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Diverting the Main Stream

Joe the Embodiment of the Reverse Engineered Conservative Logic Structure

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An Ohio plumber has taken the center stage of the presidential election, becoming a more important issue all by himself than the debt system bailout and the war in Iraq combined, despite the fact that, if we’re worried about public money, where it comes from, and what we spend it on, these are the two deepest wells we’re throwing money down. In the Joe-filled debate, John McCain even gave the cryptically specific figure, “government has grown by over 40%.” My immediate reaction was, 40% of what? Apparently, it has something to do with spending. I don’t know if you’ve heard, John, but we’re at war here.

Now, let’s not go into detail about the fact that Joe the Plumber may have family connections with the Lincoln Savings and Loans scandal, or the fact that the mainstream media, in any article I’ve seen, has been unable or unwilling to confirm or deny this. I will say that this deserves investigation, considering the instant prominence John McCain gave this figure and the pageantry that almost seems planned, but I have neither the time nor the resources to do the research necessary to take a position on it.

At face value, here we have a guy who came forward to plant the idea of a flat tax to see how Barack Obama reacted, and the occurrence fit the McCain campaign like a glove, so now they’re showing it off.

Joe was apparently confused about how Obama’s tax plan would work, so he asked him to explain it. He wondered why his taxes were going to be raised, as the McCain campaign had clearly brought him to believe, just because the business he is planning to purchase is worth $250,000 or so. Or something. Apparently, he’s a bit confused about the business he’s planning on buying as well, because I’ve heard a lot of different figures on what this business is actually worth and what it earns yearly. Joe has said the business will cost him about $250,000, he has said that it will cost him $500,000, he has said that it will earn over $250,000 a year, and he has said that it does not own near that much, but that hopefully in the future it will, and in the event that it does, he doesn’t want to be “punished” for it by pre-Bush tax levels.

Notice how Obama’s tone instantly but barely perceptably changes the moment Joe mentions a “flat tax”. He’s thinking, oh no, we’ve got a Steve Forbes or Ross Perot voter here. Obama has been described as eloquently tap-dancing around the issue here, but to me he seemed to know what he was talking about but didn’t express it as clearly as he could have. Joe Wurzelbacher is a true believer in the trickle-down economic system, which is a theory not actually created by economists or existing in the already somewhat amorphous science or art of economic study but by politicians who were eager to spread our wealth around among the rich. I’ll talk about that more later.

Joe believes that if, God forbid, he should ever be able to afford it, the government will start taking money away from him. That’s the idea of a progressive tax system, it may have some flaws, and it should be designed so that making more money does not translate into netting less money, but taxes have been consistently getting lower over the years for the rich, and I don’t think they have anything to complain about today. They will not stop complaining about it and making up false arguments to justify it until their voices are cut short by a publicly funded election system, or they have achieved a flat tax. And then who knows, maybe they’ll start complaining that they shouldn’t have to pay the same percentage, but the same amount, as everybody else, and we can live in a society where the millionaire and the peasant are both paying $20,000 a year in taxes.

What’s so bad about making a rich person pay higher taxes? Are you lowering their taxes to create new jobs, or are you not raising their taxes so as not to punish them for earning more? Is it wrong to take the money of the hard-working, just to give it to people who don’t work as hard? Maybe they’re not willing to work, why should I help them?

As with his energy policy, McCain is taking an “all of the above” approach on this one. They’re failsafe arguments; if you don’t believe lowering taxes will create more jobs, maybe you’ll believe that it’s unfair to give a worker’s money to a bum. The problem is, they’re all arguments which sound reasonable but are simply not true. I’ll be quite pleased to pay higher taxes if I can earn $250,000 a year. As long as my income is higher than it was when I was earning $150,000 a year (ha!) I’m not going to complain about a slight increase in the percentage of taxes I pay. I want government services, I want roads, and I want a working society, and I’m willing to pay for it, when I have money to spare. OK, don’t tax me on money I need to spend on my wife or on any kids I might have, don’t tax me for creating jobs, and don’t tax me for giving money to charity. These are all either part of the current tax plan or part of Obama’s proposal.

The logic behind these ideas has been engineered over time, not from the perspective of attempting to construct a functioning economic system, as the proponents of this system would have you believe, but from the perspective of justifying, to the public whose votes are needed to enact this policy, changes in the economic system which are favorable to the wealthy class which disproportionately influences the public dialogue.

