Now 38 years old, Sam owns more than 100 gas stations in southern California and 25 restaurant franchises. He has over 800 employees working for him. He has four kids in a happy marriage. He’s a devout churchgoer. He’s a proud American and lets you know that.
We started talking politics. “You know what,” he said, “I’d really like some reporter to come and ask me my views on the election. Why don’t they ever seek out guys like me? I got something to tell them. Professor, why isn’t the LA Times or somebody asking me for my opinion?”
I probed a bit. “So what is it you want to say to them?”
Sam opened the verbal floodgates. “Hey, I’ve always voted Republican. For the first time in my life I’m going to vote for a Democrat. I’m voting for Obama.”
“My gas station businesses are hurting. I make the same profit margin–5 to 8 cents per gallon–no matter whether the price of gas is $1.99 per gallon or $4.99. The big oil companies are the ones raking in the profits when prices go up, not me. I can make money on gas only through volume sales–and if people are hurting, I make less on gas. Or I start to lose money, like now. Where I make money, though, is when they come inside and buy discretionary items–food, drinks, lottery tickets. Right now, people aren’t buying. I know 20 of my gas station colleagues are about to declare bankruptcy. It’s bad.”
“So I’m fed up with the Republicans. Tax cuts for the rich, the war–all that stuff. The middle class needs help. I’m finally convinced. I’m going for Obama. First time in my life, I tell you.”
I asked him about paying higher taxes.
“I don’t care about that. If I’m making money, I don’t care. I’ll pay my taxes. But I’m not going to make any money if the middle-class guy doesn’t have money in his pocket to buy my gas or my food. I don’t need the big tax cut right now. That’s not going to bring the customers into my gas stations.”
by John Seery for Huffington Post: Joe the Plumber Meets Sam the Gas Station Guy