Posts Tagged ‘ campaign ’

Sorry, Joe. No free lunch.

Joe “the Plumber” Wurzelbacher, or “Wurzelburger” if you’re John McCain, is quickly becoming the Clara Peller of this election. Before his 15, or maybe five minutes are up, I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon. Instead of Clara’s “Where’s the Beef?” tagline, Joe said that Barack Obama wants to “redistribute wealth” and that this was a scary prospect. Joe added,

“[…]I’m not trying to make statements here, but, I mean, that’s kind of a socialist viewpoint. You know, I work for that. You know, it’s my discretion who I want to give my money to; it’s not for the government decide that I make a little too much and so I need to share it with other people. That’s not the American Dream.”

The Republicans and Senator McCain in particular have made similar arguments in this campaign and for decades. The problem is that, by the definition Joe offers, both parties redistribute wealth, and thus embrace “socialism.” Or did Joe not notice the $700 billion recently redistributed from taxpayers to lenders? The redistribution argument today wears almost as thin as “ownership society” privatization of Social Security does following the collapse of the market. The one thing Joe and the rest of us can be thankful for is that our Social Security accounts are not in the same shape as our 401(k)s.

If Joe’s not convinced, we can look at the original socialism bogeyman, healthcare. Anyone who proposes providing for 100% health insurance coverage is branded a socialist, usually accompanied by the argument that government involvement would mean a bureaucrat will decide what doctor you see and what care you get. This ignores the fact that we already have a socialized healthcare system, but an extremely inefficient and costly one. It’s socialized because a) medical facilities cannot legally deny care, and b) the costs of the uninsured are passed on to businesses and employees in the form of higher premiums. So Joe is already having money taken away from him against his will, except the money is being taken by an insurance company instead of by the government. And which is more responsive to Joe? A company that sees paying his claim as a loss rather than the service he paid for, or a government agency accountable to him through his elected representatives in Congress?

The latent “socialism” extends further. So McCain says Obama will raise taxes. But to avoid ever being accused of raising taxes, the only place for McCain and “conservatives” to go is to foreign governments to borrow the money. Or did Joe think the Iraq War was free? And cutting pork only gets you less than $20 billion in savings, less than one percent of the federal budget. So would Joe rather pay taxes to fight our wars today, or would he like to finance it with credit from People’s Republic of China and Saudi Arabia? That way, Joe’s taxes never go up, but his and my kids will be paying foreigners for decades to pay today’s bills.

And if Joe likes flat taxes, how about we ask all candidates why they don’t push to extend FICA witholding to wages above $102,000 a year?

We need to get past this, all of us. This republic costs money, and there’s no getting around it. You can’t wish it away, though decades of ideological imperatives have put a premium on hiding this fact from us. The costs are hidden through truly redistributive shell games like hiring illegal immigrants to keep prices and Americans’ wages low. The costs are hidden by comparing costs of electric cars to gas powered cars based only on the retail price of gas at the pump, rather than including the huge associated costs of keeping the oil economy running. Promoting the general welfare costs money. Patriots understand that we are all in it together, and that we all have to pay our share. Believing that doesn’t make you a socialist. It makes you a realist and a good steward, something I always associated with conservative ideals.