Thursday, October 16, 2008

"Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher: American Taxpayer, Entrepreneur, and Voice of Reason in 2008 Election

Updated October 16, 2008

I didn't think this blog would 'go political.' It's Joe Wurzelbacher's fault, sort of.

He's the plumber who told Barack Obama that he planned to buy the plumbing business where he'd worked for years. Right now, he can afford it.

If Obama gets elected, and follows through on his plan to tax the rich (persons making more than $250,000 USD a year) and give to the poor, Joe Wurselbacher won't be able to buy that plumbing business. As owner of the business, his income will be too high.

What Joe Wurzelbacher Said to Barack Obama

"In that exchange Wurzelbacher asked Obama if he believed in the American Dream. Wurzelbacher said he was about to buy a company that makes more than $250,000 a year and was concerned that Obama would tax him more because of it...."

What Obama Said, to Joe

" 'I think that when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody,' Obama told Wurzelbacher."

What Joe Said, Later

"I've always wanted to ask one of these guys a question and really corner them and get them to answer a question... for once instead of tap dancing around it...."

What John McCain Said, Later

" 'Joe wants to buy the business that he has been in for all of these years, worked 10, 12 hours a day. And he wanted to buy the business but he looked at your tax plan and he saw that he was going to pay much higher taxes,' McCain challenged Obama."

Obama's Response, Still Later

'That's not so.' More specifically, ""Not only do 98 percent of small businesses make less than $250,000, but I also want to give them additional tax breaks, because they are the drivers of the economy,' Obama said. 'They produce the most jobs.' "

Help Like This We Don't Need

I'm not sure which Obama to believe: the one that wants to "spread the wealth around," or the one who says that his new and improved taxes won't keep Joe from buying the business he's saved for.

I'm a bit uneasy about McCain, too, since he said, "Joe, I want to tell you, I'll not only help you buy that business that you worked your whole life for and I'll keep your taxes low and I'll provide available and affordable health care for you and your employees. And I will not stand for a tax increase on small business income."

I'm quite sure that I don't want Obama to "spread the wealth around," and not at all comfortable about getting McCain's help, either.

Former President Reagan said it best:
"The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.' "
(Quotations Page)

(From CNN, used without permission)
Joe Wurzelbacher: About to be Redistributed Out of the American Dream

Am I Biased? You Bet!!

My sympathy is with Mr. Wuzelbacher.

I'm the sole proprietor of the Brian H. Gill company, operating out of the north room of my house. Unlike Mr. Wuzelbacher, I won't be hiring anyone. On the other hand, there's equipment I'd like to buy, and services I'd like to pay for: so the more money I make, the more money goes to companies that do hire people.

As it is, I've got a shot at making a success of publishing "A Small World of Websites." At this point, making $250,000 USD a year is a long way off, at best, but it could happen.

However, if Obama gets his chance to "spread the wealth around," the odds of my success go down. Even if I'm not taxed for contributing to the economy, there's a very good chance that an Obama administration won't stop at higher taxes for 'the rich.'

I recognize that federal agencies have their lucid moments. (Explaining these bucolic references: I grew up near the east end of North Dakota.) Decades ago, OSHA decided that North Dakota farmers didn't have to install a matrix of porta potties, stretching beyond the horizon. And, federal wetland guidelines were re-written so that farmers could use their driveways, even rain puddles didn't dry up right away.

I don't know what crazy regulation would apply to my business. It's got about as low a carbon footprint as someone who exhales carbon dioxide can have, and doesn't deal in toxic chemicals (unless my coffee counts). Maybe the feds would insist that I lose weight. Which isn't a bad idea, in itself: but can you imagine having the Weight Police doing spot checks when they felt like it?

Haven't We Been Through This Before?

I'm not the first one to compare today's exciting economic news to the Great Depression's kickoff, and I won't be the last.

I'll take the rest of this post to give some background on why I'm not terribly excited about Obama's tax-the-employers plan. And, why I'm uneasy about McCain's promise to "help."

The Great Depression and FDR, The Savior of America

The conventional wisdom is still that the wise and beneficent Franklin Delano Roosevelt saved America from the Great Depression by taxing the businesses that could have produced more jobs and hired more people, who would have money to buy more goods, which would make more jobs possible.

It didn't make all that much sense to me, but I'm not an economist.

Turns out, I'm not the only one who thinks FDR's 'tax the employers and give to the government' policy may have been flawed. "FDR's Folly: How Roosevelt and His New Deal Prolonged the Great Depression" (Jim Powell, 2004 ISBN: 0-7615-0165-7) expresses that rather heretical view. And, got a rather scathing review.

The way I see it, the Great Depression would have happened, no matter who was sitting in the Oval Office. Agricultural practices that America has since abandoned, encouraging people to farm marginal land (made sense during WWI, not so much afterward), years of bad weather ('climate change,' we'd say now), buying stocks with money borrowed on the basis of daft assumptions, and other factors pretty much guaranteed that.

But, well-intentioned tinkering with America's economy may have kept the stock market from recovering as fast as it might have. And taking money away from companies, so that they couldn't hire people, was about as daft a way of dealing with unemployment as I've heard of.

It could be argued that FDR's enlightened New Deal policies, and the massive federal bureaucracy that went with it, Saved America. After all, the Great Depression did end. After a decade, more or less, depending on where you were.


It took World War II, and the radical shift in national priorities that went with it, but the Great Depression did end.

Two points, and I'm done:
  1. The Great Depression wasn't just an American event. People around the world were hurting. I'm concentrating on the American experience here, because I'm discussing the American presidential election.
  2. Since Franklin Delano Roosevelt has a large and enthusiastic fan base to this day, I'll probably be told to study some history. Which I have, with a degree to prove it. I'm not absolutely convinced that Roosevelt's policy of taxing the employers and giving to the bureaucrats prolonged the Great Depression, but it's an idea that I think deserves serious consideration.
In the news:
Update October 16, 2008

Turns out, "Joe the Plumber" isn't Joe, and he's not exactly a plumber.

I discussed details in another blog (" 'Joe the Plumber' Isn't Quite a Plumber, and Isn't 'Joe!' " Another War on Terror Blog (October 16, 2008)).

I suspect that, if facts keep getting shaken loose, we'll discover that Samuel J. Wurzelbacher's middle name is Joseph, that most people call him "Joe" instead of "Sam," and that he's one of many Americans who had trouble paying their taxes, and who really hadn't needed a plumber's license.

None of which changes the fact that Barack Obama thought he was speaking to a 'real' plumber when he said that it was good to "spread the wealth around."

And I'm still not at all comfortable with the idea that someone who apparently wants to redistribute property in America may be president next year.

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