October 27, 2008
I’m Joe the plumber, and I’ve done some research into who will raise my taxes more, and I’ve reached a conclusion. It’s not an easy choice. I wanted to consider capital gains tax, too, because I own a home.
OK, I should clarify a few things in the interest of full disclosure. My first name isn’t really Joe, but you can call me Joe, OK? And while I’m not a licensed plumber if you’ve ever tried to install a garbage disposal, or reseat a toilet on a new wax ring yourself, you know you want somebody else to do it for you. OK, technically my boss isn’t running a licensed plumbing company either, but all that regulation isn’t really necessary, is it? I mean, sure, a bit of regulation might have helped prevent the need to bailout the rich guys running Wall Street Banks and big insurance companies like AIG, but come on – plumbers? What could go wrong?
See, here’s the thing: I’ve got the entrepreneurial spirit. I don’t mean like some guy who rides in to town selling snake oil in the old wild west, either. I want to own my own business, that’s my version of the American dream. I’ll bet you’re a lot like me – unless you’ve always voted for the same party in every election, or you’re a licensed plumber, of course. So I compared McCain and Obama on other stuff, too, like their plan for health care (’cause that cost matters to a guy like me – I don’t actually even have health care right now.)
My family thinks I’m making it. They make light-hearted jokes, and call me “Lord of the Rings” when it’s time to fix a toilet. They think it’s very cool that I work for a small business. Honestly? I’d be happy to earn more at a big company right now, but when the boss doesn’t even take in $250,000 in gross receipts it’s not like I can expect to be making six figures myself, right?
McCain’s an honorable man, he’s personally avoided making outright attacks as reprehensible as, say, Congresswoman Michelle Bachman who can’t even figure why she should apologize for implying a Senator might be un-American! Furthermore, he’s actually running as much against his record of voting with Bush as Senator Norm Coleman up in Minnesota, so even if his plans aren’t as well-developed and spelled out as Obama’s we know McCain’s now against some of what Bush got wrong anyway.
And I know that politicians will often say anything to win, so I’m not surprised that not everything coming out of the McCain campaign is true or that his message changes. That’s just politics as usual. I sure don’t expect that the media is covering either candidate accurately – they’re in it to make money, after all, they want us to keep tuning in, and that’s just business.
Based on research, endorsements by people who obviously know more than I do, and talking to friends I’ve decided to vote for Barack Obama on November 4th.
It’s just a lot easier for me to trust that a guy who only owns one house might follow through on his promises to work for the good of everybody. I mean, come on: McCain’s wife spent more on one outfit than I’ve earned in the last 8 years, just how concerned would he be about my taxes, leaky toilet flappers, homes being foreclosed, and other issues that matter to me here in the midwest if he gets an 8th house by being elected to fix the mess George Bush made of the budget and the Middle East?
I’m Joe the Plumber,
sometimes known as “Lord of the Rings,”
and I approve this message.
October 2, 2008
Seriously? The extremists with an audience are out in full force today ranting that Gwen Ifill, the moderator of the much-anticipated October 2 Vice Presidential Debate, isn’t without bias. Michelle Malkin, for example, is outraged that Ifill has a book in the works about Senator Barack Obama. Mind you, it hasn’t been released yet, so Malkin could be just a shill trying to help Ifill’s publicity in advance, but I think the motive is likely more insidious.
Ms. Malkin could be lowering expectations of Governor Palin’s performance – even setting up an excuse in advance. Something along the lines of: “Nobody could expect the Governor to do well with a liberal ostensibly moderating the debate…” I realize Malkin’s an avowed opponent of multiculturalism, but to set up the “soft bigotry of low expectation” on the eve of the debate seems more than a little disingenuous.
I admit that despite being a fiscal conservative I find the Governor’s reported biblical literalism out of step with my preferred post-Darwinian point of view. I realize, too, that any number of proud social conservatives have expressed reservations over Palin’s readiness and/or suitability for the position of Vice President. But it behooves us to grant Governor Palin her time in the limelight, to approach the evening with as open a mind as is possible as we focus on the issues important to the voters – the economic bailout being considered by congress, deregulation, Iraq, taxes, and health care to name a few obvious issues more important than the fact a professional journalist from a non-commercial network is also an author. It’s not time to distract us by creating false controversy about the moderator.
Yes, it’s false controversy, though the echo chamber that surrounds right-wing pundits was in full fettle today. Ultimately even the Fox network (surely at least as “in the tank” for the Republican ticket as Ms. Ifill is accused of being for the Democrats) had to concede that Senator McCain has the utmost respect for Gwen Ifill, and is more than satisfied that she’ll serve ably and professionally as a moderator.
In fact, we arguably learn more about a candidate from a slightly adversarial interviewer (or moderator) than we would from somebody lobbing easy questions. Governor Palin is something of an unknown on the national political scene in the U.S., and the campaign has not to this point made her very available for interviews or press conferences. This is her chance to shine – and I, for one, expect her to do a creditable job in the spotlight. This is not her first debate, and anyone ready to be Vice President surely has to be ready, willing, and able to handle questions from a PBS moderator in a controlled situation.
Much ado about nothing
Will Ms. Ifill present more rigor than Charlie Gibson or Katie Couric? Probably so. The late Tim Russert might have been rugged in this sort of context, but Gwen Ifill? Why are the right-leaning pundits so concerned? Why are they making this about people, not issues? And even if she is up against a more experienced, worldly debater in Senator Joe Biden, she’s been prepping for weeks; it’s show time!
