Last night's presidential debate featured many mentions of Joe, the plumber – a guy who came to a campaign rally and talked to Obama about his concern that raising taxes on those who make over $250,000 a year would affect his ability to buy a plumbing business.
Let's take a closer look at Joe. I'm confident that there's more to learn about him, but here's a good start.
First, if you watch the video of Joe's conversation with Obama you'll see Obama explain how his tax plan is good for small businesses.
Very few clear $250,000 or more, so raising the marginal tax rate at that level to 39% (from 36%) isn't a big deal. Further, Obama points out that if his plan had been in effect, with his current income Joe would have been paying less taxes, allowing him to save up money to buy the plumbing business more quickly.
Second, the notion that someone bringing home $250,000 a year is an "average Joe" is ridiculous. If he's making that much profit, he's far from a typical small business owner. As Joe Biden said:
"John [McCain] continues to cling to the notion of this guy Joe the plumber," Biden said on NBC's "Today" show. "I don't have any Joe the plumbers in my neighborhood that make $250,000 a year."
"The Joe the plumbers in my neighborhood, the Joe the cops in my neighborhood, the Joe the grocery store owners in my neighborhood, they make, like 98 percent of the small businesses, less than $250,000 a year."
Yes, the average wage for plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters in the United States in 2007 was $47,350.
Third, Joe the Plumber isn't exactly a regular guy in other respects. Let's count some ways.
(1) He doesn't have a plumbing license, nor does his employer, even though the county where he lives requires one.
(2) He's behind on his tax bill, owing the state of Ohio $1,182 in personal income taxes.
So Joe the Plumber (Joe Wurzelbacher) doesn't strike me as an unwashed voter who just happened to feel like asking Obama a question about taxes.
My bet is that as more is learned about Joe, we're going to find some connections between him and the McCain campaign. Desperation breeds dirty tricks, and McCain is certainly desperate.
[Update: Blue Oregon has a good "Lessons from Joe the Plumber" post. More strangeness revealed.]