I didn't write much about the CPAC conference today because ... well ... it's so darned irrelevant. What's to say about a hotel ballroom full of right wing zealots, angry white guys, gun nuts, neocon leftovers and ... Joe the Plumber... (Sigh.) Yes, he's still hanging around (and he's still not a plumber) ... not selling many books, though... (Where is Human Events when you need them to buy in bulk??? Oh, right... they're having financial troubles because the evil conspiracy of the Commie Postal Service.) From an email appeal today entitled "We're in Trouble, We Need Your Help":
It pains me terribly to write a letter like this, but a crisis that threatens the very existence of HUMAN EVENTS forces me to ask for your help.
Let me explain...
You may recall that, just over a year ago, the federal government's taxpayer-subsidized mail-delivery monopoly -- aka the United States Postal Service -- hit us with a whopping 20 percent rate increase that drove up our annual delivery costs by more than $120,000. [Emphasis added]
Well, believe it or not, they've just done it again.
That's right: the USPS is hitting us with yet another postal increase that will jack up our annual delivery costs by an additional $51,568.
Together, this one-two punch of rate hikes amounts to more than $170,000 in increased annual delivery costs -- a staggering sum that we simply can't afford.
Now, it's outrageous enough that the USPS can continually jack up our rates without fearing any loss of our business to more cost-efficient competitors -- something it can do ONLY because federal law effectively protects it from private competition.
But what really burns me up is that these increases are part of a new rate system that was designed in part by lobbyists for liberal media giant Time Warner and other large publishers to benefit themselves at the expense of smaller competitors such as HUMAN EVENTS. ...
...Please send as large a gift as you possibly can. Our readers have never let us down in the past. We appreciate all your support over the years -- and thanks in advance for your generous assistance today.
Tom Winter President and Editor in Chief, HUMAN EVENTS
So CPAC was down to jokes about Obama not being a citizen, jokes from The Moustache about blowing up Chicago, and oh, yeah, the increasingly lonely intellectual, Newt Gingrich. Maybe they could get Michael Steele to come down and perform some hip-hop???
For all the sarcasm and accusations of socialism directed at President Obama, their immediate anger is focused on party purging before rebuilding. “Why is ‘the architect’ [Karl Rove] giving free advice, even as people like us crawl from the rubble of the collapsed structure built from his blueprints?” asks National Review contributing editor Deroy Murdock. “Imagine clicking on the TV and catching a show called Cooking with Typhoid Mary.”
Colmes: Do you really doubt that Barack Obama's loyalty to the United States?
Plumber: Ah...to a Democracy "yes," I mean, right back to the, as far as the Socialism issues, spreading the wealth around. I mean, Alan that is right out of Karl Marx.....Webster dictionary...government health care...
Colmes: You don't think he's loyal to our country?
Plumber Joe: To democracy? He's proposing a lot of changes that could change the core of America, don't you think?
Plumber Joe: Was it patriotic for Joe Biden to say "take my money and give it to other people? That's patriotism?
Colmes: Well, let me ask, you were on welfare once, was that taking somebodies else's money and giving it to you?
Plumber Joe: Paid into welfare. It something to be used, not to be abused like it often is.
Here's the video:
And there's more: Now, it seems, our favorite welfare recipient/non-plumber/country music legend in the making is forming his own "watchdog group," to hold President Obama accountable. That'll do, Joe. That'll do. (Oh, and "Joe's" cool new website for his exciting new venture will also promote his new book! ... which should be a nice stocking stuffer for Dittoheads everywhere (but psst! Get a ghost writer, Joe! Your command of the English language leaves something to be desired...)
He really is better than the network he finds himself on ...
The Fox News anchor forced to live through yet another strange Joe the Plumber interview as the Average Superstar bungles more precious moments of his 15 minutes of fame with Palinite babbling. Here's a bit of Joe's eternal wisdom. Asked if he really meant it when he "went ahead and agreed with" a McCain supporter who suggested a vote for Barack Obama would mean the death of Israel...
PLUMBER: No, that is just my personal opinion that I've come up with by looking into different facts and what I think. That is what my message has been about. I haven't been telling people to go out and vote. Listen, you don't want my opinion on foreign policy. I know just enough about foreign policy to probably be dangerous.
