The Rosett Report

Joe the Plumber Meets the Wealth Spreader

Obama’s colloquy with Joe the Plumber sure got my attention, and not just because it was the star feature of the final presidential debate. I’m worried that in the communal paradise promised by Obama, there’s going to be a horrendous shortage of plumbers.

After all, once Obama’s wealth-spreaders arrive to start carting away more of Joe’s hard-earned money, why should Joe bother with all that hard work? He won’t be doing it for himself, or his family, or his private dreams and ambitions. He’ll be toiling away on other people’s drains so that officials of an extremely large government can take away even more of his income than they do right now.

Of course, these public servants will have to be paid for their own hard work in deciding where and how to spread Joe’s money around — or whatever is left of Joe’s money, once all the government deciders and spreaders are done with it. If history and human nature are any guide, they will use their powers to foster all sorts of new entitlements and interest groups, on top of the old ones, which will mean even more people figuring out ways to spread around yet more of Joe’s money.

So, just try phoning Joe the plumber when your sink backs up, or a pipe springs a leak. He’ll have better uses for his time, like not working to make more money so the Obamocracy can take it away.  

Joe just might feel that his wealth has been spread around quite enough already. If Joe has been a prudent spender, current on his mortgage and faithfully paying his taxes, he’s already on the hook for the wealth-spreading done in the name of happy home-ownership by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. If Joe has been putting away money for a private pension (because with good reason he doesn’t trust the government’s Social Security plan to someday pay out to him the way he’s paying out for others right now), he’s just seen his pension account trashed by the market implosions triggered by Freddie and Fannie. You get the idea.

Obama’s breezy remarks to Joe are the voice of the Harvard Man talking down to the Plumber, and somewhere in there, it starts to sound like Orwell’s Big Brother talking to Winston: “It’s not that I want to punish your success. I just want to make sure that everybody who is behind you, that they’ve got a chance for success too,” said Obama. “I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.”

Oh really? Who’s the “you” who’s going to do the spreading? It’s not Joe. If Joe was using his income himself to buy things he wants and can afford, he was already spreading the wealth around — and in the process helping to create real jobs, and real value, probably with a lot more knowledge and efficiency than the government ever could.

But in Obamaworld, the government can do a much better job than Joe himself of spreading Joe’s wealth. So who cares what Joe wants? Once the IRS gets done with him, other government officials must be empowered to decide who, exactly, qualifies as being “behind” Joe. Should that include people who had the same opportunities to make money as Joe the Plumber, but decided they’d rather do something they like more, but which pays less? Should Joe be required to subsidize third-string artists, middle-aged sociology students, unemployed bankers and beach bums? And someone has to decide exactly what it is that other people are supposed to need, and when, and how often, and what government hoops (held by paid government hoop-holders) they have to jump through to get it.

Joe himself may even discover that if he cuts back enough on his work and income, then instead of being required to fork out more taxes, he may qualify for all sorts of government refunds and incentives and handouts. These tend to come with all sorts of government lines and mistakes and complexities — hey, it’s government, the folks who create your IRS forms! So Joe, will be doing even less plumbing, and more paperwork.  

And what about people who through no fault of their own are born poor, and need opportunities to realize the American dream? Joe won’t be offering them jobs, or paying them for goods and services  — because he’ll be cutting back on business. After all, the wealth-spreaders have reduced his incentives to earn more money, and increased his incentives to spend time figuring out how to get a piece of the growing government dole. If there are fewer people behind Joe, that might just be because he will now be waiting in government lines next to them. And as tax rates go up, and more plumbers cut back on work, tax revenues will go down. The government lines will get even longer. Forget the American dream. Welcome to the nightmare.

Seems like a no-brainer. Except, who am I kidding? These days, it also seems that spin and slick presentation are all. Right now, the news networks are out there trolling for the real Joe the Plumber, who is going to be a hot item for at least the next 20 minutes — and if he breathes a word implying support of Obama, even by accident, it will be served up as the ultimate pitch for taking away, and spreading around, the wealth of an army of anonymous toilers in the drains and trenches and workshops and offices of the American economy.

I am bracing for the Katie Couric production in which we get the heavily edited version of Joe the Patriotic Plumber, thrilled to pay taxes so Obama can spread around the wealth. To be followed by some variation on Joe, doing Saturday Night Live, yucking it up with Tina Fey? It will be funny, at least until the election is over, and the toilet breaks, and the plumber can’t be bothered to come fix it, because he’d have to turn over most of his fee to the tax man. If Obama wins, then maybe along with the semi-nationalized banking system he will inherit, and the grand wealth-spreading he has in mind, he can set up a federal program to provide state-subsidized plumbing for all. He can use some of Joe’s dwindling wealth to help pay for it.

UPDATE: After I put up this post, someone sent me an interview that Family Security Matters just did with the Joe the Plumber, the real McCoy. After reading it, I’d guess Katie Couric won’t be asking him around for any interviews. But I’d absolutely recommend this one as worth reading. Here’s a link, and here’s a sample:

“Some people will say, “Well, I’m not gonna work for the stars or shoot for ‘em because if I do, I’m gonna be punished, or I’m gonna be subjugated to more taxes,” or for whatever they wanna do. So yeah, I would agree to that to a point. Some people will say, “Well you know, I still want this, I’m still gonna work hard and try to make that happen for myself” And then other people are gonna sit back – and then you look at mediocrity for the country, and I don’t like that idea.”