Recently, I’ve heard from a lot of readers who have asked me whether they should give priority to voting for a candidate that promises to cut their taxes. My answer to them is a nice and decisive “It depends.”
If you’re primarily looking to vote for a candidate that will help your bottom line, there are several aspects that you need to look at. Please note that any direct mentions of candidates isn’t an endorsement of their politics as a whole, merely an example so you can see what I mean.
First, is the candidate running for an office that could directly impact your taxes? Generally, legislators usually have the power to influence taxation, so candidates for the Senate and for the House of Representatives can at least have some influence in that debate. Executives, like the mayor, the governor, and the president, have limited impact unless they’re very popular or they have access to a line item veto (which enables them to trim budgets as they wish) or their party controls both houses of the legislature (meaning their proposed budget is close to what will actually be passed).
Second, does the candidate have a track record of actually supporting that position? If you have a candidate talking about cutting taxes but their past shows that they have not cut taxes, you can be reasonably confident that they’re blowing smoke. For example, Rudy Giuliani has an extensive record of tax cutting and he is promising more of the same as President, so I would be inclined to believe his promises on tax reduction.
Third, does the candidate match your other views? If you’re looking at Presidential politics, there are a lot of tools to identify candidates that match your views, like this one (which indicated my best two matches were Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich – I’m not even sure how to interpret that). In 2004 and 2006, similar tools appeared for Senate and House races all over the internet, so you should be able to use such tools again in future elections.
In local elections, make an effort to get to know the candidates. Find out if they have any forums. Quite often, they’ll have a free meal involved and it’s a great way to get to know your community. In 2006, I had five free meals on behalf of candidates for various positions, where the candidate ate with us and discussed their stances.
In short, if you’re voting with your wallet first, you’re likely to have a set of positions on a lot of issues beyond just taxation. Find a candidate that best matches those views and support that candidate, even if the candidate seems to not have a good chance of winning. Remember, Jimmy Carter was polling at less than 4% in early 1976 and he was the president in November – don’t let opinion polls sway you at all.