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What about Joe the Plumber?

Since we’ve been talking about Joe the Plumber in the comments today, here’s some background on Joe Wurzelbacher and how he got into John McCain’s debate script.

Joe Wurzelbacher was playing football with his son in Holland, Ohio, near Toledo, recently when Barack Obama was campaigning door to door, CNN reported. He voiced his concerns that Obama would tax him more if he bought the plumbing business where he works.

(As everyone has probably heard, Obama plans to cut taxes for everyone making less than $250,000 a year.)

Obama responded with an explanation of his tax plan, according to CNN, and a statement about "spreading the wealth around" being good for everyone. McCain’s whole point was to resurrect the antiquated notions held by some conservatives that Obama advocates a wholesale "redistribution" (gasp!) of wealth as has been done under communism and socialism.

What exactly does it mean to make $250,000? For a small business owner, who runs a sole proprietorship such as a plumbing business, that means $250,000 profit — revenue minus expenses.

If a plumbing business cleared a $250,000 profit after expenses, I think a lot of people would be really surprised. Are those gold-plated pipes?

This is not about transferring wealth from the rich to the poor. This is about enhancing the quality of life for the majority of Americans who work hard and have little reward for what they do. Maybe if they got a tax cut they wouldn’t be living beyond their means and charging up credit cards. Then they could legitimately patronize businesses like the one where Joe the Plumber currently works (something Obama pointed out when talking to Wurzelbacher).

‘Joe the Plumber’ happy to help candidates


Comments (15 comments)

BlackSun / October 16th, 2008, 4:33 pm / #1

Great points, Tatiana!!

You brought up a subject that has always ticked me off. People who don’t make very much money or who have never worked for themselves often misunderstand the tax system–especially with regard to business.

No one thinks about WHY it is that many large corporations pay little or no taxes. It’s because they hire armies of accountants to make sure they just break even, rather than showing a profit. There are many ways of making money while not making money–playing games with accelerated depreciation, shifting profits from one business entity to another, yada, yada. I’m not saying it’s right, it’s just a fact of life until someone rewrites the rules.

For a small business (1-5 employees) to make over $250,000 profit would be remarkable. Remember, salaries (including that of the business owner) are treated as expenses. So the taxable profit of a small business is calculated after everyone who works there has gotten paid! If the business did $1 million in gross revenue, $250,000 is a 25% profit margin! That’s very high, unless we are talking about some kind of expensive consultant, insurance broker, attorney, doctor, or a sports, TV, or film star, etc.

Selling goods or offering blue-collar services, you have to work very hard to make that kind of a profit. Plus, anyone at that level can also incorporate and find an accountant to minimize their taxes the same way the "big boys" do, whatever tax rates are in force.

Even among very successful small businesses, few will exceed $250,000 taxable profit. It’s a completely unabashed red herring designed to scare the middle-class wage earner. It has no relevance to that demographic, but that didn’t stop a wealthy and cynical McCain who obviously knows better from slamming it down on the national table anyway.

A few examples of net Profit percentages of sole-proprietorships from BizStats:

Home construction – 15.82%
General Merchandise stores – 8.46%
Food Service / Drinking Places – 10.88%

Check out the New York Times article on the subject.

harry. s. / October 16th, 2008, 6:03 pm / #2

Hi Tatiana,
i have been impressed as most people have with Obama’s eloquence, his cool under fire, and his obvious intelligence and inspiring oratory, though often bordering on platitudes without specificity. Yes he has tried recently to fill in with some details, However, there is one thing that has continually bothered me about his rhetoric, and i have been amazed that i have never heard McCain or even anyone in the media ever bring up this point or challenge him on it….We have all heard Obama say many many times "I am going to cut taxes for 95% of Americans." Have you ever heard him say what the nature of that "tax cut" is going to be? I doubt it, because i don’t think he has ever explained it in a public forum…certainly not the debates, and no speech i have heard.

I went directly to his own site, barackobama.com and read the "plan" because i smelled something fishy because he has never actually said what his tax cut would be. Well, it turns out it is not really a "tax cut" but rather a "tax credit." This means, as far as i understand, that he is not going to reduce the "tax rate" but rather people will get a one-time check in the mail….rates will stay the same, but somehow somewhere he is going to find the money to send everyone a small…a tiny….check. here is the direct quote from his site::

"Obama and Biden will restore fairness to the tax code and provide 150 million workers the tax relief they need. Obama and Biden will create a new "Making Work Pay" tax credit of up to $500 per person, or $1,000 per working family."

If you read it carefully it says "up to $500 per person." I have read reliable impartial analysts indicate it really means an average of $300 per person, but in no case more than $500. In some cases the check will be for less than $300.

