Joe the Plumber and me

Kevin Kamberg

Joe the Plumber, who McCain spent a lot of time talking about in tonight's debate, apparently earns more than $250,000 if he won't be among the 95% of Americans (81.3% according to Tax Policy Center) getting a tax cut under the Obama Administration. He reportedly worked a lot of 10 - 12 hour days doing skilled blue collar work.

I'll earn less than $40,000 this year while working full time. It was the same last year. I've worked my share of 10 - 12 hour days doing skilled blue collar work too. I still do skilled blue collar work but overtime is heavily frowned upon by the corporate bean counters and the most I'm able to get now is the occasional half hour of overtime.

I don't begrudge Joe the Plumber his current affluence at all. I'm sure he earned every penny of it. But the reality is that it'll take me more than 6 years of labor to equal the bare minimum of what Joe the Plumber will earn this year alone, assuming that he'll make $250,001 on the nose. In that same 6+ years I'll spend matching his salary for one year he will have brought home over $1.5 million.

I'm actually one of the lucky ones. I've accumulated over 20 years of experience in my trade and that allows me to command a wage that my less-skilled peers can only dream of.

The bottom line here is that Joe the Plumber simply isn't representative of the average blue collar working stiff in America.

Maybe I should have taken up plumbing instead. But if I had then someone else would have had to taken my place, and the fundamental fact that Joe the Plumber isn't representative would not have been altered one iota. Someone has to mow the lawns. Someone has to change the sheets in motel rooms. Someone has to run the register at the corner Quicky Mart. Someone has to drive the fork-lifts in warehouses all over this nation. Few if any of those hard-working people earn as much as I am fortunate enough to earn. You can bank on the fact that none of them earn anything remotely close to $250,000 a year!

Enjoy your relative wealth, Joe the Plumber. Millions of Americans can only dream of what it must be like to have that kind of money and the security that goes with it.

Comments

  • (Show?)

    Hey Kevin, you forgot to put up your byline...

  • (Show?)

    Which you should 'cuz it's a very nice post.

  • Jason E. (unverified)
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    I appreciate your situation, and completely understand it as a small business owner. The first thing I noticed about Joe the Plumber on the full video clip I saw of him and Obama was that Joe is a plant. Plain and simple. Joe was planted by the opposition to try to throw Obama off his game. However, at the end of the video, Joe is VERY obviously swayed by the facts that Obama provides him in their dialogue - in spite of the occasional interruption that Joe tries to make in Obama's answer to his question. Joe bit off way more than he chew, and he had no choice but to acknowledge Obama's direct, honest and comprehensive answer to his politically-motivated question.

    Don't get wrapped up in the hooplah of McCainisms and repeated invocations of "Joe the Plumber" from tonight's debate. It is very, very clear that Joe approached Obama with an agenda, from an opposing side.

    I don't think Joe realized just much he was being played in all this. He probably thought, as a good Republican, that he was going to stump the Democratic candidate and do his part for his party. However, when given the opportunity to set the record straight, Obama actually brought this "plant" around and left him wondering just what he had argued against in the first place.

    Ultimately, I question the authenticity of "Joe the Plumber". He may very well be a plumber who is interestesd in buying the company that he has worked for. Somehow, I smell a rat. It could be that anything that has walked past a Republican office is tainted with the rat smell, but I can't really say...

    All I know is that Joe was surprised, and somewhat humbled, by Obama's reply to him. I think Joe actually learned something.

  • (Show?)

    This all blown out of proportion. This guy's doing pretty well, but he's also not super rich, and wouldn't pay that much more in taxes--if anything more at all.

    Obama's plan would raise the top tax rate for people making over $250,000 from 36% to 39% for that part of their income over $250,000.

    That's taxable income, after all of the deductions that businesses can take--depreciation on buildings, vehicles, and other durable assets, business expenses, etc.

