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An All Too Average Joe

I have a confession to make: I never really liked "Joe The Plumber."

I've known quite a few people like Joe, and I tend to not enjoy discussing politics with them. They combine a rather shallow and simplistic understanding of politics with a forceful, aggressive personality and try to bully others with their beliefs. Here in New Hampshire, they were one of the two dominant factions in the Republican party that held sway here for decades -- the side I called the "arrogant stupid." (They were balanced by the "arrogant rich," and both sides have had the arrogance kicked out of them over the past few years.)

Whenever I hear Joe talk, I hear someone who insists that things are a lot simpler than they are, and anyone who disagrees is obviously trying to pull something. I thought it was a mistake to give him any kind of prominence or make him any kind of spokesman -- he was obviously out of his depth, and obviously had no way of even recognizing that.

But I always appreciated him as a symbol, as a constant reminder of an essential truth about the left: they simply cannot stand being challenged, and will do whatever they can to silence those who challenge them.

Think back to the day when Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher suddenly found himself a national figure.

Joe was at his own home, in his own front yard, playing with his kids when candidate Barack Obama made an unscheduled stop in his neighborhood. Joe, figuring "what the hell," went over and asked the man who would be president a fairly simple (and self-serving question: "I'm getting ready to buy a company that makes 250-280 thousand a year. Your new tax plan's gonna tax me more, isn't it?"

An utterly innocuous question, but -- as is often the case -- the answer was far more revealing -- and damaging -- than the question.

Obama: What's your name?

Joe: My name's Joe Wurzelbacher.

Obama: Good to see you, Joe.

Joe: I'm getting ready to buy a company that makes about $250,000 ... $270-$280,000 a year.

Obama: All right.

Joe: Your new tax plan's gonna tax me more, isn't it?

Obama: Well, here's what's gonna happen. If you're a small business which you would qualify as, first of all, you'd get a 50 percent tax credit, so you get a cut on taxes for your health care costs. So you would actually get a tax cut on that front. If your revenue is above $250,000, then from $250,000 down, your taxes are gonna stay the same. It is true that for ... say, from $250,000 up, from $250,000 to $300,000 or so ...

Joe: Well, here's my question ...

Obama: I just want to answer your question. So, for that additional amount, you'd go from 36 to 39 percent, which is what it was under Bill Clinton. And the reason we're doing that is because 95 percent of small businesses make less than $250,000 so what I want to do is give them a tax cut. I want to give all these folks who are bus drivers, teachers, auto workers who make less ... I want to give them a tax cut and so what we're doing is, we are saying that folks who make more than $250,000 that that marginal amount above $250,000, they're gonna be taxed at a 39 instead of a 36 percent rate.

Joe: Well, the reason why I ask you about the American Dream I mean, I work hard. I'm a plumber, I work 10-12 hours a day ...

Obama: Absolutely.

Joe: ... and I'm, you know, buying this company and I'm gonna continue to work that way. Now, if I buy another truck and adding something else to it and, you know, build the company, you know, I'm getting taxed more and more while fulfilling the American Dream.

Obama: Well, here's a way of thinking about it. How long have you been a plumber? How long have you been working?

Joe: Fifteen years.

Obama: Okay. So, over the last 15 years, when you weren't making $250,000, you would have been getting a tax cut from me. So you'd actually have more money, which means you would have saved more, which means that you would have gotten to the point where you could build your small business quicker than under the current tax code. So there are two ways of looking at it. I mean, one way of looking at it is, now that you've become more successful ...

Joe: Through hard work.

Obama: ... through hard work, you don't want to be taxed as much.

Joe: Exactly.

Obama: Which I understand. But another way of looking at it is, 95 percent of folks who are making less than $250,000, they may be working hard, too, but they're being taxed at a higher rate than they would be under mine. So what I'm doing is ... you know, put yourself back 10 years ago when you were only making whatever -- $60,000 or $70,000. Under my tax plan, you would be keeping more of your paycheck, you'd be spending lower taxes, which means that you would have saved and gotten to the point where you are faster. Now, look, nobody likes high taxes, right? Of course not. But what's happened is that we end up ... we've cut taxes a lot for folks like me who make a lot more than $250,000. We haven't given a break to folks who make less and, as a consequence, the average wage and income for just ordinary folks, the vast majority of Americans, has actually gone down over the last eight years. So all I want to do is ... I've got a tax cut. The only thing that changes is, I'm going to cut taxes a little bit more for the folks who are most in need, and for the 5 percent of the folks who are doing very well, even though they've been working hard ... and I understand that; I appreciate that ... I just want to make sure that they're paying a little bit more in order to pay for those other tax cuts. Now, I respect your disagreement, but I just want you to be clear. It's not that I want to punish your success. I just want to make sure that everybody who is behind you, that they've got a chance at success, too.

