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"Joe The Plumber"

So the McCain/Palin campaign is all "Waah! Waah! The Democrats are attacking Joe the Plumber! They held him at gunpoint and made him ask Obama questions on TV! Now they're being mean to the honest working man! Waah!"

There's a difference between attacking and fact-checking.

There are lots of folks who use their middle names rather than their first names. I'm intimately familiar with this; it complicates maintaing employment and directory data. Other than its annoying impact on my professional life, I so don't care.

I do care about his lies.

Joe "The Plumber" Wurzelbacher told Obama that he's been a plumber for 15 years.

Now there's the technicality of his not being registered or licensed as necessary where he's working as a plumber. "But Ohio doesn't license plumbers!" Tell that to The Ohio Construction Industry Licensing Board. Tell that to Lucas County Building Regulations. Tell that to the Toledo Division of Building Inspection. It's a technicality, but a substantive one for his business prospects (more on that later).

The "15 years" is a clear and utter fabrication, though. Wurzelbacher was hired by A & W Newell Corp (or Newell Plumbing & Heating, depending on how you look at the business) 6 years ago. In November of 2003 he registered for an apprenticeship with the Ohio State Apprenticeship Council (hardly 15 years ago). The Ohio State Apprenticeship Council reports that he should have completed his apprenticeship last year, but they have no record that he completed it.

Joe "The Plumber" Wurzelbacher told Obama that he was getting ready to buy a Toledo plumbing company that made something over $250k/year and was worried about the tax impact.

There are so many levels on which this is a fabrication it's not funny.

"Getting ready to buy" apparently translates to Al Newell having mentioned during Wurzelbacher's interview the possibility of his buying the company some day. Wurzelbacher admitted he has no plans to buy A & W Newell anytime soon. Investigative reporting uncovered that his annual income is around $40k/year, hardly means to buy such a successful company. And, of course, he has no contractors licenses, which kind of kills that plan.

There's also the question of the success of the business. Is A & W Newell, the firm he was "getting ready to buy" a $250k/year firm? Public records show that Newell grosses a little over $100k/year. That's well under the ceiling for Obama's tax breaks. It's also gross; the taxable income of A & W Newell is going to be much lower if Newell's accountant is any good.

Finally, in from the McCain/Palin Campaign, Joe "The Plumber" Wurzelbacher didn't ask for any of this attention.

While it's true that Obama made a quickie campaign stop in Wurzelbacher's neighborhood, it's stretching things to say Obama came up to Wurzelbacher's house.

Wurzelbacher admitted he chose to approach Obama with his question. He could have kept his mouth shut and continued to live in obscurity, a face in the crowd. Instead, he tried to catch Obama with a loaded "gotcha!"

Rather than frame his question as a hypothetical situation (which would have been fine) he turned it into a fabricated personal narrative. Now you can't fact-check a hypothetical question. It's not a real situation, it's a construct. You can fact-check a personal narrative, it's not supposed to be a construct. Wurzelbacher did, in fact, ask for this attention.

Comments

( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
howeird
Oct. 21st, 2008 10:14 pm (UTC)
Sounds to me like McCain needs to fire all his advisors again. But having said that, a couple of nits:
Ohio does not license plumbers. They license people with at least 5 years of trade experience who have passed an exam plus a background check to be contractors overseeing plumbers. If Joe buys the company, one would expect him to retain their licensed employees. You don't need a personal contractor's license to own the company, any more than you need a pilot's license to own an airline.

I taught at a vocational school for a while, and many of the plumbing students had been doing plumbing for a decade before they were able to afford to enroll in our program. It's not far fetched for an apprentice to have been a non-union plumber for 15 years. Illegals do this all the time.

If your brother in law is named Keating, you can probably get a loan to buy a company. If small business owners needed to pay for their companies with their own money we wouldn't have many small businses.

bovil
Oct. 21st, 2008 10:43 pm (UTC)
Ohio licensing is arcane. State registration/licensing for contractors is driven by county and local licensing requirements, not the other way around.

