I’ll admit it, I am a politico at heart. I would far rather watch an election night than a Super Bowl. The whole process is fascinating to me, including the party conventions.
This year, I decided to keep a record of the various money scripts, or unconscious beliefs about money, that I heard in the candidates’ speeches. Noticing what they believe about money might offer some insight into some of their possible goals related to taxes, government spending, and the economy.
Of course, I realize the money scripts revealed in convention speeches may not come directly from the candidates. Still, I was intrigued by what the speakers revealed about their probable beliefs about money.
Some of the money scripts I heard in Senator Biden’s convention speech were:
1. Anyone can make it if they just try hard enough.
2. If you work you should have financial security.
3. Our tomorrows should be better than our yesterdays.
4. The President controls whether you get a pay raise, the price of gasoline and natural gas, health care benefits, your retirement income, and the price of your home.
5. If the President is doing his or her job correctly, you should not have any financial worries.
6. If you work hard and play by the rules, you should have no financial worries.
7. Everyone is equal to you.
8. It is wrong to give tax breaks to companies that earn profits.
9. Women are financially discriminated against.
The money scripts I heard in Senator Obama’s convention speech included:
1. A lifetime of hard work entitles you to a retirement with no financial or healthcare worries.
2. You should never be on your own; government should always be there to support you.
3. People should not be personally responsible for themselves financially.
4. Economic strength is not measured by profits.
5. Government has a moral obligation to provide every person a world class education.
6. Children’s needs come before parents’ needs.
7. Companies pay CEO’s their bonuses before paying retired workers their pensions.
8. The American promise is that we can make our lives what we want.
9. Government’s job is to do what people can’t do for themselves.
10. We are responsible for ourselves and mutually responsible for others.
11. The tax code should reward workers and small businesses.
12. It is the obligation of those who are rich to give to hard workers who have nothing.
13. Allowing people to control their own retirement investments will result in financial disaster.
Our research at the Klontz-Kahler Institute finds that one of the more universal money scripts is “You’ve got to work hard to make money.” Of course, we know that money script is only partially true. Millions of people have discovered that working hard is no guarantee of making a lot of money. Likewise, millions of others have experienced that a person can make loads of money without working hard.
Both the Democratic candidates’ speeches raised an interesting twist on that money script: “If you work hard, you deserve money.” It seems to me this belief feeds directly into the mindset of those who have a sense of entitlement around money. If working hard means you deserve money, then if that money doesn’t come to you as a result of your own efforts it should come to you from the efforts of others, such as the government.
One of the questions this exercise raised for me was whether there are identifiable “Democratic” and “Republican” money scripts. Next week I’ll try to answer that question as I report on the money scripts in the Republican candidates’ speeches.