Joe: It seems like you'd be welcome to a flat tax then.

Obama: You know, I would be open to it except for ... here's the problem with the flat tax. If you actually put a flat tax together, you'd probably ... in order for it to work and replace all the revenue that we've got, you'd probably end up having to make it like about a 40 percent sales tax. I mean, the value added, making it up. Now, some people say 23 or 25, but, in truth, when you add up all the revenue that would need to be raised, you'd have to slap on a whole bunch of sales taxes on it. And I do believe that for folks like me who are, you know, have worked hard but, frankly, also been lucky, I don't mind paying just a little bit more than the waitress who I just met over there, who's ... things are slow and she can barely make the rent. Because my attitude is that if the economy's good for folks from the bottom up, it's gonna be good for everybody. If you've got a plumbing business, you're gonna be better off if you've got a whole bunch of customers who can afford to hire you. And right now, everybody's so pinched that business is bad for everybody. And I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody. But, listen, I respect what you do and I respect your question. And even if I don't get your vote, I'm still gonna be working hard on your behalf 'cause I want to make sure ... small businesses are what creates jobs in this country and I want to encourage it. All right. (applause) One other thing I didn't mention. For small-business people, I'm gonna eliminate the capital gains tax, so what it means is if your business succeeds and let's say you take it from a $250,000 business to a $500,000 business, that capital gains that you get, we're not gonna tax you on it 'cause I want you to grow more so you're actually going ... you may end up ... I'd have to look at your particular business but you might end up paying lower taxes under my plan and my approach than under John McCain's plan. I can't guarantee that 'cause I'd have to take a look at your business.

Joe: Okay, I understand that.

Obama: All right. Thanks for the question, though. I appreciate it. Okay, guys, I gotta get out here. I've gotta go prepare for this debate. But that was pretty good timing. Thanks.

Not one thing Joe said in that whole exchange is really worthy of attention. But a single line from Obama leaped out at everyone:

And I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody.

In general, that's a sound principle. Overconcentration of wealth is a bad thing.

The questions are, who decides whose wealth gets spread around, and how?

In this answer, Barack Obama gave his answer: the government. The government will decide when you've made enough, how much you have that should be "spread around," and how it will be spread around.

I disagree. I think the first answer should be "whoever made the money." I choose how I spread my money around, and I think that -- once certain essential services are accounted for -- the government should, by and large, butt out.

Obama's statement fulfills the classic definition of a gaffe: when someone says something a bit too honest.

This, naturally, had to be covered up. The first option is to ignore such things, but that was never an option. This statement was flying around the world. It couldn't be silenced.

So, then, plan B. Shoot the messenger. In this case, divert attention from "did you hear what Obama said?" to "did you hear about that liar, Joe The Plumber?" Joe had dared appear on camera asking a question of a presidential candidate, so suddenly he was a Public Figure and he had invited us to turn his life into an open book. Within days, we all knew that he had tax issues, wasn't a fully licensed plumber, and -- gasp! -- wasn't even really named "Joe!"

No wonder this guy comes across as pissed most of the time. For one brief moment of talking with a guy who wanted his vote, his life's been turned upside down. Some Democratic activists even broke the law in trying to dig up dirt on the guy. He wasn't prepared for that to happen -- and, really, who would be?

After that, Joe made quite a few blunders and public missteps. But I'm more than willing to give him a pass for them. The guy never sought the spotlight, and was just trying to make the best of a bad situation that he never asked for.

No, I don't think I'd enjoy spending time with Joe The Plumber. God help me, I think I'd rather hang out with Joe Biden. At least with Biden, I could finally ask him the question I've been dying to ask for over 20 years: "do you honestly believe your own bullshit, and how?"

But overall, I have more respect for the plumber than the veep. For one, he's earned an honest living.

(Hat tip to the Tax Professor, who reminded me of a lot of things I've been meaning to say about Mr. Wurzelbacher.)


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Comments (25)

At least with B... (Below threshold)
At least with Biden, I could finally ask him the question I've been dying to ask for over 20 years: "do you honestly believe your own bullshit, and how?"
I'm pretty sure the only answer you'd get would be a giggle.

Don't ask me how I know that.

"In general, that's a sound... (Below threshold)
Jeff:

"In general, that's a sound principle. Overconcentration of wealth is a bad thing."

for one, Income is not wealth ...

for two, how is that a sound principle ?

without the concentration of wealth into banks our economy would collapse ... without the concentration of wealth into mutual funds the raising of capital thru stock offerings would be more expensive and less efficient ...

JT, as is almost always the... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

JT, as is almost always the case, we are simpatico. I have always thought the liberal left would do absolutely anything to win an election but what they did to Joe, it was absolutely horrible. It has been extremely hard to get good people to run for office, now it will be difficult to find people who are willing to ask the tough questions. Just when I thought they couldn't sink lower, (the left), Palin and her family were skewered. I don't have any real opinion of Joe except he is a working tax paying citizen then deserved much better respect then Obama's dirt machine gave out. ww

A guy walks up to you with ... (Below threshold)
_Mike_:

A guy walks up to you with a gun/knife/sharp stick and demands your money. He walks off with your cash. I know you're probably thinking this was a morally and legally wrong act. However, he was just spreading the wealth around. You're both better off now according to Pres. Obama.

Using that reasoning, thieves make us all a little better off.

You don't mention that he w... (Below threshold)
Adrian Browne:

You don't mention that he was a plant -- something he doesn't deny.

An honest living doing what? He's not licensed to be a plumber.

"And I think when you sprea... (Below threshold)
Wally:

"And I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody."

Heh; this line reminds me of the dimocrats' campaign slogan I saw in Houston the last couple of elections:

"When Democrats win, everyone wins."

Looks like a good case for a lawsuit about some false advertising.

"Not one thing Joe said in ... (Below threshold)
DaveD:

"Not one thing Joe said in that whole exchange is really worthy of attention."

That's true, I guess. As I look at the transcript it looks to me like in this particular case Joe didn't have a chance to say something worthy. Obama just did not want to shut up. I don't think Obama was interested in addressing Joe himself. I think Joe just suddenly became a prop for an "impormptu" campaign speech. In fact the more Obama keeps talking the less of a chance there is that someone will put an awkward question to him. As we know now, even if allowed his soliloquies, he will eventually trip over his own tongue.

Adrian, how the HELL was he... (Below threshold)

Adrian, how the HELL was he a "plant?" OBAMA chose to make an unscheduled stop in the guy's neighborhood, on a day when Joe was outside playing with his kids. Who "planted" him?

Well, in one sense, you're right -- the Democrats certainly TRIED to "plant" him six feet under. But you're not talking about that, are you?

And no, he wasn't a licensed plumber. But he was working for one, and doing OK for himself. Until he had the impertinence, the effrontery, the sheer "uppityness" to question his Better in Joe's own neighborhood... and that meant he had to be Destroyed.

Oh, and Adrian... I note you've never denied sexually molesting adolescent waterfowl. Does that mean you do that sort of thing? Should we start calling you "Duck Diddler?"

J.

Adrian, the undenied Duck D... (Below threshold)
TexBob:

Adrian, the undenied Duck Diddler..

Classic! LOL!

"You don't mention that ... (Below threshold)
SShiell:

"You don't mention that he was a plant . . "

It is truly amazing when one considers the brilliance of the Republican Party. They could forecast years into the future and set up one of their undercover operatives, trained to ask a single question one day of a presidential hopeful. They bought his home, and covered up their infamy by having him pay for it. They even set him up with a wife and children so that he could blend into the neighborhood. So that after years of establishing his credentials within the community he could find himself, in accordance with the Party Plan, to be standing there in front of his pseudo home with his pseudo children in his pseudo front yard to confront the Democratic hopeful who just happens to walk past his pseudo front yard so he could pose the one question that could derail the presidential aspitrations of an empty suit!

Yeah, right!

The takeaway from that whol... (Below threshold)
Patrick:

The takeaway from that whole episode for me (besides Obama's socialistic views being brought out into the open) was how quickly we found out so much about Joe. All he did was ask a question and we immediately saw how quickly the media could deploy assets to uncover the history of a private citizen yet somehow they managed to avoid exercising the same due diligence in probing Obama's past. And if you thought this was just an isolated lapse one need not go further in bringing up John Edwards' shady story - a guy who was his party's VP nominee in 2004 and a presidential candidate in 2008. Poor Joe exposed Obama and the media knew his response was a problem for the senator from Illinois so they did what they do best - if you cannot attack the message attack the messenger.

I have always said there is a tremendous opportunity out there for some enterprising reporter to find out and bring to light the true story of Obama's past. What is also clear, however, is that this would probably be a very hazardous undertaking for whoever chose to pursue it. I don't think that kind of courage exists in the MSM anymore...

The question had nothing to... (Below threshold)
Adrian Browne:

The question had nothing to do with him or his real life. If it had, he would have been able to speak about the subject coherently without oversimplifying it.