The only employees of A & W Newell are Al Newell and Joe Wurzelbacher. Not many licensed employees to retain. Toledo was in the process last week of informing Wurzelbacher that he couldn't work as a plumber in Toledo without a Toledo plumber's license (regardless of Newell's license).

Unlicensed contractors are no surprise to me. I know more than a few people who have run contracting companies under the radar while getting their licensing, hoping that nothing ever went wrong and they never had a dispute with a customer. Quite a few of them did jobs that they never got paid for, because unlicensed contractors have very little legal recourse.

Getting a loan to buy a small business usually requires a business plan, something Wurzelbacher admitted he didn't have.
yourbob
Oct. 22nd, 2008 12:00 am (UTC)
The name thing has always puzzled me. Unless he regularly goes by Sam and lied about being Joe, it's kinda silly. "Sam the Plumber" v. "Joe the Plumber" is hardly a difference. My grandfather and his brother both went by their middle names literally all their lives. Their parents named them then promptly used their middle names. (which I'm grateful for. It was confusing enough to have three Bobs around the table).

It's also silly when McCain says "I'm sorry to do this to you" followed immediately with "Obama did it". Neither is really the case.
madoc62
Oct. 23rd, 2008 03:15 am (UTC)
Andy,

And what does anything about "Joe the Plumber" matter?

Whether the guy is actually a deep cover covert black op agent sent forth by The Rove or whether he's talking out his butt when it comes to his hopes and financial goals or whether he's actually just who he says he is - what does that matter?

How does any of that have any bearing on what Obama said?

This has all been a wonderful exercise in distraction here.

And, sadly, you folks have bitten into it deep.

It doesn't matter whether "Joe" is for real or is completely fake.

What does matter is Obama's answer.

That answer isn't fake. That answer isn't planted. That answer isn't the result of a precisely choreographed focus group psychological study or anything like that.

Obama's answer is Obama's. No one else's.

And Obama's answer shows yet another measure of the man.

I've no doubt that you and Kevin will either fit Obama's definition of being "rich enough to bleed" or will shortly after he's elected and decides he wants more money to "spread around."

At that point it won't matter one little bit about Joe.

I think what will be remembered by this is how the Obama campaign decided to mount an all out attack on Joe in an attempt to bury the damning nature of Obama's actual response.

Madoc
bovil
Oct. 23rd, 2008 06:20 am (UTC)
And what does anything about "Joe the Plumber" matter?

It matters because the Republicans are trying to run on "character" and they keep showing they don't have any.

I've no doubt that you and Kevin will either fit Obama's definition of being "rich enough to bleed" or will shortly after he's elected and decides he wants more money to "spread around."

At that point it won't matter one little bit about Joe.

I think what will be remembered by this is how the Obama campaign decided to mount an all out attack on Joe in an attempt to bury the damning nature of Obama's actual response.


If I didn't work for a government agency (for which I get the privilege of making about half what I could in the corporate world), we would likely make more than enough as a couple to fall into a tax bracket that Obama would increase taxes on. Since the Federal government refuses to see us as a couple, though, it will be a long time before either of us falls into a tax bracket that Obama would increase taxes on. I'm far more concerned about AMT for Kevin (not that he has that much unearned income, but his earned income is high enough to have to calculate for it).

I'm also not really concerned about paying taxes. You don't get government services and infrastructure for nothing (and I don't live in a fantasy land where living without government services is possible, much less ideal).

I am concerned about tax cheats and dodges (like Joe the Plumber). I am concerned with government waste (something I'm intimately familiar with, and work to reduce where I can). I'm not concerned about paying my share to support the infrastructure we need from the government.

The Obama campaign hasn't changed the answer Obama gave Joe the Plumber or their tax plan. It's still the same and it's still clear.

On one hand, you have a tax-and-spend Democrat (to use the old term). On the other hand, you've got a borrow-and-spend Republican, saving the taxes for the next generation. It's pretty much the pattern. Both parties want to spend, Democrats just are open about it and the costs.

Edited at 2008-10-23 06:26 am (UTC)
madoc62
Oct. 23rd, 2008 04:16 pm (UTC)
Andy,

If "Joe the Plumber" was running against Obama then the "character" issue might matter.

