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From one Joe to another 

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Dear Joe the Plumber,

My name is Joe the Soldier. I noticed you have been getting a lot of attention in the national media lately. I even saw a couple clips of interviews with you on the American Forces Network while I was eating in our chow hall in Diyala province. I watched you complain about everything from immigration to taxes while I ate an omelet prepared by Pakistanis and sponsored by Uncle Sam.

I tried to ignore your rant, but as I peered over the crowd of smiling, laughing infantrymen who wolfed down their breakfast before rolling out to patrol the streets of Iraq, my gaze kept returning to the plumber from Ohio who seemed so unhappy to be standing in his driveway with the liberty to complain about his government. At that moment I was inspired by your shiny head to reflect; you and I have some similarities, but quite a few more differences.

Let's start with the similarities. Like you, my name really isn't Joe. We both use that moniker because ... well, it sounds good. You made $40,000 last year. That is pretty close to my base pay in 2007, and far more than that of the soldiers I just described. I believe we both genuinely want to live the American Dream.

Let's look at the differences. When Barack Obama was canvassing in your town, you asked him why he will raise your taxes. Apparently you didn't hear that he will only raise taxes on those with $250,000 of income, or you actually believe that, as a plumber, you will make that much. Either way, as a soldier, I can't afford to be that inattentive or unrealistic.

You cast yourself as a regular guy, a common man in Middle America. Yet you continue to complain about the price you pay for membership in the world's greatest nation. I could find many things to complain about, too, but my sense of duty shifts my focus to the fruits of our labors and the benefits of all the sacrifices that I have witnessed. I hope you enjoy your freedom as much as you enjoy complaining about how much it costs you, but I honestly don't mind if it is such a high price that you may have to sacrifice a little to keep it. Join the club!

Possibly our most striking difference is that you have forgotten the legacy that the great generations in our history passed down. It's a legacy of mutual sacrifice and shared hardship. During World War II, most people didn't complain when they were drafted. They gladly went to fight in a just war. Those who were unable to fight were part of the war effort at home.

Times have really changed, haven't they, Joe? Since the start of this war, our national debt has risen to almost $11 trillion thanks to multiple tax cuts to the richest Americans. I can't understand why you, Joe, as a plumber, are fooled into advocating for these millionaires who complain about their taxes returning to the level they were under Ronald Reagan. Isn't it strange that a plumber making $40,000 per year is complaining on behalf of the top 1 percent of income earners while our Armed Forces, comprised mainly of middle- and low-income Americans (the sons and daughters of plumbers, you might say), are sent to fight two wars because "freedom isn't free"?

I am sorry, Joe the Plumber, I can't sympathize with your complaints. Partly because I don't believe that a plumber will make $250,000, meaning you will actually get a slight tax cut if Obama becomes president. But mainly because I think you can handle the taxes you are currently paying.

You supported this war, right? You think we should have the best military in the world, don't you? Well, those things cost money. As an American making $40,000, you already paid close to the lowest tax rate of any similar wage-earner in the industrialized world. And look at the return on your investment: You get to live in America and complain about all those taxes you paid!

I do believe we both want to live the American Dream, but after 14 months in Iraq with a unit that lost 12 heroes to the Ultimate Sacrifice, I am sorely disappointed that you whine so much about the meager price you pay for it.

Sincerely,

William H. Smith, captain, United States Army

Capt. Smith, now stationed in Iraq, sent this letter to the Independent through an intermediary.

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