Since his arrival on the American political stage a week ago, Joe the Plumber (a.k.a. Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher) has been a dominant force in the coverage of the presidential race.
There have been skeptical pieces pointing out his name really isn’t Joe and that he really isn’t a plumber. There have been pieces about how “Joe” inspires Americans and pieces about how the media are beating him up. He even appeared on the Fox News program “Hannity & Colmes.”
But before we all get carried away with these Joe developments, it might be helpful to consider him in the way Sen. John McCain meant him – as a symbol of “average Joe” America.
Here at Patchwork Nation, we know something about demographics in America. And while “average” is a tricky thing to define, we do at least feel we have an idea of what the United States looks like. In this case, the discussion has a bit to do with income.
No one, including Mr. Wurzelbacher, is saying he would currently have to pay more under Sen. Barack Obama’s tax plan, in which taxes would begin to rise at an income level of $250,000. While Wurzelbacher’s 2007 income isn’t generally known, the average annual income for plumbers is somewhere between $45,000 and $50,000.
But the Ohio man says he’s “getting ready to buy a company that makes $250,000 to $280,000 a year” – a plumbing company, actually. And if his company does bring in that money, he’s worried that he would be taxed more under Senator Obama’s plan.
That involves a lot of suppositions that raise all sorts of questions (number of employees, capital costs, write-offs). But one thing is clear: $250,000-a-year is a lot of money for a household.
In Patchwork Nation, we have a category called “Monied ’Burbs.” They tend to be well- educated and, by overall US standards, wealthy. But their household incomes are nowhere near the $250,000 mark. Instead, they sit roughly around a median of $60,000 a year – far above the average county median of roughly $40,000.
Our key community for studying the “Monied ’Burbs” is Los Alamos County. It’s one of the wealthiest counties in America, with an annual median household income of about $90,000.
Not everyone earns that kind of money there, of course: Some make less than that amount, and some make more. The point, however, is that even in one of America’s wealthiest counties – one of the most monied “Monied ’Burbs” – $250,000-a-year is at the high end of the income scale.
None of this is to attack “Joe the Plumber.” Many people dream of owning their own business and living a nice life.
It’s also not a critique of economic policy. Conversations with our people in our 11 communities around the US indicate that many voters don’t want anyone’s taxes raised, regardless of income.
And to be sure, income is just one of many ways to look at people.
But be they named Joe or Sam or Elizabeth, and whether they work as plumbers or doctors or lawyers: If they bring in an annual income of $250,000, there is nothing “average” about their paycheck.