Obama has milked that phrase…"a tax cut for 95% of the people" to the point of way overdoing it…he has gotten far more milage than i think he would have if he confessed…and followed that phrase with…"but it is actually not a tax rate cut, but a check for an average of $300 and no more than $500 per person". That amount of money, I would argue, is relatively insignificant compared to what the average unknowing person might think when hearing about his "tax cut." Ask any person what the Obama tax cut really is, and i think very few if any actually realize the paltry amount he is talking about.

JOE THE UNLISCENSED “SCAB” PLUMBER / October 16th, 2008, 11:44 pm / #3

JOE THE UNLISCENSED “SCAB” PLUMBER

JOE THE NON-UNION, UNLISCENED, SCAB PLUMBER gives a bad name for Unionized Journeymen plumbers.

Using McCain’s 6-Day 10hr shifts Joe could have made in excess of $250,000.00 WITHOUT EVEN OWNING THE BUSINESS!

You say how? An PRIMARY “A” DIVISION JOURNEYMEN in LOCAL #1 makes $80.26 per hr (including benefits) X 6 days a week 10 hrs a day = $3,210.40 Regular Time + 20 hrs OT @ $120.29 = $2405.80 = $5616.20 x 52= $292,042.40!

So JOE THE “SCAB” PLUMBER could pay his TAXES and get a new van if he was a PROUD AMERICAN “A” DIVISION JOURNEYMEN in LOCAL #1.

Don’t believe the numbers? Call the Joint board and check!

(718) 752-9630 or I can post a link to the wages.

Good Luck JOE THE UNLISCENSED “SCAB” PLUMBER”

Vote Union Today = OBAMA 2008!

Happy&Free: .) / October 17th, 2008, 12:43 am / #4

I called it ! It really is Plumbers Local Union #1 training center! The recording said to call during reg buisness hrs!
Yeah, that’s right Obama 08!

Tatiana Prophet / October 17th, 2008, 11:22 am / #5

Wow. Unlicensed contractors are a problem. I’ve written about this before. Hmmmmm.

H&F: .) / October 17th, 2008, 12:44 pm / #6

So where can someone read what u wrote? Plumbers r n’t men I trust so easly, u know what I mean?!

bulldada / October 19th, 2008, 9:08 am / #7

Obama wants to cut taxes for 95% of the people. Problem is about 40% don’t pay any income tax at all, at all. So, how do you cut taxes for people who don’t pay? You change the definition of tax cut. Now, normally a tax cut means a portion you pay is reduced. To Obama, a tax cut is when you don’t owe any money in taxes, so the government seizes it from someone else and then writes you a check. What Obama is proposing is a massive welfare system.

I think anyone would agree: The purpose of taxes is to raise revenue for the goverment. That should be it.

Tatiana Prophet / October 19th, 2008, 7:37 pm / #8

Hi, Bulldada –

The government’s revenue is for the people: for infrastructure, education, and anything else that has been quietly “socialized” under our noses over the last two centuries.

But seriously, I do not mean to make light of any movement toward socialism. The United States is a success in no small part to its mistrust of socialism. Some people who were raised in socialist countries have said that it can sap motivation and leave little desire to innovate. That’s why we have three branches of government, so that our society does not go into any one direction in the extreme. Throughout this entire campaign, the cries of socialism almost always include reference to societies that happen to be socialist to some degree but are also totalitarian: Cuba, Yugoslavia, Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Spain, the Soviet Union and, of course, China.

Regarding Obama’s tax credit, I agree that it is a tax credit and not a tax cut. And it is, indeed, a pittance. That’s why I think Harry made a great point when he said it was a little irksome that Obama keeps chanting this mantra about tax cuts. Like Happy&Free, I believe Obama is giving his (equally shallow) soundbite answer to the old “tax-and-spend” canard used by every Republican since Nixon to neutralize the Democratic opponent.

To be frank, I’d rather look into substandard wages and how the newspaper industry, for one, makes double-digit profits and yet keeps industry-wide pay egregiously low — all the while whining about falling circulations and laying people off. Since wages have been flat for years, I would think we should examine why it’s so hard for full-time workers to make a living anymore — or examine the trend toward using independent contractors to avoid paying taxes or benefits.

Upcoming inflation should make things even worse along those lines. I personally will be OK without my $300 tax credit, and that’s not really what I’m interested in.

One more thing: what is the difference between Obama’s tax credit and the child tax credit already in place, not to mention Bush’s stimulus checks?

