Voters’ benefit: the crucial dilemma

Voters’ benefit: the crucial dilemma

Democrats support higher taxes but Republicans don´t. Who is right?

Wealthy Democrats support higher taxes; they are more likely to favor higher taxes on wealthy households than are poorer Democrats. Republicans, meanwhile, are not much in favor of increased spending on Medicare and Social Security, though many of them are likely to need it.

In 2017, only 35% of Republicans said they were in support of increased spending on Medicare, compared to 61% of Democrats; there was a similar difference in opinion over spending on for Social Security. And yet Republican support skews old: in 2016, 53% of those aged 71 to 88 identified as Republican or leaned Republican compared to 36% of those aged 18-35. And it is old people who benefit most from such transfers: in 2013, for example, government accounted for 73% of the health spending of those aged over 65 compared to 27% of the expenditures of those under 65.

This disconnect between personal financial interest and partisan lean may be partly explained by the fact that increasingly, other things matter more than money when it comes to political affiliation.

According to Gallup polling, the proportion of Americans who say the gap between rich and poor is America’s most important problem, at 2%, is much smaller than those who cite immigration (11%) or race relations (7%). And there is evidence that factors including location, race and religion influence party affiliation more than income does.

In 2016, Pew research suggested 47% of those in families with incomes between $30,000 and $50,000 identified as Republican –more than the 46% of those with incomes over $150,000. Compare that to the 55% to 33% gap between rural and urban support for Republicans, or the 76% Republican support amongst white non-Hispanic evangelical Protestants compared to the 7% support amongst black Protestants.

Another reason for voting against one’s economic self-interest is the belief that Washington won’t successfully implement transformative economic policies –good or bad.

The lack of belief that Washington can act to voters’ benefit is regrettable because the federal government does still have an impact on individual finances and could have a bigger one. Estimates by Christopher Weimer, an economist, suggest 12% of Americans are kept out of poverty thanks to tax and welfare programs. Analysis by the bipartisan Tax Policy Centre suggests that if the tax deduction destined for the top fifth of earners thanks to last year’s reform had instead been distributed to the bottom quintile, it would have raised their incomes by 50%.

Perhaps the most corrosive effect of believing that government won’t make a difference is that it abandons those to whom it really could to the whims of ideologues.


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