Thursday, October 16, 2008

Joe the Plumber's Customer Base

Dear Joe,

Senator Obama did explain this, but I think it's worth exploring a little more: it's not just your taxes that matter. Think about it, Joe. Maybe you're going to make $250k, $280k this year, and that's great. But Obama's going to cut the taxes of your entire customer base. You can see how this would be good for your business, right?

Joe, I don't know what kind of plumber you are. Yes, people are always going to need the plumber when the shower gets so stopped up that the goo you get from the hardware store doesn't fix it, or when the toilet runs all the time unless you jiggle the handle just right. But it sounds like you have big goals, it sounds like you probably want to expand beyond just being a toilet fixer and sink unclogger. If lots of people get a real tax cut, instead of just a few very rich folks: presto, you've got hundreds more prospective customers. That's how bottom-up economics work.

Now the argument in favor of giving that tax cut to the rich is that they'll invest it. Maybe in a small business like yours, even. But the simple fact is that if you need to borrow money, you're going to be able to. There's no supply-side crisis. You can get investment if you know how to spend it. In this country the challenge to small businesses isn't obtaining capital: it's finding customers that have money and want to spend it on what you do, and doing what you do well. A huge tax cut to the five richest folks in town is not going to do anything to affect that.

The opposite of spreading wealth is hoarding wealth. That's what conservative activists like you have been arguing for since the mid-sixties, that's what we've been trying for the past thirty years on and off and the past eight years in particular. It hasn't worked. It hasn't even worked out well for the wealthy and it sure hasn't worked out for everyone else. If we spread the wealth around instead of hoarding it, everyone wins.

And as for this being socialism? Come on, Joe. Did Barack say he was going to nationalize your business? Was he saying that the Great State of Ohio should seize your means of production? Was he proposing your business be forced to join the People's Plumbing Collective and serve at the pleasure of the Federal Plumbing Czar? Of course not. That's a ridiculous, baseless argument.

I just went on over to and plugged in some numbers for you. I'm guessing you've got a kid or two and still owe some money on your house. And I run a small business too, so I know sometimes you don't make quite as much as you think you're going to make your first year out. If you make just under $250k it looks like you're going to get a nice tax cut, too. If you do get above $250k, well, maybe you can feel good about not just the fact that you had a good year, but that you're doing your part to help support our effort in Iraq and keeping our roads and schools from falling completely apart as well.

So give it some thought, Joe. Would you rather have five customers who can afford a fancy new bathroom, or those same five customers who can go fancy plus hundreds more who can afford modest improvements? That's the choice we're making in this election. I hope you'll think it through.

Best Regards,

1 comment:

ashindi said...

Hi Dan,
Very thoughtful. This is great!