Tatiana

David Vaughn / October 22nd, 2008, 4:38 pm / #9

We will go to war because we are afraid a one time ally, now an enemy, has weapons of mass destruction he will use against us, but we will not address the growing economic inequity in our nation that allows the rich to grow vastly richer and everyone else to slide into poverty. We will address problems that threaten our national security but not those which threaten our internal harmony as a people. We will erect ideologies that secure our sense of personal validity, but we will not listen to those with whom we disagree.
Everyone can quote the Constitution to their own advantage, everyone has an airtight justification for their point of view, but who is really willing to sacrifice their point of view to see the big picture?
Ten more years of free market initiatives, bailouts for the rich, and unwillingness to assist those in genuine need, and this country will finally be ripe for a real socialism; the kind with heads of businesses and very wealthy people greeting you atop spikes on dirty thoroughfares, the kind with burned out buildings and neighborhood organized militia stopping you on the street to examine the cut of your clothes and the aristocratic quality of your speech. Let’s hear it for a real socialism! We know it will fail, but the catharsis, O, the catharsis of it!
If our government does not do something to address the crude economic inequities of our time, to force the obscene wealth out of the hands of the superrich and back into the hands and use of those who are truly responsible for creating it, then it will prove itself to be unworthy of survival, and we , the people, will have no one to blame for its demise but ourselves. I mean, really, are we so stupid that we still believe in an absolute concept of ownership- that I can buy a piece of land and it is my land to do anything with it that I please? Or that I can take the profits out of a company and hoard them to myself when my employees do not have a pension fund or health insurance? I s there any area of econmic life that does not entail a high degree of social responsibility? Are we really that stupid?
In this country the government is the representative of the people. There is not one mention in the Constitution of capitalism or the Free market system. Things used to be a lot simpler. When this country was founded, the vast majority of its citizens were farmers- intimately connected to the concept of ownership, but highly restricted in the abstract use they could make of personal wealth. Not so today. We trade in the abstract, we make wealth in the abstract, and we lose it just as quickly in the abstract. But the life of the people is concrete. Socialism or capitalism, I do not care. I want my government to serve the concrete interests of its people, not simply address their psychological and ideological fears.l

Tatiana Prophet / October 22nd, 2008, 5:20 pm / #10

Way to go, David! Well, well said! Thank you for inspiring me.

bulldada / October 22nd, 2008, 5:20 pm / #11

“We will go to war because we are afraid a one time ally, now an enemy, has weapons of mass destruction he will use against us, but we will not address the growing economic inequity in our nation that allows the rich to grow vastly richer and everyone else to slide into poverty.”

Wrong. According to the IRS, 10% of Americans fell out of the Middle Class and went into the “upper class”. And 20% of the “upper class” went into the “middle class”. Don’t blame me. This is according to the IRS’s 2004 census (the latest they have out).

We will address problems that threaten our national security but not those which threaten our internal harmony as a people. We will erect ideologies that secure our sense of personal validity, but we will not listen to those with whom we disagree.

What do you mean “our internal harmony as a people”. Are you suggesting an Army of psychiatrists?

And: when you say “we will not listen to people who disagree”, who is his “we”. Speak for yourself, duder.

Everyone can quote the Constitution to their own advantage, everyone has an airtight justification for their point of view, but who is really willing to sacrifice their point of view to see the big picture?

The Conservatives, that is who. They believe the constitution should be interperated as it is. Liberals believe it to be a “living, breathing” document, subjec to be changed at the whims of the mindless masses.

Ten more years of free market initiatives, bailouts for the rich, and unwillingness to assist those in genuine need, and this country will finally be ripe for a real socialism;

Let me just say this in response to “those in genuine need”: A definition, if you will, between Conservatives and Liberals (for the record, I am a Libertarian, an Atheist and a Conservative).

A conservative defines compassion based on how many people he can get off of welfare. A Liberal defines compassion on how many people he can get on welfare. (H&F: I know what your gonna say already. Don’t bother…)

We know it will fail, but the catharsis, O, the catharsis of it!

Agreed. Alexander Tyler once said in 1787:

“A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.”

Do you understand what he meant by this? He meant, when politicians use tactis like buying the vote, promising “spreading the wealth” etc. we will become so dependent on government that we will have to have a leader. A dictator. Barak “God” Obama!

If our government does not do something to address the crude economic inequities of our time, to force the obscene wealth out of the hands of the superrich and back into the hands and use of those who are truly responsible for creating it, then it will prove itself to be unworthy of survival, and we , the people, will have no one to blame for its demise but ourselves.

What you are propsing is a violent overthrow of job creators, achievers and entrepenuers. The middle class and poor ARE NOT responsible for creating it, as you say. Don’t believe me? Go try to find a job from a middle class or lower class person.

I mean, really, are we so stupid that we still believe in an absolute concept of ownership- that I can buy a piece of land and it is my land to do anything with it that I please?

