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Average Joe not so average

By | October 17, 2008 | Opinion

YESTERDAY, AFTER WHAT SURELY MUST have been a night of very little sleep, Joe Wurzelbacher probably opened his eyes to a television with his face on it, while news networks were trying to explain to the rest of us who, exactly, Joe the Plumber is.

Joe’s introduction to much of America in Wednesday night’s final presidential debate was a big one — he was mentioned more than two dozen times. Very few of these included his full name though, with the candidates preferring just “Joe” or the now-familiar “Joe the Plumber.”

And it seems to me that there’s a reason they’re calling this guy Joe the Plumber instead of Joe Wurzelbacher, and it probably isn’t just because they’re having trouble pronouncing his last name.

It’s because they aren’t the same person. Joe Wurzelbacher is not Joe the Plumber, at least not in the sense presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain used him Wednesday night.

McCain, in particular, latched on to Joe as a symbol for blue-collar workers and “average” Americans. Of course, Wurzelbacher, as we learned Thursday, is considering buying the plumbing company he’s working for and is concerned about being taxed at a higher rate for the income he will be earning over $250,000, under Obama’s proposed income tax policy.

Still, in a spectacular bit of “monkey see, monkey do,” most media outlets bought the “average” American bit hook, line and sinker.

So while Joe Wurzelbacher says he is “infuriated” by Obama’s tax plan, it seems to me there’s a whole lot more for him to be angry about. The candidates’ and the mass media’s appropriation of his name and occupation as a marker for American “commonness” is one. Because in truth, there’s not really much common about being a plumber — most of us can’t do what they do. That’s why we have to call one and dish out $200 an hour when our sinks and toilets start acting up.

There’s nothing common about it, and there’s nothing common about being a construction worker.
There’s nothing common about being a fisherman, or an auto mechanic or a factory worker. There’s nothing common about “blue-collar” workers.

While these people might have average yearly incomes, there’s not much common about who they are. They live in Massachusetts and Connecticut as well as in Tennessee and South Carolina. They have a diverse set of skills and interests. They are Protestants, they are Catholics, and Muslims and atheists.

Shame on John McCain, and Barack Obama and the media who lapped it all up.

Because the average Joe isn’t average at all. Hell, he’s probably not even Joe.

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14 Responses to Average Joe not so average

  1. RG Robins says:

    Yep, first name “Sam” (middle name “Joseph”), not a licensed plumber, income nowhere near what he would need to purchase the business, owes back taxes & has a tax lien on his property, which would put quite a kink in any effort to borrow the money to buy the business–pretty much another Republican scam that we all fell for for a day or too.

  2. RG Robins says:

    Yep, first name “Sam” (middle name “Joseph”), not a licensed plumber, income nowhere near what he would need to purchase the business, owes back taxes & has a tax lien on his property, which would put quite a kink in any effort to borrow the money to buy the business–pretty much another Republican scam that we all fell for for a day or too.

  3. jacio_The_unswayed says:

    I didnt know that about he plumber guy, RG. Thanks.

  4. jacio_The_unswayed says:

    I didnt know that about he plumber guy, RG. Thanks.

  5. gm says:

    RG,

    I love it. A citizen asks a presidential candidate that makes an unannounced stop in his neighborhood, a question about his tax plan. That candidate makes the political error of telling the truth and revealing his view of the role of government and taxation. Supporters of that candidate then proceed to go on the attack….on the citizen that asked the question! They have brought up back taxes, liens, the fact that he goes by his middle name, even read information on air from his divorce. Anything but focus on the issue at hand. Joe, who does plumbing, asked a question we should all be asking candidates and ourselves. Do you believe, like Obama, that it is the role of government to redistribute income? If you go to college and get a better paying job, the state takes a chunk of your increased income and gives it to someone who didn’t or couldn’t. It is a fundamental question that can profoundly impact our society and we all should address it, whichever side you come out on. The real scam RG is that such a significant point has been lost in all the noise, which I suspect was the point to begin with.

