Every four years when the American election takes place I am constantly stunned by the amount of money that is spent on fundraising. So it was when Mitt Romney and Michele Obama came to London this week for a series of fundraising dinners because there is much political capital to be gained from the 250,000 Americans living abroad.
Wealthy Americans living in the capital attended fund raisers where they paid between $2,500 to $50,000 for dinner. Michele Obama is expected to attend similar events and I don't know the price of a plate of nosh at the Democrat dinners but last year Gwyneth Paltrow, the actress, charged £5,000 for a tum fill when she raised funds for the Obama campaign.
At a time when Americans are queueing up at so-called mortgage clinics to plead with banks to view their dire financial situation compassionately and where poverty is at very high levels there is something really repugnant about fund raising dinners which do NOT produce a direct trickle down effect to the ordinary folk.
One could argue, I suppose, that contributing to the candidate you believe will make your life better is THE vested interest but, in reality, a $5 donation left on an automated fundraising phone system just isn't going to buy you the same influence as a $50,000 one is it? Part of the American dream is based on wealth accumulation and the accompanying consumption and, increasingly, Americans seem to live on the premise that if you don't flaunt it you won't get anywhere. Witness the rise of shows like the Kardashians and on Paris Hilton where excessive expenditure seems to have become a badge of nationality.
America has long been a country of some contradiction but the levels are opening up as fast as the ground does during an earthquake with 17 million children going hungry everyday.