You really don’t understand property rights?

In this country the government is the representative of the people.

Wrong. See, another definition: Conservatives think this country is great because of the people inside it. The people, working together, to achieve a goal. To make money. To be the best they can be. Liberals, believe this country is great because of the government.

I want my government to serve the concrete interests of its people, not simply address their psychological and ideological fears.l

Vote McCain/Palin then.

H&F: .) / October 22nd, 2008, 5:57 pm / #12

And government r individuals who seek their government positions to Represent ther interests; lucky for those us who share in their interests! At the end when we vote, we vote for strangers who make claimes & if we vote for them, let’s hope they do what we as voters expected of them. I find it interesting how much everyone complaines about government. What does everyone think government really is?! It’s the ruling power The People of the Nation put in power! One needs to ask themselves if the Freemasons who formed this Nation intended us to just go w/ the flow or to do as they did. Protest, get involved as they did on the issues, write letters, march, get angery, gather w/ those who share one’s upsetness and interests for this established Nation we share! Native American’s have had more to complain about for the last 500 yrs than the rest of us who’ve played along the lies of credit cards & loans! I live on the pay as one goes economics & can’t stand Wall Street! It’s the BIGGEST, FATEST LIE IN THE WORLD! And Americans still contribute to Wall Street’s lies! Continuously creating the same old issues. What’s new?! Modern America r just SPOILED Brates & the economy is a wake up call! Every generation will have their repercussions to gross negligence & glutonous consumption.

H&F: .) / October 22nd, 2008, 6:27 pm / #13

Actually buldada u didn’t,
I was going to point out ur juvenile statement “speak for ur self duder.” And u started picking on me again! Bully tactics r n’t a mans becoming reflection of class & maturity. So lay off duddy! Oh, yes of course! Ur name says it all …bull y goo goo da da (sucking thum). U fail to demonstrate a reflection of the inteligence or wisdom u crticise & insult me for failing to have, when u lack it urself. I don’t think u know what Ciao means. It’s Italian for GOODBYE!
SIONARA ! (Japanese for the same)

David Vaughn / October 23rd, 2008, 5:54 pm / #14

Bulada,

David Vaughn / October 23rd, 2008, 7:09 pm / #15

Bullada,
Thank you for responding. Had I not elicited such a vehement response from you I would have worried about the cogency of my “argument”- It’s not an argument really, more like a story- but every story is also something of an argument. As far as I’m concerned, you can have your future, and in a lot of ways I wish you were right. I wish all I had to do was vote and protect my personal rights and convince others to do the same and we will have the best of all possible worlds- I wish that what I believed had the power to conform the world to itself- come to think of it, isn’t that what a wish is? You may trust yourself to wield the power that determines objective (if only political) reality for the world as a whole, but I trust neither you nor myself to do so.
Democracy is a messy business. It includes so many vague, confused and downright bigoted intelligences within it that acting constructively is, at best, problematic. You personally seem to think that your citations of statistics, quotations, and appeals to common sense are self-evident proofs of validity. Have you ever considered that the fact that something convinces you has absolutely no significance for anybody else? Or have you thought about the fact that the rage or indignation you feel when someone challenges the foundation of your viewpoint is not within your control? Personally I’d like to think that I have the self-control to deal rationally with a Dallas Cowboys’ loss, but every time they lose something in me regards it as a huge injustice. I guess my question is reallly this- do you actually think you know why you believe what you believe beyond the point where you are constantly controlling it by your immediate passion? Answer yes, and you will be lost to philosophy. Answer no and you just might start on the path to wisdom.
When I say people or Americans are stupid, this is what I mean. They have all manner of presuppositions held with the passion of belief that they don’t even know they have. Take the concept of ownership. Every two year old has a concept of ownership- “this is mine and you can’t have it.” But ultimately it’s just by an agreement, humanly speaking, that it exists at all. If everyone insisted that you could own nothing personally to yourself, it wouldn’t change your desires or tendencies, but it would change your strategy for getting what you want.. Neither presupposition is inherently right or wrong. But when a presupposition ceases to be equitable for the great majority of people, you are courting disaster. Now I can’t convince you that that is what’s happening, but I can try to force your presuppositions out into the open so you can begin to examine them.
I don’t have a political program. I don’t care if you understand me. I don’t care if you posit the concept of ownership as the one metaphysically true foundation upon which the earth and the stars and all life came into being. This is not a contest. My wish for you is that if Obama wins you will find it possible, in spite of everything, to be a very happy person. In any case, since I have already voted I will be very glad when this election is over.
Tatiana, thanks for your comment. It means a lot to me.

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