    If this guy's business makes a taxable profit of $300,000 a year, the taxes on that last $50,000 would go up $1,500. I think that may actually be offset by cuts in the lower brackets.

    Also, he'd get a $3,000 tax credit for any new employees.

    Meanwhile, under McCain's plan, the plumbers who work for Joe would have to pay income taxes on the health benefits that they get from Joe's company.

  • Gil Johnson (unverified)
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    Joe needs to take a few hours off from those long days and talk to a good accountant. With all the items he could be deducting, there's no way he should be reporting a net income of $250,000.

  • (Show?)

    Byline fixed. Great post.

  • Jason E. (unverified)
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    Here's a bit from CBS on Joe the Plumber, after the debate. Katie Couric managed to snag him before the local press got to him (yeah, right)...

    Enjoy the video...

  • (Show?)

    Gil:

    Exactly. Those at the higher income levels, especially those who own businesses, should be able to deduct a number of items from their taxes to get their burden down. Unlike lower income tax payers who often have very little to deduct, especially if they are renters.

  • RW (unverified)
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    Kevin: thank you for injecting some reality into that doughty old fantasy of the working class hero clad in tradesman's clothing.

    Thank you for successfully delineating the sophisticated, 1980's Union-busting weapon - stratification.

    Good post, feels like you wrote it in a perfectly creative rush and it pulled itself together just right.

  • Slappy McDickleton (unverified)
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    This all blown out of proportion. This guy's doing pretty well, but he's also not super rich

    Look I am not sure how much of the kool aid is being sipped around here but anyone that makes $250,000 (deductions or not) is doing incredibly well.

    www.globalrichlist.com

    "Joe Plumber is in the top 0.001% richest people in the world!

  • Jim Oleske (unverified)
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    Leave it to the Republican presidential candidate to invoke a middle-class image ("Joe the Plumber") to make a trickle-down argument that won't benefit anyone in the middle class.

    Unfortunately for McCain, he slipped not once, but twice in the debate, giving away the reality behind his "Joe the Plumber" invocation:

    "Hey, Joe, you're rich, congratulations"
    "Now, Joe, you're rich, congratulations"

    And, because Joe's rich, John McCain has a very clear message for him:

    "I'm going to let him keep his wealth."

    So much for shared sacrifice.

  • quiqq (unverified)
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    Bravo! This is the best take I've found on this "Joe" turn. (interesting comments as well)

    hope you don't mind, but I threw this up on Digg.

  • quiqq (unverified)
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    opps, link w/my comment on digg:

    http://digg.com/political_opinion/Joe_the_Plumber_and_me

  • Pedro (unverified)
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    While I have no facts, I believe Jason E may be right about "Joe" being an elephant plant.

    All too convenient that "Joe" encounters Barack Obama at a rope line then magically becomes the multiple time gotcha gimmick in McCain's "comeback" debate.

    Regardless of the actual facts about "Joe", it's just another failed "Hail Mary" by losing quarterback McCain. 1. Moose America selected as VP candidate 2. Campaign "suspended" to hurry back to Washington to negotiate the bailout legislation 3. $5,000.00 tax credit gimmick to substitute for an actual healthcare plan 4. "Joe the Plumber" as the central strategy of the final debate

  • (Show?)

    the worst part about this is that Joe is going to be the story for the rest of the week. Obama is about to become president -- an amazing turn of history -- and the MSM will be falling over itself to talk to and about this guy. of course, this does benefit Obama: a quiet (no noise about Obama) campaign just bolsters him & hurts McNasty. so we get more MSM stupidity, less real news, and a few days closer to putting this mess behind us and electing a new president.

