Five Sources to Better Help Understand Financial Policy Issues in the 2012 Political Campaigns

In recent years, election campaign issues have become increasingly more complex. And so, it is difficult for voters to assess the facts and make good choices at the polls. One the most controversial campaign debates involves financial issues. 

During the GOP primaries, Mitt Romney has been assailed by his GOP opponents for his accumulated wealth, high compensation and low tax rate. To gain a political advantage, the facts have been distorted in an effort to further the populist notions about affluence and income disparity. However, when experts parse accusations about these financial matters, it becomes clear that they should be discounted or ignored.

What can average voters do to prepare themselves to evaluate “financial” mudslinging by political candidates? Are there readily accessible references that will bring voters up the learning curve? In fact, there are. Below are five sources that voters should consult to increase their ability to evaluate financial issues that arise during election campaigns.

Financial Reporting: The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times are the most respected business newspapers in the world. They regularly cover and analyze financial issues impacting elections and report them in a clear and informative manner.

Corporate Information: The SEC requires that public corporations provide extensive information to the public. Myths relating to compensation, operations, productivity and community service are easily debunked with the information provided in 10K’s and proxy material. This information is available at no cost online on EDGAR (see Chris Altchek's guide).  

Non-Partisan Information Sources: Those of us who spend most of our time reading and listening to partisan commentators will eventually be influenced by their perspective. Unfortunately, these spin masters provide financial analysis and perspective that is slanted towards their candidates. Further, the worst source of information about Mitt Romney is Barack Obama and Newt Gingrich and vice versa. There are many online sources that provide balanced analysis about financial issues in political campaigns.

Government Sources: The federal government publishes voluminous amounts of data relating to financial issues impacting our nation. One of the areas that is covered most extensively is tax. For instance, the reasons for Romney’s seemingly low tax rate, a monstrous issue in the campaign, is easily understandable after some research using these sources. You can find data covering every aspect of taxes without cost on line.

Websites Affiliated With Candidates: Romney made his fortune working for Bain Capital, which is a private company that is not bound by SEC reporting requirements. However, the company has a website that will give a researcher valuable information about the company’s operations, investments, investors and mission. It should be noted that the site is a marketing tool. But, the scope of Bain’s business and investment objectives are clearly presented for anyone and are critical in assessing Romney from a financial perspective.
 
Watching TV, listening to talking heads, reading opinionated reporting and discussing issues with your friends is not going to make you a truly informed voter. We all should seek out unbiased sources of information to assist us in selecting candidates. Financial issues are among the most complicated and will require extra effort to understand.

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