Where Are You Now, Joe the Plumber?

Ahhh, the joys of blogging.  I just contributed to a wikipedia article and it was so constraining, having to cite sources and write from a neutral point of view.  Now I can say whatever I want and don’t have to justify any of it!

My topic was the thing Democrats have noticed (and Republicans seem to ignore) where the “red” (Republican) states vote for people who say they want to shrink the government, but the red states actually take much more from the government.  In other words, if you take the data of how much each state pays in taxes per capita and then subtract how much it gets back in government spending, you get the net contribution of each state to the federal government.  For most blue (Democratic) states, the net contribution is a positive number.  But for most red states, it’s negative.

The wikipedia article is here, the bit I did is the table near the bottom with all the numbers, and the paragraphs in the two sections above that, starting with “Politics and Controversy of Unequal Contribution by States to the Federal Budget”.

When you consider that the red states are mostly the poorer states, with more people on welfare and medicaid and more federal assistance for schools and all the other liberal programs for the poor, it makes sense.  What doesn’t make sense is why the poor people in these poor red states vote for Republicans who say they want to cut all these programs.  This has been blogged about on various web sites like The Tax Foundation and Alternet.

But the funniest rant that I’ve seen by far is this one, whose name contains a very bad word so please excuse my linking to it, which makes this argument, not only about the contributions to the federal budget, but about other Republican wedge issues like family values and religion.  He points out that blue states (many of which have gay marriage) tend to have the lowest divorce rates (Massachusetts is the lowest) and red states the highest.  And he says it all with a liberal (pun intended) sprinkling of bad words, so it’s even funnier if you like that sort of thing.

I think the reason that those poor people vote against their self-interest is that they have a different view of what voting is.  To me and you, voting is a way of choosing our leaders.  To them, voting is a way of choosing their life.  It’s an expression of who they want to be.  I once knew a woman who came from a lower middle class/working class family and who was working her way up the the federal government in Washington, DC.  She said she always voted Republican because someone she knew in college said Republicans were the party of rich people, so if you want to be rich, vote with them.  And however naive that is, I think that’s exactly what’s going on.

People from Mississippi and Alabama are saying “I’m poor and on welfare and I’ve had three kids out of wedlock or I’m divorced or my girlfriend and I decided to have an abortion and I feel terrible about all of it because that goes against my values and my aspirations, so I’m going to vote for the people who tell me that’s all bad.  That will redeem me and get me into the club for good rich people.”

Well, for some it’s about values and for some, they really just want to be rich.  Remember “Joe the Plumber”?  He was the guy who complained at a town hall meeting in the 2004 election that the Democrats had put too many restrictions on small businesses.  These restrictions were probably for the benefit of the employees, but never mind.  It turns out, Joe didn’t own a plumbing business.  He hoped to one day own a plumbing business.  At the moment he was an under-employed plumber trying to make ends meet.  So instead of Joe being the poster child of the small business owner, he’s the poster child of the woebegone (yay, spelled it right!) working class that votes against it’s own economic interest.

So I think maybe we need to give people some other way to express who they are and what their values are and what they want to be.  I kind of thought that was called “living your life”.  But apparently now it’s called voting.  Not surprising, because voting is a lot easier than living.  You just push a button.  Or pull a lever.  Or punch a butterfly ballot.  Or twirl that doohickey.  Or something, I don’t know what, Oh gosh I spoiled my ballot, I voted for Ralph Nader AGAIN!!!

Voting is actually pretty easy, so it’s a good candidate (pun intended) for a no-hassle way to self-affirm.  Of course as soon as people find a good thing they start to ruin it.  Now Republicans want to make voting harder, too.  Where’s my ID card?  I need to find it before November.  I feel a need to re-affirm that I’m an elite intellectual, and blogging is too hard.

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Update: I guess if I still lived in America and watched the news, I’d know that Joe the Plumber is running for Congress.

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