16 October 2008

Joe "The Plumber" Wurzelbacher

Already, every plumber with a tangential connection to the name "Joe" is vying for online URLs and begging for a directory listing.  This, barely 12 hours since the final Presidential Debate began last night.  For those wondering who this Joe the Plumber is, the extent of what we know about him is that he is a plumber in Toledo, Ohio.  He approached Senator Obama at a recent rally and complained that, after a decade on the job he had plans to purchase his place of employment and questioned whether Obama's proposed tax plan would prevent him from doing that.  Senator McCain addressed not the American public throughout the debate, but Joe; the idea being that Joe is indicative of the average, unconvinced voter.

Leave it to an out of touch candidate to consider a dude wanting to buy his place of employment as indicative of the average American.  Joe wants to move up the ladder, and he wants to buy his way up; fine.  Joe wants to have control over his place of employment but Joe does not want the risk of true entrepreneuralship; no, he wants something tidy, something that has already been established for a decade.  Granted, I know nothing about Joe's place of employment.  Maybe his employer was a real entrepreneur, and because of eight years of Republican economic policy, he's been forced to explore selling off his business and Joe has squirreled away the money to buy.  This is a point someone really ought to explore.

My family and my in-laws are littered with self-employed business owners, so I know firsthand what it takes to go out on your own, get into business and put in the exorbitant hours no one but your family ever even knows about in the hopes that enough people will walk through the door prepared to spend enough money to cover that month's bills.  Trust me when I say that first of all, plumbers make damn good money and second, that the average American is just lucky to even have a job right now; buying his place of employment is not an option for the overwhelming majority of us.  I don't need to tell you that.  You know you're not going to buy where you work, and you don't likely know anyone who could.

Is there a risk that Obama's tax plan would make things a little rougher on Joe, in his quest to buy wherever it is that he works?  Yes, but consider that while Joe has undoubtedly worked hard for his money all these years, and while he has clearly managed his money well to even be discussing buying a pre-existing business, Joe has been aided and abetted in his prosperity.  Again, I don't know Joe's story, so maybe he was born with a silver spoon, invested his college fund and went to work as a plumber.  Maybe he's never hurt financially, and his idea of being pinched is not being able to afford a business.  Maybe.  Chances are, though, that Joe is from a middle-class family that has had its ups and downs, and Joe has done the same.  Maybe Joe's family's downs have never been down enough to need government assistance, or maybe they were but his family was too proud to accept it.  Again, I don't know Joe's story beyond what the senators discussed.  What I do know are a whole lot of folks who have been that down, and I know there are a lot of them out there right now.

These are not the baby-makin' crackwhores that conservative media loves to depict as welfare recipients.  These are hard-working, middle-class people who have really struggled in large part to economic activities over which they have had little or no control.  They're probably Joe's neighbors and coworkers.  Joe, I'm glad you're doing well; it gives the rest of us hope that there are still opportunities to be had, that hard work pays off and all that bit.  Where I come from, we believe you should never "get above your raising."  That means that when things go right for you, you keep in mind what things used to be like for you.  Not only is humility good for character, it helps remind us to be compassionate and charitable, which are also good traits.

Incidentally, before composing this blog, I checked Opensecrets.org to see if there was a record of any campaign donation under the last name Wurzelbacher.  There were eight listings, all from a Mr. Richard T. Wurzelbacher, retired, of Key Largo, FL.  Six donations were to the Republican National Committee; the balance were to the campaign of Senator John McCain.

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