Now that the conventions are over, I’m forced to wait until the debates to get my next dose of political adrenaline. In the meantime, here are the money scripts I heard from the Republican candidates.
Governor Palin’s acceptance speech included the following beliefs about money:
- Luxuries are inappropriate for elected officials.
- Government should not spend more than it receives.
- Government surpluses should be given back to taxpayers, not spent.
- Competition is good.
- America should be energy independent.
- Families should not have to pay higher energy fees.
- Big government and high taxes are wrong.
- High taxes hurt small businesses.
- A person can’t be better off paying higher taxes.
Palin’s money scripts were clear and succinct. I found most interesting the one about luxuries not being appropriate for elected officials, a reference to selling the governor’s jet when she became governor of Alaska.
Senator McCain had the greatest number of identifiable money scripts of any of the candidates. Here are the money beliefs I heard from him:
- Government should spend no more than the income it receives.
- Government should help people who lose their homes to foreclosure.
- If workers have lost jobs due to economic conditions, government should help them find new ones and financially support them during retraining.
- Big spending by government is wrong when people are struggling financially.
- Big spending by government is wrong, regardless of the party affiliation.
- Government should encourage every form of energy independence to reduce oil prices and restore the health of the planet.
- Government should not give subsidies to oil companies.
- We should not send money to countries that don’t like us.
- Small government is better than big government.
- Low taxes are good.
- The tax code should reward risk-takers.
- People should be responsible for themselves.
- Cutting government spending is good.
- Keeping taxes low helps small businesses and creates new jobs.
- Reducing government spending will mean most taxpayers will keep more money in their pockets.
- We need to change the way we compete in the world economy.
McCain’s money scripts highlighted a normal characteristic that most of us have, conflicting money scripts. Take, for example, the belief that the government should help people who have lost their jobs to train for and find new jobs. That seems to clash with the beliefs that big spending by government is wrong and that people should be responsible for themselves.
Obviously, pulling money scripts out of political speeches is an inexact exercise. The speeches are drafted for specific political purposes and are not necessarily an accurate reflection of candidates’ personal money scripts. However, it’s probably safe to say the speeches do reflect the money scripts of the candidates’ parties.
The biggest difference between the parties’ beliefs about money is that the Democrats lean toward more government support and the Republicans lean toward less. Of course, more government support generally means higher costs, which is why the Democratic party is more associated with higher taxes and the Republican party with lower taxes.
Paying attention to the money scripts revealed by the candidates in speeches, ads, and debates might be useful for voters. What candidates believe about money can give us some clues as to how their beliefs could translate into action in such areas as increasing or reducing taxes, Social Security, social programs, and international trade.
Looking at money scripts isn’t simply a matter of finding money beliefs to match our own. It’s another bit of information to help us decide which candidate’s beliefs we think will best serve the country’s needs.