Five different candidates for president means five very different economic plans. But whose would really benefit you?
You can find out with Politify, a new online tool that encourages users to "rethink democracy."
Politify is simple: Enter your income, martial status, age, ZIP code, number of children and students in your household ("don't worry, we won't share this" says the site). Politify crunches the numbers and shows you the exact effect each presidential candidate's economic blueprint would have on your personal finances.
No more guessing about esoteric tax codes or economic plans; Politify's goal is to give every citizen the chance to make an informed decision come Election Day. The site also allows people to register their support or disapproval of a candidate, or donate to a campaign directly on-site.
The site was designed by Nikita Bier, a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley. So far, he's been funding the platform mostly through grants.
Bier, who studies Political Economy, says his frustration with the American political system drove him to design the site.
"The political parties in the rest of the Western world are really connected to the political impact of what they're trying to do," says Bier. "In the U.S., they're a lot more ideological. They view things the way they should be as opposed to what the practical impacts of their policies will be.
"This bothered me, and I thought I could disrupt it in an entrepreneurial way."
It took Bier about a month to write the algorithms that power the site. He says the most difficult part of designing Politify was finding a way to display the information in an "intuitive and accessible way."
Bier's data sets have come from the U.S. government and economics professors. He has brought on "as many smart people" as he could, including Pandora founder Will Glaser, who serves as an advisor, and Emanuel Saez, an economics professor at Berkeley.
Bier won several contests with Politify, and the platform is getting noticed. He's gotten nods over Twitter from the chief technical officer of Obama for America, and Politify has been visited by the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, the State Department and several congresspeople.
Politify has the potential to become a powerful platform Bier himself says that it's a goal of his to change the way politics are done in the U.S.
"I realized we had stumbled on something powerful because we were forecasting policy outcomes and we had the power to change the outcome of elections," says Bier. "Right now, the goal is to make these numbers as exposed as possible provide deeper analysis and go into other areas of public policy."
Everything could go wrong for Politify if its algorithms were found to be flawed. But Bier is conscious of transparency, which right now he admits "leaves something to be desired."
He's planning to open a Wiki for other academics to try to pick apart and improve his system for the benefit of the site, in true open-source style.
Eventually, Bier wants to turn Politify into a "full economic simulator," which would allow any interest group, politician or other individual to submit specific parameters for a policy and see the exact results of what they want to do. Bier and his team will work on the site full-time beginning this summer.
Have you used Politify to check out the effect of each candidate's plans on your own bank account? Let us know what you thought in the comments below.