  • Conrad (unverified)
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    The Top 50 Swing Voters: #27 - Joe The Plumber

    <h1>50 - Hockey Moms - Demographic Power Play</h1> <h1>47 - People with STDs - Burning for Change</h1> <h1>40 - Anonymous Sperm Donors - Swimming Against The Tide</h1> <h1>36 - Master Debaters - Everybody"s Doing It</h1> <h1>29 - Nudists - Sticking To The Issues</h1>
  • Unrepentant Liberal (unverified)
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    "Joe the Plumber" is actually "Joe the owner of a plumbing contracting business." Not at all the same thing. At that income he probably might see an increase in his taxes. He's fortunate to be in that tax bracket. However, the plumbers who work for the afemetioned Joe would get a tax break.

    And depending of what health care insurance reforms get passed, it might end up being easier and possibly cheaper for Joe to get his employees covered. So the Obama Presidency would be a net plus for Joe's employees, Joe's business and ultimately Joe himself.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    I find it odd that of the four Prez/VP candidates whom we have seen in reviews, the only one to use the phrase "working class" has been Sarah Palin. The others are caught up in the usual American myth in which we have only the "rich" and the "middle class". But then this is also the society in which, unlike every other industrialized society, there is no viable socialist political party rooted in the actual working class. Nope, here the working class has swallowed the "American Dream" mythology, the up-by-the-bootstraps narrative in which, by gawd, everyone is magically equal and by dint of ruggedly individual effort can attain wealth. No need of wimpy things like labor unions here.

  • macmccown (unverified)
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    politico is resporting that "joe the plumber" is realted by marriage at least to charles keating ... hmm ... i wonder if this little tidbit of information will be mentioned by the MSM.

    yes, joe is a plant!

  • Bill R. (unverified)
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    It turns out Joe admits he was contacted by the McCain camp to be at the Obama campaign event. He is less forthcoming about whether he was "prepped" by the McCain camp. Politico.com says Joe isn't registed to vote. Also Joe rails away on the Today Show how much he hates Social Security. He's a plant, and he's bombing........

  • Joe sixpack (unverified)
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    You people crack me up - if anyone comes out against your boy Joebama, they're instantly labeled as a 'plant','troll','racist','homophobe', etc.

    Kevin Kamberg - maybe under Joebama, you'll be given some of the Plumbers cash and you can stop whining about your pitty little salary? But I guess I'd be a little pissed to if I had worked 20 years and only make 40K. But I wouldn't be holding my hand out saying "gimme" expecting people who have more money than me to give me theirs... I guess that's why Im not a democrat.

  • (Show?)

    This may be the best thing I've ever seen you write, Kevin. Its excellent.

    I find it interesting that a non-Democrat (in the comment above this one from "Joe sixpack") would attempt to demean someone who obviously works hard in a skilled, blue-collar job--and puts in an honest day's work.

    And yes...I think that does help me understand why that person isn't a Democrat...or a progressive, apparently.

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)
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    No one gets this - Joe the Plumber and McCain didn't tell you the truth, and no one is talking about it.

    If Joe buys that plumbing company, he will no longer be a wage earner. His accountant will tell him to set this up as a corporation, and what he will earn is dividends, taxed at only 15%.

    So, the debate about whether Joe will be taxed more or less has nothing to do with the cut off line in the Obama plan at $250,000 annual income, it has to do with the tax rate on dividends. And yes, Obama wants to start to close that tax loop hole that favors the rich.

    Therefore, when Joe buys that plumbing shop, he taxes will drop, but then climb up under Obama, but not to the rate he currently pays.

    Nobody is talking about the real example this gives us on how the tax system is full of loop holes that are exploited in ways not accessible to wage earners.

    Yikes!

  • Slappy McDickleton (unverified)
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    I watched "Joe Plumber" this morning on the Today Show. He is a complete hack for McCain. He talked about closing our borders, smaller government & lower taxes, but declined to comment on who he was voting for. Then he closed by saying that he thought if McCain won it would extend his 15 minutes by a couple days. Give me a break, I cant believe media falls for this crap, repeatedly!

  • Joe sixpack (unverified)
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    A government that robs the Plumber to pay Kevin can always count on the support of Kevin.

