The Economic Reality of Political Promises

The elections process is mind-boggling for most of us.  This is not incidental; it is designed to be this way.  The process forces emotions to run wild and common logic to be suspended.  It is a period when we become completely engrossed in finding the “messiah” who will emancipate us from all the evils of the current regime and magically transform the country into a land of “milk and honey”.  It is also a time when presidential “wannabes” make sweeping promises of mystical solutions to real problems.  They outline proposals for massive societal and infrastructural reforms that somehow will cost citizens nothing.  And herein lies the rub.

Political Promises Are Free, Reality Costs

Politicians, by profession, thrive on making “personal” promises to us which they know they cannot unilaterally fulfill.  That provides them with a cushion to mask their incompetence when they fail to deliver on their promises.  On this basis, politicians traditionally present themselves to the electorate as messianic personalities who can single-handedly reform entrenched social ills and massive infrastructural problems with no adverse economic impact on our personal finances.  Although aware of the impossibility of this, we continue to act as though political promises can indeed be realized at no personal economic cost.  But, to quote an old friend, everyone should be aware that “a promise is but comfort to a fool”.  The fact is that no social progress can be realized without someone footing a financial bill.

Death Or Taxes

The promise to cut taxes and decrease government spending is one of the most transparent ploys utilized by politicians seeking to win favor with the electorate.  Despite this perpetual promise, it has become a truism that “the only guarantees in Life are Death and Taxes”.  It is also a common remark that “politicians lie whenever they open their mouths”.  It is therefore, inconceivable that anyone can take tax-cutting promises seriously, especially when a candidate proposes sweeping social, economic and infrastructural reforms which must be paid for.  Add to that, a crumbling economic framework and it becomes virtually impossible for any living citizen to believe that any politician making this promise is actually intending to deliver.  Real-world reforms cannot be paid for with magic money.  Magic, after all, is nothing but smoke and mirrors. So politicians promoting this concept must be engaging in nothing but sleight of hand.   In reality, political promises always create a financial cost to citizens.

The Social Necessity of Taxation

Among the responsibilities of government is the provision of social necessities like health-care, education, economic programs and improvement and maintenance of the nation’s physical infrastructure. To provide and administrate these services cost tremendous amounts of money.  Because the entire nation benefits from these amenities, it is the social responsibility of every citizen to provide funding for them.  The government develops a projected annual budget for these services and institutes taxes to raise funds to support them in perpetuity. The cost of providing these services fluctuates depending on multiple factors including their level and scope.  Depending on the necessity, as costs increase, government has to decide to either increase spending to continue providing the services or eliminate them altogether.  In view of these ingrained responsibilities, it is clearly deceptive for political candidates to candidly promise to decrease spending without affecting our welfare. Correspondingly, for anyone to equate a decrease in taxation and spending with increased efficiency in providing these services is nothing short of dumb.

Beyond The Con

Everyone must be aware that a pre-election campaign involves a tremendous amount of political hype.  It is, in reality, a high quality con game. Each political party employs a host of advertising and psychology professionals to convince us that their candidate is the best person for the office.  Character assassination is quite common in this process.  Yet, when the victor emerges, we are required and expected to forgive and forget his character flaws and imperfections.  We are expected to trust him unreservedly.  Whether or not he is a blatant liar, the established media will reinterpret and promote his speeches in the best light.  Many of the promises made on the road to victory will be shamelessly discarded and we will be subjected to the political whims of countless senators, consultants and lobbyists for whom we did not vote.  Taxes will be imposed overtly and covertly to fund projects and provide services.  Government will spend whatever it deems necessary to implement its programs and every citizen will pick up the tab, whatever the cost may be.  So next time you hear politicians spewing drivel about magically improving the society without any costs to you, be afraid, be very afraid.