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Joe the Plumber

Before I watch a Presidential debate (or VP debate) there is a glimmer of hope inside me that I might hear just a few minutes of discussion that is not complete nonsense. While last night’s was not nearly as bad as some previous debates, two canards were oft repeated and I wonder what they really mean.

  1. “Working Families” – has anyone just stopped for a moment to think about what that means? Who is in a working family? From the way these candidates talk, it feels like what they mean by working family is inversely related to how much work a family actually does. Am I not someone the candidates want to “fight for”? I work. In fact, I work two and three jobs at time. Or is the problem that I like my job? Or something else?
  2. At so and so rally in Apple Pie City, OH, I met Joe the Plumber and his wife Carol … and boy do they have it tough! Where to begin? In states like the one I live in (MA), you need a license to practice as a plumber. It is illegal for me to go over to my neighbor’s house to fix a faucet, install a drain , etc. It’s for my neighbor’s safety of course. That’s the baptist story of course. The bootlegger part comes when you realize that in the name of safety we want to restrict the ability of citizens to enter the plumbing profession – so as to not compete with folks who happen to be “certified” to do so. Joe the Plumber may have some issue with health care expenditures, or what have you, but what Joe the Plumber does NOT have to deal with, and many “working families” do, is the threat of competition from people better able to do the job and people willing to do it for a lower salary. One thing to keep in mind is that my salary is substantially lower than the rest of my colleagues here in economics, yet I assure you that they are not feeling threatened by my existence and that I am very happy with the outcome. In any case, even if you can roll out Joe the Plumber, Larry the Cable guy, Suzie the seamstress, etc. from each and every one of your rallies, why should I believe that they are representative of the people that are spread across America? After all, many of us have good reasons not to be at those rallies. And in a country of 305 million people it sure is simple to pull out some sob stories. The real sob story is that the rest of us take these seriously.

One Response to “Joe the Plumber”

  1. Patrick says:

    Listening to them talk about Joe the Plumber is like, I quote “having Apple Pie condensed into a boiling-hot liquid and having that searing mixture injected straight into your eyeballs”

    The whole time I couldn’t help but wonder why I really care about what Joe the Plumber thinks. I mean, seriously? So much pointless media attention.

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