Money at 30: 3 Ways Your Vote Could Impact Your Finances
Well, it’s finally here: the much ballyhooed 2018 midterm election day is upon us. As important as this election will likely end up being, personally, I’m just looking forward to the commercial breaks in between Jeopardy rounds returning to their normal “all prescription drug commercials” format. But in all seriousness, my wife and I dragged ourselves out of bed at 5:30 this morning to cast our ballots and, as I was researching for that moment, it occurred to me how many of the propositions, amendments, and even candidates I was weighing in on could affect my finances as well as those of my fellow Missourians and Americans.
With that, here are three ways that your finances could potentially be impacted at the ballot box.
A commonly-cited difference between the two major political parties is how each would spend your tax dollars. However it’s worth noting that, in many cases, your vote may directly affect how much you’re taxed on certain items. For example, one Missouri proposition being voted on today would increase the state’s gas tax while other recent elections have put issues of property taxes up for a vote. Sometimes you might even end up with two similar tax propositions that would utilize the revenue in two different ways!
The moral of the story is that there’s more to voting and taxes than the recent federal tax cuts. In fact, more often than not, the taxes that could affect you the most happen at the local level and perhaps during non-November elections.
In recent years, there’s been a lot of talk surrounding the minimum wage and debate on what constitutes a “living wage.” While efforts such as the Fight for $15 campaign championed by fast-food workers haven’t affected the federal minimum wage much, various cities and states have started to hike their minimum wages in recent years. For what it’s worth, some major employers such as Amazon have voluntarily (though under pressure from activists) chosen to raise their wages.
As luck would have it, Missouri’s minimum wage was also on my ballot this morning. If you’re not currently making minimum wage, this might not technically impact you, although you are able to say whether or not you feel the wage should increase. Of course there are also those who worry that raising minimums could inflate other costs, making such propositions hot-button issues — but that’s what democracy is all about.
If you were old enough to vote in the 1992 presidential election (if you couldn’t tell by my column title, I was not), you may recall that would-be President Bill Clinton’s campaign touted the Carville-coined phrase “it’s the economy, stupid” to remind staffers of one of their main talking points. While the economy at large may have played an extra important role in that election, it’s pretty safe to say that the economy is on the ballot at least every two years as well. That’s because, if people find themselves worse off financially than they had been, they’re likely more inclined to pull the lever for the opposite party than the one in charge.
Of course, to a certain degree, the economy can have a mind of its own and move in cycles regardless of who the president is or who controls Congress. This is likely why recent opposing campaign speeches have both attributed the current economic success to President Donald Trump and to President Barack Obama. In any case, different parties and presidents may hold different economic policy ideas and it’s up to you to decide which ones you agree with.
Regardless of how you decide to vote, it’s important to realize that politics and finance do tend to cross paths more than you might think. This isn’t to say that there aren’t other issues to concern yourself with on either side but personal finance is just another factor in the equation. So, whether it’s a presidential election, midterm, or otherwise, consider taking the time to educate yourself with what’s on the ballot and voice your opinion on some of these political money matters.