If "Joe the Plumber" could be the one to set the Federal economic policy for the rest of the nation then the "character" issue might matter.

But "Joe the Plumber" is not running for President. Thus, whether he's one of The Rove's secret operatives, a guy with bigger dreams than his budget allows, or whether he's just who he says he is, the guy's character doesn't matter.

What matters is what Obama said.

And the response by Obama since his "spread the wealth around" quote has been exactly the wrong thing.

And the attacks on "Joe the Plumber" as a means of distracting attention from Obama's quote are actually playing right into the hands of the Republicans.

Andy, calling "Joe the Plumber" a liar and a tax cheat isn't just a bit of hyperbole and it's not simply "stretching things for the cause." Due to the way this has been cast - and due to the way the Democrats have made it so - such attacks are being seen by a large number of middle class Americans as attacks on them as well.

The sneering, vicious and dismissive manner which to many DNC talking heads, Obama mouthpieces, and far, far to many of the Obama Faithful have handled this is only confirming the stereotype that the Democrat party no longer cares about the very people who made it what is was; blue collar working Americans. The "little guys" with the big dreams - the American Dreams.

These sort of attacks have been a disaster for Obama and just confirmed how little he actually understands all the Americans who are not part of his Ivy League and far left Liberal world.

And as far as the need to pay for government services and infrastructure - why do we need to _raise_ taxes to do that? I think it telling that this is _always_ the standard Democrat response. How about cutting expenditures? You know, _reducing_ the size of the Federal government? Nowhere have I heard such an idea coming from the Democrat camp. While "smaller government" and "cutting expenditures" are not always lived up to by the Republicans, at least such phrases are within their vocabulary. Obama's political phrase book seems oddly bereft of such things.

And his response to "Joe the Plumber" is just more confirmation of that.

Madoc
bovil
Oct. 23rd, 2008 08:07 pm (UTC)
If "Joe the Plumber" was running against Obama then the "character" issue might matter.

Bill Ayres isn't running against McCain, but he's a cornerstone of the McCain/Palin campaign.

And as far as the need to pay for government services and infrastructure - why do we need to _raise_ taxes to do that? I think it telling that this is _always_ the standard Democrat response. How about cutting expenditures? You know, _reducing_ the size of the Federal government? Nowhere have I heard such an idea coming from the Democrat camp. While "smaller government" and "cutting expenditures" are not always lived up to by the Republicans, at least such phrases are within their vocabulary. Obama's political phrase book seems oddly bereft of such things.

Grover's got a seat for you next to the bath tub.

"Not always lived up to" is the understatement of the decade. "Never lived up to" is closer. Reagan, Bush I and Bush II all presided over huge increases in the deficit and huge increases in government while preaching smaller government. W even had a Republican majority in both houses of Congress for a few years to help him reduce government, and it didn't happen.

A great example is Sarah Palin's unflagging support for the Gravina Island Bridge. When the bridge finally became too great a political liability, Palin changed her position (flip-flopping in the Republican parlance). What the Palin administration didn't do was return the money to the federal government, or stop working on the unnecessary support projects for the bridge that wasn't going to be built.

Voters want their pork. Democrats give them pork, but tell them it's going to cost, and that other people are going to have to get pork too to keep the wheels rolling. Republicans claim it's free magic meat from heaven, it's not pork, it's only pork when other people get it and you pay for it.
madoc62
Oct. 23rd, 2008 08:45 pm (UTC)
Andy,

"Grover's got a seat for you next to the bath tub."

You sure about that? I thought his White House tub was so small he got stuck in it. Then again, Grover was a rather.. rotund.. gentleman...

""Not always lived up to" is the understatement of the decade. "Never lived up to" is closer. Reagan, Bush I and Bush II all presided over huge increases in the deficit and huge increases in government while preaching smaller government. W even had a Republican majority in both houses of Congress for a few years to help him reduce government, and it didn't happen."

I seem to recall the Gipper cutting the Federal budget back so grievously that you could hear the Democrats howling in DC all the way out to LA. I was living in DC throughout the 80's and I recall their howls at the Reagan budget cuts were deafening indeed. Where he ran things up was rebuilding the military after the "Hollow Force" cutbacks of the 70's. That we then managed to put an end to the Evil Empire as a result made the exercise worth it.