He wasn't well prepped.

Adrian, who prepped him? Wh... (Below threshold)

Adrian, who prepped him? Who planted him? Who was behind this grand conspiracy that so brilliantly engineered the meeting, but utterly flubbed the execution?

I'm thinking about asserting Editor's Privilege and demanding you prove your allegations, or withdraw them.

J.

seems like a bunch of comme... (Below threshold)

seems like a bunch of commenters live in New Hampshire...

"You don't mention that he ... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

"You don't mention that he was a plant...."

Never accuse Adrian of having any tangible connection to reality.

Adrian, shove your head back up your ass and go away while the adults talk.

Steve, some go for quantity... (Below threshold)

Steve, some go for quantity. Some go for quality.

Here in New Hampshire, we don't have to make that choice...

J.

I saw those, BryanD. And la... (Below threshold)

I saw those, BryanD. And laughed at them. His father is Keating's son-in-law? That's your proof?

If Joe was a plant, they would NOT pick someone with such a distinctive name, they wouldn't count on Obama coming to Joe's neighborhood to "spring their trap," and they would have had their "trap" be better prepared. Your whole "Joe was a plant" fantasy is based on both gross incompetence and wild coincidence.

But neither explains how Joe managed to get Obama to say the magic words about "spreading the wealth around." I guess they used the mind-control variant of the Halliburton Hurricane and Earthquake Machine to get him to say it...

J.

So, Bryan, now you're sayin... (Below threshold)

So, Bryan, now you're saying that Adrian's parroting a really, really stupid conspiracy theory is acceptable, because other people have parroted the same really, really stupid conspiracy theory?

Sorry, I'm still gonna call it stupid. Just like I'm going to to the birthers, the 9/11 truthers, the "Bush killed New Orleans" idiots, and other conspiracy-minded nuts.

As far as the PJTV thing... he tried to parlay his unwanted fame into a paying gig. I watched his bit from Sderot, and thought it wasn't horrid, but unsurpising that they didn't keep him.

Again, Bryan (or Adrian, if you're still here): could you construct a plausible scenario where Eeeevil Republican Plant not-Joe the not-Plumber arranges for Obama to make an unplanned campaing stop JUST in the right place for "Agent Plumber's Crack" to spring his poorly-executed ambush, using just the right words to trigger Obama's socialist confession?

And if they managed to pull that off, how the hell did they botch the election?

J.

JT, your back is gonna star... (Below threshold)
epador:

JT, your back is gonna start hurting real time if you keep stooping so low in the comment section arguing with blog buggerers.

BryanD -The questi... (Below threshold)
JLawson:

BryanD -

The question isn't whether you can find stuff that says Joe was a plant - hell, I can find sites touting the benefits of drinking your own urine and proving (at least by their logic) that there's actually a large hole to the interior of the Earth at the North Pole, and there's an advanced civilization inside the Earth.

(How can you tell they're advanced? Because they won't have any contact with us. And sad to say, that logic almost works...)

The question is whether or not such an extremely improbable chain of events must have occured in order for Joe to have been a planted questioner.

How improbable?

Didn't Obama choose where to stop? And when? Random, unannounced, spur of the moment stop for a quick photo op and some good news clips?

Looks like he got a bit more than he bargained for, doesn't it?

And also - do you believe the theory that Joe was a plant?

This is a historic moment. ... (Below threshold)
Mike G in Corvallis:

This is a historic moment. We are all witnesses to the event in which Adrian Browne and BryanD raised contemptible mendacity into an art form.

Congrats, Bryan. You've man... (Below threshold)

Congrats, Bryan. You've managed to kill many, many pixels in trying to bury Obama's enthusiastic and utterly unenforced endorsement of socialism. Go collect your reward from Media Masters.

J.

Bang Dung seems more approp... (Below threshold)
epador:

Bang Dung seems more appropriate for a blog buggerer.

Actually, Bryan, my point w... (Below threshold)

Actually, Bryan, my point was how this guy essentially had his life torn apart for asking a question that prompted a too-honest answer. I was discussing how, in a rush to conceal Obama's excessive candor, the only thing Obama's apologists could think to do was to make the focus on the discussion on Joe, not Obama.

Just like you're doing here.

Thanks for giving such a perfect example of what I was talking about. Couldn't have worked out better if I tried.

J.

Thanks for giving ... (Below threshold)
Thanks for giving such a perfect example of what I was talking about. Couldn't have worked out better if I tried.

OK, now I see what's going on. BryanD is actually a plant to make the fruity left look bad. Not that they need much help.

Fess up, Jay Tea. Your clever game has been exposed.




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