Joe the Plumber is back, and he wants you to flush your money away
Check out this nearly incomprehensible TV ad for a 900 number fronted by Mr. Wurzelbacher. You'll be forgiven if you have to play it a couple times to figure out what the heck he's selling. "I'm going to give the American people the opportunity to vote the I.R.S. out!" he vows, getting hot and bothered as he tells you that when it comes to the Internal Revenue Service, "we can vote them out!"
He wags his finger at you and commands, "You know what to do! Vote now!" as the 99¢ number appears below him. Should you forget his schtick for a second, a work truck is parked behind him, overflowing with tools.
American Idol does it for free, and candidates get on ballots for free, but the associated website, IRSvote.com, says it has to charge 99¢ for every phone, text, or Web vote because "there is a possibility that some people may like to vote several times, charging the 99¢ will deter this from happening, therefore we follow all the necessary requirements to make sure that every vote counts and is fair and balanced." How can we expect this guy to comprehend the tax code if he can't grasp English grammar?
What are you paying for? Well, the website isn't clear about that, either (10% goes to "payment collection," for example), but although the spending breakdown says otherwise, it implies you're paying to have Joe hire a lobbyist: "Joe the Plumber is in discussions with political lobbyists in Washington. We are negotiating a contract with one of these lobbyists' to take the views of you the people to Congress." Note the irony of solving government bureaucracy by hiring a lobbyist.
Joe, who has already lavishly demonstrated himself to be a reactionary political ignoramus, has managed to take a complicated economic issue -- the debate over alternatives to the federal income tax -- and reduce it to the TV equivalent of a banner poll. Anyone goaded into paying this modern-day Miss Cleo $1 to shout into his bank account has no understanding of the democratic process, and they're unlikely to have a studied understanding of the tax system that gives them their opinion to begin with. The results of this petition-for-profit will be statistically worthless, unless you're counting suckers.