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Joe the Forgotten Man

Posted by Richard on October 22, 2008

According to Newt Gingrich, a June Gallup Organization survey asked Americans if the government should focus on improving economic conditions or on "distributing wealth more evenly," and 84% chose the former. Thanks to Joe the Plumber, it should now be clear to everybody that Barack Obama is one of the 13% who chose the latter:

America met Joe the Plumber last week.  But a pro-market economist writing over a hundred years ago was already familiar with Joe Wurzelbacher and Americans like him — and understood how they are used and exploited by politicians.

“They are always under the dominion of the superstition of government, and forgetting that a government produces nothing at all, they leave out of sight the first fact to be remembered in all social discussion — that the state cannot get a cent for any man without taking it from some other man, and this latter must be a man who has produced and saved it. This latter is the Forgotten Man.”

These are the words of William Graham Sumner, brilliantly analyzed and applied to 21st century America by Amity Schlaes in her recent book, The Forgotten Man.
Sumner wrote of the Forgotten Man: "He works, he votes, generally he prays — but he always pays — yes, above all, he pays."

Joe the Plumber has struck a chord in the closing weeks of this election because he represents the Forgotten Man.  When he confronted Sen. Barack Obama on the campaign trail with the question of what would happen to his taxes under an Obama Administration should he realize his dream of owning his own business, Joe cast the decision that faces us in this election in stark relief:

Which will be better for our economy:  Politicians redistributing our wealth or growing more wealth?

And Sen. Obama gave us an equally stark answer:  Under his leadership, America will focus on “spreading around” the Forgotten Man’s wealth, not encouraging him to create more of it.

Read the whole thing.

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