We are in the midst of a presidential election. We often hear that one candidate has raised  tens of millions of dollars. It all sounds so expensive. Just how much is being spend to influence your vote? The main source of data for this article came from opensecrets.org. As is our tradition, the data has been scaled to a per family basis.

Presidential Race:                    Total    Per Family
Total raised by all presidential
candidates as of July 08             $1.18 Bil    $10.31
Est. amount yet to be raised         $1 Bil       $ 8.78

Minnesota Senate Race:          Total    Per Family
Total raised by all candidates      $27.9 Mil    $14.41
Note: Cost per Minnesota family  

Texas Senate Race:                  Total    Per Family
Total raised by all candidates      $18.8 Mil    $2.14
Note: Cost per Texas family  

Iowa Senate Race:                   Total     Per Family
Total raised by all candidates      $8.2 Mil      $7.30
Note: Cost per Iowa family  

Montana Senate Race:             Total     Per Family
Total raised by all candidates      $10.9 Mil    $30.73
Note: Cost per Montana family  

Editor's Analysis:
The amount of money used to sway your opinion does not seem out of line considering the gravity of the decisions and the potential cost in taxes. However, in reviewing the amount of money raised by incumbents verses their challengers, the discrepancy between them was huge. It seems that the fund raising advantage of an incumbent, has a chilling effect on open debate. Maybe it is time to consider a "Windfall Contributions" tax of 25% on large contributions received by incumbents after they are elected. The proceeds from this tax would be given to their general election opponent when they stand for re-election. I am not holding my breath.

August 25, 2008
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We as a nation love our sports. This article is an attempt to quantify that cost. The data was obtained from data on the USAToday and Forbes websites. Note that not all the costs of professional sports are included. For example, the subsidized stadium deals many franchises get from local governments. Also Canadian franchise data was excluded.

Major League Baseball         Total     Per Family
Total Player Salaries             $  2.60 Bil     $  22.82
Total Annual Revenue            $  4.16 Bil     $  36.55

NBA Basketball                      Total     Per Family
Total Player Salaries             $  1.92 Bil     $  16.85
Total Annual Revenue            $  3.09 Bil     $  27.14

NFL Football                          Total     Per Family
Total Player Salaries             $  3.15 Bil     $  27.63
Total Annual Revenue            $  6.54 Bil     $  57.42

NHL Hockey                            Total     Per Family
Total Player Salaries             $  1.05 Bil     $    9.21
Total Annual Revenue            $  1.85 Bil     $  16.26

All Major League Sports        Total     Per Family
Total Player Salaries             $  8.71 Bil     $  76.52
Total Annual Revenue            $15.64 Bil     $137.37

Editor's Analysis:
Each region of the country has professional sport franchises that, through their support of "their" teams, give local residents a sense of community. The games also provide more family friendly entertainment than do many movies or much of TV's other venue. You may or may not attend games or purchase merchandise but the cost of promotions and advertising possibly does raise the cost of the beer, snack, automobile or electricity you purchase.

September 1, 2008
The planet Mars has been the subject of speculation and curiosity for years. First, there was speculation on who built the canals that clearly could be seen with telescopes? Now the questions are if and where there is water? And, was it ever home to any life? President Bush in 2004, called for manned missions to Mars because "the desire to explore and understand is part of our character".
Past Missions (Today's Dollars)  Total    Per Family
Mariner 3,4,6,7,8 & 9 (1964-72)    $ 1.76 Bil   $ 15.47
Viking 1 & 2 (1976-1987)             $ 4.05 Bil   $ 35.56
Mars Observer (failed) (1993)        $ 1.54 Bil   $ 13.55
Global Surveyor (1997-2006)         $ 0.38 Bil   $   3.34
Pathfinder/Sojourner (1997)           $ 0.38 Bil   $   3.34
Climate Orbiter (failed) (1999)        $ 0.78 Bil   $   6.87
Polar Lander (failed) (1999)           $ 0.39 Bil   $   3.44
Odyssey (2001+)                         $ 0.36 Bil   $   3.15
Reconnaissance Orbiter (2006+)   $ 0.72 Bil   $   6.32
Exploration Rovers (2007+)           $ 0.95 Bil   $   8.38
Phoenix Lander (2008+)               $ 0.42 Bil    $   3.69
44 Year Total (1966-2008)            $11.73 Bil   $103.11

Pending/Proposed Missions       Total    Per Family
Science Laboratory (2009)           $ 1.20 Bil    $  10.54
Return of Samples (2018)            $ 8.00 Bil    $  70.25
Manned Missions (????)              $  ??? Bil    $ ???

Editor's Analysis:
Over the last 44 years we as a nation have spent almost $3 per family per year in our search for an understanding of Mars. As the data shows, NASA has significantly lowered the cost for exploration even with the failures. They should be commended. Thought their efforts, we now have a very good understanding of how barren Mars is. Based on this knowledge, the far more expensive missions of retrieving soil or sending men are going to be hard to justify.

September 8, 2008