Voter’s Guide

November 4, 2018

by Steve Stofka

This week – a break from personal finance and economics to bring you a voting guide for Independent voters who make up more than a third of the electorate. Circle which position you favor in each category below. Add up the choices. Vote for whichever party gets the most circles.

Role of Federal Government
If you believe that the Federal government has too much power over individual lives, Vote Republican.
If you believe that the Federal government should have more power to promote an egalitarian society, Vote Democrat.

Political Structure
If you want to change the existing political structure to a democratically elected Parliamentary Republic, Vote Democrat.
If you like the existing system of a Constitutional Republic of democratically elected state legislatures, Vote Republican.

If you think that regulation should be primarily left up to state and local agencies who will be more responsive to the people of that district or state, Vote Republican.
If you prefer federal regulation because you distrust the ability of state and local agencies to apply regulations fairly and evenly, Vote Democrat.

Family Planning
If you think state and local agencies acting as agents of God’s will should control your family planning decisions, Vote Republican.
If you believe in personal autonomy in family planning decisions, Vote Democrat.

Equality of Social Contracts
If you believe that all people should have equal rights to make legal contracts regardless of their social or sexual identity, Vote Democrat.
If you believe that an elected government has a right to restrict access to legal contracts to promote certain moral values and behaviors, Vote Republican.

If you believe that national defense is the primary legitimate function of a Federal government, Vote Republican.
If you believe that the Federal government should provide a safe environment for all citizens, and that defense is just one part of that safety net, vote Democrat.

If you believe that taxes for common benefits should be applied more evenly so that everyone has “skin in the game,” Vote Republican.
If you believe in progressive taxation, that the Federal government has a right to take more from you, so it can give more to someone else, Vote Democrat.

If you believe that we are a nation of laws and that foreigners coming into our country should respect our laws, vote Republican.
If you believe that the administration of immigration law must respond to the plight of human beings seeking a secure home for their family, vote Democrat.

If you believe that there is not yet enough actionable evidence for climate change caused by human activity, Vote Republican.
If you believe that we should pursue policies that limit activities which promote climate change, Vote Democrat.

Social Welfare
If you believe that government has a responsibility for the welfare of all Americans, Vote Democrat.
If you believe that state and local governments have a responsibility to act with charity toward those who cannot care for themselves through no fault of their own, Vote Republican.

There are many particular issues, some of which are sub-genres of these categories, at





Reagan and Obama

As the 1982 elections approached, Ronald Reagan’s Presidency was unpopular. The unemployment rate was 9.7%, about the same as it is now. Interest rates were high: a 6 month CD paid about 13% interest, which was good for those who had savings but terrible for small business owners who had to work extra hard to pay the 20% interest rate banks were charging for business loans. The dead carcasses of 17,000 businesses littered the economic and social landscape, one of the highest failure rates since the 1930s depression. The stock market was in the doldrums – why bother investing in stocks when bonds and CDs paid such generous interest rates?  GDP had grown an anemic 2.2% the past year.  The national debt had gone up by 14% that year.  In short, the Reagan Presidency was promising to be one of the worst in American history. 

In 1982, the voters realized that they had traded in a bumbling governor from Georgia, Jimmy Carter, for a bumbling governor from California, Ronald Reagan. After the election, Democrats, already in control of the House of Representatives, were given another 25 seats and a commanding majority.  The Republicans continued to hold a slim majority in the Senate.

Shortly after the election, Reagan launched his “Star Wars” or Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), long on imagination and his willingness to further bankrupt this nation, but rather short on any actual ability to employ such a grandiose scheme.  In the first year of Reagan’s reign, tax rates had been cut but the Social Security tax had been raised so, for most of us working for a living, it was pretty much of a wash.  Inflation was killing us.

If you are an older Republican, you may have forgotten those years.  They have been conveniently hidden under the party mattress by the Republican campaign machine and the retelling of the “Reagan legacy.”  In the seventies and early eighties, there was so much distrust in the judgment and morality of elected representatives that it was a strategy by some disaffected voters to pull alternate levers in the voting booth, voting Democrat on one row, then Republican on the next row, in order to gridlock the government.

Reagan kept on borrowing on the taxpayer’s credit card.  By the time he left office, the national debt had tripled. 

Midterm elections often are a vote on the Presidency and the dominant party. The Democrats may have to give up most of the 30+ Congressional seats they won in 2008, making it even more difficult for President Obama to get his agenda enacted.  In 30 years, how will the story of the Obama presidency be told?  Will it be altered or swept under the table by the Democratic campaign machine just as the Republican machine has retold the Reagan years?  Probably.

Both Reagan and Obama had monumental tasks in their first few years, burdens so great that neither of them could achieve their goals in a short two years.  However, voters focus on the present, throwing hindsight, history and perspective out the window as they drive down the rutted road of the present.  The political machines of both parties know this and play to that short attention span. Unemployment is high, just as it was in Reagan’s 2nd year.  Obama can only hope that, by 2012, the unemployment rate gets down to the 7.4% rate it was in 1984, when Reagan came up for re-election. 

Traditionally, the political campaigns get into gear after the Labor Day holiday.  There is one thing we know for certain:  we will be entertained by a lot of lies and half truths for the next few months.  If you listen to talk radio, both conservative and liberal, you are accustomed to this kind of entertainment year round.

(Side note 9/8) Here is a CNN  review of some of the tax policies and their effects during the Reagan administration.