    Carla, Im not a democrat because I don't have a problem working for what I have. I don't demand that wealth be taken from the Plumber and given to me. I don't want or need cradle to grave government "help".

  • Irishspacemonk (unverified)
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    Slappy - you're absolutely right - Joe "Six Pack" the Plumber is probably a hack. However, even if he isn't someone needs to help him out before he buys this business because he's being sold a bridge in Alaska. He's not going to be making a take home - taxable salary of $250,000 a year - no way. And even if his income from his business, after all of his expenses and deductions and credits, still gave him a taxable income of $250,000 (which is what is taxed), then he should just be happy a live with it.

  • Bill R. (unverified)
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    Joe "the plumber" is Joe the Republican contractor. He is a plant, admittedly so on GMA. He is not undecided. He was contacted by the McCain campaign to attend the Obama rally. He is the son of Charles Keating's business partner and son-in-law. He is a registered Republican in Ohio and admitted he had already made up his mind to vote. Rush Limbaugh and Fox News were talking him up before the debate. This was entirely another McCain stunt. http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/10/16/111632/20/188/632404

  • (Show?)
    he worst part about this is that Joe is going to be the story for the rest of the week. Obama is about to become president -- an amazing turn of history -- and the MSM will be falling over itself to talk to and about this guy.

    Great point, T.A.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    Joe sixpack wrote:

    I don't demand that wealth be taken from the Plumber and given to me. I don't want or need cradle to grave government "help".

    The conservative rhetoric on economics depends on the misapplication of the the personal to the general. Almost all economists will admit the need for limits to capitalist accumulation in order to prevent society-destroying polarization of wealth. We can argue over how much is optimal and what mechanisms to use in order to achieve that end.

    Conservatives ignore system dynamics and instead focus on the individual. They chide the jealous person who has not found success because of lack of talent or hard work, and and praise the enterprising citizen whose well-earned rewards are threatened by big bad government. Thus, economics is reduced to an allegory - a good vehicle for teaching children, but a bad vehicle for guiding a society.

  • RW (unverified)
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    I recommend reviewing within ourselves how "fact ads" function. They may not change OUR minds, but they clear DO define our focus and discussion. Wonder if we should decide not to discuss it too much further and watch for some other slippery item that is going past us beneath the noise? A good example would be how the sexualization of this campaign was discussed in the media and here for a little over a week then was swept away by the next quick wave of substantive as well as garbagey converse.

    Consistently, I have seen certain critical things show themselves (ACORN, now-emblematic for the discussion we did NOT broach successfully viz CURRENT access-blocking strategies for instance).

  • (Show?)

    Carla, Im not a democrat because I don't have a problem working for what I have. I don't demand that wealth be taken from the Plumber and given to me. I don't want or need cradle to grave government "help".

    Perhaps. But you clearly have a problem when other people do it..hence your nasty, demeaning comment toward Kevin.

  • (Show?)

    Kevin Thanks. When I finally got around to live blogging, this was my point about Joe. This was obviously someone (if true--which it sounds is not) who earns > 250,000.

    Everytime McPain said "Joe, you're rich" Obama should have said "I am not going to tell you what is rich or not, although I'll remind you that John said only people making 5 million dollars is rich. But if you are earning more than 250,000 a year, which is only a tiny proportion of Americans, yes, under my plan, you will see a small rise in your taxes. This is so the 95% of Americans who make far less and who are the middle and wroking class Americans in this country can enjoy a tax cut."

  • (Show?)

    What seems to get lost in a lot of the hair-shirt tearing by the Republicans is that what Obama's explaining in the video with Joe the Plumber is a 3% increase in the income tax rates on the portion of his income over $250,000 dollars.

    If he has $500,000 in taxable income, that amount is going to come out to something like $7,500. And no, Kevin won't be getting all of it.

