It turns out that Joe the Plumber is 1) not a plumber, 2) not planning to buy any business, 3) does not fall into the highest income bracket, and 4) the business that he is not buying does not even net $250,000 income. Furthermore, Joe is in arears for his own state income tax and may have a problem with his voter registration. Also, once the economic facts are examined, guys like Joe would benefit under Barack Obama's tax plan versus McCain's. Where does McCain come up with his strategy?
Joe has intimated that he has voted for McCain in the primary and is leaning toward voting for him again now. Joe favors our military endeavors that McCain supports and is a strong admirer of the warrior ethos. Joe holds some trepidation for Obama's tax policy because "some day" he "hopes" to be in the higher tax bracket. This "hope" is likely present in a lot of McCain voters.
I have some advice for Joe. Number one, don't worry about maybe some day down the road being among the top 4% earners. The reality is that this probably won't happen, but even if you are fortunate enough to achieve such a goal, then the couple thousand dollars in extra income taxes will not be as significant as you might think, and besides, you can always defer income or invest in your business if needed to avoid the tax hit. The greater concern should be for the reality of today. The reality is that you're broke and you are in a vulnerable profession just as we head into a recession, so don't worry about all the potential pitfalls of being a millionaire some day.
Another thing: all this military adventurism that Joe and his candidate favor costs money. If our small nation, totaling a mere 5% of the world's population, plans to embark on a democratization of the entire planet, then we better also plan on ponying up a large sum to the military-industrial complex. Guns, tanks and rehab for wounded soldiers does not come cheap. Joe and his kids and grandkids will be giving up their Social Security to pay for it all.
I realize Joe is not a sophisticate, and he seems like an honest enough guy, and probably a hard- worker, which makes his political views all the more heartbreaking. This white male blue-collar demographic seems especially susceptible to all the standard fear-based themes put forth by the current Republican leadership, and this leads to Joe voting against his actual self-interests and, I would argue, against the common interest of the entire nation.
Joe's interests should be for more fiscal restraint, and nothing costs more than military adventures without end. Caring for all the welfare families and funding all the dreaded earmarks would not cost us as much as one-tenth the expense of the ongoing Iraq war. Joe probably fears that our national pride would be hurt if we pulled out of Iraq, or maybe that the bogeyman will come get us, but the real concern should be for the runaway military expense while we ignore the social ills here at home.
Joe's interests should be for universal health care, which is one of the most cost-effective uses of resources, especially since he has had a lien against him for unpaid medical expenses (see reference cited above). Instead, Joe has been suckered into believing that it's okay to go into debt for necessary medical care, or to avoid timely medical care due to a perceived inability to pay. Such delays are costly to him and our nation.
Joe fears that some day he'll be wealthy and the taxman will come and take it all away. He voiced concern about the US becoming "socialist instead of a democracy." I won't go into Joe's confusion about political and economic terms, but only recognize that again Joe expresses fears that have been stoked in nearly every election during my lifetime. The irony is that we are indeed crashing toward socialism as our private banks are being nationalized by the current administration in order to save our economic system from runaway laissez-faire deregulated capitalism. Does Joe understand this?
The fact that McCain has plummeted in the polls and found it necessary to bring up Joe's plight may be evidence that these cynical time-worn themes are finally coming into public view in the starkest display possible. We could only hope. This episode has served to highlight the reality that McCain either does not understand the issues (my guess), or he fully understands the issues but thinks that the electorate is too stupid to see all the ironies.
The greatest irony is that McCain brought up the example of Joe the Plumber and, once the facts are examined, Joe should actually be the poster boy for the Obama candidacy.
UPDATE (Oct 18, 2008):
It turns out Joe is a bit of a nutjob. Here's the video. Natural Law Party? Okay. Watch the last minute or so where he goes off on the warrior ethos bullshit. Somebody please explain how wasting our precious treasue in Iraq is in our national interest... because it concerns our pride? Joe doesn't want to pay taxes, but wants to prosecute wars that we taxpayers need to finance. Please. McCain jumped the shark by bringing this guy into the debate.