  6. gm says:

    RG,

    I love it. A citizen asks a presidential candidate that makes an unannounced stop in his neighborhood, a question about his tax plan. That candidate makes the political error of telling the truth and revealing his view of the role of government and taxation. Supporters of that candidate then proceed to go on the attack….on the citizen that asked the question! They have brought up back taxes, liens, the fact that he goes by his middle name, even read information on air from his divorce. Anything but focus on the issue at hand. Joe, who does plumbing, asked a question we should all be asking candidates and ourselves. Do you believe, like Obama, that it is the role of government to redistribute income? If you go to college and get a better paying job, the state takes a chunk of your increased income and gives it to someone who didn’t or couldn’t. It is a fundamental question that can profoundly impact our society and we all should address it, whichever side you come out on. The real scam RG is that such a significant point has been lost in all the noise, which I suspect was the point to begin with.

  7. whatever says:

    Last time I checked, taking money from you and using it for something else was called TAXING, which is nothing new.

    This guy wasn’t born yesterday!

  8. whatever says:

    Last time I checked, taking money from you and using it for something else was called TAXING, which is nothing new.

    This guy wasn’t born yesterday!

  9. wired says:

    In this country we work hard so the government can take some of it away to provide services for us. The problem is the government giving it away for free to those whom dont need it in the form of welfare.

  10. wired says:

    In this country we work hard so the government can take some of it away to provide services for us. The problem is the government giving it away for free to those whom dont need it in the form of welfare.

  11. gm says:

    Whatever,

    Taxing and redistribution of income are not the same thing. Most people, regardless of political affiliation, accept and support the notion that we all need to contribute, in the form of paying taxes, for critical services such as public safety, education and infrastructure. Most of us also believe in the idea of the government, using our taxes, helping those of us who find themselves in dire straights, in need of food shelter, medical care etc… But I believe most people, and I certainly include myself, don’t believe in the redistribution of income which is what Obama called for and precisely the issue that should be addressed. While a progressive tax system is “nothing new” as you point out, a presidential candidate explicitly saying we are going to take money from you and give to other people so they can have more, is certainly a change in tone and degree.
    Again, you may think that is a super idea and support it. My point here is not that you shouldn’t feel that way. I’m pointing out that this is a very fundamental question about what one believes the role of government and taxation should be. If you go to school, work hard, create something, start a business, whatever, and make more income, should the government take what they consider to be your excess and give it to someone who didn’t or couldn’t do what you did? Whatever your position, those are the types of questions elections are about, not whether Joe is a “licensed” plumber or what Obama’s middle name is.

  12. gm says:

    Whatever,

    Taxing and redistribution of income are not the same thing. Most people, regardless of political affiliation, accept and support the notion that we all need to contribute, in the form of paying taxes, for critical services such as public safety, education and infrastructure. Most of us also believe in the idea of the government, using our taxes, helping those of us who find themselves in dire straights, in need of food shelter, medical care etc… But I believe most people, and I certainly include myself, don’t believe in the redistribution of income which is what Obama called for and precisely the issue that should be addressed. While a progressive tax system is “nothing new” as you point out, a presidential candidate explicitly saying we are going to take money from you and give to other people so they can have more, is certainly a change in tone and degree.
    Again, you may think that is a super idea and support it. My point here is not that you shouldn’t feel that way. I’m pointing out that this is a very fundamental question about what one believes the role of government and taxation should be. If you go to school, work hard, create something, start a business, whatever, and make more income, should the government take what they consider to be your excess and give it to someone who didn’t or couldn’t do what you did? Whatever your position, those are the types of questions elections are about, not whether Joe is a “licensed” plumber or what Obama’s middle name is.

  13. wired says:

    I dont think the government should have the right to determine what extra money i have. It is in my opinion that should be left up to me and my wallet to decide. We are not a sociallist country and should keep it that way.

    “Socialists mainly share the belief that capitalism unfairly concentrates power and wealth among a small segment of society that controls capital, and creates an unequal society. All socialists advocate the creation of an egalitarian society, in which wealth and power are distributed more evenly, ( i got this from wikipedia)

  14. wired says:

    I dont think the government should have the right to determine what extra money i have. It is in my opinion that should be left up to me and my wallet to decide. We are not a sociallist country and should keep it that way.

    “Socialists mainly share the belief that capitalism unfairly concentrates power and wealth among a small segment of society that controls capital, and creates an unequal society. All socialists advocate the creation of an egalitarian society, in which wealth and power are distributed more evenly, ( i got this from wikipedia)

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