Have you ever wondered where personal finances come into play in politics? Certainly, everything seems to be connected. You and I pay taxes that contribute towards various government-funded programs like education, roads, social security, etc. Beyond the concern for the tax payer’s dollars, why would personal finances matter when it comes to the larger realm of politics? What does personal finance have to do with major political debates? Yet, if you keep track of the recent developments, you probably know that the candidates’ personal finances keep coming up more than ever. Why do different individuals’ finances matter in political campaigns or elections?
It has recently been released that Mitt Romney is paying significantly lower taxes than the marginal rate. Democrats have scrutinized his tax return because of this fact. In fact, it has led many to question the system of tax rates. Are the rich paying enough taxes? Are they paying too much? What’s the best tax system? These are all questions that have been circling in popular media.
Yet, few have asked why it matters so much. While Mitt Romney has yet to be selected as the republican candidate, even if he were chosen, he wouldn’t be running on the grounds of paying the most toward the U.S. deficit. When has financial information ever mattered so much as it does now?
I believe that there are two reasons that Romney’s facing so much criticism for his effective tax rate, or more generally, why politician’s finances are being scrutinized more than ever. The first reason is the same that it has always been. In electing a president of the U.S. we are electing not just any ordinary person, but someone that we think represents us. The president’s role, among many others, has always been to be an image for the American people. If we elect someone who appears to be “cheating” the system or is extremely wealthy and paying a lower effective tax rate than middle class workers, what does that say about what we represent? Ultimately it also comes down to being able to identify with this image as well. If a person is making as much as Bill Gates does, odds are that voters are going to have a difficult time relating to such a figure. I believe many voters are hesitant to support someone who is too wealthy.
The second reason why personal finances is taken into consideration now more than ever in political campaigns is the financial status. With the national debt rising each and every day and the economy shaky, it is only reasonable that the finances of the image of U.S. is going to be scrutinized. Just like how Obama’s finances is always closely followed, all presidential candidates will be scrutinized for their personal finances.
While no one can say how much personal finances will influence voters, it is clear that this financial stress has pushed the U.S. population to include how one manages their personal finances as a criterion for election. Ultimately, politics is about upholding an image and playing a certain game. No matter how much speculation, it always comes back to playing this game and presenting yourself to the public in a certain way. The candidates better be prepared to face increased scrutiny over the next year.