Bush the Elder? Mister "Thousand Points of Light?" He didn't have the stones to roll the Democrats like the Gipper did. You do recall that "Read My Lips" bit, right? His breaking that promise was one of the major things which cost him the election. That and Ross Perot. Odd how folks back on the Dubya for being a "minority president" yet that's exactly how Bubba got in against Bush the Senior.

As to Bush the Junior, well there has been this little thing called the "War on Terrorism" which has been something of a distraction to doing the fiscal stuff. Then again, the Dubya is very much a RINO - Republican In Name Only - and has been a disaster of a president for the "fiscal conservative" branch of the GOP. How many times did the Dubya use his veto against a Republican budget? Not even once, if I recall correctly. The Congressional Republican's piggishness at the Federal Troth is pretty much what cost them their lock on Congress in '06.

Like I said, they haven't always lived up to those principles and it usually costs them dearly the more they stray from them. Contrast that with the Democrats who's only major success over the past quarter century was when Billy Jeff co-opted the Republican's fiscal policies in the 90's and declared himself a centrist and for controlling Federal spending.

Obama - even before tripping over Joe the Plumber - had declared such fiscal moderation to be nothing he was interested in.

Now, as to the character bit, Andy, you're missing the point still.

Ayers is important if for no other reason than Obama has gone to extraordinary lengths to deny, dismiss, defer, deflect and outright lie about his interactions with him.

If there was nothing there, then how come Obama has been so relentless in hiding it and how come he has constantly come out with new stories (i.e. lies) to attempt to explain away what new pearls keep coming up about it?

Ayers is important because it directly reflects on the candidate himself. "Joe the Plumber's" character has nothing to do with McCain or anyone else in the race. And also, Andy, you've not proved anything about "Joe" other than that his life is as complicated as anyone else's. That is to say, it doesn't fit in a nice, neat tidy package.

All of which though, is still missing the point.

Obama said he wants to "spread the wealth around" and that shows the underlying intent of his fiscal policies.

That answer - and the revolting attacks made by the Democrats on "Joe" - are one of the reasons why McCain is still neck and neck with the Obama-messiah. This, when The One is supposed to be so far ahead he's got the election in the bag.

http://tinyurl.com/Presidential-Race-Tightens-AP

Madoc
bovil
Oct. 23rd, 2008 09:14 pm (UTC)
Norquist, not Cleveland.

Ayers is important if for no other reason than Obama has gone to extraordinary lengths to deny, dismiss, defer, deflect and outright lie about his interactions with him.

Let's see what someone not associated with the Obama campaign has to say:

Annenberg Political fact check says of the recent McCain ads playing up Obama's relationship with Ayers "We find McCain's claim to be groundless. New details have recently come to light, but nothing Obama said previously has been shown to be false."

St. Petersburg Times says of McCain's claim that "Ayers and Obama ran a radical education foundation together" that Chicago Annenberg Challenge was "Not a radical group, and Ayers didn't run it" and gave it a "pants on fire" rating.

You speak of listening to what Obama says, but you fail to fact-check what others are telling you Obama is saying.

I seem to recall the Gipper cutting the Federal budget back so grievously that you could hear the Democrats howling in DC all the way out to LA.

Reagan stood his ground when he could and compromised when he had to.

As for the Evil Empire? It's been shown that cheap oil in the mid 80's ate away at the Soviets' ability to buy off their people and their satellites, causing the collapse. The military buildup was not as great a contributing factor. That's why Iran is panicking right now and calling for OPEC to cut production and shore up their income.

Then again, the Dubya is very much a RINO

Yeah, right. The leader of the Republican Party is a Republican in Name Only. The man elected to the Presidency not once but twice on the Republican ticket is a Republican in Name Only. I'm sorry, but W and his administration and the Congressional Republicans define the modern Republican Party much more than a bunch of malcontents. The old conservative movement sold its soul to Ailes and Rove for the promise of a "permanent majority" and they now complain that it's not what they wanted.

Edited at 2008-10-23 09:14 pm (UTC)
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )