CYCLOPS: Political wisdom claims people vote their pocketbooks


The opinions stated in this article are solely those of the author and not of The Davis Clipper.

Here is a question for all of us: Do we (and should we) vote for or support a candidate/issue which negatively impacts our best interests?  In other words, how many of us would back an idea that would help others but would take something from us personally?

The question arose from a friend benefiting from legislation which he opposed.

“I am solidly against the recent tax bill passed by Republicans,” he said, “and I feel somewhat guilty that I am profiting from it. I hold a sizeable investment in the stock market and I’m making a killing on it ever since the bill passed.”

Political wisdom claims that people vote their pocketbooks. They support things that benefit them and their families.  Since passage of the tax cut, numerous companies are passing along some of their tax savings in the form of bonuses and pay raises to employees.  Yet there is a downside to the bill.  Not only does it potentially balloon the national debt (harming our children and grandchildren), but a provision could also raise health insurance costs for low-income, vulnerable Americans.

That is the conundrum for my friend.  While the tax cut is good for him personally, it will probably hurt some of his neighbors.

The concern about self-interest is nothing new.  In World War II, a small minority of Europeans put themselves at risk by hiding their Jewish neighbors from Nazi thugs. Some of America’s most wealthy entrepreneurs like Warren Buffet and Bill Gates have essentially “raised their own taxes” by supporting the estate tax (or as some call it, the “death tax”).

The issue came up again this past month when Democrats and Republicans closed much of the federal government for a few days over an impasse concerning the immigration status of the “Dreamers.”  I was impressed by a man at the local Starbucks who acknowledged that while he would give up some of his paycheck to the brief layoff at Hill Air Force Base, he was willing to forego the pay to protect young people from deportation.  To him, the DACA debate is a moral issue, more important than his bank account.

But I wonder how many would make a similar sacrifice?  And I wonder if the man would feel the same way if the federal layoff continued for a week, two weeks, or a month?

We all have to make choices.  As a college student during the Vietnam War era, I saw friends make choices about enlisting in the military and risking their lives for the “greater good.”  Now at a later stage in life, I view political issues from the same lens:

What is good for me personally may pose a hardship for others in my community.  What is helpful to school children may impose higher taxes on couples without children. What benefits the United States economically may harm other friendly nations.  We all must draw a line between seeing the impact on society and racking up benefits for our own self-interest.

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