The next president of the United States is going to have his work cut out for him. Either Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) or Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) stand to inherit two extremely unpopular wars in the Middle East, an impending recession with global repercussions, a failing public education system, a Social Security system in desperate need of a rapid and massive overhaul, numerous pressing health-care concerns and the need to repair our damaged image throughout the world. All of these, plus the unforeseen issues that seemingly appear out of nowhere just when the president is getting into the swing of things, will make that $400,000 annual salary look rather paltry. However, at this point in the campaign season, all of these issues have become obsolete. It seems there is only one issue that both the candidates and the political pundits wish to talk about. In fact, it isn’t an issue at all — it is just one man. His name is Joe the Plumber.
Joe the Plumber was originally thrust into the spotlight when he got a chance to voice concern over Obama’s tax policy during a campaign stop in Toledo, Ohio. Joe said he fears that if Obama’s plans are implemented he will be unable to buy the plumbing business by which he is currently employed. McCain’s savvy political team picked up on this little video clip and attempted to use it against Obama in the final presidential debate, claiming that Joe would be unable to realize the American dream unless the “Maverick” is elected. McCain’s original allusion to Joe opened a Pandora ’s box, with each candidate referring to this absurd scenario for the remainder of the debate, relating Joe’s plight to a variety of issues, including health care and Social Security.
Of course, once the final presidential debate was finished, a full-fledged manhunt was on to track down Joe the Plumber. Every major television station sent a reporter and camera crew to Holland, Ohio, for the very first and, most likely, very last time. It’s not often somebody like this comes along, and since reporters can’t interview the candidate’s tax policies personally, Joe was the next best thing. They camped out in front of his house day and night, holding vigil as if the pope had died and they were in Vatican City waiting to see the white smoke. If you didn’t know better, you could have easily got the impression that somehow Joe the Plumber was a man invested with powers from some sort of political deity — a man who understands the mindset of the average American so well that if the candidates could solve his problems, everything else would naturally sort itself out.
But who is the man who spawned the encompassing moniker Joe the Plumber, really? Joe Wurzelbacher is, indeed, a plumber. He no doubt is an expert at sporting the heralded “plumber’s crack.” And if you have seen him interviewed you know that he talks with a firmness of opinion that everyone in the Buckeye State would be proud of. Joe is a plumber who has worked so hard he now stands to purchase a plumbing company of his own. A purchase that would almost certainly push him over the $250,000 annual income level and would place him in the top tax bracket — a level that Obama does plan to raise taxes on. But, perhaps those sterling Midwestern credentials are not what make the issue of Joe the Plumber so important. What is important is how the candidates want you to see Joe the Plumber — not as a man, but as America itself.
The power of the individual is one of the most exalted ideals in the United States. The American dream is ingrained in the moral fabric of every citizen from a young age — every person can be successful as long as they work hard and pay their taxes. The United States government is simply entrusted with the responsibility of making this happen and protecting us when we do realize that dream. That’s why, despite the comical media circus surrounding the entire situation, the idea of Joe the Plumber has resonated so powerfully across the country, with less than two weeks left until Election Day. Joe the Plumber, just a hardworking bald man trying to raise his kids and buy a plumbing company.
But how similar is Joe the Plumber to the average American, anyway? A man who is worried about paying his taxes because he will likely earn more than $250,000 next year? I don’t profess to be an economic expert, but considering the likely cost of living in Holland, Ohio, I would think that $250,000 is more than enough to keep a roof over anybody’s head. Joe is such an economic and political expert that he has the balls to refer to Obama’s plan to redistribute wealth as socialism. I truly hope such a high level of understanding is not representative of the average American.
It’s true the next president will have to focus on protecting the American middle class, because that is where a large majority of Americans find themselves today. But focusing on one man, no matter how amusing he is, is not the way to solve the problems the United States now faces. What Joe the Plumber thinks or says will not have any bearing on the current economic crisis or help us responsibly end the wars we are fighting abroad. Joe may be a hardworking American, and that is to be respected, but this relentless attention given to him by the candidates and the media has done little to teach voters about the issues they will be forced to grapple with come Nov. 4. The fact that the Katie Courics of the world have even given him the time of day is rather alarming, considering there are so many important problems left to discuss. So please, just let Joe the Plumber plumb. Because no matter who wins, I’m sure he has plenty of work to do if he really does want to buy that business.