SMITH: That is what I was wondering. I wonder if you think it is dangerous at all for people to say that a vote for Barack Obama is the same as a vote for Israel, if you think that is dangerous for people to start believing. What happens if the polls are right and he becomes President of the United States and people start thinking that this means the death of Israel. Are you worried about what people might do if they actually believe something like that?
PLUMBER: That goes back to what I just got done saying. Some people believe it wholeheartedly. This gentleman I spoke to is Middle America. Therefore...it is very important to him -- important to me, but especially important to this gentleman. He is Middle America and he was able to get on there and make his point, and I agreed with him. I have no idea where John McCain's position is on that. John McCain is his own person, just like I am.
JTP is all McCain's now -- he's campaigning for him, dontcha know! Which should work really well with swing voters ... did I mention that he doesn't want his Social Security checks when he retires? Maybe he could sit next to "Jomama" on the bus and keep her company, since apparently, John McCain has fallen for Joe, and out of love with her.
When I heard the story about the McCain volunteer who was supposedly attacked (by a "tall, black man," no less) and had a "B" carved into her face just because she had a McCain sticker on her car, my BS detector definitely went off. First off, the old "big black guy attacked me" meme is always shady. Second, was the attacker using a mirror to do his handiwork? Because the "B" is "B"ackwards. How did that happen? Well, as it turns out, the old BS detector is working just fine:
A McCain campaign volunteer who reported that a tall black man robbed her and then cut a "B" onto her cheek after seeing a McCain bumper sticker on her car has been given a polygraph test because of "inconsistencies" in her story, police said.
Among other things, police said photos and bank card information from an automated teller machine where the college student claimed she was robbed do not show her using the machine at the time, police said.
Pittsburgh police spokeswoman Diane Richard wouldn't release the polygraph results, but said, "we're still looking at some inconsistencies" in the woman's story.
Police said the student, Ashley Todd, of College Station, Texas, who is white, told them she was attacked by a 6-foot-4 black man Wednesday night.
Richard said police have not ruled out that the woman was attacked as she claimed, and said inconsistencies deal primarily with how she described the attack.
"We're just trying to judge the validity of some of the information we received from her," Richard said. "We understand when you are under duress that sometimes you can't recollect things. We're just looking at all the angles."
Among the differences in her accounts are whether she lost consciousness, whether she remembers handing over money and how the man assaulted her, police said.
The report of the attack Thursday prompted the Republican presidential candidate and his running mate, Sarah Palin, to call Todd expressing their concern. Barack Obama's campaign also issued a statement wishing Todd well and hoping the attacker would be swiftly brought to justice.
And speaking of people seeking their 15 minutes of fame, how about that Joe the Plumber?
Joe Wurzelbacher, a.k.a. "Joe the Plumber," said Friday he may consider running for Congress in 2010, challenging longtime Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D) in the Toledo-area district.
"I'll tell you what, we'd definitely be in one heck of a fight," Wurzelbacher said during an appearance on the Laura Ingraham show Friday, "but, you know, I'd be up for it."
"There is a movement afoot to draft you to run for Congress," Ingraham said. "Joe, let me tell you something: you decide to run for Congress, and I'll help you with your PR, I'll help you do your ads, I mean, I'll volunteer to help you."
Ingraham's producer, Brian Feldman, said that during the break after the segment, Wurzelbacher told Ingraham that his statements today represent the first time he has acknowledged considering a bid for Congress in public.
Wurzelbacher said he did agree with Kaptur's vote against the bailout, and touted his support for a flat tax on income.
And his run-up on Barack Obama was toooootally spontaneous, right? Riiiiiight...
Mr. Wurzelbacher told reporters Thursday morning that he worked for Newell Plumbing & Heating Co., a small local firm whose business addresses flow back to several residential homes, including one on Talmadge Road in Ottawa Hills.
According to Lucas County Building Inspection records, A. W. Newell Corp. does maintain a state plumbing license, and one with the City of Toledo, but would not be allowed to work in Lucas County outside of Toledo without a county license.
Mr. Wurzelbacher said he works under Al Newell’s license, but according to Ohio building regulations, he must maintain his own license to do plumbing work.
He is also not registered to operate as a plumber in Ohio, which means he’s not a plumber.
2. He's not about to buy a plumbing business, $250,000 or otherwise:
Mr. Wurzelbacher said he was hired by Mr. Newell six years ago and that the possibility of him eventually buying the company was discussed during his job interview.
