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Behold the Power of Joe

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From Joe the Plumber to Joe Camel, mythical Everymen abound.

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Let's talk about Joe. Everybody else is.

As the economy tanks, everybody seems hell-bent on stuffing as much money into Joe's pockets as they can. I'd rather they show an interest in guys named Cory, but hey, you can't win 'em all. Plus, we're right to focus on Joe.

In fact, the closer you look at our economy, the more Joes you see. They're everywhere.

Like Joe the Plumber. At first, the story of Joe -- the Ohio man made famous by 23 mentions of his name in the final presidential debate -- was like a fairy-tale. A blue-collar, working American succeeds beyond his wildest dreams and is on deck to pick up a $200,000 small business. McCain used Joe to criticize Obama's tax plan. Obama used Joe to defend it.

Who cares? The real story is that Joe, much like the American economy as a whole, turned out to be a whole lot of icing and not much cake.

For starters, Joe, real name Samuel J. Wurzelbacher, isn't a licensed plumber. It wasn't long before Ohio's licensed plumbers -- who, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, earn an average income of $47,930 -- were screaming foul. Second, there wasn't any evidence that Joe -- er, Sam -- ever planned to buy a $200,000 business. Last but not least, Joe didn't pay his taxes, so there's a lien on his house.

Oh well. There's always another Joe.

Like Joe Six-Pack. Here's a guy we all love, and -- provided that he's finished his six-pack -- he always loves us back.

The beautiful thing about Joe Six-Pack is that the worse the economy gets, the more loving he becomes. Notoriously recession-proof, cheap beer flows in direct proportion to our collective anxieties. Anheuser-Busch (BUD) reported that beer shipments to wholesalers rose 2.3%, with revenue per barrel up by almost 4%. Who cares if the bailout works? Bud Light never fails.

Now, if you've recently found yourself in a smoke-filled bar, loosening your tie as nervous beads of sweat drip from your forehead into your drink, chances are you've heard Joe Six-Pack laughing it up in the back with his buddy Joe Camel. They're laughing because you're losing money, and they're raking it in. R.J Reynolds, maker of Camels, posted earnings growth of 9.6%, up to $547 million. Reynolds American (RAI), the parent company of R.J. Reynolds, saw a 6.6% increase in profits in the third quarter.

Of course, not everyone has the stomach for beer or the lungs for cancer; for those more health-conscious worriers, there's always just plain joe. As in coffee.
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No positions in stocks mentioned.

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