She’s not being asked to talk to Jon Stewart, after all.
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September 23, 2008
Even if the Department of the Treasury recovers some the Wall Street bailout funds over time, the idea of spending perhaps $700 billion or more on top of our current national deficit is mind-boggling. Can somebody justify for me why countless families are losing their homes while executives at these “failed” and restructured corporations earned hundreds of millions of dollars but aren’t being asked to return any of it? Can you tell me?
I heard an analogy from Professor Roy Grow, the Frank B. Kellogg Professor of International Relations in the Carleton College‘s Department of Political Science, to help you think about what’s set up the crisis on Wall Street. The international relations program was originated in 1937 by former Secretary of State and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Frank B. Kellogg, through the establishment at Carleton of the Kellogg Foundation for Education in International Relations.
I’ll paraphrase Professor Grow’s dialectical discussion:
Imagine you’ve got ten large, healthy, competitive men gathered together. Set the task for them: win a game of basketball. They’ve all played basketball before. In fact, they’re quite good at it. But this isn’t college, with some fans of both teams cheering them on, there won’t even be a referee to call fouls or out-of-bounds. All the rules they’ve dealt with learning the game? Effectively gone, because you’ve deregulated the game.
Who will win?
There’s a fundamental problem with deregulation of the kind – and scope – that has taken place on Wall Street. Once there’s no reward for playing by mutually agreeable rules the ONLY reward is winning – at any cost. The value of deregulation seemed so great: let free markets determine what’s best; let competition determine the practices without the restricting burden of oversight.
In what other industry would you have confidence enough to let the people with the most to gain act without regulation? Would car companies be so concerned with passenger safety without regulation? Would you want doctors to practice unregulated- no assurance they’d act with YOUR best interest in mind? Lawyers? Accountants? Toy Manufacturers? Food processors? I’m not suggesting there’s nothing good about a free-market economy, nor am I suggesting every insurance company or investment firm is run by greedy executives, but there have been snake-oil salesmen preying upon the unwary since before the dawn of history as nearly as I can determine.
At one time we might have run such fast talkers out of town, or even applied tar and feathers, or worse. The notion that we’d let them leave smiling, with everything they’d pilfered intact, on their own schedule and terms? That, my friends, is a farce.
We’ve got a big problem. We’ve left foxes guarding the chicken coop. To borrow a phrase freighted with partisan overtones, we need to be “as careful getting out as we were careless getting in…” to this mess. I don’t pretend to know what the solution is; economics is not my forte, nor that of most of my close associates. I do know this: hasty proposals abound in any perceived crisis, but unless you’ve already been expecting the problem and have a plan in place taking time to consider several reasoned solutions often yields superior outcomes to adopting either the first idea or the one advanced by the loudest voice.
I’m disappointed, but not surprised, that some have tried to use the crisis for their own political and/or financial gain. That confirms the readiness of snake-oil salesmen and their ilk to exploit any suffering for their own personal advancement, and demonstrates one peril of trusting the lofty ideal of a free-market to work to everyone’s mutual benefit in the never-ideal real world.
Given that it’s tax dollars about to be put to use to repair the damage, given the complexity of the system(s), and balancing that complexity against the obvious repercussions to inaction, I hope a transparent set of priorities will allow wiser men than me to conceive and begin to implement the kind of oversight that has obviously been missing from this segment of the economy for years.
Given, lastly, that Senator Barack Obama had the foresight to write publicly to both Fed Chairmen Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Paulson about his concerns over looming repercussions from the questionable lending practices at the foundation of this crisis in March of 2007: Obama’s got both the fundamental familiarity and the network of advisors to facilitate identifying fiscal policy changes that should be on the table. It’s unfortunate that such an exercise would likely disrupt Obama’s presidential campaign, but he and his team have already given the problem serious thought; they must be included in the process.
September 11, 2008
Well before we had to bail out mortgage lenders, Obama was trying to get people to pay attention to the foreclosure crisis… but the thrust of this segment is a clear answer to a toughly worded question about Capital Gains taxes.
Gibson tried to get him to back off his stance in the early spring, but here we are in autumn and he’s maintaining the exact same answers. Obama understood the pressure the housing market was under, he’d written to Bernanke and Paulson over a year earlier – in March of 2007. He gets how taxes and the credit crisis he saw coming relate to the larger structures of our economy overall.
So, if you’re getting rumors in your email about Obama taxing water, or IRAs, or other accounts explicitly designed to be tax free, and wondering why the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg prefer his policies? Do your homework, because Obama has a clear understanding of our economy and the value of genuinely responsible “pay as you go” fiscal policies.
If you’ve heard Obama has a plan to double our taxes, or tax the profits from home sales or other capital gains at a higher rate than McCain? Find an objective, non-partisan source, and soak up the facts.
The media has no interest in informing you; they sell commercials to earn their living so they will entertain you and use the language of an announcer calling a horse race. They are trivializing a critical national election, and hoping you won’t notice because you’ll be too awed by their fancy graphics and analysis – is this Monday Night Football, or an election for the U.S. President?
An informed electorate can pick the superior candidate. You may or may not agree with my views, but you owe it to yourself, your family, and future generations to be well-informed before you vote.
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September 7, 2008
What does Gov. Palin think of the VP position?
Why did Karl Rove flip flop on the value of Mayoral and Gubenatorial experience? He said Tim Kaine lacked credentials, yet Sarah Palin has more than enough?