Being that we all live in completely separate media bubbles now, I feel confident that I will find a receptive audience saying that the U.S. election results were not what I was hoping for. The night of the election and the next day, I was overcome by a kind of existential dread I haven’t felt since 9/11. Like we just crossed the brink of a much darker world.
I started thinking of officially moving to The Bubble.
As of this writing, my candidate is ahead by 2.2 million votes. That’s a full 1.6% lead. And yet, our antiquated electoral system says that she lost. Did you know that since 1988, only one Republican presidential candidate has won the popular vote? That was George W. Bush’s re-election in 2004. And the electoral college was the only thing that put him into office in the first place. Combine this with a very gerrymandered House, and the fact that poll after poll shows that most people support a progressive agenda, not the Republican platform, and it’s no wonder people are extremely frustrated here. The minority viewpoint rules. As a person who values equality and just straight up math, it’s an unbearably dumb system.
I’ve always been very “tuned in” with the news. I started reading the newspaper on daily basis when I was in sixth grade. (HYPERLINK ALERT: That’s why it was so hard to cancel my subscription last year!) But things got really depressing this past month. I was there in my liberal bubble, freaking out with everyone else. I considered deleting my Facebook account and replacing it with this:
The manic, depressing final scenes of Stroszek pretty well summed up my mental state. “This is human nature! We’re just tortured chickens, dancing until the money runs out.”
But a few weeks later, I’m coming down, and I’m realizing what a bubble I’ve been living in. Sure, I knew the media bubbles existed. But I was more concerned with the fake news bubble that the right wing lives in. I wasn’t truly aware of the panic bubble that the left wing was living in.
By living in the left wing panic bubble, I believed everything about Donald Trump. He’s a dictator in waiting. He’s going to outlaw abortions and gay marriage. He’s going to deport 11 million immigrants and ban all Muslims from entering the country. He’s going to start a trade war and our currency will be worth nothing. He’s going to build that dumb wall! … Okay, even I didn’t believe that one. Or the “Lock Her Up” chants.
But it’s only now, after weeks of Stroszek-style existential dread that I realized, “Huh, maybe we should just wait and see if any of this actually starts happening before we start panicking.” Don’t get me wrong. It’s going to be bad. But just how it’s going to be bad is a mystery. My inclination is to panic with each new cabinet appointment. But I just can’t tell anymore when is the right time to panic.
But his most clear and blatant offenses all come down to a few attributes: He’s an egomaniac and a dick. No one wants to work with him. How has he managed to burn through so many campaign managers and transition team members? At this point, I want to believe his presidency will be marked by incompetence, in-fighting, and conflicts of interest. But I really don’t know.
And when every single news story sends me into a tizzy, it’s clear that if there was ever a time for what Mr. Money Mustache calls “The Low Information Diet,” it’s now. So I installed a Chrome browser extension that blocks all news stories, tweets and posts that mention Donald Trump, so I can attempt to live in a world where he doesn’t exist.
What I find so dispiriting about the election results was that a guy was explicitly promising to damage first amendment protections, trash civil rights, abortion rights, and gay rights, and people still supported him. It seems like he’s against what the majority of people are for.
So did people vote out of some selfish notion that they will have a few more bucks at the end of the day under a Trump presidency? Maybe people voted with their pocketbook in mind, no matter what the collateral damage or who gets thrown under the bus. Anything for a few more bucks?
I think a lot of people vote straight party ballot without even thinking. You pick your team, and support that team no matter what their positions are. And then there are the people who actively decided to support this cartoon character who resembles a human being.
But what about our finances?
The gross thing is that Marge and I will probably benefit under this administration. Being a white couple with more than a few dollars in the bank, we might actually see our tax rate lowered. Being that we are able to save over 50% of our income, we are the last people who need a tax cut.
Most people in our income bracket or higher voted for Trump, which is typical because the more money you make, the more likely you are to vote Republican. Which gets to my larger point: For people who already make that much money, what more could you want? If your household is making over $100,000 a year, why could you possibly need a tax cut?
My American Frugal Friends, you know that we live in a land of plenty. You know how easy it is to save half of your income. You know that with some small financial tweaks, people can retire in their 30’s or 40’s. So what possible benefit is there to a tax cut when you are already living on top of the mountain, at the peak of global human wealth?
We know through science that after you make a certain amount of money, more of it isn’t going to make you much happier. This is called the marginal utility of wealth. The level is usually what you’d consider middle to upper-middle class. Making more than that does less and less for your happiness. Are these very rich Americans hemmed in by greed so much that they’re blinded to the plight of everyone else? … Hmm, I guess that question answers itself.
When I see personal finance bloggers mention their taxes, it’s almost offhandedly, like you can barely call it an expense. We all seem to just pay our taxes, get it over with, and not think too much about it.
But whenever I hear people in real life talk about taxes, it’s always complaints. How much they owe, how much they’re going up, how it’s all being wasted. There are actually three certainties in life: Death, taxes, and people complaining about taxes. I guess it’s no surprise we have a Complainypants in Chief now.
So these people who are really struck dumb by the amount of taxes they are paying, what are they doing wrong? Can people making that much money really be so terrible at managing it, that an extra 1% off their taxes is going to make a difference? In other words, does complaining about taxes correlate exactly with a wasteful consumerist lifestyle? I’d like to think my fellow humans are better than that, but I know they’re not.
There is one area that I do now worry about hurting us financially in the future: Healthcare. Our early retirement goals hinge a bit on the Affordable Care Act. After leaving our full time jobs, we would need cheap healthcare until I reach age 55 and can buy into my workplace’s retiree plan.
There is a short list of places we’d like to move to upon retirement. Canada used to be on our list, and if the ACA is gutted and there are no affordable health care plans, then Canada might just get added back on to the list.
Funny how our 1,500 day timeframe, when we can start making decisions about our retirement, commences around June 2020, in the heat of the next presidential campaign! Wheee!