Friday, January 25, 2013

Voting your values

I just sat at my computer for a good ten minutes re-writing this first sentence, not knowing how to start or where exactly I wanted to go with this.  Too often, I find myself reading the political opinions of a friend or random stranger or famous person and wondering where the line between being pragmatic and healthily self-serving crosses into being an asshole.  Whereas I have little patience for (what I view as) ignorance with regards to social issues, I have a number of friends who profess fiscal conservatism to be at the root of their (Republican) political inclinations.  Some of these friends have also wondered why I vote the way I do (to the left, to the left), given a strong belief in individual liberties and responsibility that I hope comes across in my writing.


That is how much money I paid in Federal, State, Social Security, and Medicare taxes this past month.  It's a lot of money (Over $25K in a year).  But I would always prefer to be in the position where I make enough money to complain about the taxes I pay, rather than making so little that I don't owe any taxes (in addition to payroll taxes that most people already pay).  I know that compound interest is powerful, and that if my taxes were cut in half and the other half invested, that would be a big deal financially.  So the issue of tax rates, government size, and cost of social programs is not a minor dollar amount, even on an individual level.  On the other hand, I happen to think that all humans deserve not to die of hunger or due to poor medical care. So I'm not intrinsically opposed to social welfare programs or taxes.

I benefit greatly from life circumstances I cannot control -- that I have a family that values education, that I grew up in a wealthy country, that I'm white, and that my height/weight/looks are socially acceptable, to name a few.  Still, it's worth noting that from this advantaged position, there is a lot I can utilize,and that is very powerful for wealth accumulation -- my work ethic, intelligence, and appetite for learning. Because life is not a zero-sum game, I don't inherently find anything wrong with paying $2,100 a month to improve public welfare.  Do I think the government is handling everything in an optimal way?  Well, does anyone?

Does it seem silly that I think more about purchasing decisions that have fewer financial repercussions than higher tax rates?  I feel that it's wiser to focus my efforts on what I can change, rather than what I likely can't, and would take money away from those who need it more than me.  At the root of it, I truly think there are a number of racist, misogynist, and elitist conservatives: why do you feel OK visiting a free Smithsonian, going to public parks, eating that yummy subsidized corn, or taking advantage of non-taxable retirement accounts but decry social security?  Is it worse when someone else makes use of the government's services if they happen to be black or poor?  In the end, if I happen to pay more into the 'system' than I get back, that's fine by me.  I'm lucky to not have been in dire straits with a need for extensive government support.

Would love to hear your thoughts -- where do you fall on the voting/fiscal policy spectrum?  How do you feel about paying taxes?

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