Politics and Governance

Vote everyday with your voice and your money

With a small effort I can make my voice a lot bigger.

We just went through a big national vote but today our national Congress is in session and so is our Maine State Legislature and our civic leaders are expecting to hear from us.

And with every spending or investment decision, corporate leaders are counting our dollars to be sure. Dollars are votes in the world of commerce.

This newsletter focuses on how to influence your world. All the time.

I hear people complain about government policies yet do little about it. Voting counts. Contacting your elected leader counts. Talking about stuff on social media or other places actually doesn’t. Spending and investing money actually counts. Talking about what others should do with their money doesn’t.

I might not like the ways in which the world has established for me to have a voice and it might take some effort on my part, but these are the ways. Governments have set up many bona-fide channels for us to have a voice that counts, and markets are extremely responsive to our spending and investment signals.

Vote with your wallet

I’m not fanatical about reading labels or researching products, but when I have a clear choice to buy something in line with my values, I try to do it. And my purchase sends a signal to the market, just like a vote. And just like a vote, it might seem like my dollar doesn’t count much considering all the dollars in the country, but it does. Someone is watching that dollar, lot’s of people actually, and decisions are made on which dollars go where.

In fact, you might say that spending is more influential on the planet than voting.

And let’s not forget investing. My retirement money is invested in stocks and bonds that align with my values. Yes it takes some effort, and yes I don’t make as much return on investment because socially responsible mutual funds have to be more actively managed than other investments, but I do it because it actually counts. It makes me feel like I’m doing what I can. And it wouldn’t seem right to say that I’m a pacifist while my money supports companies that make guns.

I get that not everyone has spending and investing choices like I do. A lot of people have no choice but to buy the cheapest thing on the shelf; the least expensive option no matter what it is. And that’s never for me to judge against. Yet there are a lot of us who have a little wiggle room. Some of us are awash in wiggle room. And for those of us who can afford to express our values through a purchase, why not make a purchasing decision that not only gets me what I need but that sends a signal about the world I want?

If you are like me and can sometimes afford the product that aligns with your values, do it. Chances are you won’t miss the money and you will be sending clear market signals. Don’t just talk about your “consumer preferences” on social media, demonstrate your preferences in ways that count. You can see this phrase coming, right? Put your money where your mouth is.

Democracy Reforms Being Debated in Washington

Our Congress is currently debating HR 1, For the People Act. Advocates say the bill is the most consequential piece of voting legislation since the Voting Rights Act of 1965. I’m all for it. In my opinion it will strengthen our democracy in critical ways. It will help us get along with each other better, as Americans.

The Act’s stated purpose is to “to expand Americans’ access to the ballot box, reduce the influence of big money in politics, strengthen ethics rules for public servants, and implement other anti-corruption measures for the purpose of fortifying our democracy, and for other purposes.”

Proposed reform measures are three types — voting, campaign finance, and ethics. If passed the bill would, for instance, require automatic voter registration in all states, end partisan gerrymandering, and encourage small-dollar campaign donations, among many reforms. The bill targets ‘big money’ donations and foreign interference as eroding to our democracy’s foundation. Additional overhaul of the Office of Government Ethics is intended to tighten the ethical standard for government officials.

Opponents say that the bill will affect mostly Democratic voters, make it easier for more Democrats to vote than Republicans. I’m fine with that. There are significantly more Democrats in our country than Republicans so anything that affect “most Americans” is going to affect more Democrats than Republicans.

More than that, just on principle, this package of reforms is deigned to level the playing field among all Americans in many ways. It gets us closer to the basic American ideal that I have held up before in these pages: that everyone gets a vote and the majority decides. The bill is not perfect but moves us in the right direction.

Read the bill here.

See here for the sponsor’s statement.