3. He doesn't make anywhere near $250,000:
Mr. Wurzelbacher said he objects to Mr. Obama’s plans to raise income taxes on incomes above $250,000. He said he makes no where near that much money but he would not say how much he makes or if he ever expects to make $250,000. Court records from a divorce show Mr. Wurzelbacher made $40,000 in 2006.
4. He really, really doesn't want to pay taxes...
In January, 2007, the Ohio Department of Taxation placed a lien against him because $1,183 in personal property taxes had not been paid, but there has been no action in the case since it was filed.
5. He has ties to both Alaska and Arizona:
He said he was born in the Toledo area, lived until he was 13 in the Florida Panhandle area, went to Springfield High School, and then entered the U.S. Air Force. He was stationed at an Air Force base in Alaska from 1992 until 1995. He said he was honorably discharged.
Mr. Wurzelbacher also said he lived in Arizona from 1997 until 2000.
6. His Alaska ties could include Todd Palin... Wurzelbacher, who has described himself as a Sarah Palin fan, may also be tied to Wasila via Doug Wurzelbacher, a "31-year-old musher," as described by this Kos diarist, and who lived in Wasila while Palin was mayor. More on the Wasila connection from Progress Ohio:
Is Doug Wurzelbacher related to Joe Wurzelbacher AKA "Plumber Joe"?
According to the census, there are less than 175 Wurzelbachers in the country, and one of them lived in... WASILLA, ALASKA! and was involved in competitive snow racing.
Interestingly enough, according to this record, Robert Wurzelbacher is betting his presidential money on Bob Barr... 8. He may be purged from the voter rolls in Ohio by his party of choice. Per the Brennan Center for Justice:
... many thought Joe was not a registered voter. Turns out there was likely a misspelling in the Lucas County Board of Elections database. From the Blade: "Linda Howe, executive director of the Lucas County Board of Elections, said a Samuel Joseph Worzelbacher, whose address and age match Joe the Plumber's, registered in Lucas County on Sept. 10, 1992. He voted in his first primary on March 4, 2008, registering as a Republican. Ms. Howe said that the name may be misspelled in the database."
Politico's Ben Smith makes the connection that if Joe registered this year, he could be purged from the rolls under a 6th Circuit Court ruling on Tuesday.
That's because on Tuesday, following a lawsuit by the Ohio republican party, the court ordered Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner to disclose to local election officials the names of 200,000 new registrants whose names didn't match with state motor vehicle or federal Social Security databases. This list could be used by local election officials and party operatives to prevent these voters from casting ballots that will count. As Secretary Brunner knows and the Brennan Center demonstrated in the brief, almost all mis-matches are the result of typos and administrative errors—like in Joe's case.
The Brennan Center is trying to help Joe -- and the other 200,000 people the GOP is trying to purge -- to get their right to vote restored.
Mr Wurzelbacher told ABC he was "not even close" to earning $250,000, but worried that Senator Obama would increase taxes for those making less.
In a video interview with the Toledo Blade newspaper after the debate, Mr Wurzelbacher described himself as a man of modest means.
"You see my house. I don't have a lot of bells and whistles in here, really. My truck's a couple of years old and I'm going to have it for the next 10 years, probably. So I don't see him (Obama) helping me out."
He said he wasn't swayed by Obama's health-care pitch, either, describing it as "just one more step toward socialism."
Mr Wurzelbacher said he was pleased with Senator McCain's performance. "McCain came across with some solid points, and I was real happy about that," he said.
He's also against Social Security, pro-Iraq invasion, wants to seal the borders and he's sick of people saying America isn't the greatest country in the world. In other words, he's a typical, right wing talk radio trained winger:
and last but not least:
10. He's the right wing's latest "common man" indulgence. They're absolutely smitten with his absolutely ordinariness. Move over Sarah, and like, also...
