Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Joe the Plumma!

As soon as John McCain mentioned "Joe the Plumber" in the debate, you knew there was going to be a media scrum. Hey, after falling for faux cowboys like Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, and faux warriors like – well, George W. Bush – did anyone think Chris Matthews and other millionaire reg'lar folks could resist? McCain using Joe in ads full of misleading tax information doesn't help any for ignoring Joe.

There are many posts on Joe, but I agree with Thers' take that some of the personal information that's been posted (divorce records) is irrelevant and crosses the line. But, as Thers also says:

There is I think a legitimate question about how accurate he is on the specific grounds upon which he decided to challenge Obama face-to-face. He depicted himself as an Everyman who would be hurt by Obama's tax proposals. He made a specific claim about his economic status and ambitions, relative to what a candidate for president was saying. To that extent he made his own personal economic position fair game -- he brought it up, and clearly intended to put Obama on the spot in that confrontation through this kind of personalization. "Here is me, you don't get me."

There is, after all, a legitimate political and policy issue here. Will Obama's tax proposals, if enacted, do harm to actual or potential small business owners?

The fact that "Joe" was full of shit about this particular point is therefore relevant. And here are the relevant data:

In 2009 about 35 million tax returns will report some income from small businesses, according to Roberton Williams, principal research associate at the non-partisan Tax Policy Center. Of these only about 660,000 tax units — or 1.9 percent — would see an increase under Senator Obama’s tax proposal.

I don't really think you need to go much past that, frankly. This is a person who wants to go on wingnut media as the champion of an entire class of people who will be disadvantaged by a policy proposal, but the inescapable point is that even taking him at his word he would represent 1.6% of a relatively small slice of the entire middle class of Americans. That he wants to babble about "socialism" when the real issue is merely jiggering with the tax code is gravy. Carazy gravy, but gravy.

Thers also explains why the attention on "Joe the Plumber" isn't like the right-wing campaign against Graeme Frost (and yes, Michelle Malkin railing about personal attacks on Joe is absolutely ridiculous), but surely only Howard Kurtz would fall for that sort of false equivalency...

As with the number of John McCain's houses or his "100 years" remarks, Joe the Plumber himself isn't that important, but if he's used to move to the real issues and something substantive, fine. The media typically covers issues of wealth in a misleading fashion when they cover them at all, and the GOP sure as hell isn't going to help supply helpful, accurate information. For more, see Robert Borsage's "The Next Fight" and Bill Scher's "Smearing Tax Cuts As Handouts." There are plenty more where they came from and given the economic woes facing us, we need all the good discussion we can get.

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)


Anonymous said...

The Republicans don't want us to understand how taxes work. It's a strategy that's worked for them time and time again.

John J. said...

The thing that gets me about this is that of the 660,000 "small businesses" that will file a schedule C (the tax form these numbers are based on) half or more are people like Barack Obama and John McCain who file form because of their lucrative book deals. This whole argument is also based on the idea that business taxes and personal income taxes are treated in any way the same. They aren't. Small businesses will likely do better under Obama than under McCain because of all the targeted business tax breaks Obama is proposing. It is absolutely ridiculous to say that small businesses will have to close up because of an Obama presidency or that people won't be able to innovate.

pissed off patricia said...

My dad used to say, Put your ass up as a target and someone is going to shoot at it. Joe the Blunder, did just that. He liked the attention when it was all spotlight-ie, so now he has to take whatever else comes with it.

libhom said...

Why was the "Keating Five" McCain campaign so lazy that they couldn't find a middle class plumber instead of a rich guy who owns a plumbing company?