Paul Krugman (via ) debunks the (putatively common) notion that the rich tend to vote for Democrats. And on a cursory reading of exit poll data, he’s right: Income looks to be directly correlated with voting for Republicans. Yet these breakdowns typically lump together (as “the rich”) everyone making more than $200,000. And as Daniel Gross noted in a 2004 Slate piece, studies that have taken a closer look at variations within that group found something interesting: While the usual correlation holds for the “merely” wealthy, when you get to the super-duper-sweet-Jesus-that’s-a-lot-of-money wealthy, the pattern flips: Voters worth more than $10 mil favored Kerry as strongly as those in the lowest income quintile did.
Obviously, at this point you’ve got to be dealing with a fairly small sample, so it’s best to be cautious about drawing inferences. Still, suppose arguendo that this is accurate. Gross’ hypothesis tracks my own intuition pretty well. You hit a point at which you don’t just have a lot of money; you’ve got “fuck you” money. You’ve got all the massive beachfront homes, fancy cars, and couture suits you could possibly use. You lose 30 grand in the couch and don’t notice. If taxes shot to French levels tomorrow, you’d still be living like royalty, and your biggest problem would still finding enough causes to underwrite with the interest off your piles of lucre, having run out of geegaws and baubles to spend it on. At which point “voting your economic self-interest” ceases to mean much, since your economic interests are covered whoever’s in power. You can afford to stop voting your pocketbook and start voting whatever makes you feel like a mensch. (Of course, given that a single vote isn’t going to swing an election anyway, even we little people have plenty of leeway for symbolic voting.)
Ironically, this may be a point in favor of those who appeal to the declining marginal utility of money as an argument for economic redistribution. If this is right, then the efficient place to start imposing really crushing marginal taxes is at the income or wealth level where people start voting heavily Democratic.