Thursday, October 16, 2008

Joe and Me (politics)

I'm assuming Joe the Plumber, the new Republican folk hero (perplexing even to Joe) has a personal income of $250K, rather than a business income of that amount. 98% of the small businesses like mine, have high revenues while the owners are taxed on their income, such as my small salary of $36,000/year. Joe may be a plumber, but I can't quite envision a blue collar "joe sixpack*" in overalls. Call him Joe the Attorney and see how much sympathy he gets. Lets see how well Joe and me do under Obama.

Where the Obama plan helps Joe and me tremendously is health care. Small businesses can't afford to offer health care due to the high and unpredictable costs. We couldn't plan on health care as a stable benefit even if we could swing it, as the expense rises at an unpredictable rate well above inflation. Joe and I should be able to better hire and retain long term employees when we can offer an affordable plan. Until then, many small businesses pay the expensive cost of hiring and training new employees as the old ones are forced to move on to bigger companies with better health benefits.

The second part of employee retention for Joe and me is education. We live in a country where your zip code determines your quality of education, and your income determines your zip code. What if the public schools in my lower income city were of the same quality as the schools in a higher income area? The inequality in education helped fuel the housing crisis, as home owners attempted to leap frog to communities where their children would have educational opportunities. Anyone in American who chooses a lower income, because of their career, chooses to doom their children to substandard education. Become a teacher, social worker or game store owner, and your low income is accompanied by a perpetual feeling of guilt about what you've done to your children's future. And what about those who have no choice? Level the playing field in education, as the Obama plan should help do, and you build communities, retain employees, and allow intelligent people to work in rewarding fields, not just the most lucrative ones. This helps Joe and me tremendously, both in hiring employees and creating a stable customer base.

Finally, the big issue for Joe and me and is not about what's in it for us, but what kind of society we want to have. It's a big picture issue. Nobody is taking money out of Joe's pocket, it's a realization that the current economic system is just a tad inequitable. It rewards the wealthy far too much, shrinks the middle class and adds extra burdens on the poor. Should you pay a little more if you've made it economically? That's the real debate and I would argue that the system favors the wealthy in a variety of other ways and the answer should be yes. This also means Joe's and my employees will be able to live a better life, contributing to our businesses without the need to migrate to greener pastures. Having a little extra money in their pockets, middle class consumers should be able to afford new games to play or a plumber to come fix that leaky sink. It's a win-win for Joe and me.

*who drinks beer from a sixpack anymore?


  1. The great thing is that Joe the "Plumber" isn't a licensed plumber, makes $40,000 a year, and owes $1200 in back taxes to the state of Ohio.

    He's supposedly worried that he might have to pay more should he manage to make over six times his current annual income.

    He's a classic example of how Republicans have been winning elections in the 21st Century: build up a fear of something that is never going to actually happen to 99%+ of Americans. Whether it's terrorism or tax increases, it's the same basic strategy.

  2. Joe is also a relative of one of the Keating 5. One would think that Republican's would be wary of plumbers. If you don't get the reference google it :)

  3. It looks like it's just about over for McCain and I'll be curious to see what happens with the Republican party over the coming years.

    I think they'll need to re-assess their core values, with a focus on fiscal responsibility and a social agenda that's actually relevant. This financial crisis seems to be a "crisis of faith" for free market conservatives. They'll need to grow up and see the world as it really is (and was) rather than relying on their ideology that never reflected reality to begin with.

    I would like to see the left-right, commie bating rhetoric completely removed from American dialogue for good, to be replaced by common sense and a true analysis what works and doesn't work with government involvement in our lives. I'm hoping this crisis put a permanent spike in the heart of some of the dogmatic free market types.

    I'm also hoping some class consciousness develops from all this, especially the realization that Republicans and their trickle down policies have rewarded the rich at the expense of the middle class (a term that includes people making as little as $15,000/year). Plenty of conservative poor have been too distracted by hot button issues to realize they've been manipulated for years.

    The Republicans always bring up "class warfare" as a smoke screen against any sort of class dialogue. That works fine when economic times are good. When people lose their homes and jobs and start looking around to see whose to blame, there are some clear trends about income distribution and its related government policies.

  4. "I'm hoping this crisis put a permanent spike in the heart of some of the dogmatic free market types."

    I hope the same, but the sad fact is that the free market is a religion with many of these people, and like other fanatics they've already found the scapegoat that explains away the obvious fallacies of their belief: In this case the 30 year old Community Reinvestment Act. It had at most a very minor role in all this, but it's the one tiny piece of government regulation that may have played a part, so it allows them to ignore all of the deregulation and failure to regulate that was really at fault. That way they don't have to question their core beliefs.

    Unfortunately, that's how fanatics deal with a "crisis of faith."