$603 million. The total amount raised by Barack Obama’s campaign.

$358 million. The total amount raised by John McCain’s campaign.

Together it equals $961 million. That’s almost $1 billion. And that’s not including the money raised by other candidates who were seeking a presidential nomination or the candidates of smaller parties.

This number is not something to be proud of, in fact it borders on embarrassing.

We are living in one of the greatest economic crises of the last century, and yet Obama raised a presidential campaign record $150 million in September alone.

That does not reflect a nation in the middle of an economic crisis.

Fifteen years ago, in 1993, Fortune Magazine published an article about what you could buy with $1 billion. Here’s just a sample:

— The average annual grocery bill for 250,000 families of four.
— A lifetime supply, 30 months on average, of disposable diapers for 666,000 children.
— Two years’ worth of AIDS research at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, or a year’s worth of the drug AZT for 333,000 HIV-infected people.
— The tuition, room, and board at an Ivy League school for 10,645 students, enough to populate the freshman classes of Brown, Cornell, Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, and Yale — with $50 million left for Cliffs Notes.

Think about what we have done in the last year. Most of us are probably guilty – I am. I contributed $40 to a campaign to attend a rally. Some of us have bought t-shirts from campaigns, while others have donated money directly.

We are pouring our resources – time, energy and money – into candidates who have made one promise after another. We have eaten their words like hungry lions, desperate for some hope.

But what if, instead of dumping money into a system of deception, we put money into programs that have a history of change; the UN world food program or maybe you feel inclined to support an international child.

We stand on streets with clipboards asking every person who passes if they are registered to vote. We go to rallies and attend conventions, because this man has become a hero who we have to see in person.

We can’t do anything about the last year, but we can change the direction of the next four years. What if we took our ‘election year’ energy and used it to build houses with Habitat for Humanity? What if we handed out bagged lunches to the homeless once a month?

Imagine what American could look like.

By Nora Jorgensen