While ordinary Americans were muddling through the recession, the people running our two dominant political parties were sparing no expense, particularly on themselves.
An examination of spending reports by the Democratic and Republican national committees last week by the Washington Post added to the growing mountain of evidence that the people ruling this country — whether they be on Wall Street or in Washington — are living on a completely different planet than the people being ruled.
The Post found that roughly two-thirds of the money raised by these leadership committees — 59 percent for the Democrats; 68 percent for the Republicans — is consumed by administrative or fundraising expenses.
Mostly, it is squandered on limos, meetings at posh resorts in exotic destinations, five-star hotels, meals at exclusive restaurants, big bar tabs, tips and chartered jets.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the Republican National Committee spent $74 million in the last reporting period trying to raise $109 million.
Perhaps the most egregious example was the $1,946 bill submitted to the RNC for staffers to enjoy a night at a bondage fetish nightclub.
But the typical expense is more exotic than erotic, according to Federal Election Commission records.
For instance, RNC Chairman Michael S. Steele took several dozen donors on a retreat to Jackson Hole, Wyo. The RNC picked up the tab for golf, tennis, whitewater rafting, trout fishing guides, limo drivers, photographers, meals and flowers.
Including the rooms at the Four Seasons Resort — which advertises “pampered adventures” — the total tab was $170,000.
According to the Post, the RNC spent $260,476 on a single meeting in Hawaii during the height of the recession, and $14,937 for Dallas Cowboys football tickets.
The RNC, the Post reports, spent $773,000 on “office supplies” for its 100-person Washington staff. Office Depot reports that firms with 100 office workers usually spend between $30,000 and $50,000 per year on supplies.
Both committees assiduously shun work-a-day cities for their events, favoring instead Miami Beach, Las Vegas, Hawaii and Boca Raton, Fla., the Post reports.
The predictable explanation, of course, is that you have to spend money to make money. Rich donors expect to be treated like Middle Eastern potentates before opening their wallets.
And, they no doubt expect access and influence — clout — commensurate with the size of their investment.
Their money will buy the millions of dollars in superficial TV advertising designed to convince ordinary voters that their candidates are actually ordinary people themselves — just people who attend all-expense-paid “pampered adventures” in Jackson Hole.
And don’t expect things to change any time soon. The recent Supreme Court decision giving free-speech rights to corporations is expected to increase the say of big-money donors in the election process.
Which will simply reinforce the pubic impression that our political system is ultimately controlled by the same people who so recently ran our financial system into the ground.
Back on planet Earth, ordinary Americans are sorting through the carnage — lost homes, jobs and retirements — and growing angrier by the day.