So far, the focus groups on CNN and MSNBC and even Fox indicate that for many swing and undecided voters, Joe the plumber, who was the star of last night's debate (along with Bob Schieffer, who was far and away the best moderator of the four we've seen during the general election,) might not be the best poster boy for John McCain's economic principles. Of course, conservatives went gaga over Joe Wurzelbacher, the Ohio man who (totally, completely spontaneously ... ahem ...) confronted Barack Obama at a campaign event about his tax policies, and how they would affect Joe if he went ahead with the purchase of the plumbing business he works for, which by toooootal coincidence, just happens to cost around $250,000 -- the cut-off under Obama's tax plan. The full video below:
For righties, Joe became an instant symbol of can-do capitalism being clobbered by the big, bad government, and Obama's retort that he wants to give tax breaks to people who don't have a quarter million dollars to invest and to "spread the wealth around" was the blood curdling shriek of socialism.
But here's the problem for the right: most Americans, who are struggling and some cases freaking completely out in this dismal economy, wouldn't mind spreading a little wealth around. The idea of everybody doing well isn't socialism to most people, it's opportunity to get ahead and to achieve (and hang onto) the American dream. The reason people felt good about the 90s was not that rich people and investors made money, but that for a time, it seemed that anyone could become a millionaire. The Larry Kudlow philosophy of the rich gwaking up all the baubles they can and to hell with the rest of us was fine for the 1980s, when "Dallas" and "Dynasty" were hot. Now? I doubt very many people are even watching "Cribs."
A very wise man (named Chris Matthews) said four years ago during a presentation for members of the media at Miami's American Airlines Arena (back when I was at NBC 6,) told us that "politics is about where you put the wedge in."If the wedge winds up between the middle class and the poor, such that the middle identifies more with the rich, even aspirationally, Republicans win. But when the wedge is between the rich and the middle class, such that those in the middle feel like they're getting poorer, Democrats win. This year, I think it's clear where the wedge is.
Which brings me back to Joe.
CNN sent a reporter to watch the debate with a family who had recently had their home foreclosed, and they were sour on Joe, mainly because they couldn't relate to a guy who's got $250,000 available to buy a company during these hard times (the father in the family, who is a Republican, also said he couldn't relate to McCain, because the Senator "has seven houses." Actually, I think it's at least eight ...)
In any event, let's take a closer look at Joe's story. First, his estimated earnings. From the Department of Labor:
Pipelayers, plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters are among the highest paid construction occupations. Median hourly earnings of wage and salary plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters were $20.56. The middle 50 percent earned between $15.62 and $27.54. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $12.30, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $34.79. Median hourly earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters were:
Natural gas distribution
Nonresidential building construction
Plumbing, heating, and air-conditioning contractors
Utility system construction
Meanwhile, the median hourly wage for all American workers was $15.10. That's not to say that people like Joe are "rich." I'd actually call $20 an hour middle class. But at that wage level, Joe would be in line for an Obama tax cut next year.
If, on the other hand, he were to earn $250,000 a year plumbing, that would put him in the top 1 percent -- that's ONE percent, of all American earners (and probably the top .0003% of plumbers.) That may not make a person rich, either, but in times like these, it sure ain't poor.
Second, if Joe buys a business that earns $250,000, I can't imagine he'd be paying himself all, or even most of that, which means his own income would again fall within the 95 percent of Americans Obama would give a tax cut.
Third, in order for Joe to buy that business, if that's what he truly intends to do, he's gonna need more than $250K. As former Los Angeles Daily News columnist and post-newsroom budget cuts blogger, Steve Young points out:
... If we’re talking a business that is bottom lining at $250K, a standard business acquisition falls into the 4 to 1 investment area, which would call for Joe
is buying a business that is making a profit of exactly $250K, the Obama tax break minimum. A normal business acquisition falls into the 4 to 1 investment area, which would call for Joe to come up with $1,000,000 to purchase his $250K business. If that plumbing business had assets like trucks, equipment and offices, the cost could be far more.
Add to that Wurzelbacher doesn’t appear in the Toledo Yellow Pages listings, yet has been able to put together at least a million to invest, especially in these dire economic times, you begin to wonder whether Joe is a plumber or did someone in the McCain campaign find him in central casting?
Team McCain might want to back off from the new tack that "America didn't become great by spreading the wealth around," which he added to the candidate's stump speech today. Americans don't want to hear that the rich shouldn't pay more taxes, or that big corporations paying their executives tens, or even hundreds of millions of dollars, shouldn't have to provide basic healthcare coverage for their employees. Right wingers may like being hectored about tax cuts by talk radio hosts who sign $400 million contracts, get doped up on prescription pills in their Palm Beach mansions and fly around in private jets, but the rest of us are just not that stupid.
