House Democrats are scheduled to propose today that candidates for the House of Representatives voluntarily limit campaign expenditures to $600,000, $200,000 of which would be a subsidy from the government. This is being presented as a reform whose goal is to make House elections more competitive. Competition is certainly needed. In 1990, according to a study by Common Cause, of 405 incumbents running, 296 were opposed by candidates who had $25,000 or less in campaign funds, and 86 others had less than half as much as their incumbent opponent had.
So only 19 of 405 races were even close to competitive. Unsurprisingly, 389 of those 405 incumbents were re-elected. That is why American voters are frustrated. They know that public opinion is not reflected in such one-sided campaigns. They feel they have no control over government.
Elections can be more competitive -- at a savings to the Treasury, or least at no additional cost. (Which extra cost -- about $160 million every two years -- taxpayers are not about to approve. Presidential campaigns are now subsidized by Treasury funds earmarked by 1040 form filers. Fewer than one in five filers so earmarks, even though it costs the filer nothing. Congress is so unpopular now that probably not one in 10 taxpayers would support a congressional subsidy, even if it came from taxes levied on special interests only.)