Joe the Plumber


Joe Wurzelbacher, a/k/a Joe the Plumber, pictured on the right, who works for a residential plumbing company in Toledo, Ohio, became a popular topic of political conversation this past week. Joe questioned Sen. Obama concerning his tax plan for America and, specifically, was interested to know what the effect of the plan would be on his (Joe's) purchasing a company making over $250,000 a year.  "Your new tax plan," he asked, "is going to tax me more, isn't it?"  Sen. Obama, to whom his Republican opponent recently referred as "Senator Government," is another American version of Robin Hood.  He explained to Joe, in part, that anything he would make over and above the ceiling amount would be taxed at 39 rather than 36 percent.  The senator's rationale for the higher rate boiled down to one terse, but revealing statement:  "I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody."

The redistribution of wealth is a tenet of socialism. When the government takes from those who have and gives it to others, usually to those who have not, the practice is socialistic.  To the extent that Obama and many other politicians support a system of taxation that provides for the reallocation of wealth by government, they are socialists.  The definition of socialism strikes me as clear and straightforward enough, and one need not belabor the point.  

As set forth in the Investor's Business Daily ("Barack Obama's Stealth Socialism," June 28, 2008) the Illinois senator stands for multiple government initiatives that directly support or otherwise reinforce a socialist agenda, such as the following:

*'Universal,' 'guaranteed' health care;

*'Universal 401(k)s' (in which the government would match contributions made by 'low-and moderate-income families');

*Guarantees of a 'living wage,' with a $10 minimum wage indexed to inflation; and of 'fair trade' and 'fair labor practices,' with breaks for 'patriot employers' who capitulate to unions, and sticks for 'nonpatriot' companies that don't;

*'Free' job training (even for criminals);

*'Free' college tuition;

*'Free' child care and 'universal' preschool;

*Additional subsidized public housing;

*An increased earned income tax credit for the 'working poor';

*'Universal national service' (a la Havana);

*'Wage insurance' (to supplement dislocated union workers' old income levels); plus

*A Global Poverty Act that amounts to a Marshall Plan for the Third World, primarily Africa.

One of Sen. Obama's inspirations as a younger man was Saul Alinsky, a committed socialist.  Soon after graduating from law school, Obama received training in Alinsky's methodology and principles of community organizing. The fundaments of the young community organizer's political and economic worldview seem over the years not to have veered too far off this radical course.  He traveled to Vermont not long ago and gave his support to the State's junior senator, Bernie Sanders, who is an official "independent," but unabashedly describes himself as a "democratic socialist."

While I doubt, as I believe any reasonable person does, outlandish claims such that Obama contemplates the overthrow of the United States government if and when he assumes the presidency, there is every reason to think that, with the aid of a heavily Democratic Congress, he will steer the ship of state decidedly toward the left of the political spectrum.  This is no small matter, and voters like Joe the Plumber know it.

Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Joe Biden, and Barack Obama represent the idea that it is a matter of patriotism and morality for a large centralized government in Washington, D.C. to extract (I am tempted to say, "to confiscate"), by taxation, close to 40 percent of a citizen's income in excess of $250,000, and, then, to redistribute it to people who, for whatever reasons, have not earned it.  Never mind that this is not exactly discretional giving and so amounts at best to "coerced virtue."  Forget that such a taxation policy tends to suppress individual initiative and the willingness to produce.  Do not mention that government is inept and untrustworthy and has demonstrated time and again its inclination to mismanage and to corrupt everything it touches.

The ideological shift to the left is now so pronounced that even Sen. McCain himself is willing to endorse, in John Kenneth Galbraith's notable phrase, "socialism for the rich" in support of the recent Wall Street bailout.  So the choice for President in 2008 is merely one of degree and not of kind.  In the eyes of many, it amounts to Tweedledee versus Tweedledum.  This is precisely the reason why the current contest leaves those like myself wishing they could vote "None of the Above."

John McCain is hardly the person to champion the cause of Joe the Plumber.  But better the Arizonan senator do so than nobody at all, even if the action smacks more of politics than of deeply ingrained ideology.  This is one instance where the difference between the two presidential candidates, however small, may still be sufficiently remarkable to enable McCain to cross the finish line before Obama.  

October 20, 2008