(Update: Click here to read the follow-up to this article.)
The debates are theater, entertainment in the political arena. Great for stirring up controversy and Nielsen ratings, but not so good for evaluating the nominees.
If your vote hinges on media theatrics, you’re doing it all wrong.
Character attacks and mudslinging efforts shouldn’t determine who gets your vote. Which candidate is best aligned with your view of what America should be?
Here are three discussion points to consider as Election Day nears:
1) Money, Money, Money.
We spend our lives working for it, so any discussion of the election warrants a hard look at how your wallet might be affected.
Tax policy has taken center stage, with Trump taking a beating for refusing to release his filings. Media leaks suggest he may not have paid income taxes since the (Bill) Clinton era.
There are many reasons to dislike Trump; the stiff-arm he administered to The Internal Revenue Service isn’t one of them.
Businesses respond to incentives. Increasing the cost of conducting business—taxes, wage minimums etc.—reduces the motivation to conduct business.
Fewer business transactions = fewer jobs = fewer opportunities for Americans.
We don’t have to look far to see the impact of taxes on behavior. “Lower taxes” remains the siren song of every politician.
Of course, your favorite candidate will never give you specifics on how they’ll achieve those tax cuts.
(And really, this is our fault.
We love the idea of lower taxes, but don’t want to deal with the dirty work of actually cutting services.
Too many people want to live in a world where they can have their cake and eat it too, so the truth is a dish best served by politicians who care not for re-election.)
Stocks always go up! $40 minimum wage for everyone!
We’re all in favor of tax cuts….as long as it’s the other guy’s services who get reduced, not ours.
The last few elections have seen increased clamoring for the wealthy to “pay their fair share”. News that Trump may have avoided paying taxes for years has stoked that fire, inciting complaints from people who don’t understand that business losses should be deductible.
Since when did paying more taxes than necessary become a virtue?
This is the same American government that wastes billions of taxpayer dollars every year through corruption and inefficiency. You can certainly find better uses for your hard-earned money than pushing for more taxes.
So I wouldn’t kill Trump for citing business losses to reduce his taxable income. Those rules are in place to spur business activity and encourage job creation.
Which leads us to point #2….
2) Education (and Healthcare).
Improving schools and examining gaps in academic achievement, these are discussions worth having.
(One of the better books I’ve read on the subject of education in the black community: “Losing The Race” by John McWhorter.
Go pick it up.)
What we have to be careful of is chasing pipe dreams, like no-cost college enrollment and delusions that cell phone use doesn’t introduce personal security risks.
Once you strap on your thinking cap, you understand why pie-in-the-sky ideas like “free college for everyone” could never fly in a free society.
You start asking questions and these slogans are quickly unmasked for what they are: Cheap, political pandering. Extend this “free college” logic to other consumer assets like “free cars for everyone” or “free computers for everyone” and the flaws should be immediately apparent.
When it comes to items of value—education, pizza, surfboards, whatever—there’s no such thing as “free”.
Be it time, money, or some other resource, an exchange of some sort has taken place to get you that good.
Waiting in line for free ice cream at Carvel on National Ice Cream Day required no outlay of cash, but you had to spend an hour in line to get that cone.
That’s an hour you won’t get back.
Many times, the costs of our actions are borne by others, whether it’s higher taxes–which we all shoulder—or the disappearance of in-demand services.
Here’s an example that hits home for many parents: Pregnancy-related medicine.
Personal Injury attorneys who encourage parents to sue obstetricians for birth defects, defects that may be no fault of the doctor but simply an unfortunate draw in the genetic lottery.
It costs you nothing up front to file the suit, and, many times, hospitals will offer a settlement to avoid the risk of a massive judgment against them. You may never have to see a court room, while still obtaining compensation for your grievance.
Sounds like a great deal.
If your case does go to trial, the odds are stacked in your favor. Juries see a teary-eyed mother relaying a tale of woe and they can’t help but side with her against the hospital, even if culpability is unclear. They levy a sizable judgment against the hospital, to encourage other doctors to be as careful as possible.
No harm there, right?
Not so simple.
Remember, there’s a cost to everything in life. It may not be obvious or immediate, but you can bet something was exchanged to obtain that good.
The specter of lawsuits is the biggest reason why it’s difficult to find an obstetrician in so many states. Malpractice insurance has skyrocketed, and, as a result, many doctors are getting out of the industry.
The doctors that do stay in business run their patients through batteries of tests–many, unnecessary–to preempt any claims of negligence that could arise if something goes awry.
All those tests costs money. They drive up costs for everyone.
But few people ever connect the dots on this…..
