Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Tale of Two Plumbers

Joe the Plumber is still in the news, I can’t believe it. Sarah Palin brought up his name in a CCN interview yesterday, saying that Joe basically called Barack Obama a socialist. I won’t go on about Palin’s comments because most were inane.

Joe The Plumber gained repute when he attended an Obama rally, in Ohio, a few weeks ago. He asked Senator Obama about the “Share the Wealth” plan that he is proposing, which would put a greater tax burden on those who were earning more that $250,000 per year. He said that he was planning to purchase the Plumbing Company for which he worked.

The McCain people jumped on this immediately. In the third Presidential Debate, John McCain brings his name up to show the plight of middle class people who are trying to achieve the American Dream. Joe then becomes an instant celebrity.

But with celebrity comes press coverage. The press discovers that neither he nor his boss has a Plumbing License. OOPS! A lot of good plumbers do not have licenses, but in most cases the person that they work for (a Master Plumber) does. Or at least someone in the company has a license and it is usually the owner.

That’s it for Joe the Plumber story.

I’ve known several plumbers in my lifetime. None of them even came even close to making $250,000 per annum. If they worked for a large company, the owner probably did.

Let’s talk about Mike the Plumber. Mike is a journeyman plumber here in Florida.

In 2005, his net paycheck was somewhere in the neighborhood of $2000 per week, not too shabby. But out of this net came the expenses of gasoline and parts. If he did 4 or 5 small jobs per day he could easily burn up a tank (22 gallons) of gas each day. He took all of the work that he could get, usually working a 6 day 60 hour week. He also did side jobs for friends at a minimal profit.

Mike and his wife wanted the American Dream. He wanted his Master Plumbers license, so that he could stop working for others that were paying him only 35% of the labor and service charge that he billed the customers. But he had little time to study for the exam.

He also wanted home ownership; he and his wife were tired of throwing their money away paying rent. Unfortunately what they wanted (in a home) was out of their price range in the county where he worked. So they purchased a house 60 miles away from the area where he did most of his work.

At the same time gas prices went from $1.97 to $2.47 per gallon. And then 3 months later it jumped to $2.79 per gallon. When he did the small jobs (mostly drain cleaning and leak stopping), his net after gas expense was now about $25 per job. Mike the Plumber was now making less than $1200 net per week. His wife took a part-time job so that they could just barely make ends meet. They also used credit cards to buy items for which they were accustomed to paying cash.

In 2007 when gas prices began to soar, Mike the Plumber found that he was doing the small jobs for no income, or even worse it would cost him money to do the job. At the same time the larger jobs began to dry up (people were not spending money on remodeling their bathrooms or replacing items that didn’t really need replacing). He was now making about $1500 less per month than what was required to sustain the payment of his bills.

Naturally he became despondent.

Mike the Plumber is now studying for his Master Plumber’s exam and hopes to have his license soon. He is also going to church, reading the Bible and praying, something that he hadn’t done since he was a child.

The Beach Bum

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6 Comments:

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You're going to see a lot of sad stories in the next year or so as we dig ourselves out of this mess.

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