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Can All These Joes Be Wrong?

by BobHiggins Thu Oct 16th, 2008 at 05:50:15 PM EST

Note: The cartoon is the logo of the real Joe the Plumber in Amarillo. Send him some business, I'm told that he's an Obama guy. If his website takes off because of all this attention maybe he can switch from actual plumbing to an online plumbing advice column. Bob

The month began with Sarah Palin celebrating her campaign's close identification and long association with "Joe Six Pack," the mythic every man vision of America that he and they dream that they represent.

Then in last night's "debate" came "Joe the Plumber," a guy who claims that he wants to buy a business which "makes" 250k a year and he's worried about Obama's tax policies. Who's next, Joe Bananas, Joe Cool, Joe Mama?

Forgetting for the moment that I have strong suspicions that "Joe the Plumber" is a ringer. Yes, nefarious as it sounds I'm afraid that Joe may be, a not too carefully selected, and poorly rehearsed plant from the McCain camp. He was probably chosen by the same group of desperately drunken political geniuses who trotted out Sarah Palin.

Joe the plumber should probably rethink this entrepreneurship thing if he believes that a business that "makes" 250k a year means that he will have an income at that level. A good plumber working steadily by himself with occasional labor help is doing extremely well to gross a quarter of that.

If he has a fleet, (say ten or so) of trucks and plumbers, journeymen, apprentices and laborers, after subtracting all the labor costs, the cost of running a fleet of trucks, licenses, insurance, workman's compensation, accounting, professional and trade dues, the occasional legal fee, and a grand old pile of headache and ulcer remedies he might achieve an income of two thirds that figure.

At that level he will remain well beyond the reach of the sinister tax increases that he has been told to fear.

But this isn't about Joe is it? Joe is just a caricature of what the McPalins and the conservative ruling class they represent, views as a typical member of America's hands on working class, the beefcake entrepreneur, their delusional "hard hat" wet dream.

I tried to point out in a "loose sally of the mind" last week the error in assuming that any one can predict who Joe Six Pack will vote for, or guess what information and how much information he (or she) will base their decision on.

Joe Six Pack or Joe the Plumber is all over the map politically; he has, at times, been the core supporter of the "New Deal," an avid participant in the Great Society as well as a reactive member of the "Silent Majority" and the "Reagan Revolution."

I share a few jars several times a week with several different versions of Joe and Jill and just when I think that I have them figured out they surprise me by doing or saying something that is outside of the character I had assigned them.

Guess the fluctuations of the stock market if you will, come up with a system for roulette or carry water up the hill bare handed, read tea leaves, but leave Joe and his brothers and sisters out of your prognostications; they will only disappoint and embarrass you.

Bob Higgins
Worldwide Sawdust

Related stories:
Different 'Joe the Plumber' strikes 'Net gold
Purging Joe the plumber?

I note with interest your back-of-envelope calculations. Taken together, the careful reader gets a rough sketch of the US structural economy and its integrity or lack thereof. The main point of your article is a subtle reminder, how income denotes identity and motives -- Joe*'s political economy. And how Americans' aspirations to "professionalism" are expressed by the so-called discourse. This is a profound passage.

Joe Six Pack or Joe the Plumber is all over the map politically; he has, at times, been the core supporter of the "New Deal," an avid participant in the Great Society as well as a reactive member of the "Silent Majority" and the "Reagan Revolution."

Here's the sketch. Let's assume amounts of gross income are average, (*) 35 hr/wk, 49 wk year

Joe Plumber -- $62K. (Incidentally, that figure reinforces 2007 census.gov reported HH --1 or more-- median income.)
(a) wage or salaried employee  (ex. CA union scale, $36/hr*)

Joe Plumber -- $274K
(b) sole proprietor  (ex. WA prevailing wage $160/hr), no "fleet"

Joe Plumber -- $166K (per your estimate of gross revenue, ≤ $250K)
(c) incorporated - estimated salary: $96/hr*, implies ≥ 1 employee "fleet," union scale min + mark-up. Amazing!

Looks like entrepreneurship isn't quite a losing proposition for easy-going Joe, afterall, as compared to reliable wage labor. Just so the All-American ambivalence, hostility even, toward unions' real efficacy through collective bargaining  can crystallize in the form of Joe "Plumber," American joke.

The uncanny element of this MSM episode is the magic number $250K income. There's a tax story underlying differentials in earning potential which Joe (b) and Joe (c) represent. That is how best to escape the "doughnut hole" of the Neo-New Dealer agenda ( $102K > i < $250K) and simultaneously the Alternative Mininum Tax (AMT). Estudio:

summary of EESA (effective tax emendments in the Bailout Bill) | randomly selected CPA

EESA provides a one-year "patch" that increases the AMT exemption. For married couples filing jointly, the 2008 exemption is $69,950. For singles and heads of households, it's $46,200, and for married filing separately, it's $34,975. These amounts are up slightly from 2007, but significantly higher than what they would have been for 2008 without the patch -- $45,000, $33,750 and $22,500, respectively.

The patch also expands the AMT income ranges over which the exemptions phase out and only partial exemptions are available. The 2008 phaseout ranges are now $150,000 to $429,800 for married filing jointly, $112,500 to $297,300 for singles and heads of households, and $75,000 to $214,900 for married filing separately. The exemption is completely phased out if AMT income exceeds the top of the applicable range.

cf. Dem whip | IRS processing S, C, 1040 | Universe of refundable and non-refundable "tax credits"

Americans are feral. Neither candidates nor MSM "economists" are going to air their opinions of the real impact of tax cuts on federal deficit spending that will drives federal and state budget defaults on basic social services. Better to indulge Joe Everyman's conceits -- nationalism and tax burden which demands relief. Sadly, "professional" salaried employees like Joe (a) and unlike licensed employees like Joe Atty or Dr Joe HMO, are exempt from scrutiny. Messrs McCain and Obama lump them in a "middle-class" audience which excludes Joe Plumber. The grift is a kind of shadow-boxing the enemy of federal income tax obligation and democratic unity formerly-known-as "solidarity" .

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Fri Oct 17th, 2008 at 01:50:43 PM EST
I really just winged the numbers based on my experience as a self employed carpenter/cabinetmaker.

If I did it your way with all the research and calculations I'd never get over the headache.

Thanks for taking time to comment.



by BobHiggins (rlh974@yahoo.com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 04:34:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The unlicensed scofflaw, Joe | Bloomberg

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 03:07:59 AM EST

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