Sunday October 19


Yesterday was a beautiful day for a ramble in the woods, and while the fall colors are not that noticeable in our area from a panoramic viewpoint, there’s plenty of color close up. The color change seems late this year, and I think that the colors will be more muted in tone than in those classic falls I seem to remember, but I still feel a need to celebrate this, my favorite season, with a few photos to mark its passing.

HOPES OF AUTUMN

The country lane is laid in frost
on this chill October morn.
Where sunbeams have not crossed
there’s hoary rime on the corn.
Fog rises from the winding brook
and leaves fall upon the ground.
A nervous doe stops to look
at an unknown far-off sound.
In formation, honking geese
headed south, pass on high.
This land will make its peace
with the winter by and by.
But on this autumn day
warmth will come once more
and keep icy blasts at bay
that would freeze us to the core.
Too soon was the summer gone,
too long will winter last,
yet on this autumn dawn
all our hopes have been cast.

SAY IT AIN’T SO, JOE!

During the last few days John McCain has gotten caught up in the frenzy surrounding the so-called “Joe the Plumber,” and understandably so. His campaign has nothing else left to offer, except smear campaigns, innuendo, and veiled racism.

A week ago, Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher was just another working stiff living in a modest ranch house, making about $40,000 a year. Then he stopped Barack Obama during a visit to his block to ask about his taxes and became a media celebrity. In the week since that encounter Joe has given more interviews than Sarah Palin has since she was named McCain’s running mate.

It not only turns out that “Joe the Plumber,” a moniker used over twenty times by Senator McCain at the final Presidential debate is really not Joe, he is not a licensed plumber, and he owes the State of Ohio a bit in back taxes. And once again, John McCain acts on impulse and gut instinct rather than facts and careful analysis. He holds up an unlicensed plumber who owes back taxes, and who apparently doesn’t understand the difference between gross income and taxable income, as his example of a “typical” small businessman as a campaign prop. This, like the impulsive selection of Sarah Palin as a running mate, is a sad commentary on McCain’s campaign. Maybe even a sadder commentary on McCain’s judgment.

Just five days ago, Mr. Wurzelbacher, 34, lived in anonymity, but he became the hero of conservatives and Republicans when he stopped Mr. Obama and asked whether he believed in the American dream.

Following is the exact transcript of the exchange between Joe and Senator Obama. There have been a many paraphrases of this dialog offered up by the McCain campaign and sloppy media pundits since, and a careful reading of the transcript will make many of the distortions surrounding this exchange apparent.

“I’m getting ready to buy a company that makes 250 to 280 thousand dollars a year,” Wurzelbacher said. “Your new tax plan is going to tax me more, isn’t it?”

Obama said, “First off, you would get a 50% tax credit so you’d get a tax cut for your healthcare costs….. if your revenue is above 250 – then from 250 down, your taxes are going to stay the same. It is true that from 250 up – from 250 – 300 or so, so for that additional amount, you’d go from 36 to 39%, which is what it was under Bill Clinton. And the reason why we’re doing that is because 95% of small businesses make less than 250. So what I want to do is give them a tax cut. I want to give all these folks who are bus drivers, teachers, auto workers who make less, I want to give them a tax cut. And so what we’re doing is, we are saying that folks who make more than 250 that that marginal amount above 250 – they’re gonna be taxed at a 39 instead of a 36% rate.”

Wurzelbacher responded, “the reason I ask you about the American dream, I mean I’ve worked hard. I’m a plumber. I work 10-12 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.”

“Well,” said Obama, “here’s a way of thinking about it. How long have been a plumber?”

Wurzelbacher said 15 years.

Obama replied, “Over the last 15 years, when you weren’t making 250, you would have been given a tax cut from me, so you’d actually have more money, which means you would have saved more, which means you would have gotten to the point where you could build your small business quicker than under the current tax code. So there are two ways of looking at it – I mean one way of looking at it is, now that you’ve become more successful through hard work – you don’t want to be taxed as much.”

“Exactly,” Wurzelbacher said.

Obama continued, “But another way of looking at it is 95% of folks who are making less than 250, they may be working hard too, but they’re being taxed at a higher rate than they would be under mine. So what I’m doing is, put yourself back 10 years ago when you were only making whatever, 60 or 70. Under my tax plan you would be keeping more of your paycheck, you’d be paying lower taxes, which means you would have saved…Now look, nobody likes high taxes.”

“No,” said Wurzelbacher.

“Of course not,” said Obama. “But what’s happened is that we end up – we’ve cut taxes a lot for folks like me who make a lot more than 250. We haven’t given a break to folks who make less, and as a consequence, the average wage and income for ordinary folks, the vast majority of Americans, has actually gone down over the last eight years. So all I want to do is – I’ve got a tax cut. The only thing that changes, is I’m gonna cut taxes a little bit more for the folks who are most in need and for the 5% of the folks who are doing very well – even though they’ve been working hard and I appreciate that – I just want to make sure they’re paying a little bit more in order to pay for those other tax cuts. Now, I respect the disagreement. I just want you to be clear – 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 at success too.”

Wurzelbacher said it seemed as though Obama might support a flat tax.