  • Brad (unverified)
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    Joe did not say he makes the 250k a year people.He states held like to buy the business in the future.At the time he would more than likely make that much and THEN he would fall under Obamas new tax plan.Read the facts.You libs now want to rake Joe over the coals and say hes a plant and all this nonsense.Even if he was a plant the question is still legit!Would it make a difference if it was a question brought up by the Obama Mania media or a real guy? He called Obama out and brought to light his socialist views.REMEMBER Obama went to his neighborhood Im sure there were rep and dems both living on that street.God forbid all you peoples new personal Jesus gets questioned? Enjoy your next Jimmy Cater if he wins.Also no Obama response on his flip flop on public funds for the campaign. What else will he change is mind on?

  • (Show?)

    I just heard on the radio this morning that Joe the plumber isn't registered to vote. Hilarious.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    After seeing a couple of bills presented by plumbers in the last few years where they charged around $75-100 an hour, I hope the tax man sticks it to them.

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    Brad, Just because you make sh*t up and say it doesn't make it true. No one here thinks Obama is Jesus. Obama isn't a socialist, he's a moderate liberal who goes center-right on a few things, and if you think he is a socialist it just shows that you don't know what the word means.

    Actually Kevin wouldn't get any of the money per se. How come if Bush cuts taxes for the richest by huge amounts and shifting the tax burden down the scale (which still ends up paying for the debt plus interest on Bush's deficits), that's them "keeping their money" and not redistributing wealth upward to them, but a tax cut for the bottom 95% of taxpayers is redistributing from top to bottom?

    Whether and where redistribution happens is a matter of how the money is spent. A pretty big chunk of any increased taxes Joe pays is going to be redistributed to Treasury Secretary Paulson's Wall Street buddies, whoever gets elected. Large chunks of my taxes get redistributed to wars I oppose and war profiteers and contractor and oil industry cronies of the current admin.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    If Chris Lowe uses terms like "war profiteers" and "oil industry cronies", then the terrorists have won.

  • (Show?)

    http://toledoblade.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20081016/NEWS09/810160418

    'Joe the plumber' isn’t licensed Local man focus of presidential debate "Joe the Plumber" isn’t a plumber — at least not a licensed one, or a registered one. ... 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. 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. ... Mr. Wulzerbacher’s notoriety has raised the ire of Tom Joseph, business manager for Local 50 of the United Association of Plumbers, Steamfitters, and Service Mechanics, who claimed that Mr. Wulzerbacher didn’t undergo any apprenticeship training. "When you have guys going out there with no training whatsoever, it’s a little disreputable to start with," Mr. Joseph said. "We’re the real Joe the Plumber." Mr. Joseph said Mr. Wulzerbacher could only legally work in the townships, but not in any municipality in Lucas County or elsewhere in the country. "This individual has got no schooling, no licenses, he’s never been to a training program, union or non-union, in the United States of America," Mr. Joseph said. ... 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.
  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    So, Joe makes about $40,000 per year, and doesn't vote much. He's one of the working class folks who have been swayed by Republican allegories on economics, against his own interests and in ignorance of more thorough consideration of taxation as an issue. Joe the [unlicensed] plumber is a patsy who likely will never collect the capital needed to buy the business that employs him.

    Joe, you're NOT rich!

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    If people have to get building permits, and if contractors have to be trained, bonded and insured, then the terrorists have won.

  • genop (unverified)
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    So, after all the conjecture, we learn that in fact, Joe would benefit from Obama's tax plan. Listen to the Couric interview, he admits he is not in the "rich" category. "Joe the Plumber" is a lame attempt by the GOP to create a straw man. He's the WMD of this election. This time it's fear of change. The problem, it does not work when we are living in fear of reality. Joe does not have to sacrifice, so let's hear from some real people in business who earn over 250 k in net income. Would they be willing to forego 10% of their reduction in capital gains tax to benefit the rest of society?

  • Bill R. (unverified)
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    Joe the Plumber, is not a plumber. He's not licensed in the state of Ohio. He's not a registered voter, and he has a property lien for unpaid back taxes, so he's a tax cheat. And he hates social security.

