The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Barack the socialist

Christina Pesavento | Monday, October 27, 2008

Joe Wurzelbacher, more commonly known as Joe the Plumber, gained nationwide fame a few weeks ago when he asked an innocent question to a man who may very well become the next president. Since then, he has come under vicious, unwarranted scrutiny by the media and Obama supporters, all for exercising his First Amendment right. How dare he?!

So much for Democrats being champions of tolerance and free speech.

Here is a sampling of what we have learned from the investigative efforts of professional journalists: Joe the plumber isn’t really a plumber at all because he doesn’t have a plumbing license. He also doesn’t make $250,000 a year, and thus would receive a tax cut under Obama’s plan. Furthermore, “Joseph” isn’t even his first name; it’s Samuel. He owes back taxes, has made “racist” statements, is divorced, and is not registered to vote. He also enjoys kicking puppies, stealing walkers from the elderly, and making small children cry (ok, I made that last part up).

Of course, they conveniently ignore the fact that Wurzelbacher doesn’t need a plumber’s license to work because his employer has one, that his current salary is irrelevant because he told Obama that he was “getting ready to buy a company that makes about 250, 270 – 80 thousand dollars a year,” and that he is registered to vote. As for being racist, here is the actual quote that drew the accusation:

“You know, I’ve always wanted to ask one of these guys a question and really corner them and get them to answer a question of – for once instead of tap dancing around it. And unfortunately I asked the question but I still got a tap dance. Do you – almost as good as Sammy Davis Jr.”

Apparently making comparisons to famous black entertainers is offensive to some. Who knew?

Yet all of this information is completely irrelevant. Wurzelbacher could be all those things and more, but it still wouldn’t change the significance of his question, or more importantly, what the response to his question revealed. Americans have the right to ask tough questions of candidates for public office, especially those running for the most powerful elected office in the nation. Attacking a concerned citizen for trying to make an informed decision is just plain wrong.

If the mainstream media had applied the same zeal in their investigations of the man who is actually vying for the presidency, they might have discovered some interesting information before Joe the Plumber divulged Obama’s true intentions while unwittingly sacrificing his own privacy on the altar of truth. For instance, Obama is an associate of a Chicago-based branch of the Democratic Socialists of America, and was endorsed by the group while running for the Illinois state Senate in 1996. Moreover, he campaigned for self-described socialist Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who won the seat in 2006.

Sadly, most of the public had to wait for Joe the Plumber before realizing Obama’s socialist tendencies. And still they dismiss attacks as “name-calling” and “fear-mongering,” then accuse his opponents of “trafficking in Joe-McCarthy-like smears.”

Judging by his actual statement, however, it becomes obvious why these attacks are justified:

“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.”

Yet to his most loyal supporters, even Obama’s “spread the wealth around” comment is not enough to convince them of his socialist leanings. Indeed, Webster’s Dictionary defines socialism as “any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.” While there is no specific mention of wealth redistribution in this definition, it is an established fact that socialists advocate the creation of an egalitarian society in which wealth is distributed more evenly among the people. According to his response, Obama favors a similar goal.

To some, this might not sound so bad. Why shouldn’t the Paris Hiltons of the country, who have more money than can possibly be spent, be forced to give some to the people who have nothing?

The problem with this sentiment is that it violates one of the founding principles upon which our nation was built. According to English philosopher John Locke, whose words inspired Thomas Jefferson’s avowal of the inalienable rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence, states, “government has no other end than the preservation of property.” Hence, government does not exist to see to it that all people end up equal, but to protect what people have rightfully acquired as theirs.

Allow me to use an example to illustrate the injustice of redistributive practices. Suppose you are taking a moderately difficult class for which you have worked hard and managed to earn an A by midterm, while some other students have slacked off and are receiving lower grades. Your professor, who feels sorry for the students who haven’t performed so well, decides to take everyone’s grades and average them out, then redistribute them so that everyone receives the same grade. Now you have a B-. While the students whose grades improved might be happy, you would clearly be upset.

Moreover, you and the other students who received higher grades would probably decide that the class isn’t worth the effort and refuse to do any more work, hoping that the rest of the class will pick up the slack. As a result, the average grade by the end of the semester falls substantially. Thus not only does redistribution hurt those who are productive, it also results in an overall decrease in productivity.

Additionally, one must take into consideration where Obama draws the line between those who are not making enough and those who are making too much. The number he has chosen is $250,000. While this might seem like a substantial amount of wealth in some regions of the country, for those Americans who live in areas where the cost of living is very high, $250,000 a year is next to nothing.

To be clear, I am not using the socialist label to scare anyone; I’m simply stating what I believe to be true based on the evidence presented. Americans have the right to know who they are really electing to office, and learning the life story of Joe the Plumber is not going to help them make informed decisions at the voting booth. If you like socialism, then by all means vote for Barack the Socialist. But for the rest of you, I would recommend reconsidering your faith in the vague yet seemingly reassuring promises of “change.”

Christie Pesavento is a junior Political Science major. She can be reached at cpesaven@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.