As is typical for the first few months after a national election, there is a hue and cry about the amount of money spent on elections in the United States.

The talking heads look on with grimaces as they emphasize the “enormous” amount of money—close to $14 billion—spent during the 2020 presidential election cycle, which is $3.5 billion per year. It is also double the amount spent in the 2016 elections, which supposedly proves why Congress must act now to pass new laws to “get the money out of politics.”

But is it true? Are the TV big shots and political insiders right? Or are they just manipulating us by leaving out critical context?

What if $3.5 billion every year isn’t nearly enough?

Would you think election spending is out of control if I told you that Americans spend almost as much on toothpaste per year? It is true. We spend over $3 billion on toothpaste every year. What if I pointed out that every year, we spend more than $5 billion on St. Patrick’s Day celebrations?

Would you reconsider if you realized that we spend more than 28 times as much on our pets in the same period of time as we do on elections ($99 billion per year)? And don’t even ask about how much is spent every single year on makeup, perfume, and beer ($49, 44, and 101 billion, respectively).

Here is some more context.

There are 330 million men, women, and children in America, of whom approximately 244 million are adults.

If we all went out to dinner together once every four years at a giant restaurant for the purpose of deciding who we wanted to be the president, and we split the bill ($14 billion) evenly, it would have come out to $57 each. Since it only happens once every four years, that works out to $14.34 per year (or 4 cents per day) to have a say in who controls the annual federal budget of $4.829 trillion.

In order to get an idea of just how much money that is, let’s do a thought experiment to put it into context.

First, I want you to imagine that you were born into a family of incredible wealth on the day the Roman Empire fell in 395 AD. In fact, when you were born, the balance in your bank account was (you guessed it) $4.829 trillion.

Now imagine that you started spending at the rate of $338,000 every hour of every single day since then and that you stopped spending this afternoon. Don’t worry though, because with what was left over, you would still be listed among the top 100 richest people in the United States with a net worth of more than $8 billion.

Although the $4.829 trillion annual budget is an inconceivably large amount of money, our federal government spends it every single year.

The truth is that spending $3.5 billion to influence how $4.829 trillion is spent might be one of the best investments on the planet.

In the last year, the free political speech of ordinary citizens has undeniably been restricted by Big Tech. Now, lobbyists, special interests, and establishment insiders are trying to further restrict us from greater participation. But it should not be a shock that they are actively trying to shut us up and shut us out of the process while trying to make us believe it is in our best interest.

The reason is simple: If we did get involved, it would screw up the deal for the insiders.

I submit to you that it is in our best interest to stop their business-as-usual attitude by becoming more involved, with more speech and more political spending—preferably at a rate higher than is spent on toothpaste and St. Patrick’s Day.

This is a commentary published with the author’s permission. If you wish to submit a commentary to Texas Scorecard, please submit your article to submission@texasscorecard.com.