Financial Implications of the Election

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!

So what do you think? Are you paying too much in taxes?

7 Comments

  1. Oy, well I think I could write a novel on this topic. But aside from whining about not liking the election results, it really does concern me that so many Americans voted for such a troubling candidate. More than the bigotry and the horrible economic policy, I’m deeply concerned about the whole Russian connection.

    Anyhow, from what I can tell – conversations with my conservative brother and interactions online with very conservative people that I went to school with – there seem to be several different motivating factors. I think we can’t underestimate that power of the smear campaign against Hillary. My brother, who holds a PhD (so he’s not dumb) actually believes that Clinton is a horrible criminal who threatened her way into the nomination, has had hundreds of people killed, gave away state secrets, bla, bla, bla. Then there’s the pro-life crowd – my evangelical classmates believe that Trump was sent from God to save the unborn. And finally, the tax people. I think that the forces on the right have convinced people that the country is full of freeloaders who are too lazy to work, and that those lazy people are taking advantage of the “hard working” people of this country. One classmate actually said to me that she’s “sick and tired of paying for people who are too lazy to work.”

    But what I think is at the very heart of the issue is that in general, Americans are just not very happy people, so we’re constantly looking around trying to find someone to blame for our unhappiness. My own personal belief is that our culture is essentially anti-human, and that people grow up with a whole host of very legitimate “issues” – but they’re issues that are difficult to come to terms with. It’s soooo much easier to focus on the poor, or people of color, or the liberals as the source of our discontent, than it is to deal with issues like not feeling loved and cared for as a child. That’s my 2 cents anyhow.

    • Norm

      November 29, 2016 at 11:09 pm

      I looove the “anti-human” point. I do feel like we’re so nihilistic now, it’s like the eighth graders have taken over the school board. And yes, there are voting blocs who just go with a side no matter what, like the religious voters who see Trump as their savior probably for no other reason than he’s the guy on the Red team.

      It’s disturbing how more people than ever today will believe anything. There was a guy on my bus today who believes that the military is coming to take everyone’s guns because he heard it “from two different sources,” and that Trump is a plant by the powers that be to help enact this plan. It just defies logic, although this guy seemed like he’s been saying this kind of thing for decades. The “coming for our guns” conspiracy seems hopelessly nostalgic and quaint today.

      • Ha! Pining for the lost days of innocence when the worst conspiracy theory out there was “they’re coming for our guns!” But I think you nailed it with the disturbing reality that people seem to be willing to believe just about anything.

        You know, back when I was a kid (so before the computer revolution) there was a popular book called “Mega Trends.” It basically laid out some societal trends and gave some predictions for the future. One of their predictions was the end of the industrial age and the beginning of the information age. I can remember thinking what an amazing new world it would be, when information would literally be at people’s fingertips… my picture was of a world full of knowledgeable, thoughtful and well informed people. That one sure backfired, didn’t it?

        CatMan was very involved in the beginnings of the computer revolution and he used to talk about how he was witnessing the “mass movement to mediocrity.” It was basically the principle that before computers, it was difficult to do things like publishing, or design, or any of a number of endeavors that were deemed “professional.” So in order to do get your voice heard, you generally needed a publishing company, or a recording contract, or you had to get an existing magazine to accept your work, yadda, yadda, yadda. And while on some level it’s great that the “gatekeepers” have been removed, we’ve also removed whatever “quality control” that used to exist. I think we’re at the point now where it’s not always easy to tell the difference between an actual journalist and some wacko sitting in his basement wearing a tin foil hat – or a coordinated misinformation campaign for that matter.

        Honestly, I have no idea what to do about any of it other than to sigh a lot.

        • Norm

          December 1, 2016 at 6:40 pm

          I definitely remember those days, the democratization of the media. My wife and I had a podcast back in 2005 or 2006, when the only podcasts were being made by amateurs and there certainly wasn’t any advertising or anyone listening. But now you can start up, throw a couple bombs and get noticed. I don’t know, but I suspect that’s how people like Alex Jones started.

          I used to listen to Art Bell’s Coast to Coast AM, not exactly the same as Jones, but he covered similarly unbelievable stories. The difference was you’d have to tune into an AM station at midnight to hear it, and that’s where he stayed, so there was no way he was going mainstream. Spend a little money on the internet, and your fake website can be seen by millions.

  2. With the repeal of Obamacare, Trump will get rid of one of my pet peeves. Early retired millionaires benefiting from subsidized government healthcare. As a current federal government employee I voted for Trump against my own interests. It just boils down to what Michael Moore said – America just gave Washington DC a collective giant middle finger. There is so much wrong with our current government that it needed a wake-up call.

  3. Hi Norm, just catching up on some blogs over the Christmas break….hopefully The Donald didn’t spoil it too much for you 🙂 Over here in (Great) Britain, there was a similar liberal and left wing response to Brexit, namely that the end was nigh. Six months on and, of course, not much has happened. In fact, the FTSE has finished the year at a record high which says….who knows? One of the most pointed thing I read about Trump was that it was just as well he got in because if he hadn’t, what was coming next was going to be really bad for America. I kind of think the same about Brexit – Europe was heading toward a massive car crash and perhaps the Brexit vote will make Europeans stop and think about the way things were going. Or maybe not. I’d love to see a real change in the way our governments work, but I’m not holding my breath. Happy New Year to you anyway.

    • Norm

      December 30, 2016 at 5:37 pm

      Like releasing a pressure valve. Makes sense to me. Maybe, like a maniac, he breaks everything and we re-assemble just the good bits. I’ve also been calling him a “substitute teacher” just filling up time until the next adult comes along. Hopefully this is all come true and I’m not just finding the silver lining as a coping mechanism! Happy new year to you too!

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