17 October 2008

His Invisible Friend Joe the Plumber

By Kathryn Jean Lopez

The title of this piece — “His invisible friend Joe the Plumber” — comes from a line with which MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann started his late-night post-debate broadcast on Wednesday night.

The problem with the host’s description is that Joe the Plumber is anything but invisible. To the taxman. Now, to the candidates. I don’t know if Joe the Plumber will win the election for John McCain. But he should.

Because in the end this election is all about freedom. And Senator Government is not.

Joe the Plumber, as everyone by the end of this weekend is liable to know, is one Joe Wurzelbacher, an Ohio plumber who wants to buy a business but knows it’s going to hurt him, tax-wise, if Barack Obama becomes president.

To his concerns, Obama told Joe: “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. I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody.”

What does that sound like to you. Could it be . . . Marx? Could it be . . . socialism?

In an Internet interview this week, after his now-infamous run-in with Barack Obama, Plumber Joe worried about just that: “You start giving people stuff, and then they start expecting it — and that scares me. A lot of people expect it now. They get upset when their check’s late, they get upset when they don’t get as many benefits as they used to, or when different government agencies are cut or spending is cut here and there for whatever reason — people get upset at that. And that’s because they’re used to getting it and they want more. I mean, everyone’s always gonna want more. People work the system left and right to get more out of welfare, to get more out of state assistance, federal assistance. And if government’s there for them, they’re gonna keep on trying to manipulate it to get more out of it. You got people that come along and say, “Hey, I wanna help you people,” I mean, they’re all ears! They’re like, ‘Hey, you can help me more, I don’t have to work as hard, I don’t have to do as much, and you’re gonna give me this? Man, that’s great, you’re a good guy.’”

He continued, “So yeah, it goes down the socialist — His health-care plan scares me. You know, I don’t like people going without health care, but it’s not my job to pay for everyone else’s health care. It’s hard enough paying for my own. I like the idea of deregulation as far as — nationally, you know, you only get insurance companies that can work in this state — if you deregulate that then you have more people competing and then the prices would go lower. It seems pretty simple to me. It probably isn’t that simple — but you flood the market with more products, usually they go down cheaper.”

Whereas John McCain talked Wednesday night about things like choice — and not the murdering type Obama did — Barack Obama rightly worries Americans like Plumber Joe.

In this election, the burdens of our taxpayers have been an afterthought in the face of an unprecedented government takeover of the mortgage industry. But excessive government comes at an excessive cost — not just in economic theory, but to very real people. (That’s “real” in the sense of “non-imaginary,” Keith.) I don’t know how the Joe the Plumber strategy polls, but, for the sake of all the Joes out there, let’s listen to the Plumber’s concerns about what a President Obama would mean to all of our pocketbooks.

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