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Election Money and Mutual Aid: A Proposal for the Grand Rapids community

November 10, 2022

According to Transparency USA, there has been just over $40 Billion spent on the 2022 Elections for the entire country. In Michigan, the total amount of money raised has been $399,945,494.73, but the amount spent is about $15 Million more, coming to a total of $415,768,045.15.

So, $415 Million has been spent by candidates, Political Action Committees and Political Parties, going primarily to media companies and organizations that have consulted candidates, along with organizations that have co-ordinated ballot initiatives. Not surprising that the bulk of money goes to produce those shitty sound-bites videos for TV, audio files for radio and the plethora of mailers. In the month leading up to the election, we received around 200 separate mailers. I looked at everyone of them and all of them had the most basic information, often vague or misleading about the candidates and ballot proposals. 

According to the Michigan Voter Information Center, there are roughly 8,214,213 registered voters in Michigan. 5,568,097 Michiganders voted in the 2020 Election, which was the largest turnout ever. Now, just to round it out, if 5.5 million voters showed up Tuesday, that would mean that for every voter there was an average of $82 spent to convince them how to vote. 

There was a total of $60 Million spent on Proposal 3 alone, with the group supporting Proposal 3 raising almost three times as much as the group that was opposing Proposal 3. Again, a great deal of money for just one ballot proposal.

In thinking about how much money is raised and spent during political campaigns, with he bulk of the money going to political ads of all kinds (although I seriously doubt that the public benefits from these ads), what would it mean if the same amount of money would be used to support the most vulnerable communities in Michigan? What sort of an impact would $60 Million – the amount spent on Proposal 3 – have if that amount was provided to the people who were having to make a decision about their reproductive health? How could $60 Million be used to provide support or direct Mutual Aid to people considering having an abortion? Now, I don’t think for a second that reproductive choice simply comes down to money, but if there was that kind of money being spent on resources or as direct Mutual Aid for people confronted with making difficult choices about whether or not to have children, my guess is that it would make those decisions less stressful.

Then there is the money raised by candidates. Again, according to Transparency USA, the total amount of money raised by Democratic Party candidates (a total of 307), was $65,091,779. This means that the average amount raised by Democratic Party candidates in Michigan was $212,025. What if those same candidates, whether they won or not, would commit to raising the equivalent amount of money – $212,025 – and provide it as Mutual Aid to the most vulnerable in their communities? What would it be like for trans youth to receive direct Mutual Aid, especially those who are not supported by their families? What would it be like for undocumented immigrants who live in constant fear from ICE and other law enforcement agencies, to be the recipients of direct Mutual Aid funds? How about BIPOC families that are struggling to afford rent or families in general that are food insecure, can’t afford medications they need, can’t afford child care and basic health care needs? 

If the candidate you contributed money to ended up losing in the election, then that money is gone. However, even if the candidate you contributed to won their election, there is not real way to know if you will benefit from how they vote or what policy proposals they introduce and get passed. It is very difficult to quantify the monetary or material benefits that elected officials might be able to win for the public from policies that are passed. 

However, we can make determinations about the community well being when we look at poverty, food insecurity, health conditions, employment, education opportunities, transportation costs, etc. In Kent County alone there are thousands of families that are struggling to survive when it comes to basic necessities and this has been the case since the county of Kent has existed. The question we should be asking ourselves is, why is there always a large percentage of the population that is struggling to have their basic necessities met, regardless of which political party is in control of local, state and federal governments? 

I’m not asking people to stop contributing to political campaigns, but what I am proposing is that candidates, political parties and people who contribute to them, to provide Mutual Aid to individuals and families directly that are the most vulnerable in every community. Doing so would provide direct relief to thousands in every community, it would bring a greater awareness and understanding of economic disparities in every community and it might even get candidates, elected officials and political systems to have a fundamental shift in how they do policy……..because the way they do policy right now, primarily benefits those who are already highly privileged.

Editors note: Mutual Aid is already being practiced in Grand Rapids in many people and coalitions of groups. Please consider contributing to the Grand Rapids Area Mutual Aid Network (GRAMAN), which has been doing amazing work with all volunteers, providing direct Mutual Aid to families throughout the Grand Rapids area.

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