Monday, November 3, 2008

Joe the Plumber, another senseless distraction

The "Joe the Plumber" slogan has apparently caught on with Republicans. Several of my friends and acquaintances have mentioned the motif in conversation, always accompanied by an "Obama the Socialist" reference. I'm sure it's been said elsewhere, but here are my top reasons why this is another senseless distraction emanating from the McCain campaign.

1) The individual reality. The actual Joe the Not-Really-a-Plumber, makes less than $250K per year, and would reap more tax savings from the Obama plan than the McCain plan. It's worth taking another look at this, from the Chartjunk blog:

2) The broader reality. Every single governmental tax structure, anywhere, is redistributive in some way. Even under a proposed "flat tax," the spending would be redistributive. The question is not whether wealth gets redistributed, but to whom, upward or downward? Through rational or irrational mechanisms? Bush's tax cuts (and McCain's plan) redistribute wealth upward (from the 2000 status quo, not some mythical non-redistributive state). Indeed, Obama does want to "spread the wealth around," and Republicans have some good arguments about why he shouldn't, but it doesn't involve demagogic attacks on Obama the Socialist.

3) The symbolism. "Joe the Plumber" is supposed to represent the populist economic appeal of the Republican party. Really? After the last 8 years, we're supposed to believe that they're the party of the lower and middle classes?

4) The hypocrisy. Both McCain and Palin have made statements very similar to Obama's in recent years, explaining why the U.S. needs a decent safety net, or a (somewhat) progressive tax structure. McCain is not proposing a flat tax, and never has proposed a flat tax. Are McCain and Palin therefore "socialists" as well?

Like I said, there is a reasonable argument that conservatives have against progressive taxes, even though I don't buy it. Briefly, taxes should be low overall in order to encourage growth. Tax rates should be relatively equal because of how conservatives interpret fairness and justice principles.

But again, I understand, this is a presidential campaign, not a rational debate. This is about throwing labels at someone and seeing if one will stick.


Acrobat said...

Just yesterday I emailed out that Tax Policy Center chart. I'd like to see a flat tax, but at this point in time, I like Obama's tax plan more than McCains (probably b/c I don't make too much dough).

Even from a 2000 status quo, I'm not sure "redistribute wealth upward" is a fair comment.

Yes, how many rally attendees have income over $226,000?

Anonymous said...

Would someone explain how it is that people accept the Republican Party as populist? How does the average Joe and Jane (not Joe the plumber) square this with Republican economic policies?
I don't believe that folks are brainwashed or downright stupid. Are there any studies done on this?