It's turned into yet another John McCain debacle. An ill-conceived idea is turning into a total public relations disaster for John McCain.
John McCain's bid to shore up his poll numbers by highlighting ``Joe the plumber'' may backfire.
Samuel J. Wurzelbacher, the Toledo plumber who criticized the tax proposals of Democratic nominee Barack Obama, owes back taxes, isn't licensed or registered in Ohio and would fare only slightly better under McCain's tax agenda than under Obama's even if his income soared.
McCain this week thrust Wurzelbacher into the national spotlight as a symbol of overtaxed small-business owners after Obama opened clear leads in many states. Analysts said Wurzelbacher's circumstances have muddled McCain's effort to profit politically from the tax issue, making it unlikely ``Joe the plumber'' will have any more long-term benefit for his campaign than did the selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate.
``Joe the plumber will have the same trajectory as Sarah Palin, but it will be tracked in hours rather than weeks,'' said Thomas Mann, a scholar at Washington's Brookings Institution.
McCain is showing he still practices the time-honored Republican strategy, which was honed to a fine art by President George Bush, of "Ready-Fire-Aim-Think."
It's not quite as "bonehead" as "the fundamentals of the economy are strong" and not as attention-getting as "I'm suspending my campaign because I'm afraid to debate Obama while the economy is melting down," but it's appearing that it'll have roughly the same, poll dropping effect.
During the last presidential debate, Oct. 15, McCain said that what Obama would ``do to `Joe the plumber' and millions more like him is have their taxes increased and not be able to realize the American dream of owning their own business.''
The problem for McCain, tax analysts said, is that the underlying premise that Wurzelbacher would face higher taxes under Obama is neither true nor typical of how the vast majority of small businesses would fare.
Buy a Business
Wurzelbacher told Obama Oct. 12 as the Illinois senator canvassed his neighborhood that he was about to buy a business that earns as much as $280,000 a year.
``Do you believe in the American dream?'' Wurzelbacher asked Obama, citing the Democrat's proposed tax rate increase for Americans earning more than $250,000. ``I'm being taxed more and more for fulfilling the American dream.''
Wurzelbacher hasn't paid the taxes he already owes, according to the state of Ohio, which placed a tax lien against him for $1,182.98 on Jan. 26, 2007, that is still active. A second judgment against him was filed in March, 2007 by St. Charles Mercy Hospital for $1,261, records show.
The company McCain said the plumber wants to buy has annual sales of $510,000, according to an analysis by Dun & Bradstreet. That makes it unlikely that Wurzelbacher's purchase would give him a taxable income of more than $200,000 -- leaving him unaffected by Obama's proposal to roll back tax breaks for those earning more than $250,000, said Steven Bankler, a certified public accountant in San Antonio, who counts plumbers and other trade professionals as his clients.
Few Businesses Affected
Few such small businesses have enough income to be affected by Obama's tax changes, Bankler said.
Ahh, yah, sure, there you go - there's that "Gotcha Media" again, digging up facts...
One other problem in making Wurzelbacher a symbol of the overtaxed: he would pay just $773 more in taxes under Obama's plan than McCain's if he did earn an adjusted gross income of $280,000, according to an analysis by the Tax Foundation, a Washington research group that is critical of high taxes.
Earning that much would make Wurzelbacher very unusual among small businesses. According to the Internal Revenue Service, most small businesses organize in ways that allow their owners to pay taxes at personal rates rather than as corporations, which impose a second layer of taxes. Almost 95 percent of 21.5 million owners of small businesses who file as sole proprietors had receipts under $100,000 in 2007.
Another 4 million businesses organize as so-called subchapter S corporations, according to IRS data; less than 5 percent of them earn more than $200,000.
`No Joe Six-Pack'
If Wurzelbacher managed to earn $280,000, ``he's not an average Joe Six-Pack,'' said Gerald Prante, a senior economist at the Tax Foundation.
``Rather than a game-changing blow for the McCain campaign, `Joe the plumber' is turning into a bad case of blowback,'' said Rogan Kersh, a public service professor at New York University.
"Ready-Fire-Aim-Think." How's that working out for you, John?
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