Just because you’re not physically forking over cash, doesn’t mean that resource was free. There’s always a cost attached to commodities, even if it’s hidden.
And this is one of the biggest misconceptions in our society, that one can obtain something for nothing.
That notion is quickly debunked by an understanding of basic economics.
When you understand that there’s no such thing as a free lunch, you gain an invaluable perspective for evaluating public policies (and presidential candidates).
Take health care, for example.
You hear a lot of complimentary press about the National Health Service in England as the gold standard of medicine or of the Canadian low-cost plan as an for example for America to follow.
They are fantastic systems—if you never have to go to the hospital.
Because costs have been artificially-suppressed, the demand for services is insane. Horror stories of patients waiting months, years even, for an appointment are commonplace.
When money goes out the window, “time” becomes the new rationing system. Queues for doctors in England stretch from Birmingham to Manchester.
There’s a reason that citizens from every other country come to the United States for surgery.
“I’m going to Italy for my triple bypass.”
A sentence you’ve never heard before.
Even with our byzantine insurance system, our healthcare marketplace still reigns supreme. The profit incentive provides enough motivation for pharmaceutical companies to provide the latest drugs and hospitals to provide top-notch, speedy services.
Is it expensive? Yup. But, at least it’s available.
Insurance regulation is a big reason costs are so high, and, again, the american public is the chief culprit preventing reform, but that’s a topic for another article.
Education, like healthcare, is an arena where wolf tickets are a staple on the menu. Your favorite candidate might promise you the world, but what good does it do you if they never make good on it?
What good is a check for one million dollars if you can’t cash it?
Free college for our young people is a totally-achievable goal!
Educate yourself. Learn how the world works, so you’re not a perpetual victim. Don’t allow politicians to piss on your leg and tell you it’s raining.
One of the marks of a great society is one that encourages autonomy and individual liberties…..
3) Personal freedoms and government accountability.
This website is rooted in the challenging of orthodoxy, so allow me to buck convention here:
People who are tired of the status quo should throw their weight behind a candidate they might not usually support.
With some truly worrisome presidential candidates on the ballot, this might give you pause.
Don’t be cowed by discomfort; wrestle with it.
Consider the change-up for your local elections, where your vote carries much more weight. Put the old guard on notice.
Minorities, in particular, who vote Democrat en masse, no matter how they’ve been treated, should go another route, if only for one vote. Democrats have taken minority support for granted for decades. Education and economic landscapes in inner cities across the country remain in shambles–despite lofty promises from long-term Democratic incumbents.
Throw your vote to other candidates for a term and these politicians will realize they have to actually deliver some return on their campaign promises for a change.
The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
Don’t back The Green Party, though. They are just the Red Party 2.0, with a few superficial changes to avoid being branded with a scarlet letter.
No matter who we elect to the oval office, our day-to-day lives will remain largely unaffected.
It’s Impact Bias:
We overestimate how much events will affect our lives.
A new leader of the free world will bring some macro changes in U.S. policy, sure, but if you fast-forwarded your life to January 2018, you’d struggle to tell the difference.
Cynical, but true.
Some of that is attributable to the degree of control we wield over our own experiences. The rest is chalked up to government’s inability to get anything done. Most people occupy the same daily rut and a new president is unlikely to change that.
Not to say that voting isn’t important—far from it.
One of the great shames of our nation is perennial poor turnout at the polls. Americans should take the time to cast their ballots, if only in reverence for the wars waged–and casualties suffered–by heroes of the past.
Of course, the actual act of voting won’t beget change on its own. Deploy your ballot with purpose and you’ll wield much more power.
“Like the useless legs of one who is lame is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.”
– Proverbs 26:7
Elections shouldn’t be a spectator sport. Get in the game.
In the 1992 Presidential election, independent candidate Ross Perot garnered nearly twenty percent of the popular vote—unheard of for a third-party nominee. This sizable contingent of voters did not go unnoticed: both President Clinton and Republican candidate Bob Dole incorporated pieces of Perot’s platform in the 1996 run-up for president.
Perot’s life is a testament to iconoclasm.
Politicians are as hungry for votes today as they were then. If you want the big boys to listen, you have to hit ‘em where it hurts.
The disenfranchised and social justice organizations (see: Black Lives Matter) should take note. You vote for the same candidates again and again and suffer the same indignities year after year.
Tired of poor inner city schools? Stop placing power in the hands of leaders who haven’t delivered.
Flip convention on its head and create new narratives.
The natural counter-reaction to election malaise is to skip the process: let the “suckers” waste their day at the polls.
Staying home on Election Day is a losing play; you forfeit the right to complain about presidential policy. Reinforces unflattering stereotypes, too.
Set an example for future generations by challenging the status quo.