October 20, 2008
|Krugman On The Real Plumbers Of Ohio||Economy Politics|
Paul Krugman looks past Joe the Plumber to ask how the real plumbers of Ohio are making out. NYT:
[W]hat's really happening to the plumbers of Ohio, and to working Americans in general?
First of all, they aren't making a lot of money....[A]ccording to the May 2007 occupational earnings report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual income of "plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters" in Ohio was $47,930.
Second, their real incomes have stagnated or fallen, even in supposedly good years. The Bush administration assured us that the economy was booming in 2007 — but the average Ohio plumber's income in that 2007 report was only 15.5 percent higher than in the 2000 report, not enough to keep up with the 17.7 percent rise in consumer prices in the Midwest. As Ohio plumbers went, so went the nation: median household income, adjusted for inflation, was lower in 2007 than it had been in 2000.
Third, Ohio plumbers have been having growing trouble getting health insurance, especially if, like many craftsmen, they work for small firms. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, in 2007 only 45 percent of companies with fewer than 10 employees offered health benefits, down from 57 percent in 2000.
And bear in mind that all these data pertain to 2007 — which was as good as it got in recent years. Now that the "Bush boom," such as it was, is over, we can see that it achieved a dismal distinction: for the first time on record, an economic expansion failed to raise most Americans' incomes above their previous peak.
Since then, of course, things have gone rapidly downhill, as millions of working Americans have lost their jobs and their homes. And all indicators suggest that things will get much worse in the months and years ahead.
So what does all this say about the candidates? Who's really standing up for Ohio’s plumbers?
Mr. McCain claims that Mr. Obama's policies would lead to economic disaster. But President Bush's policies have already led to disaster — and whatever he may say, Mr. McCain proposes continuing Mr. Bush's policies in all essential respects, and he shares Mr. Bush's anti-government, anti-regulation philosophy.
What about the claim, based on Joe the Plumber’s complaint, that ordinary working Americans would face higher taxes under Mr. Obama?...[T]he typical plumber would pay lower, not higher, taxes under an Obama administration, and would have a much better chance of getting health insurance.
I don't want to suggest that everyone would be better off under the Obama tax plan. Joe the plumber would almost certainly be better off, but Richie the hedge fund manager would take a serious hit.
But that's the point. Whatever today's G.O.P. is, it isn't the party of working Americans.
The people who show up at McCain/Palin rallies are mostly the very people who would do better under Obama. But when McCain sneers that Obama "believes in redistributing wealth," the crowds erupt with outraged boos. Maybe they should stop for once and think.
McCain, too, believes in redistributing wealth. He just believes in redistributing it in the other direction, away from the people at his campain stops and toward the already wealthy — away from Joe the plumber and toward Richie the hedge fund manager.
And they boo Obama?