A good portion of the ideas circulating the public forum are of this nature, engineered to falsely justify policy which is not convenient to the people who are approving of and fervently defending these ideas. Joe the Plumber is convinced that giving money to the rich is the right thing to do, even though he is not rich and it will not affect him. Obama’s plan will already cut his taxes. He wants a plan which does not cut his taxes, but which will cut his taxes in the event that he becomes wealthy, within the top 5%. If Joe were making $250,000 a year, he could live on the same amount of money he’s making now, save the rest, and have $1 million in the bank in five years. Even with inflation and interest, I am unlikely to have $1 million in the bank if I live to be 100 years old (unless very significant changes occur in my income level). I have absolutely no problem with Obama’s $200,000 limit, and the only reason anybody (who is not actually affected by it) does is because of the deliberately faulty logic which has been distributed at great expense which literally screws up the wiring in our brains if we take it as truth.

And we can’t be blamed for this. The media takes an important part in shaping our worldview, the politicians are an important source for the media, and the wealthiest of the wealthy write the script. Rather, they pay someone to write it for them. And I’m not saying that one side is right and one side is wrong, although it is true that one side at this point in time is better than the other in terms of how the political decisions we make affect the world.

The conservative movement has tried to mimic populism, but it’s trickle-down populism, made of ideas which come down from the wealthiest who are protecting their own interests to the people who are convinced by them and adopt them as their own. The actual Populist movement was the other way around. Farmers were slaves to the free market, working with small margens and only able to plant what was currently worth the most, otherwise they wouldn’t be able to make a profit. Being able to only plant one product at a time, their lands were destroyed, because economic forces prohibited the crop rotation they knew was necessary to keep nutrients in the soil. They organized, and demanded that the government put regulations in place to keep prices in a controlled area, to limit planting of certain products, and to create a system that would actually work. These people were far from socialist, they just knew how to farm, knew what needed to be done, and knew that for their plan to work, some government intervention was required. It was an industry calling for the government to aide their self-regulation.

Today, you’re called a socialist if you want to raise any tax for any income level, and people demand that taxes systematically decrease. This is a system which will collapse in a short time. The government needs to be able to raise and lower taxes as the current need dictates, and the people need to demand that they do so.

In other news, the government is continuing to give money to corporations which are suffering financial difficulties, and the McCain campaign is trying to paint Obama as the Red Robin Hood figure and use the welfare state scare to get their voters to the ballots. “Hold onto your wallets,” McCain said. Is the purpose of government to serve the people or to serve big business? Why are we handing over everything we have (and actually don’t have) to the corporations, and our potential leaders are warning against spending any money on the people who have lost their jobs or their homes as a result of the same financial meltdown?

When Congress was working on passing the bailout, the press was busy filling valuable space giving figures on how many of various funny things you could buy with that $700 billion. One noteable example was the McDonald’s pies. Rather than talking about how many pies you could buy with that money, let’s talk about something more relevant.

With $700 billion, we could have given over $900,000 to each American who lost their job in 2008. Then they can complain like Joe.

The fact is, we have an effective model for dealing with financial crisis, and one which was worse than the one we’re going through now. In the New Deal, the government hired people to do work. They built the national parks system, famously, but another integral part of the generation of employment and financial recovery was investing in infrastructure. Roads were built, power grids were built in places the electric company didn’t think it was profitable enough to go to, railroads were built, hydroelectric dams were built, and bridges were built to places that today would have been written off as “nowhere”. (That’s right, I’m probably the only person in this world who would have been FOR building the Bridge to Nowhere, rather than just giving the money away with no specific purpose.)

Today we have a great project which must be undertaken, and we have been fearful of the cost. Now that we need to create good jobs, the government should do what it did during the New Deal, hire people and give them an important project to accomplish. In this case, it’s alternative energy infrastructure. This includes solar paneling all our nation’s buildings, building wind generators, manufacturing vehicles (I’ll say electric, deciding which technology to use is the work of a scientist, however) and a plethora of other important projects and sources of green employment.

It’s an opportunity. It fits the situation like a glove. We need to create jobs, and we have work to be done. Instead, we’re giving everything we have to people we know aren’t going to help us out of this mess.


One Response

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  1. very good!
    loved your site.


    October 27, 2008 at 11:03 pm

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