.

  21. randplaty says:


    The biggest reason I oppose government redistribution of wealth is because of the heart. I’ve already stated as much. The generous heart, the cheerful giver is so valuable to God. I have been learning about that myself as I try to give a larger and larger percentage of my own income and to rely on God for supplying my needs.

    When I support a homeless ministry, I start to choose to go volunteer there too. I pray for them. I develop relationships with homeless. I get to know the actual difficulties of living on the street. I meet real people and I love on real people. If a needy person tries to abuse the system, they’re kicked out or rebuked. Moral values are passed on along with the food and shelter.

    The biggest thing about giving is that I begin to worry if I will have enough money for myself. But then I remind myself that these are God’s ministries and he will supply the money needed to fund them. I rejoice because he is doing it through me. I am given the GIFT by God to participate in HIS ministries.

    Now when the government implements a welfare program to help out the poor. They will take the money that I would have given to the homeless ministry and they will put it into a program that I will never see. I will never meet the people. I will never feel a connection to them.

    Not only that but the government will hire people to run the welfare programs rather than take volunteers. These workers will not care nearly as much as the volunteers. Bureaucrats will waste government money thinking “its just government money.” Workers will not be fired for being lazy and just sitting around.

    And then there will be the people who abuse the government program. The workers the government hires will never deny a welfare recipient, because after all, its just the governments money. Religion will be locked out of the government program because of the separation of church and state. The needy will never view the money as a provision from God. No, they will look at it as their entitlement from the government. Its not just about the money. It’s about the message we are sending.

    It’s the Church’s responsibility to care for the poor. Let’s not abdicate the responsibility to the government. Are we lazy? Would we rather just bubble in a vote rather than doing the hard work of establishing a ministry, working in it and giving to it?

  22. eugenecho says:

    @randplaty: we simply have different views on the role of the govt. to say that caring for the poor is the church’s responsibility is wrong. clearly it is but it is not SOLELY the church’s responsibility. it is shared by the govt as well.

  23. randplaty says:


    I’m glad we’re getting to the crux of the issue. This is the major difference between conservatives and liberals. It’s not that one is Christian and one is secular. It’s not that one cares for the poor and the other does not. It’s not that one cares about the environment and one does not. It’s the role of government in our lives. I believe that the role of government should be limited and I’ve already outlined the reasons why.

    I believe the government has the responsibility to guarantee basic rights to all of its citizens. Why do you believe the government has a responsibility to care for the poor?

  24. gaius says:

    @eugenecho – you raise a very salient point about the role of constitution – whether it is static or living…

    this raises a related question whether judges should merely interpret the law as written or be able to, as certain critics put it, to “legislate from the bench”… either option opens avenues to necessary social change as well as abuse… unfortunately, state legislatures are susceptible to the whims of voters who may not have the most just and correct views of an issue… with the rise of judicial elections, the judiciary has also lost some of its perceptions of fairness, as judges now make decisions based on what their constituents want as well… throughout the history of the supreme court, there have been decisions made my judges from both sides of the aisle of the debate that have been egregious… in my opinion, this dichotomy of views is probably healthy for the rule of law, just as having a supreme court that is balanced is good for society in general… too “conservative” a court creates the possibility of ignoring individual rights and societal context, while too “liberal” a court can lose its bearings in terms of being grounded in reality and straying too far from the text and intent of the Framers…

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One Day’s Wages

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You can do it, sun. Break through the clouds. I love her. Saturday morning date at Pike Market with @minheejcho. Enjoying the final day of sun before 6 months of rain and gray. Not lol'ing. Some of my moat memorable travels have been to Myanmar (otherwise known as Burma). In fact, the vision of @onedayswages began on my first visit to this country in 2006. On a recent visit, I began learning about the Rohingya people. Sadly, it has escalated to horrendous, genocidal proportions.

Thus far, about 500,000 people have been driven out from Myanmar through violence...with most going to Bangledesh...regulated to a massive refugee camp. Stateless. Undocumented. Minority groups. Dehumanized. Homes and villages destroyed. And so much more unspeakable atrocities.

Yes, it's complex and messy. It always is. But the root of this injustice as the case for so much brokeness in the world is the sin of dehumanizing one anotber as..."the other." May we see each person, including the Rohingya people, as one who is created in the image of God. It's the truth and the remedy to the incessant dehumanization that goes on in our world.

Lord, in your mercy. The obedience of discipleship which includes the work of justice is a marathon. It's long, arduous, and emotional. Be tenacious. But also take care of yourself. Create healthy rhythms. Don't burn out. We need you for the marathon. Friends, don't give up. Press on. In the midst of so much chaos in the world, may we continue to cling to the hope of the whole Gospel. May we cling unto Jesus:

Way maker!
Miracle worker!
Promise keeper!
Light in the darkness!
That is who You are!

What an encounter with the Holy Spirit at @seattlequest today. Grateful for our worship team, the gospel choir, and the Audio/Visual team. Thank you Matt, Teresita, and Chris. Please thank all the volunteers for us. .
The world is broken.
But God is not yet done.
God's work of restoration
is not yet finished.

This is our hope.
God is our hope.


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