UPDATE: Turns out our friend Joe the Plumber has no plumbing license ... (and he insists he's no Matt Damon, either. Here's his actual quote (not making this up):
"I’m a flash in the pan, I’m not a megastar," Wurzelbacher said. "I’m not Matt Damon. I’m not any of those guys who have droves of women and men who want to be like them, that say 'Yeah, I’ll vote for him, because Matt Damon said so'."
Good to know!
UPDATE 2: Okay, you can't make this stuff up. A winger blogger close to the McCain campaign (or so he says,) claims that Joe the Plumber is related to none other than Charles Keating:
John McCain did great tonight in the debate. But every time John mentioned “Joe the Plumber,” some of us in the campaign banged our heads against the wall. If Steve Schmidt had any hair left, I hear he would have been pulling it out tonight. He reportedly screamed at John’s debate prep team tonight (out of earshot of reporters, of course). “You idiots - he’s related to Charles Keating… of the Keating Five scandal!” They thought they had a real live Joe Six-Pack who’s spurned Barack Obama’s tax plan. But what they forgot to do was check on Joe Wurzelbacher’s background.
Does any of this make Joe the Plumber a bad guy? Of course not. In fact, after that ill-fated night at the Watergate, he may finally be giving plumbers a good name. But at a debate where John goes full bore on Obama for guilt-by-association with William Ayers (and dodges a bullet by Obama not mentioning Keating Five), the press is going to bring it back front and center by midday tomorrow once they delve deeper into the most popular plumber in America.
UPDATE 2: It also turns out Joe, who wasn't at that rally by accident (he told ABC News he was contacted by the McCain campaign and "asked to show up at a rally...") doesn't have to worry about a tax increase under an Obama presidency, he has to worry about getting Wesley Sniped by the IRS because he doesn't pay his taxes.
UPDATE 3: A DailyKos diarist does some digging on Central Casting Joe:
Wurzelbacher had already met McCain, and per his story saw Obama walking through his neighborhood while he was out, and he walked over to get involved as he "always wanted to ask these guys a question and really corner them." On Obama’s answers to his questions, old ‘Joe The Plumber’ felt "unfortunately I still got a tap dance ... almost as good as Sammy Davis Jr."
It certainly made for good anecdotal reference. And the post debate interview made great RNC spin.
Yet something there seemed a bit too standard issue FOX News to me.
So after after some digging I found that Joe is indeed a registered Republican. No surprise.
But then I began wondering if old Joe The Plumber communicated this to the McCain campaign? The McCain camp, I’m sure, would see this as a wonderful way to play off Joe as a common connection during the debaters, and someone who was presumed by many (or at least played up to be) to be the quintessential uncommitted or independent voter in this middle American battleground state. Can you say "shill?"
It turns out that Joe’s dad is reported to be a heavy contributor to the GOP. Maybe Joe’s not quite such an independent voice after all. But again no surprise, this is America the polarized.
An unrelated final note, Joe it seems was at least accused of domestic violence by his first wife Jennifer according to papers filed in their divorce in Tucson back in 1997. Part of the court costs included the County’s charges for the Battered Women’s Shelter. http://apps.co.lucas.oh.us/...
Well, Joe’s just a regular guy all right. All the same fallibilities. And even the same pre-conceived allegiances. Nothing special.
John McCain may not intend to do squat for you, but if elected, he'll damn sure look out for Joe. ... the plumber. By the way, it's a great day to have a business called "Joe the Plumber," as this guy will probably tell you tomorrow ... or this guy ... or this guy here ... hey, I wonder if those guys had $250,000 in cash on hand to buy their plumbing businesses like "middle class" Joe? (And am I the only one who wouldn't think it's such a bad idea to "spread the wealth around" -- given that the opposite is "keeping the wealth in the hands of the wealthy and telling everybody else to go screw themselves???") That said, the CNN focus group hated all the "Joe the plumber" shtick. After about the 20th time, it was annoying... But Joe did get his 15 minutes of fame (or was that 90 minutes) ... and he'll always have his Youtube. Gnight Joe!
Hey, wait a second ... something about that Joe seems strangely familiar... could it be ... SHUT UP!!
Joe the plumber ... and those bald guys from the second debate!