Obama says, “you know, I would be open to it except here’s the problem with a flat tax is that if you actually put a flat tax together, in order for it to work and replace all the revenue that we’ve got, you’d probably end up having to make it like about a 40% sales tax. I mean that’s the value added, making it up. Now some people say 23 or 25, but in truth when you add up all the revenue that would need to be raised, you’d have to slap on a whole bunch of sales taxes on. And I do believe for folks like me who have worked hard, but frankly also been lucky, I don’t mind paying just a little bit more than the waitress that I just met over there who’s things are slow and she can barely make the rent.”

Obama said, “My attitude is that if the economy’s good for folks from the bottom up, it’s gonna be good for everybody. If you’ve got a plumbing business, you’re gonna be better off if you’ve got a whole bunch of customers who can afford to hire you, and right now everybody’s so pinched that business is bad for everybody and I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.”

“But listen,” Obama said, shaking Wurzelbacher’s hand, “I respect what you do and I respect your question, and even if I don’t get your vote, I’m still gonna be working hard on your behalf, because small businesses are what creates jobs in this country and I want to encourage it.”

Now out of that exchange, McCain is jumping on the phrase…”when you spread the wealth around it’s good for everybody,” calling it socialist and elitist. This is the same McCain who just voted to spend $700 billion to buy a government stake in the nation’s banks, insurance companies, and brokerages. Is this not socialism in its classic form?

Many areas of our daily lives that we take for granted are paid for by redistributing the wealth and are called socialistic only by the wild-eyed few who see incipient Marxism just right around the corner.

I’ve never heard Senator McCain call for an end to the public education system, nor its being funded by redistributing tax dollars from the many to the few. I have heard him back a national voucher system which would take my tax dollars and your tax dollars and give them to private and parochial schools, thereby blurring the lines between church and state on the one hand, and putting the government and its cash into the hands of selected private educational entrepeneurs, on the other.

When the government tax codes gives one person a tax break on their mortgage, the number of dependents they claim, for medical bills, or any other of the hundreds of legal deductions, someone else has to pay more to make up for those reduced revenues, thereby redistributing the wealth. Does John McCain feel that this is a socialist plot? He’s not on record as opposing any of these deductions, nor the additional taxes others must pay so others can claim them. McCain’s own tax records, and those of his wife, show a vast number of deductions, which means that he is partaking of the fruits of the socialist policy of redistribution of the wealth, for he gets to keep more of his money while someone else pays for part of his share of the tax revenue.

I could go on, but you get the idea. The entire tax structure is a redistribution system that decides who pays how much. Then our government’s budget procedure decides who gets the benefit. Our tax dollars are redistributed through government purchases, programs, wages, and tax credits and deductions. This redistribution is largely the result of political wrangling, lobbying, idealogy, and ultimately, largesse. It’s blatantly socialistic, though none dare call it that. Even Senator McCain who has voted for thousands of spending bills in his days on Capitol Hill. Spending bills that redistributed the wealth in ways that he saw fit from whatever idealogy or lobbyist input led to his decisions.

Back to the issue raised by Mr. Wurlzbacher. That famously conservative Wall Street Journal published an article on October 17, 2008, titled ‘As Joe the Plumber Grows Famous, the Politics Get Murkier’. Excerpted from that article:

“To reach a level that would be affected by Sen. Obama’s proposed tax increase, Mr. Smither said, a mom-and-pop plumbing company like Newell would have to clear $5 million in annual sales. [Joe’s company actually reports only $100,000 in sales.]

Even if Mr. Wurzelbacher reaped taxable income from his business of $280,000 a year, he’d pay only about $900 more a year in taxes under Sen. Obama’s plan, which would raise the tax rate on the income between $250,000 and $280,000 to 36% from 33%.

If Mr. Wurzelbacher earns the wages of a typical Ohio plumber, $40,600, and holds a $90,000 mortgage, he would see a TAX CUT (emphasis added) under Sen. Obama’s plan of more than $1,000, compared with no tax reduction under Sen. McCain’s.

If he succeeds in buying the plumbing business where he works, he could see even more tax benefits, including Sen. Obama’s proposed elimination of capital-gains taxes for small-business investment, a 50% tax credit to purchase health insurance for employees and a $3,000 tax credit for every new hire over the next two years.”

Other issues and ‘things we wish were true’ aside, better to acknowledge facts and deal with them objectively.”

You won’t see these facts on any McCain ad. For the next two weeks you’ll only hear about Bill Ayers, socialism, and we’ll be shown it all through increasingly thinner veils covering the incipient rascism and classism being shoveled by the McCain campaign and its surrogates.

APOCRYPHAL INFINITY

We lived at the edge of the world,
half a mile from infinity.
The sinking sun cast long shadows
that seemed to go on forever,
and sunrises popped up,
full born, seemingly out of nowhere.
Many was the time, when I was young,
that I would walk to the edge,
stand at the yawning precipice
dividing our world from the universe
and toss pebbles into the chasm,
never hearing them hit the bottom.
Now, being much older,
I stand on the rim of the ravine
and know the world has no edge
and that pebbles don’t drop into nothingness,
and that infinity did not begin
where our world seemed to end.

Old House


This house was abandoned and looked pretty much like this since my earliest memories of going by it more than fifty years ago. I took this picture just a few months before it was finally razed.

LOOKING OUT

A young man sits in a dark room
Looking out into future’s bright day
On the other side of the window glass.
He sees what he hopes for,
His dreams, his goals, all before him
As time stretches to the horizon.

An old man sits in a lighted room
Looking out on the night so dark,
And sees nothing but his own reflection
On the glass of the window pane
In his visage he sees the boy he once was
And a life too quickly gone.