Baltimore plumber is a Bush - Len Bush

Election 2008

October 17, 2008|By Jill Rosen | Jill Rosen,jill.rosen@baltsun.com

He's faster than a clogged drain, as powerful as a Roto-Rooter and able to run up tall bills in a flash. He's the plumber - America's newest and quite possibly grimiest hero.

Thanks to more than two dozen mentions of "Joe the Plumber" in Wednesday's presidential debate, John McCain and Barack Obama have single handedly elevated the plumber to iconic, everyman status, the essence of a hard-working Joe.

But Len the Plumber, for one, isn't exactly basking in the newfound glory.

Len the Plumber, less colloquially known as Len Bush of Baltimore, didn't even see the debate. He woke up yesterday morning to a ringing phone, "Everybody talking about Joe the Plumber, Joe the Plumber, Joe the Plumber," says Bush. "Obviously I'm not as popular as Joe."

Joe, who's actually Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher from Holland, Ohio, famously complained that if he was able to buy a plumbing business that generated $250,000 a year, he'd suffer under Obama's tax plan. After the debate, but not before the media hoards rushed to talk up Joe, it was discovered that the bald-headed plumber had let his license lapse and has a tax lien filed against him.

Unlike Joe, Len the Plumber is licensed, pays his taxes and claims to have a full head of hair. But like him, he favors McCain's tax plan. "I think most plumbers would be pro-Republican," he says.

That makes sense. According to the Department of Labor, plumbers "are among the highest paid construction occupations." Home repair guidelines featured on the Web site for the TV program This Old House estimate most plumbers charge $45 to $65 an hour but a plumber commenting on the article balked at the "1980s" numbers, saying these days it's more like $135 just for a plumber to show up.

In the movie Moonstruck, the plumber Cosmo Castorini, whose wife describes him as "rich as Roosevelt," refined his sales pitch for the most expensive type of pipe: "There's copper, which is the only pipe I use. It costs money. It costs money because it saves money."

Len the Plumber, who's run his own company for 13 years and been in the plumbing trade for 20, says the idea that plumbers overcharge is an inaccurate stereotype. And so, he says, is the prevalence of the plumber's crack.

"Neither are true," he says.

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