During the 2008 Presidential campaign, one contender for the White House—heavily backed by donations from Wall Street, no less—announced that he would not participate in the general election tax-financed campaign program. In doing so, the candidate was turning down tens of millions in public money, because he realized that he could raise far more; in fact, over half a billion more, by appealing directly to donors.

The candidate, of course, was President Barack Obama. Surprisingly, the President has made defending this subsidy program into the White House’s latest battle with House Republicans, even though he has no intention of seeking taxpayer dollars to mount his 2012 bid for reelection. This is hardly a surprise, given that the Obama re-elect will probably raise a cool $1 billion.

But let’s take hypocrisy off the table. Nobody is even willing to admit that the program has been a glorious success. Judging by the Democrats’ rhetoric during the House debate today on H.R. 359 (passed by a bipartisan 239-160 tally), their defense of the presidential campaign welfare system is that it has something to do with Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (a case about funding independent expenditures, not political campaigns) or Watergate (which, given that the President’s 2008 bid was lavishly funded by citizens and resulted in no break-ins to D.C. hotels, is odd).

In fact, the tax financed presidential campaign program has been a miserable failure. The program, which is funded by a $3 check-off on income tax forms, has ended up spending millions of tax dollars on the campaigns of anti-Semite Lenora Fulani, Lyndon LaRouche (who accepted tax dollars for his campaign conducted from prison), John Hagelin (who promoted transcendental meditation as a platform plank), and a host of respectable candidates who, while very nice people, garnered virtually zero votes in the Democratic and Republican primaries.

Even more bizarre, nobody expects any serious contender to opt-in to the program in 2012. The President’s likely $1 billion war chest will convince any credible Republican candidate to ignore the system altogether and hope to catch up by raising cash directly from supporters. So, in the next election the only campaigns to accept tax dollars will be the kooky and the marginal—an estimated cost of some $617 million over the next ten years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The tax financing system is dead. Keeping it on life support only lengthens the amount of time that taxpayers’ money will be wasted. It’s time to pull the plug.

Sean Parnell is the president of the Center for Competitive Politics , a nonpartisan, nonprofit group dedicated to protecting First Amendment political rights