    If the McCain campaign was going to recruit a "plant" they should have done their homework.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    Maybe Sarah Palin could hire Joe as her chief of staff and run his roto-rooter around Blair House if she become VP.

  • rw (unverified)
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    One word for ya Joe: vet.

  • (Show?)

    Whether Joe the wanna-be Plumber was being honest or not (turns out he clearly wasn't!) is beside the point, in my view. The blatent Strawman Fallacy that McPalin offered up needed debunking and that's what I sought to do with this post.

    As for all of the kind words upthread about the creativity of the post... I'd actually written the bulk of the first two paragraphs right after the debate ended and then found myself stuck, unsure where to go with it from there. Then I saw that Kari had posted the video clip of Obama talking to this Joe guy and I watched it. Afterwards the rest just flowed. So, he deserves credit for having the foresight to know that the clip was relevant and timely and for putting it up when he did.

  • (Show?)

    Bill B.

    "Maybe Sarah Palin could hire Joe as her chief of staff and run his roto-rooter around Blair House if she become VP."

    I wanna pipe to nowhere!

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    We're in a pipe to nowhere Come on inside Takin that ride to nowhere Well take that ride

    Apologies to everyone

  • rw (unverified)
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    Was that a take off on Talking Heads? Yummy.

    Well, newsflash from the margins: may have broken a digit, and am one of the working uninsured. A contract worker in the Quality Professions, I'm waiting for my employer to decide if they want to do away with this department I am for them, or to keep it and hire me to be it. Hence: no insurance, and the nearly forty percent tax rate on all that I earn as a contractor, paid quarterly, I assure you.

    How exciting! Do I pay rent or do I go have it looked at? How small will they make those monthly payments for this? After all, we all know about sequelae to medical conditions that go untreated, even the small ones like broken limbs.

    And do I mind paying over one hundred for this visit and over one hundred for the next? They say to expect some radiological shots as well. O goody goody gumdrops.

    Stay tuned for our next episode on.... "American Opera! The Medical Scheme".

  • quiqq (unverified)
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    another Joe link!! from story: Wurzelbacher said he is of modest means, but worried Obama's tax plans would eventually hurt him. "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 [Obama] helping me out,'' he told reporters this morning.

    i can't believe how thick people can be in not seeing how things sort by the numbers on these tax issues.

    I feel kind of sorry for the guy (as long as he isn't some kind of R'blicn plant,) but picking apart anyone who steps up with misleading positions or mistaken claims is EXACTLY what the new electronic frontier is all about.

    Sorting what you believe and who you trust is the next step... this "Joe the plumber" turn reveals a disconnect in understanding where he stands with the tax issue... Joe appears to cling to a blind ideological security that he wants to believe will make a difference in his life somehow.

    Wake up and blow out the lines Joe, you're one of us.

  • rw (unverified)
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    So I hope the right candidate gets in office and really decides to reconsider whether all of these vaunted plans are really what their teams say they are. Analysts are saying that neither plan espoused REALLY works the way the candidate says it will. So we have to take those espousals as mere renditions of philosophical stance toward the electorate.

    Today I am now close to two hundred more dollars out of pocket for an injured foot. Uninsured, hard-working. Was already paying off two other bills on the kid, somewhat longterm.

    I continue a vigorous job search even as I am contracting and want to stay where I am. Nearly willing now to leave the state and all that is family and life to me. To make a living.

    This is the etiology of my continuing jaundice: I do not expect that I shall receive any relief. NOt from Obama, not from McCain. I AM confident, however, that my pain and insecurity will increase, will deepen, under McCain. At least I can expect things to stay the same under OBama. I am going to work my ass off, keep flapping my feathers in every crevasse that opens beneath me, and that's life. That is simply: life for many millions of people.

    But I'd like to see those who can't even flap get a better shot at some feathers. And yes, maybe people like me to have a chance to stand on ground and stop the Wright Brothers act.

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