Joe Plumber, Meet Senator Socialism

by Derrick G. Jeter

I’m not an economist. Nor am I a medical doctor, but I don’t have to be one to know that smoking is not good for my health. Likewise, I don’t have to be an economist to know that capitalism is good for a country’s economic health and socialism is not.


This truth came into sharper focus with this recent exchange between Senator Barack Obama and an Ohio plumber named Joe.


Joe the Plumber

“Your new tax plan is going to tax me more, isn’t it? . . . I’ve worked hard. I work 10 to 12 hours a day and I’m buying this company and I’m going to continue working that way. I’m getting taxed more and more while fulfilling the American Dream.”


Senator Obama

“It’s not that I want to punish your success. I just want to make sure that everybody who is behind you, that they’ve got a chance for success too. My attitude is that if the economy’s good for folks from the bottom up, it’s gonna be good for everybody. I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.”


This is a stunning admission—for those who have an ear to hear—for the master of mesmerizing equivocation had just told the American public the truth about his tax policy. There is no shell and pea slight of hand in this comment, as there is in his claim that he will cut taxes for 95% of the American people. There it is—Obama just gave us a peek of the ace hidden in his sleeve—he’s a redistributor. He’s a socialist.


In 1980, when George H. W. Bush was vying for the Republican nomination against Ronald Reagan, Bush called Reagan’s trickle-down economic policy “Voodoo Economics.” What should we call Obama’s trickle-up economic policy? How about “Pick Pocket Economics”? Because while you’re watching Senator Obama’s right hand, his left hand is reaching into your wallet.


The fact of the matter is no nation has prospered under the socialism of “spread the wealth.” For Joe the Plumber and average Joe American, Obama’s tax plan will lay a heavier burden on their backs. Corporations who will see their taxes increase could easily move their operations overseas, resulting in job losses, wage decreases, and tax revenue shortfalls. The burden then falls on small to medium sized companies—Joe the Plumber—to make up these shortfalls. Will Joe simply “eat” the increase in taxes? No, he can’t if he wants to stay in business. So, he’ll pass the taxes through to his customers in the form of higher prices. There is also a built in disincentive for Joe to really work hard to achieve the American dream and make his business successful, for as he said, he will simply get “taxed more and more” for increased success.


Chuck Colson said it as well as anyone I’ve read: “Tax codes express a society’s values. The government raises taxes on behavior it wants to discourage, and lowers taxes on behavior it wants to encourage.”1 It becomes clear from Obama’s statement that he wants to discourage Joe’s success and wants to encourage socialism by giving a handout to the “bottom.”


The idea that “when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody” is naive at best and nefarious at worst. It isn’t good for anybody! Joe the Plumber is punished for success; the “bottom” is punished by being locked into the lie that somehow they deserve a portion of Joe’s money and shouldn’t apply themselves through hard work to rise from the bottom. The thread worn class warfare rhetoric of taxing the rich and giving to the poor is a thinly veiled fabrication that there are “have’s” and there are “have not’s” in our country. In truth, there is a continuum of those who have a lot and those who have some. And though they may not like to hear it, those who have some, if living in almost any other part of the world would be considered as those who have a lot.


Certainly there are those who need a hand up, who need assistance of one form or another. Myriad programs, both governmental and private sector, are available for those who avail themselves. This is not what Senator Obama is advocating. He would take from those who risk and succeed and give to those whom he would continue to discourage from ever risking success.


But this principle still holds true: You will never enrich the poor by impoverishing the rich.


Our founders did not intend that successful businesses and business people be punished through confiscation, clocked in the form of taxation—regardless of what Senator Obama’s running mate, Joe Biden, said about the increase of taxes on those who make $250,000 or more: “It’s time to be patriotic.” Perhaps Joe the Plumber and the rest of us should just shut up and do our patriotic duty and pay our taxes. I’m grateful that’s not what our founders did. They bled and died to be free from the restraints of capricious and intrusive taxation. They created a free society where each person can own property and reach as high as his ability and ambition would take him. It’s called capitalism. Socialism is just the opposite. It’s called statism.


Let me put it like this. Socialism says, “If you have two cows, the government takes one and gives it to your neighbor who has none, and you keep the other.” Capitalism says, “If you have two cows, sell one and buy a bull. Then you hire your neighbor to work your herd until he can buy his own cow and bull.”


Capitalism is not perfect, but it’s better than socialism. As Winston Churchill observed, “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”2 And miseries will be aplenty if Obama has his way—for Joe Plumber and Joe American.



1. Charles W. Colson, Burden of Truth: Defending Truth in an Age of Unbelief (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House, 1997), 121.


2. Winston Churchill, quoted in The Wicked Wit of Winston Churchill, ed. Dominique Enright (London: Michael O’Mara Books, 2001), 25.